Fifty years ago today, something rather unique happened in baseball history. It was literally unique—something that had never happened before or since.
On June 23, 1963, veteran outfielder Jimmy Piersall stepped to the plate for the New York Mets facing Phillies pitcher Dallas Green to lead off the top of the fifth. Piersall swung on Green’s offering and made solid contact—home run.
This wasn’t just any homer for Piersall but a milestone homer. It was career homer No. 100. Already 33 years old and without too much power, Piersall knew he wasn’t going to get to 200 home runs, so he’d celebrate this milestone in a memorable fashion.
He decided to run around the bases backwards. Oh, he touched the bases in order: first, second, third, and home. That’s not the part he did backwards. He just faced backwards. He backpedaled all the way around the infield.
Uh … Oh-kaayy …
Clearly, it was a distinctive move. Piersall always had a different reputation. He’s most famous for having a nervous breakdown as a young Red Sox player, an event that inspired the Anthony Perkins movie about Piersall, “Fear Strikes Out.”
Piersall was always a high-strung player, and his nerves always caused some issues. He came up with the Red Sox in the early 1950s and quickly made a splash for his play—and for his conduct. He’d sometimes imitate other players on the field, which earned some laughs from the fans when he first tried it but became increasingly irksome to other professionals.
In the summer of 1952, Piersall had a meltdown. He continued to act out, got in a few fights (including one with a teammate), and even spanked the four-year-old child of teammate Vern Stephens. Sent to the minors, Piersall continued to devolve, earning four ejections in three weeks. Suspended, he went into a mental hospital for nervous exhaustion.
Piersall recovered, but he continued to engage in eccentric behavior. On at least one occasion, he ran around center field trying to distract a batter at the plate. He received numerous ejections—over two dozen, including seven in 1960. I once saw a photo of Piersall using bug spray in the middle of an inning while stationed in the outfield. So Piersall’s stunt for his 100th home run fit into a broader pattern of eccentric behavior.
No one has ever celebrated home run No. 100 like that before, and Piersall did it 50 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
3,000 days since Brad Wilkerson hits for the cycle for the second time in his career.
4,000 days since the Indians fire Charlie Manuel.
5,000 days since the Cubs release Gary Gaetti.
5,000 days since the Braves win Game Three of the 1999 NLCS, toping the Mets 1-0.
8,000 days since Frank Thomas reaches base via catchers interference for the only time in his career.
8,000 days since Yankees fans in the right field stands bombard Jose Canseco with paper cups, a baseball, a radio, and an inflatable doll.
10,000 days since Lou Brock legs out his 100th triple.
15,000 days since Moe Berg, player/genius/spy, dies.
20,000 days since Hoyt Wilhelm no-hits the Yankees. It’s a 1-0 win for the Orioles in what’s just Wilhelm’s third appearance with the club.
30,000 days since Hall of Famer Kiki Cuyler legs out his 100th triple.
1879 Hall of Fame slugger Dan Brouthers makes his big league debut.
1885 Jimmy Macullar of Baltimore hits into a walk-off triple play against Philadelphia in the American Association.
1888 Major league debut: Hugh Duffy, Hall of Fame center fielder.
1891 Washington signs amateur free agent Buck Freeman, one of the best sluggers of his day.
1894 George Weiss, Hall of Fame front-office executive who helped create the Yankees farm system, is born.
1895 Roger Connor hits his 123rd and 124th career home runs, passing Harry Stovey to become baseball’s all-time home run king. Connor remains the home run king until Babe Ruth. So it goes: Stovey to Connor to Ruth to Aaron to Bonds.
1897 Major league debut: Jack Powell, one of the only 200-game winners with a losing career record.
1906 Harry Howell tosses a shutout despite allowing 11 hits. Browns 9, Indians 0.
1910 Giants third baseman Art Devlin arrested after assaulting a heckler in Brooklyn.
1915 A’s pitcher Bruno Haas makes an inauspicious major league debut, walking a record 16 batters in 15-7 loss to the Yankees. In fact, it was such a poor debut that he never pitches in major league baseball again.
1915 Ty Cobb steals home against the Browns. It’s the fifth time he’s stolen home this month..
1916 Tom Seaton, Cubs pitcher, helps his own cause in 2-1 win over the Reds by stealing home in the sixth inning.
1917 Ernie Shore throws his non-perfect game of a perfect game. Babe Ruth is the starting pitcher for the Red Sox and is ejected almost right away for arguing with the umpire after a leadoff walk in the first inning. Shore came in, picked off the runner on first and retired each of the next 26 batters. This is arguably the most famous relief performance of all time and for years was listed in the record books as a perfect game.
