Fifty years ago today, something very strange happened, something that had happened only once before in baseball history.
Well, on the face of it, things weren’t that strange—a man hit a home run. Yawn. That happens every day, right? Aye, but there was something special about this home run, something the set it apart.
It came in the man’s only plate appearance of the year.
Yup, a batter hit a home run in his first trip to the plate of the season and his reward was never to be allowed to grab a bat again all year. You’ve got to admit, that is different.
As you might guess, there is a catch to this story that explains it, and odds are some of you out there in reader-land have guessed it: The slugger was actually a pitcher.
On May 3, 1963, the Baltimore Orioles played in Detroit against the Tigers, and soon fell badly behind. The Tigers scored once in the first, twice in the second, and added another pair in the third for a quick 5-2 lead.
That was enough to chase starting pitcher Chuck Estrada from the scene and bring on the hero of our story, young Buster Narum. At age 22, Narum was a rookie making just his fifth career appearance. After entering two games in mid-April, he sat on the shelf for two weeks, but this was his third straight day of work.
Narum put out the fire in the bottom of the third with a double play grounder, and was due up for his first ever major league at bat a few moments later. He made it count with a two-run homer that trimmed the Tigers’ lead to 5-4. The Tigers were so mortified they immediately pulled starting pitcher Don Mossi for reliever, Paul Foytack. The good news was that Foytack didn’t let any pitcher hit homers. The bad news for Detroit was that he did allow three homers, with the go-ahead run coming from the bat of the decidedly power-deprived shortstop Luis Aparicio. Baltimore won the game, 8-5.
But the memorable moment was Narum’s blast. He made two more pitching appearances before getting sent down to the minors. He actually pitched well in his time up—a 3.00 ERA—but the Orioles were stocked to the rafters with young pitchers and they clearly felt he needed more seasoning.
Instead of being part of Baltimore’s youth movement, Narron was traded Narum in the offseason to Washington for a young prospect named Lou Piniella. Yeah, that Lou Piniella.
Prior to Narum, only one person had a homer in his only at-bat on the season, and it was also a pitcher: Bill LeFebvre with the 1938 Red Sox. Since then, it’s happened thrice more. Twice it’s been pitchers – Montreal’s Guillermo Mota did it in 1999, and Gustavo Chacin did it for Houston in 2010. In between, Baltimore’s Eddie Rogersbecame the only non-pitcher to do it. Normally a pinch runner in 2005, he homered in his only time up. He ended his career with 30 PA in 30 games—but only the one homer.
It’s a small club, and Buster Narum joined 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 through them.
1,000 days since Boston signs former star slugger Carlos Delgado to a minor league contract.
1,000 days since J.P. Arencibia has a big league debut for the ages. The newest Brewer goes 4-for-5 with two homers—including one in his first at bat.
1,000 days since Toronto smashes eight home runs in a 17-11 win over Tampa.
1,000 days since Arizona retires No. 20 for Luis Gonzalez.
2,000 days since the Phillies sign veteran middle reliever J.C. Romero as a free agent.
4,000 days since Randy Johnson records his 3,500th career strikeout.
4,000 days since Joe Kennedy throws a complete game for Tampa, ending a franchise streak of 194 games without a CG.
5,000 days since Jeff Montgomery of the Royals records his 300th career save.
5,000 days since Manny Ramirez has one of the greatest games of his career, with three homers and one double. It’s his only day with four extra base hits.
7,000 days since White Sox minor leaguer Michael Jordan first bats. It’s against Texas’ Darren Oliver in a spring training game.
8,000 days since Roberto Alomar steals four bases in one game.
9,000 days since Buddy Bell hits his 200th home run.
1890 It’s the first time the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants ever meet.
1891 Eppa Rixey, Hall of Famer, is born.
1895 Hall of Fame slugger Sam Thompson hits his only walk-off home run, a three-run shot giving the Phillies an 8-5 win over Giants.
1896 An overflow crowd at a Cubs-Cards game causes fans to stand in roped off section in the outfield. Balls hit into them are considered triples, giving this game nine triples in all, including three by Bill Dahlen.
