40 years ago today may very well have been the greatest day in the history of postseason baseball. No one really talks about it or remembers it very much, but its’ true. While other days have flashier and greater games, Oct. 11, 1972 has one neat calling card—it’s one of the few days to feature not just one but two excellent games. And one of them decided a pennant.
On Oct. 11, 1972, the A’s faced the Tigers in Game Four of the ALCS while the Reds hosted the Pirates for the fifth and final game of the NLCS.
In the ALCS, the Tigers needed a win, entering the day trailing two games to one. The Tigers took an early 1-0 lead, but Oakland tied it 1-1 in the top of the seventh. And that’s where it stood after nine innings. Extra frames loomed.
In the top of the 10th, it looked like the A’s put the game away to clinch the pennant as two singles and a double turned into a pair of runs for a 3-1 lead. Now Detroit needed an offensive explosion of their own. And that’s just what they did.
Back-to-back singles by Dick McAuliffe and Al Kaline led off the inning. After a wild pitch advanced them (and put the potential tying run in scoring position with still nobody out), Oakland issued a walk to load the bases.
Tigers catcher Bill Freehan hit into a grounder that should’ve resulted in at least one out, but the A’s bungled it. Everyone was safe and now it’s 3-2 with the bags still loaded. Next up was Norm Cash—and he drew an RBI walk to tie the game, 3-3. And there were still no outs. Jim Northrup was the inning’s sixth batter and he became the sixth to reach base as his RBI single gave Detroit an unlikely win, 4-3. They would live to fight another day.
Pittsburgh wasn’t so lucky in their NLCS game. Early on, it looked like the defending world champs would return to the World Series. They took an early 2-0 lead, and though the Reds chipped away at it, still led 3-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
However, Johnny Bench led off the ninth for the Big Red Machine with a solo home run to tie the game, 3-3. Back-to-back singles put the winning run in scoring position. Pinch-runner George Foster advanced to third on a sacrifice fly, and after a pop up he stayed there. The pennant-winning run was 90 feet from home plate with two outs and a young Hal McRae at the plate.
Unlike Detroit’s Jim Northrup, McRae never got the chance to be the hero. Then again, he didn’t need to be the hero. Instead, Pirates pitcher Bob Moose became the goat, uncorking a wild pitch that sent Foster scampering home before the Pirates could throw him out. That was it—Cincinnati had their second run of the inning for the rare pennant-deciding walk-off wild pitch. They won, 4-3
Oh, one last sad bit of news for the Pirates about that game—it turned out to be Roberto Clemente’s final contest. He died in an airplane flight that winter trying to provide relief to Central American earthquake victims. Also, on the Pittsburgh bench that day was another Hall of Famer who would retire in that offseason: Bill Mazeroski. So not only was it a great game, but it was the last moment for two longtime Pirate mainstays.
Yet that great game was just a one of two great games on Oct. 11, 1972. Few days can match what happened 40 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim through things.
4,000 days since Bud Selig says major league baseball will consider eliminating two teams by Opening Day 2002.
5,000 days since the Mets sign free agent Melvin Mora.
7,000 days since Tim Raines gets his 2,000th hit.
9,000 days since Darrell Evans hits his 400th home run.
9,000 days since Wade Boggs becomes the first player in the 20th century to get 200 hits in six straight seasons.
15,000 days since the White Sox top the Angels 9-4 with all nine Sox getting one RBI each.
25,000 days since Bobo Newsom, who never does throw a no-hitter, throws the first of his five career one-hitters.
30,000 days since Frankie Frisch gets his 2,000th hit. It takes him just 1,541 games to do it.
30,000 days since the Yankees trade players to the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League to get shortstop Frankie Crosetti.
1854 Will White, 200 game winner, is born. White is also owner of the most unbreakable record in sports—most complete games in a season, 75 in 1879.
1875 Cap Anson manages his first game.
1884 Pud Galvin, the game’s first 300 game winner, allows two inside the park home runs in one game.
1899 The Western League changes its name to the American League. It sticks.
1900 The AL announces it will put a team in Baltimore managed by John McGraw, and another club in Washington DC. Both cities were recently abandoned by the NL.
1900 Pirates pitcher Rube Waddell fans 12 Cubs in a 2-1 victory. That’s the most Ks in one game all season in the NL.
1906 In Game Three of the 1906 World Series, Ed Walsh guides the White Sox to a 3-0 win over the Cubs. Ed Walsh throws a two-hit shutout guiding the underdog Hitless Wonders to victory. (The Hitless Wonders themselves nearly live up to their name, with just four hits).
1908 Game Two of the World Series is closer than its final score: Cubs 6, Tigers 1. It was 0-0 prior to the bottom of the eighth.
1913 Gettysburg Eddie Plank and Christy Mathewson tangle in Game Five of the World Series. Last time they fought in a scoreless tie until the Giants plated three runs in the 10th inning. Today, Plank gets his revenge with a two-hit 3-1 win for the A’s.
1915 In Game Three of the World Series, Boston beats Philadelphia thanks to a walk-off run scoring in the bottom of the ninth off Phillies’ ace Pete Alexander.
