5,000 days ago, one of the greatest stunts any manager ever pulled occurred. It was Fake Mustache Night in the Mets dugout—at least it was for manager Bobby Valentine.
It was June 9, 1999 and Valentine’s Mets hosted the Toronto Blue Jays in an interleague game. It was a close game—in fact it went into extra innings, tied 3-3.
In the 12th the fun began. With one out and a runner on first, home plate umpire Randy Marsh awarded Toronto infielder Craig Grebeck first base via catcher’s interference on star Mets backstop Mike Piazza. Well, of course an odd call like catcher’s interference will get a manager’s attention, and when it comes in a tied game in extra innings, it really gets the juices flowing.
Valentine came out and protested, and Marsh gave Valentine the heave-ho. Normally the story would end there. But of course this would not be a normal night.
How often do people ignore an ejection and stay in the dugout? I can’t think of any time it’s happened in the last 4,999 days, but Valentine sure did it that night.
Valentine initially went to the clubhouse, sure. But only to don a disguise. While the Mets retired the next two Toronto hitters to end the inning. Valentine put on a pair of dark sunglasses to hide his eyes, a hat to shield his face, and best of all a tacky fake mustache to change his overall appearance.
The mustache was literally tacky—it was a collection of those eye black stickers players wear beneath their eyes to block the sunlight. That gave Valentine his memorable look. I suppose it was Valentine’s way of sticking it to the umpire and motivating his team. Whatever his thought process, it sure was fun.
Initially, it didn’t do much for either team. But in the bottom of the 14th, the Mets took advantage of two leadoff walks to begin the inning. The key moment was quite possibly a move by not-supposed-to-be-there manager Bobby Valentine. With runners on first and second and no outs, he ordered a sacrifice bunt that successfully advanced the runners. A few minutes later, a single brought home the run.
Though the umpires didn’t catch Valentine, clearly the cameras did and it was all over the media. The league suspended Valentine three games and fined him $5,000. But I’m sure Valentine was willing to take that penalty, especially since that night’s victory began a 18-5 run for the squad. The Mets ended the year tied for the Wild Card, and they beat the Reds in a play-in game. The Mets would ultimately fight their way into the NLCS, losing in six incredibly hard fought games to the Braves.
Maybe it’s a coincidence that the Mets began their best stretch with Valentine’s fake mustache. But if so, it’s a mighty fun coincidence to build a narrative around —and it happened 5,000 days ago.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary.” Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
2,000 days since Houston retires No. 5 for Jeff Bagwell.
5,000 days since Jeff Bagwell homers on the 11th pitch of an at-bat against the Cubs, the longest battle of his career to culminate in a dinger. In all, he homers three times in the game, something he did less than six weeks earlier, too.
5,000 days since Guillermo Mota homers in what turns out to be his only plate appearance of the season.
5,000 days since the Rockies and Mariners combine for 10 homers in one game.
5,000 days since Jacque Jones makes his big league debut.
6,000 days since Bernie Williams gets a personal best eight RBIs in one game. The Yankees win, 12-3 over Detroit.
7,000 days since the A’s sign free agent Rickey Henderson. Well, it’s one of the times they sign him as a free agent.
9,000 days since Craig Biggio makes his big league debut.
10,000 days since Britt Burns appears in his final game. He was a great young pitcher for the White Sox who suffered from a degenerative hip.
40,000 days since Sam Mertes of the Giants walks five times in one game.
1866 Billy Hamilton is born. The Hall of Fame speedster, not the current one.
1893 The Giants purchase Monte Ward from the Dodgers for $6,000.
1895 Jimmy Ring is born. He’ll pitch for the dismal 1920s Phillies and lead the league in a series of unwanted categories: most bases on balls (four times), most wild pitches (five times), most hits allowed (once), most homers allowed (once, and most earned runs (once). He was a decent pitcher, but with a bad team and (obviously) control issues.
1900 George Earnshaw is born. He’ll win 127 games in nine seasons, including three straight 20-win seasons with the Phillies from 1929-31. He’ll lead the league in wins in 1929 with 24.
1905 Jack Taylor, Cardinals pitcher, is acquitted by the NL Board of Directors on charges of throwing games. He is found guilty of bad conduct and fined $300, though.
1910 The AL and NL adopt resolutions banning syndicate ownership.
1910 Bug Holliday, outfielder, dies at age 43. He twice led the league in homers.
1910 St. Louis purchases future Hall of Fame pitcher Vic Willis from the Pirates. Willies is approaching the end of his career.
1916 Cleveland purchases Chick Gandil from Washington for $7,500. Gandil will later gain infamy as the ringleader on the Black Sox during the 1919 World Series fix.
1916 The Yankees purchase Frank “Home Run” Baker from the A’s for a princely sum of $37,500.
1923 The Cardinals trade Jack Fournier to the Dodgers for two players.
1925 19th century catcher Duke Farrell dies at age 58. In the final season of the AA, 1891, Farrell led the league in homers (12) and RBIs (110).
1931 The Yankees name their spring training site in St. Petersburg the Miller Huggins Field after their late manager.
1938 Chuck Estrada is born. As a 22-year-old rookie, Estrada will lead the AL in victories and fewest hits allowed per nine innings. Two years later, he leads the league inn losses and barely pitches after that.
1945 Billy Southworth Jr., a decorated bomber pilot and son of Hall of Fame Cardinals/Braves manager Billy Southworth, dies at age 27 when his plane crashes in New York City.
1948 Ron Cey, slugging Dodgers third baseman, is born.
1956 The Pirates and A’s cancel an exhibition game in Birmingham, Ala., due to a local ordinance that bars blacks and whites from playing together.
1963 Bump Hadley dies at age 58. He was a workhorse pitcher on some rotten AL teams, causing him to have back-to-back 20-loss seasons in 1932-33. As a member of the 1936 world champion Yankees, though, he led the league in winning percentage (.778 with a 14-4 record).
1963 Barry Jones is born. The reliever will lead the NL in games with 77.
1964 Young star Cubs infielder Ken Hubbs dies in a plane crash. The 1962 Rookie of the Year Award winner was 22 years old.
1966 Melido Perez, White Sox and Yankees starting pitcher, is born.
1974 Ugueth Urbina is born.
1977 The better of the two shortstops named Alex Gonzalez is born.
1983 Russell Martin is born.
1986 Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto is born.
1990 The owners begin a lockout of the players.
1994 Ila Borders becomes the first female pitcher in a college game.
1994 The Yankees sign veteran reliever Jeff Reardon for the final year of his career.
1995 A report emerges that MLB is pressuring Little League teams that use real nicknames to pay up to $6 a player for naming rights.
1999 The Reds announce they’re dropping their longtime policy against facial hair on players. The cause was a conversation between new outfielder Greg Vaughn and owner Marge Schott.
2002 Young Padres outfielder Mike Darr dies in an early-morning car accident at age 25.
2003 Boston purchases Kevin Millar from Florida. This works out well for the Red Sox.