1899 It’s a bizarre walk-off home run hit in Pittsburgh. Jack McCarthy hits a ball that goes through a door in the outfield. A fan shuts it before a defender can reach it. The NL will order a replay of this game as a result.
1905 Red Ruffing, great-hitting pitcher and Hall of Famer, is born.
1909 Chick Fraser, a pitcher with over 200 losses but not 200 wins, appears in his last game.
1911 The longest lasting nine-inning game of the season takes place in 1911, NYG 3, BRK 0, takes three hours to finish. It was a very different game back then.
1912 Yankees get too little too late: they score 10 runs in the ninth inning in a furious rally, but lose 18-15 to the A’s.
1915 Almost three years after his big league debut, Wilbur Cooper allows his first outside-the-park home run. His five previous home runs allowed were all insiders.
1920 Braves 2, Dodgers 1 (19). Just two days earlier these same two teams tangled for 26 innings. As in that May 1 game, both starters here went the distance: Dana Fillingim (19 IP) for Boston and Sherry Smith (18.1 IP) for Brooklyn.
1920 Dan Bankhead, pitcher and the second black NL player of the 20th century, is born.
1924 Hall of Famer Zack Wheat swats his 100th home run. They’ve all come with Brooklyn, and today the Dodgers become the seventh franchise with a person who hit 100 home runs for them.
1928 Pirates hurler Ray Kremer loses at Forbes Field, after 22 consecutive victories there. Now that’s what I call home field advantage.
1930 Charlie Root, the winningest pitcher in Cubs history (201 wins with the franchise) steals the only base of his career.
1932 Young Cubs third baseman Stan Hack has a memorable first career home run—an inside the park one. He’ll never leg out another home run.
1934 Chuck Hinton, All-Star outfielder for the 1964 Senators, is born.
1935 Ted Breitenstein, high quality 1890s pitcher, dies at age 65.
1936 Joe DiMaggio makes his big league debut.
1938 Lefty Grove begins a 20-game winning streak at Fenway Park.
1938 Lou Gehrig, six weeks or so shy of his 35th birthday and suffering from ALS, hits his 10th and final inside-the-park home run.
1941 Hank Gornicki makes a nice big league debut with the Cardinals, throwing a one-hitter in 6-0 victory over the Phillies. Not bad, but he never does amount to much as a pitcher.
1945 Davey Lopes, star Dodgers second baseman, is born.
1946 Lou Boudreau records his 1,000th hit.
1946 Red Sox announce that Fenway will have lights in 1947.
1947 Pirates trade Al Gionfriddo and $100,000 to Dodgers for Kirby Higbe, Cal McLish, Gene Mauch, Hank Behrman and Dixie Howell. Gionfriddo has one of the most famous moments in Dodgers history in the 1947 World Series. He makes a sensational catch of a Joe DiMaggioblast near the 415-foot mark, robbing him of at least extra bases and possibly a home run. It’s also indirectly responsible for a Chris Berman-ism. Announcer Red Barber said, while watching Gionfriddo race toward the wall, that he’s going “back back back back back” which Berman later decided to use as his home run call.
1950 Yankee star pitcher Vic Raschi balks four times in one game.
1950 Johnny Klippstein makes his big league debut. He’ll turn into an effective reliever after an unspectacular career as a starter.
1952 The Yankees and Senators make a six-player trade that sends Jackie Jensen to Washington.
1953 It’s a nice day to be Early Wynn. He hurls a complete game shutout on the mound and homers at the plate, as the Indians beat the Senators 7-0. It’s Wynn’s 10th straight win, his best. His numbers in that stretch: 11 GS, 9 CG, 93.2 IP, 61 H, 23 R, 18 ER, 40 BB, 52 K. 1.73 ERA.
1955 Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser pitches his last game.
1956 For the only time in his career, Roberto Clemente tries to steal three bases in one game. He’s successful twice, but caught once.
1957 Walter O’Malley agrees to move the Dodgers to LA.
1958 Al Maul dies at age 92. He was the last surviving player from the Union Association, a rival major league in 1884.
1959 Charlie Maxwell of the Tigers has a career day: he homers three times in one game and four times in a row in a doubleheader.