1919 Gavvy Cravath hits four doubles in a game, tying a major league record. It’s the second time he’s hit four doubles in a game.
1920 Fred Luderus takes the day off, ending his consecutive-games-played streak at 533.
1922 Hall of Fame outfielder Harry Hooper belts a walk-off, inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the 10th inning.
1925 Carl Mays, one of the best pitchers not in the Hall of Fame, loses his 100th game: 172-100.
1926 In just his 1,462nd game played, Rogers Hornsby laces his 2,000th hit.
1926 Eppa Rixey surrenders the only pinch-hit homer of his 4,494.2 inning career. It’s an inside-the-park home run in the top of the 10th inning with two on and two out hit by Chuck Tolson.
1927 Lou Gehrig hits three home runs in a game, the first time he’s ever done that.
1928 Malachi Kittridge, veteran catcher, dies at age 58.
1930 Lou Gehrig gets his 1,000th hit.
1930 Al Simmons goes 5-for-5 with two home runs and five runs scored. It’s his second game scoring five runs.
1930 The Brooklyn Dodgers crack 10 consecutive hits against the Pirates, all with two outs. The streak ends when a batter is tagged out at the plate. Babe Herman hit two homers in that inning. I assume the first was before the consecutive-hit barrage.
1930 Star Cubs slugger Hack Wilson hits for the cycle.
1931 Hall of Fame second baseman Tony Lazzeri steals three bases in one game for the only time in his career.
1932 Goose Goslin hits three home runs in one game and has a career-high seven RBI as his Browns beat the Yankees, 14-10.
1933 Joe Cronin has his fifth straight multi-hit game. He’s got 13 hits in his last three games and 15 in the last four, both setting league records.
1934 Babe Ruth goes hitless for his eighth straight game. He’d never gone more than five games before without a hit (though he’ll go nine straight games next year without one).
1939 Hank Greenberg collects his 1,000th hit.
1940 Bucky Walters accidentally beans Billy Jurges on the head with a pitch. Jurges has to spend the next six days in the hospital. For his part, Walters has to leave the game because he’s so shaken up.
1943 During the Detroit race riot occurring at this time, 350 troops were stationed in Briggs Stadium.
1950 Joe McCarthy, probably the greatest manager in baseball history, resigns as Red Sox manager, ending his illustrious career.
1950 Luke Easter hits reportedly the longest home run ever hit at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium. It lands in the right field upper deck, about 477 feet from home plate.
1950 The Detroit Tigers beat the New York Yankee,s 10-9, in a game featuring a record 11 home runs, including four in one inning by Detroit (including one by pitcher Dizzy Trout).
1954 The Orioles beat the Red Sox, 8-7, in a wild 17-inning game. It ends on a walk-off error, one of the longest games ever to end like that. The game featured 42 players, 38 left on base, and a triple play.
1954 Major league debut: Harmon Killebrew.
1957 Today begins a stretch of four consecutive shutouts by Orioles pitchers.
1957 Braves star first baseman Joe Adcock breaks his leg. They’ll win the pennant anyway.
1958 Willie Mays collects his 1,000th hit. It took him 825 games.
1958 The Milwaukee Braves helps introduce one of the greatest traditions that has since gone by the wayside: the bullpen car. Don McMahon is the first man to use it, as he arrives at the mound in the sidecar of a motor scooter.
1960 Former Astros pitcher and current Cubs announcer Jim Deshaies is born.
1961 The Pirates blow a 9-0 lead to the Phillies and lose 12-11. Philadelphia scored four in the top of the eighth and six in the top of the ninth for the win.
1961 Stan Musial, age 40, ties his career high with seven RBI in one game, going 2-for-4 with a pair of homers and an intentional walk.
1961 The 43-game hitting streak by minor leaguer Howie Bendall comes to an end.
1962 Larry Doby signs to play with Japanese team.
1963 Orlando Cepeda gets his 1,000th career hit.
1963 Dick Stuart (a.k.a. Dr. Strangeglove) gets a standing ovation from the crowd when he cleanly handles three grounders in one inning.
1963 The Houston Astros are shut out for the fourth consecutive game. They finally end their streak by scoring a run in the second game of this day’s double-header after 40 straight scoreless frames.
1964 Charlie Lau gets two pinch hits in one inning.
1966 Billy Williams recorded his 1,000th hit.
1966 The Mets sign amateur free agent Jerry Morales.
1968 Jim Bunning loses his career-worst seventh consecutive decision. His numbers in that spell: 0-7, 8 G, 8 GS, 45 IP, 55 H, 27 R, 24 ER, 17 BB, 23 K for a 4.80 ERA.
1968 Juan Marichal has maybe his best day at the plate ever, going 3-for-3 with a sacrifice hit. It’s his only three-hit game.
