Fifty years ago today was one of the most famous Cooperstown induction days of them all. On July 13, 1962, the Baseball Hall of Fame welcomed through its doors two of the games biggest stars: Bob Feller and Jackie Robinson.
Their claims to fame were rather obvious. Feller was a star fireballer who made the big leagues as a teen and was a force by his early 20s. He threw multiple no-hitters and 12 one-hitters. He was so dominant that when he struck out 348 batters in 1946, only one other pitcher in the entire league notched half as many punchouts. He was kinda good.
As big a name as Feller was, Robinson’s is the brightest star. His raw numbers aren’t as stellar as Feller’s stats because Robinson only played 10 years. He was a great all-around player who could hit for average, steal bases, play quality defense at a key up-the-middle position, and had enough power in his bat to earn the respect of opposing pitchers.
But, of course, when you think Robinson, those aren’t the things that first come to mind. He did all of the above while integrating major league baseball as its first black player of the 20th century.
Both men retired in 1956 and won election in 1962, and that’s also remarkable, for they had won election in their first year of eligibility, and no one had done that since the original class of five in 1936. Yes, for a quarter-century no one earned enshrinement in his first year, and now two had.
That fact had less to do with how well the BBWAA viewed Feller and Robinson—sure they appreciated them, but they’d also appreciated Joe DiMaggio and Lefty Grove—than a series of rule changes made over the years.
Those changes were summarized in a column, but to briefly recap here: at first, writers could vote for anyone, even active players. Thus, in 1936 all notable retired players and some good active players received votes, and that became their rookie ballot season. Then the BBWAA had to deal with the giant glut of former greats, and that slowed up the induction process.
Even more, there wasn’t a five-year waiting period. A guy became eligible after retiring for a year. But it turns out that writers didn’t like voting for a guy that soon, and they’d never get elected in write away. DiMaggio, for instance, played in 1951 and went into Cooperstown in 1955. By modern standards that’s even before he’d be eligible, but by the times he had to wait a bit.
In the 1950s, after DiMaggio had trouble getting in, Cooperstown finally reformed the voting process. A player had to be retired for five years, not just one. Also, a player who’d been retired for too long couldn’t be voted by the BBWAA; 20 years it was decided would be the longest duration, then they’d go to the Veterans Committee.
The first big names to reach the BBWAA ballot as first-timers after the reforms were Feller and Robinson, and that’s why they became the first newbie enshrines in 26 years.
Oh, and they weren’t the only ones going in that day, either. The Veterans Committee added in a pair of their own, centerfielder Edd Roush and manager Bill McKechnie. Rather nicely, all four were still alive to enjoy the honor.
And they got to enjoy it on July 23, 1962, 50 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim over things.
1,000 days since Houston announces the hiring of manager Brad Mills.
3,000 days since Mike Piazza smacks his seventh and final career walk-off home run.
4,000 days since Hall of Fame shortstop Lou Boudreau dies.
7,000 days since a Single-A Midwest League doubleheader between Rockford and the Quad Cities draws just 15 spectators to the stands—and that includes two scouts and the mascot. It’s during massive flooding along the Mississippi River.
7,000 days since Luis Polonia is caught stealing three times in one game, tying an AL record.
15,000 days since Atlanta releases reliever Hoyt Wilhelm.
50,000 days since 300-game winner Eddie Plank is born.
1876 Turn-of-the-century outfielder Ginger Beaumont is born.
1891 Hall of Fame centerfielder Hugh Duffy hits two inside-the-park home runs in one game.
1900 Jimmie Wilson, the least successful manager in history, is born.
1901 Pirates player-manager Fred Clarke hits for the cycle.
1901 Joe Quinn, longtime star infielder, plays in his last game.
1907 In the Texas League, the Austin Senators squad steals 23 bases in a 44-0 win over San Antonio.
1909 Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander tosses a no-hitter for the Galesburg Boosters over Pekin in the minor leagues. He fans 10 and walks one.
1910 The A’s and Indians-A’s make a trade. On July 30, Philadelphia will send Shoeless Joe Jackson to Cleveland as a player to be named later.
1912 In the International League, 41-year-old Joe McGinnity still lives up to his old nickname Iron Man, pitching and winning both ends of a doubleheader for Newark for Rochester.