1959 Pirates catcher Hank Foiles makes an unassisted double play. That’s tough to do for a catcher.
1959 Star Braves pitcher Lew Burdette posts his ninth straight win, his longest winning streak ever. His line in that time: 10 G, 10 GS, 9 CG, 2 SHO, 80.2 IP, 73 H, 21 R, 21 ER, 10 BB, 41 K, and a 2.34 ERA.
1961 Switch-hitting minor leaguer Ellis Burton homers from both sides of the plate in one inning. That had never happened before in organized baseball
1961 Ken Boyer laces his 1,000th hit.
1961 Wild comeback that wasn’t: A’s lead Red Sox 8-0 after six innings, but Red Sox come back to tie it, largely thanks to six runs in the top of the ninth. That sends the game into extra innings, but that’s all Boston can do; A’s win 9-8 in 10 innings.
1961 That same day, the Angels stage a more successful comeback. The Orioles lead 6-1 at the seventh-inning stretch, but the expansion club gets one run in the seventh, two in the eighth, and three in the ninth for a 7-6 victory.
1962 Hank Aaron hits a double, a triple, and two home runs but never gets the single and thus misses the cycle. His 13 total bases on the day are his career high. Despite his efforts, the Phillies top the Braves, 9-8.
1963 Pete Rose hits his first home run.
1963 Former Brooklyn Dodgers star Duke Snider enjoys the last of 34 career multi-home run games. No. 33 was nearly three full years ago.
1964 Harmon Killebrew experiences maybe his worst day at the plate: 0-for-5 with four strikeouts and a GIDP.
1964 Jim Kaat allows the only inside-the-park home run of his career. Nelson Mathews of the A’s hits it. It must have been something in the air, because on the same day, Juan Marichal does likewise. This one is hit by Willie Davis.
1964 Sadaharu Oh hits four homers in a game in Japan.
1964 Carl Yastrzemski gets a career high six RBIs in a game: 3-for-4, one home run, one run and one walk. The homer is Yaz’s first career grand slam.
1965 Indians select Joe Rudi off waivers from the A’s as a first-year waiver pick.
1966 Luis Tiant throws his third straight complete game shutout. For most pitchers that would be a career highlight, but it’s not the longest streak of complete game shutouts for Tiant. That said, here are his numbers in this streak: 27 IP, 14 H, 8 BB, 25 K, and of course zero runs for a 0.00 ERA.
1969 For health reasons, White Sox manager Al Lopez has to step down. The Hall of Famer will never manage again, but he’ll live nearly 35 more years.
1971 A timeout saves the Mets. In the top of the ninth of a 2-2 game against the Cubs, the third base umpire calls a bases-loaded balk on New York reliever Tug McGraw. However, the home plate umpire says he’d just called time, so the balk is negated. The Mets go on to win in extra innings.
1972 Al Kaline laces two triples in one game. Not bad for a 37-year-old.
1972 Bert Blyleven wins his 10th straight game, a personal best he’ll tie 17 years later. His numbers in this run: 13 GS, 9 CG, 108 IP, 93 H, 25 R, 23 ER, 23 BB, 78 K, for a 1.92 ERA. Despite the streak, he’ll end the year 17-17, and that was after going 16-15 the year before.
1974 WPA’s favorite Pete Rose homer: 0.671 WPA: he hits a three-run shot with one out in the top of the ninth and the Cubs beating the Reds 4-2.
1975 The Brewers lay down six sacrifice hits for manager Del Crandall. That’s the most ever in a designated hitter league. Brewers 4, Yankees 3. In that same game, Robin Yount intentionally walks twice, which is odd because he’s not yet a good hitter.
1977 Dan Meyer gets on base via catcher’s interference twice in one game. That’s happened only six times in the last 90 years.
1977 It’s the last game for Mike Cuellar, a 20-game winner for the Orioles.
1977 Phil Niekro faces 48 batters in one game, his career high. 11 IP, 12 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 5 BB, 9 K in the game. He loses 8-7 to Pittsburgh.