1968 Luis Tiant tosses his fifth complete-game shutout in his last six starts. He’ll end the year with a record for lowest opponents’ batting average in a season (since broken).
1970 The Cubs purchase Milt Pappas from the Braves.
1970 Houston trades relief pitcher Mike Marshall to the Expos.
1971 Padres reliever Bob Miller wins two games in one day over the Astros.
1971 Rick Wise has an all-time great performance, throwing a no-hitter while bashing a pair of homers.
1971 Veteran pitcher Dick Ellsworth appears in his final game.
1972 San Diego hurler Steve Arlin, who tossed a two-hitter in his last start against the Pirates, pitches a one-hitter against the Giants.
1973 Fred Norman, Reds pitcher, is one out away from his third consecutive complete-game shutout since joining Cincinnati only to have Ron Cey hit a home run: CIN 4, LAD 1. This also is the first game Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Cey start together as Dodger infielders. They’ll be the longest-lasting infielder foursome in history, staying together into the early 1980s.
1973 Phillies pitcher Ken Brett homers in his fourth consecutive game.
1975 The Red Sox release Tim McCarver.
1976 The Dodgers trade their iron-man reliever, Mike Marshall, to the Braves.
1976 Lon Warneke, ace pitcher of the 1930s, dies at age 67.
1977 The Los Angeles Times quotes A’s owner Charles Finely saying “We run our club like a pawn shop—we buy, we trade, we sell.”
1977 Eddie Stanky, named Texas Rangers manager just yesterday, says he’s stepping down. Now that the excitement of the new job has worn off, he realizes he’s just lonely and homesick.
1978 Major league debut: Brian Milner. At 18, the Toronto catcher is the youngest player to start in the AL between 1962 and 1994.
1978 Appalachian Leaguer Rubio Malone throws a no-hitter. He’ll do it again 26 days later.
1979 DH be damned, bunt-happy Gene Mauch has the Twins lay down five sacrifice hits in one game, tying a Mauch-team record.
1979 Jerry Reuss loses his 100th career decision, giving him a record of 111-100.
1980 Longtime pitcher Jerry Koosman fans 15 batters in a 4-1 win for the Twins over KC.
1981 The longest game ever ends: Pawtucket 3, Rochester 2 (33).
1984 The Ryne Sandberg Game. On the nationally broadcast Game of the Week, the Cubs second baseman becomes an instant star, driving in seven runs on five hits, including a pair of game-tying home runs off Bruce Sutter as the Cubs beat the Cardinals, 12-11, in extra innings. Lost in the mix, St. Louis’ Willie McGee hits for the cycle that day. Sandberg’s WPA is a career-best 1.063.
1986 Bert Blyleven ties his career-worst Game Score: 7. His line: 1.2 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 0 K.
1986 The Phillies demolish the Cubs, 19-1, thanks to 15 extra-base hits, an NL record.
1988 For the fifth and final time, George Steinbrenner fires Billy Martin.
1990 Dwight Evans posts his best one-game WPA: 1.143 (even better than Sandberg in his game) by going 3-for-5 with two homers, two runs, and three RBI in Boston’s 4-3 win over Baltimore in 10 innings. The key shot is a walk-off, two-run homer with two outs in the 10th.
1993 Major league debut: Aaron Sele.
1993 Jay Buhner hits for the cycle.
1994 Marv Eugene Throneberry, lousy player who symbolized the 1962 Mets right down to his initials, dies at age 60.
1994 The Senate Judiciary Committee fails to approve anti-trust legislation with regards to major league baseball by a 10-7 vote. Union chief Don Fehr says this means a strike will happen.
1996 Tommy Lasorda manages his last game.
1997 Veteran outfielder Steve Finley hits three home runs in one game for the second time in his career. The first time was exactly five weeks earlier.
1997 Jason Giambi’s longest hitting streak peaks at 25 games. He’s 38-for-93 with 15 doubles and four homers in that span.
1998 Barry Larkin, age 34, hits two triples in one game. It’s the third time he’s done that.
1999 Larry Walker homers in his fifth straight game.
2000 Padres infielder Bret Boone hits three home runs in a game for the second time in his career.
2001 Manny Ramirez hits two home runs that travel a total 964 feet: 463 and 501 feet, respectively. He also leaves the bases loaded twice.
2003 Barry Bonds steals his 500th base.
2007 Rod Beck dies at the far too young age of 38.
2010 The Marlins fire manager Fredi Gonzalez.
2011 In a shocker, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman resigns. The team just beat Seattle, 1-0, to move a game over .500, and he was unhappy the team wouldn’t give him a new contract.
2012 Baltimore releases the finally-too-old Jamie Moyer.