50 years ago today, something rather remarkable happened: a pitcher hit a walk-off, game winning home run. This has never been common, but used to happen on rare occasion. Now? It’s happened once in the last 40 years, and that was way back in 1986.
On June 6, 1963, the Chicago Cubs hosted the San Francisco Giants in Wrigley Field. Both teams had their ace pitchers on the mound—Hall of Famer Juan Marichal for San Francisco. He was in the midst of his first big season, in which he’d win a league-leading 25 games. Taking the hill for the Cubs was Larry Jackson, who would lead the league in wins the next year.
With those two men working, runs looked few and far between. The Giants were able to strike early, with Willie Mays driving in a run in the top of the first, but Larry Jackson clamped down on things quickly after that. After seven innings, it was still 1-0 Giants.
In the eighth, the Giants finally added an insurance run on a pair of singles and a productive ground out. However, the Giants didn’t have much time to enjoy their new 2-0 lead. In the bottom half of the inning, sweet swinging Billy Williams belted a two-out, two-run homer to tie it up. Neither side scored in the ninth and the contest went into overtime.
In the top of the 10th, it looked like San Francisco would break it open. Against reliever Barney Schultz, the Giants loaded the bases with just one out two singles and an intentional walk. Well, Schultz didn’t have it, so the Cubs brought in the hero of our story, Lindy McDaniel.
At 27 years old, McDaniel was already an established reliever. He’d come to Chicago in the recent offseason from St. Louis. Actually, it was in the same trade that brought Larry Jackson to the North Side. Facing a bad situation, McDaniel promptly engaged a series of notable clutch heroics.
First, McDaniel bought himself some breathing room without even throwing the ball to the batter. Instead he threw it to the shortstop and picked Willie Mays off second base. It was McDaniel’s first pickoff in five years. Now there were two outs and runners on the corners. OK, a single would still give the Giants the lead, but at least an out couldn’t. No matter, the batter couldn’t make contact with McDaniel’s offerings anyway. Lindy fanned him to end the inning. That was a mighty clutch appearance.
Time for the bottom of the 10th, with the Cubs still in it. And wouldn’t you know it—the first batter due up was pitcher Lindy McDaniel. Back then, managers still let their relievers bat on a fairly regular basis. McDaniel typically logged 20 trips to the plate a season.
Facing him was not Marichal, who San Francisco yanked from the game, but another star pitcher, former White Sox ace Billy Pierce.
You noticed the title to this piece. You read the first paragraph. You know what happened. Pierce threw, McDaniel swung, and the ball flew out of the park. Just like that, the Cubs won, 3-2 in 10 innings. It capped off a series of heroic plays by McDaniel. He picked a guy off, struck a man out, and belted a walk-off homer, all right in a row.
The stat WPA is designed to tell us the likelihood that a team will win the game given based on the current situation and how each at-bat changes the odds. When McDaniel entered the game, WPA reckons that the Cubs had a 22 percent chance of winning. Three plays later it was up to 100 percent. That’s a spectacular turnaround in such a short amount of time—with the perfect way to cap it off.
It was a great finale for the home crowd all right, and it happened 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.
1,000 days since the Yankees and Rangers combine to use 19 pitchers in a 6-5 13-inning Rangers win.
4,000 days since pitcher John Lackey makes his big league debut.
7,000 days since catcher Mike Matheny makes his major league debut.
15,000 days since the Brewers and Twins end the day tied 3-3 when the AL’s curfew limit kicks in. The Brewers will win it in the 22nd inning, which will be against Bert Blyleven in a rare relief appearance for him. Rod Carew reaches base eight times on three walks, three singles, and two doubles—but never scores. That’s the most times on without a run in the last 90 years (perhaps most ever).
30,000 days since Ripper Collins makes his big league debut.
1849 Jim Devlin, the only man to pitch 100 percent of his team’s innings in a season and also a man banned from baseball for helping to throw the 1877 pennant race, born
1888 Henry Porter throws a no-hitter in the American Association (which is a major league back then). KC 4, BAL 0.
1888 Pete Hotaling gets six hits in one game.
1890 Hall of Famer Hugh Duffy hits his only walk-off home run. It’s an inside-the-park one in the 10th inning in the Players League.
1892 President Benjamin Harrison becomes the first sitting president to attend a baseball game.
1904 Fielder Jones manages his first game. He later pilots the White Sox to an upset World Series title over the Chicago Cubs in 1906.
1907 Bill Dickey, Hall of Fame catcher, is born.
1907 Lave Cross, long-lasting, great-fielding third baseman, plays his last game.
1912 Philadelphia Phillies sign amateur free agent (and future Hall of Famer) Eppa Rixey.
1915 Red Sox select Herb Pennock, also a future Hall of Famer, off waivers from the A’s.
1917 Rogers Hornsby hits the first of 12 career grand slams. This is his only inside-the-park one.
1918 Casey Stengel returns to Ebbets Field for the first time since the Dodgers traded him away to the Giants. He returns in style, too. In his first at-bat, he steps out of the batter’s box, doffs his cap to the crowd, and a bird flies out. Bizarre—and awesome!