1977 Ryan Dempster, pitcher, is born.
1978 Gary Carter hits the first of his 11 career grand slams.
1979 Bobby Bonds smacks his 300th home run.
1980 Willie McCovey hits his last home run. The opposing pitcher is Scott Sanderson, whose career will end in 1996, 37 years after McCovey’s began. Early his career McCovey homered off Warren Spahn, who debuted in 1942. So that’s a 54-year split between McCovey gopher ball victims. I don’t know how that rates in history, but it sure is impressive.
1981 Fernando-mania: The scoreless inning streak for Dodger phenom Fernando Valenzuela ends at 36.
1984 It’s the best one-game WPA for any Brewers batter ever: Mark Brouhard scores a 1.027 WPA by going 3-for-4 with two runs, a homer, three RBIs, and a walk in Milwaukee’s 6-5 win over the Royals.
1985 Lenny Dykstra makes his big league debut.
1986 Homer Bailey, Reds pitcher, is born.
1986 Kirby Puckett, who homered a total four times in his previous two major league seasons, launches his 11th home run of 1986 on this date.
1987 Eric Davis homers three times in a game for the second time.
1990 34-year-old Robin Yount hits his sixth and final inside-the-park homer, giving him at least one in three different decades. I wonder how many post-World War II players can say that.
1992 Eddie Murray hits his 400th home run.
1992 Edgar Martinez legs out two triples in one game.
1992 The only time Craig Biggio is caught stealing twice in a game. Astros beat the Pirates anyway, 1-0.
1996 Ken Hill of the Rangers retires the last 26 batters he faces in a one-hitter.
1996 Alex Kellner, pitcher, dies at age 71. He twice led the AL in losses while pitching for the A’s.
1998 Tom Glavine endures his 100th career loss. He’s 157-100 and counting.
1998 Dan Wilson hits the first inside-the-park grand slam in Mariners history.
1999 Davey Johnson wins his 1,000th game: 1,000-740.
1999 Jeff Kent hits for the cycle.
1999 The Cuban national team beats Orioles, 12-6.
1999 Creighton Gubanich of the Red Sox gets a grand slam for his first hit, something not done since 1982.
1999 Joe Adcock, star slugger for the 1950s Braves, dies at age 71.
2000 Red Sox and White Sox each get four homers in one inning. It’s not in the same game, but an odd coincidence anyway.
2001 Veteran Rangers skipper Johnny Oates manages his last game. He resigns after the game. There was speculation he’d soon be fired anyway.
2001 New White Sox pitcher David Wells takes to the radio to blast star teammate Frank Thomas. Wells says Thomas doesn’t have any guts because he isn’t coming back from an injury quickly enough, and it’s costing Thomas the respect of his teammates. A week later, Wells and everyone else will learn that Thomas’ injury is severe enough to shut him down for the season, as per doctor’s orders. Oops.
2004 Darrell Johnson, manager of the pennant-winning 1975 Red Sox, dies at age 75.
2005 White Sox set a new record as they become the first team to lead in each of their first 28 games. They don’t win them all, but they had the lead at one point in all of them.
2006 Mike Scioscia manages his 1,000th career game: he’s 532-468 so far.
2006 Washington, D.C. real estate magnate Theodore Lerner wins a bid to purchase the Nationals.
2006 Hector Luna hits the 10,000th home run in St. Louis Cardinals history. This includes their time in the AA in the 1880s. Luna will hit eight homers in his tenure with St. Louis.
2007 The A’s purchase sabermetric darling Jack Cust from the Padres.
2008 Ron Gardenhire manages the 1,000th game of his career.
2009 Carl Crawford steals six bases in one game against the Red Sox. It’s what he does best: torture Red Sox fans.
2009 Tom Gordon appears in the last game of his career.
2012 In an oddity, both starting pitchers in today’s Reds-Cubs game celebrate their birthday today: Homer Bailey and Ryan Dempster. Neither factors in the decision as the Reds win 4-3 in 10 innings. Cincinnati ties the game in the bottom of the ninth on a hit, an error, and many, many base on balls.
2012 At the time, it looked like the end of an era. Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera injures his knee while shagging fly balls during batting practice. When he’s carted off the field many fear he’ll never pitch again, but of course he’s back this year.