1920 Cleveland holds Brooklyn to just three hits in a 1-0 win in Game Six of the best-of-nine World Series.
1934 The Pirates release Burleigh Grimes, the game’s last spitballer. This ends Grimes’ career.
1943 The Cardinals gets 10 hits in Game Five of the World Series, but can’t score a single run against Spud Chandler. The Yankees win, 2-0. It’s the most hits ever by a team in a World Series shutout.
1947 Thomas Boswell, baseball writer, is born.
1948 The Indians clinch the world title. It’s still their last one.
1956 The Phillies trade diminutive reliever Stu Miller to the Giants, where he’ll flourish.
1960 Tigers co-owner John Fetzer announces he’s buying out fellow owner Kenyon Grown to become the majority stockholder in the team.
1961 The Mets purchase aging pitcher Johnny Antonelli from the Milwaukee Braves.
1962 Milwaukee sells Ron Hunt to the Mets.
1965 Orlando Hernandez, Cuban who became a Yankee, is born.
1966 Gregg Olson, closer, is born.
1967 The Mets name Gil Hodges their manager. He’ll guide them to a world title.
1970 The Red Sox trade Tony Conigliaro to the Angels in a six-player deal.
1973 The Tigers hire Ralph Houk to be their manager.
1973 Dmitri Young is born.
1977 The Yankees top the Dodgers 4-3 in 12 innings in Game One of their first World Series meeting since 1963.
1978 The Dodgers top the Yankees in Game Two of the World Series, 4-3. The most famous moment occurs in the top of the ninth when Mr. October Reggie Jackson faces young LA fireballer Bob Welch with two outs and the tying and winning runs on base. Jackson fouls off four pitches in a tight nine-pitch battle before Welch strikes him out to end the game.
1979 The Pirates score the winning run in the top of the ninth for a 3-2 win against the Orioles in game Two of the World Series. This run prevents the Pirates from being swept, and they’ll recover from a three-games-to-one deficit to win the Series in seven games.
1980 Game Four of the NLCS, one of the great LCS ever, features the Phillies narrowly edging the Astros 5-3 in 10 innings for force an all-deciding Game Five. The Phillies went ahead with three in the top of the eighth, but Houston tied it with a run in the bottom of the ninth to sent it into overtime.
1983 The Royals release veteran outfielder Cesar Geronimo.
1983 The Phillies top the Orioles 2-1 in a Game One World Series pitchers duel. Each team has just five hits on the day.
1986 California tops Boston 4-3 in 11 innings after scoring three times in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game in Game Four of the ALCS.
1986 Lenny Dykstra hits a two-run walk-off home run for the Mets in Game Three of the NLCS, allowing New York to top Houston, 6-5.
1989 St. Louis releases veteran reliever Dan Quisenberry.
1991 In Game Three of the ALCS, the upstart Twins top the Blue Jays, 3-2 in 10 innings.
1991 Former pitcher Clay Kirby dies.
1992 Oakland leads Toronto 6-1 after seven innings in Game Four of the ALCS but the Blue Jays storm back for a 7-6 win in 11 innings.
1993 Atlanta’s big rally falls short in Game Five of the NLCS. They enter the bottom of the ninth trailing 3-0, and score three to tie it —but fall 4-3 in 10 frames.
1995 Atlanta tops the Reds in 10 innings, 6-2, in Game Two of the NLCS.
1997 Cleveland tops the Orioles 2-1 in 12 innings in Game Three of the ALCS. Cleveland scores the game’s first run in the bottom of the seventh and Baltimore ties it in the top of the ninth.
1999 In the all-deciding Game Five of the ALDS, Cleveland’s early offensive explosion isn’t enough. They score eight runs in the first three frames—but allow seven runs in that time. Boston then inserts Pedro Martinez in a rare relief outing. Despite throwing on just one day’s rest, he doesn’t allow a single hit over the next six innings while his teammates rally for a 12-8 win.
2001 In Game Two of the ALDS, Tim Hudson shuts down the Yankees for a 2-0. This puts the A’s up two games to none, and seemingly ensures a victory in the series, but instead it’ll be the first of several postseason disappointments for the Billy Beane A’s. (Well, they lost in 2000 in five games in the ALDS, but that was more a routine loss, whereas they’ll be uglier from here on out).
2002 Milwaukee claims Scott Podsednik off of waivers from the Mariners.
2003 The Yankees top the Red Sox 4-3 in Game Three of the ALCS, but that’s not the part that anyone remembers. Instead, the benches clear and aging Yankee coach Don Zimmer foolheartedly charges Red Sox star Pedro Martinez, who pushes the old man to the ground.
2006 Cory Lidle dies in a plane crash in New York City.
2008 The Devil Rays top the Red Sox 9-8 in 11 innings in Game Two of the ALCS.
2009 The Angels top the Red Sox 7-6 in Game Three of the ALDS thanks to a three-run top of the ninth for Anaheim.
2009 The Phillies win Game Three of the NLDS by scoring a run in the top of the ninth against Colorado for a 6-5 final score.
2010 In Game Four of the NLDS between the Giants and Braves, San Francisco rallies with two runs in the top of the seventh for a 3-2 win. The win allows the Giants to advance to the NLCS and ends Bobby Cox’s managerial career.