1920 St. Louis Cardinals play their last game at Robison Field (their home since 1893). They’ll move to Sportsman’s Park, where they’ll stay over 40 years.
1921 Bill Gatewood of the Detroit Stars pitches the first Negro Leagues no-hitter in a 4-0 win over the Cuban Stars.
1921 Outfielder Duffy Lewis plays in his last game.
1922 Hall of Fame hitter Harry Heilmann connects for his tenth and last inside-the-park home run.
1930 Charlie Root, still the all-time leader in wins in Cub franchise history, has the best Game Score of his career: 87. His line: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K.
1932 Cincinnati Reds release Harry Heilmann, Hall of Fame outfielder.
1934 Lefty Grove has the worst start of his career: 4 IP, 13 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 2 K. Game Score: 6.
1934 Myril Hoag becomes the first Yankee to get six hits in a game. It’s not the first in franchise history, but it is the first time since the club moved from Baltimore to New York in the 1902-03 off-season.
1935 Members of the Cleveland Indians team go public with their dissatisfaction with manager Walter Johnson. They place an ad in the papers fingering him as the cause of the team’s dissension. Ouch.
1937 The Phillies forfeit to the Cardinals. They stall in the fourth inning while losing, hoping the rain will pick up and cause a rainout. But they overdo their stalling, apparently.
1938 The Giants trade Wally Berger to the Reds.
1939 Bert Bebble, George Bebble, and Carl Stotz form Little League in Williamsport, PA.
1939 After missing five weeks with an injury, Joe DiMaggio returns to the Yankee lineup and hits a homer, double, and single.
1939 The New York Giants hit five homers in the fourth inning and a new record seven in one game.
1940 Boston Braves (or Bees, as they were called then) sign a 19-year-old Warren Spahn.
1941 New York Giants wear plastic helmets in a game.
1944 All baseball games are cancelled because it’s D-Day in Europe.
1944 Bud Harrelson, longtime Mets infielder, is born.
1946 Boston Red Sox release Joe Cronin as a player. He still manages them.
1946 Vince DiMaggio, oldest of the outfield playing brothers, appears in his last game.
1948 Hall of Fame slugger Ralph Kiner hits the first of eight career walk-off home runs
1948 It might be the best game in Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst’s career. He’s 4-for-5 with three doubles and a home run as the Cardinals bombard the Phillies, 11-1.
1948 Phillies pitcher Charlie Bicknell gives up 18 total bases in one inning, including four home runs.
1950 Red Sox release veteran infielder Ken Keltner.
1953 Robin Roberts wins his 100th game. He’s 100-60 so far in his career.
1953 Sleepy Bill Burns, pitcher who helped set up the fix in the 1919 World Series, dies. He’s the guy Christopher Lloyd played in the John Sayles movie Eight Men Out.
1955 Jackie Robinson hits his fifth and final walk-off home run.
1956 The Cubs sign amateur free agent Jim Brewer.
1958 The Tigers become the 15th team to integrate, as Ozzie Virgil plays for them for the first time. Now only the Red Sox haven’t integrated.
1959 Hank Aaron gets his 1,000 hit in his 782nd game.
1959 Maury Wills makes his big league debut with the Dodgers.
1962 Tony LaRussa makes his big league debut as a teenaged infielder for the Kansas City A’s.
1963 Frank Robinson, who homered twice in the second game of yesterday’s doubleheader, homers twice in the first game of today’s doubleheader.
1963 Ball Four Tracer: In his book Ball Four, Jim Bouton recalled a time when he pitched for the Yankees and Baltimore’s Jackie Brandt hit a liner off his jaw, forcing him from the game. Well, that happened here.
1964 Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson gets career hit No. 1,000.
1965 Johnny Callison hits three homers in a game for the second time in less than a year.
1965 For the third time in his career, Don Drysdale pitches a complete-game shutout and hits a homer in the same game.
1965 Tom Tresh of the Yankees hits three home runs in one game.
1967 Philadelphia trades Bob Uecker to Atlanta. With the Braves, Uecker will be most effective as a catcher. Hall of Famer Phil Niekro will later credit Uecker with making him a Hall of Fame pitcher. Uecker made Niekro unafraid to throw the knuckler at any moment. The passed balls and problems would be on Uecker, and the wins and low ERA would be on Niekro. That’s the message Uecker gave him and that turned Niekro into a 300-game winner.
1967 Baltimore’s Curt Blefary hits three home runs in one game.
1967 Draft day highlights: A’s—Darrell Evans; Braves—Dusty Baker and Ralph Garr; Astros—John Mayberry; Cardinals—Ted Simmons and Jerry Reuss; Orioles – Bobby Grich. Among the better guys drafted who wouldn’t sign that year: Angels – Dave Kingman; Giants—Davey Lopes, and Yankees—Steve Rogers.
1971 Willie Mays hits his sixth and final walk-off home run.
1972 Harmon Killebrew has his worth game by WPA: -0.425. He’s 0-for-4 with two Ks, a GIDP, and a base on balls. His Twins club wins anyway, 5-4 over Baltimore.