1915 Jack Ness of the Pacific Coast League’s Oakland Oaks team has his hitting streak reach 49 games.
1916 The Giants purchase Slim Sallee from the Cardinals for $10,000.
1918 Pee Wee Reese is born.
1921 At the Black Sox trial, the court learns that the grand jury confessions and waivers of immunity signed by Eddie Cicotte, Lefty Williams, and Joe Jackson are missing from files of the Illinois state’s attorney’s office. Welcome to Chicago.
1922 Ray Grimes gets an RBI in his 17th consecutive game. He has 27 RBIs in that time.
1922 AL umpires Brick Owens and Tom Connolly miss their train, so the Browns and Tigers get trainers to work their game as umpires.
1923 In Kansas City, Municipal Stadium opens. The Negro League Monarchs will play there.
1925 Lou Gehrig enjoys the first of 43 career multi-home run games. It includes the first of his 23 grand slams. This one is a bounced slam, his only bounced grand slam.
1929 St. Louis swaps managers. The Cardinals can Billy Southworth and bring back Bill McKechnie from managing their Rochester club. Both men are Hall of Fame managers.
1930 Joe Cronin has the first of his six career multi-home run games. The next one will occur in 1937.
1930 Pie Traynor, who will hit only 58 home runs in his Hall of Fame career, homers in both end of a doubleheader in the Baker Bowl. The Pirates top the Phillies, 16-15 in 13 innings, in one of the games.
1932 Indians pitcher Wes Ferrell makes 10 assists in a 12-inning game.
1932 Red Ruffing goes 15 innings in a 4-3 win for the Yankees over the Red Sox.
1934 Dizzy Dean wins his 10th consecutive decision, his personal-best winning streak.
1936 Yankee rookie Joe DiMaggio legs out the first of three career inside-the-park home runs. Strangely enough, he’ll face the same pitcher as todaywhen he hits the second one: Chief Hogsett.
1936 Don Drysdale is born.
1940 Hot Dodger prospect Pete Reiser makes his big league debut.
1942 In the Negro Leagues, Leon Day fans 18 for Newark versus Baltimore. This is a Negro Leagues record.
1943 The Dodger outfielder ties a record with 18 putouts in a nine-inning win over the Reds.
1944 Bobby Doerr hits his 100th home run.
1944 Cub slugger Bill Nicholson hits three home runs in one game. At the end of the day, he’s given a bases-loaded intentional walk preventing him from a possible fourth homer. New York wins, 12-10, over Chicago.
1947 Fastball star Ewell Blackwell wins his 16th straight decision.
1947 Pittsburgh signs free agent slugger Frank Thomas.
1949 Turn-of-the-century outfielder John Anderson dies.
1950 Bill Lange, 1890s star, dies.
1950 Starting pitcher Bucky Walters appears in his last game.
1953 Casey Stengel loses his 1,000th decision. His record: 1,030-1,000.
1955 Del Ennis hits three home runs in one game.
1957 Mickey Mantle hits for the cycle.
1958 Ted Williams spits at a fan in Kansas City. He’ll be fined $250 and will apologize two days later.
1958 Frank Robinson enjoys his best game ever according to WPA: 0.969. He’s 2-for-5 with a double, home run, and four RBIs in the Reds 6-5 win over the Cubs.
1960 High-strung outfielder Jimmy Piersall of the Indians tries to distract Red Sox batter Ted Williams by running back and forth from center to left field. Both Piersall and manager Joe Gordon get ejected.
1960 Kansas City A’s Whitey Herzog hits into the first all-Cuban triple play in baseball. Pitcher Pedro Ramos catches Herzog’s shot, throws to first baseman Julio Becquer at first to double off one runner, and then Becquer throws to shortstop Jose Valdievielso to get the runner on second before he gets back to the bag.
1961 The Tigers and A’s use 21 pitcher in an 18-inning doubleheader, a record. The second game sets an AL record by lasting three hours and 54 minutes as a nine-inning game.
1964 Veteran pitcher Lew Burdette has a great day as a hitter, going 4-for-5 with a home and triple.
1966 Ball Four tracer: Jim Bouton tells a story in his book of a time when he and fellow pitcher Fritz Peterson put talcum powder in Joe Pepitone’s blow dryer, turning him into an Italian Pillsbury Doughboy when he tries to use it. No game perfectly fits the details Bouton gives in his book, but this is the most likely occasion.
1966 Mickey Mantle hits his ninth and final career grand slam.
1967 Mickey Lolich loses his 10th straight decision. He’ll go 9-1 the rest of the year, though.
1967 Manny Sanguillen makes his big league debut.
1968 Two weeks after returning to the dugout as manager, Al Lopez has an emergency appendectomy.
1970 Today is the only time the Reds will be shut out all year. Milt Pappas does it in a 1-0 Cub win. It’s Pappas’ best WPA game.
1971 Mickey Lolich loses his 100th decision for a 132-100 record.
1971 Catfish Hunter has his best day ever at the plate. He goes 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs, and that’s the difference in Oakland’s 9-7 win over Minnesota.
1973 Nomar Garciaparra is born.
1976 Vida Blue wins his 100th game. His record is 100-63.
1976 California fires manager Dick Williams.
1976 Reggie Jackson homers for the sixth straight game.
1978 Steve Carlton notches his 200th career win for a 200-145 record.
1978 Murray Chass, while working as a newspaper writer in his pre-blogger days, has the pinnacle of his career. At the bar in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, he’s drinking with Yankee manager Billy Martin, who says of Reggie Jackson and George Steinbrenner, “They deserve each other. One’s a born liar and the other is convicted.”
1979 One-third of the way there: George Brett gets his 1,000th hit.
1979 Dave Winfield enjoys his best WPA game: 0.870 WPA by going 4-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs in San Diego’s 6-5 win over the Phillies.
1983 Jose DeLeon makes his big league debut.
1985 Oddibe McDowell hits for the cycle.
1986 The White Sox trade Bobby Bonilla to the Pirates for Jose DeLeon.
1987 Boston releases Bill Buckner.
1988 John Smoltz makes his big league debut.
1991 Ken Griffey Jr. hits the first of his 15 career grand slams.
1991 Cubs outfielder Doug Dascenzo lays down a great bunt against temperamental Reds reliever Rod Dibble. Unable to get Dascenzo out, Dibble throws the ball at his back. Dibble will get a suspension for this.
1992 Federal judge Suzanne B. Conlon finds on behalf of the Chicago Cubs that baseball commissioner Fay Vincent exceeded his authority when he ordered NL realignment.
1992 Kevin Appier lasts 10 innings for the Royals, the last time anyone on their team has pitched more than nine innings.
1993 Lou Piniella manages his 1,000th game. His record: 527-473.
1994 Don Mattingly gets his 2,000th hit.
1994 Edgar Martinez lays down his last sacrifice bunt. He’ll never do it again in his remaining 6,113 trips to the plate.
1995 Roger Clemens endures his worst outing: 1.1 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 0 K for a Game Score of 2.
1998 Baltimore trades Joe Carter to the Giants, with whom he’ll end his career.
2000 Pedro Martinez fans 15 in a complete-game, 1-0 win over the White Sox.
2002 Nomar Garciaparra nails three homers in one game. In the same contest, Manny Ramirez hits two homers in one game for the second time in three days. The Red Sox hit four homers in one inning, including one by Ramirez and two by Garciaparra. Johnny Damon hit the other one.
2003 It’s one of the greatest trades in Cubs history and one of the worst trades in Pirates history. Pittsburgh sends Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton to the Cubs for Jose Hernandez, a minor leaguer, and a player to be named later.
2003 Kevin Brown plays in his last career game.
2004 Ivan Rodriguez gets his 2,000th hit.
2004 Kevin Millar hits three homer runs in one game for Boston.
2004 John Maine makes his big league debut.
2005 The Giants retire No. 36 for Gaylord Perry.
2007 Aaron Harang throws 10 innings for the Reds. It’s the last time the franchise ever has anyone throw more than nine innings in one game.
2010 Alex Rodriguez has his 10,000th plate appearance.
2010 Kelly Johnson hits for the cycle for Arizona.
2011 Terry Francona wins his 1,000th decision as manager. His record: 1,000-880.