1973 The Cardinals trade pitcher Jim Bibby to the Rangers.
1975 Frank Robinson has his 54th and final multi-homer game.
1975 Dwight Evens enjoys the first of 22 multiple-home run games.
1975 Nolan Ryan attempts to throw his second consecutive no-hitter and doesn’t miss by much against Milwaukee. A Hank Aaron single in the sixth is the first hit he allows, and Ryan surrenders only two on the day.
1978 Draft day highlights: Orioles—Mike Boddicker; Angels—Tom Brunansky; Yankees—Steve Balboni; Orioles – Cal Ripken Jr.; Phillies—Ryne Sandberg; Twins—Kent Hrbek; Dodgers—Steve Sax. Guys drafted whom didn’t sign include: Gary Gaetti (White Sox), Mike Moore (Cardinals), Mark Langston (Cubs); Frank Viola (Royals), and Tim Wallach (Angels).
1979 Rick Reuschel wins his 100th game: 100-94.
1980 Tommy John wins his 200th game: 200-144. He ties his career-high Game Score: 89. His line: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K. He had the exact same line many moons and one arm ago on July 4, 1967.
1980 The Twins release former star reliever Mike Marshall.
1982 Frank Viola makes his big league debut.
1983 Draft day highlights: Reds—Chris Sabo; Mets—Rick Aguilera; Angels—Wally Joyner; Braves—Ron Gant; Red Sox—Roger Clemens; Reds—Rob Dibble; A’s—Terry Steinbach; and White Sox—Doug Drabek. Biggest names drafted but not signed; Jay Buhner (Braves), and Todd Zeile (Royals).
1986 Padres manager Steve Boros ejected before the first pitch. He shows the ump videotape of a disputed play from the night before.
1986 Wade Boggs raises his batting average on the year to .404. It’s downhill from here, though.
1988 The Dodgers sign amateur free agent Raul Mondesi.
1989 Tom Glavine tosses a complete-game shutout despite not fanning anyone. ATL 3, LAD 0. It’s only happened three times in the NL since then.
1990 The Yankees fire manager Bucky Dent.
1990 First baseman Cecil Fielder hits three homers in one game. It’s the second time in his career.
1991 Indians demote Albert Belle to the minors for not running out a grounder in 2-1 loss to the White Sox.
1991 Royals 4, Rangers 3 (18). It ends on a walk-off error on a sacrifice hit attempt by Kurt Stillwell. The KC pitchers tossed 345 pitchers, the most known by one staff in a game. Texas’s Rafael Palmeiro has the worst WPA game of his career: -0.410 WPA, going 0-for-9 on the day.
1991 Robin Ventura will end his career with just 33 sacrifice bunts, but he lays down a pair of them today.
1992 Lou Whitaker gets his 2,000th career hit in his 2,008th game played.
1993 Cal Ripken twists his right knee when his spikes catch on the infield grass in Orioles-Mariners game. He gets a swollen knee that nearly ends his streak, but (obviously) doesn’t.
1993 WPA’s favorite John Smoltz game: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 12 K for a WPA of 0.704. Braves 2, Dodgers 0.
1995 Joe Torre loses his 1,000th game as a manager. His career record is a rather even: 900-1,000. It’ll get better.
1995 Buck Showalter manages his 472nd game under George Steinbrenner, the most anyone had under Steinbrenner in one stint to this point in history. Torre shatters this mark.
1996 It’s the first major league game in 65 years to feature a cycle and a triple play. John Valentin gets the cycle while the Chicago White Sox defense executes the triple play.
1997 Sandy Alomar hits four doubles in one game.
1998 Mike Mussina gives up a leadoff hit to start a game for the first time in 42 starts.
1998 Cincinnati retires No. 8 for Joe Morgan.
1999 Eddie Stanky, former infielder, dies.
2000 The Rally Monkey makes its debut in Anaheim. Angels first show it on the Jumbotron to get the fans stoked.
2000 Jason Marquis makes his big league debut.
2003 Sammy Sosa receives an eight-game suspension for his corked bat incident.
2003 Texas trades Ruben Sierra to the Yankees.
2004 Veteran catcher Rod Barajas hits his only triple. He is the only person in baseball with over 2,600 plate appearances and only one triple. He retires with 3,784 PA.
2006 Draft day highlights: Giants—Tim Lincecum; Rays—Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings, and Alex Cobb; Yankees—Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy; Dodgers—Clayton Kershaw; Arizona—Max Scherzer and Brett Anderson; A’s—Trevor Cahill, Mike Leake, and Andrew Bailey; Cubs—Jeff Samardzija and Tyler Colvin; Mariners—Doug Fister; Cardinals – Allen Craig and Jon Jay; Padres—David Freese and Mat Latos; Mets—Daniel Murphy and Joe Smith; Mariners—Brandon Morrow; Red Sox—Trever Cahill; Rangers—Chris Davis and Craig Gentry; Braves—Kris Medlen.
2007 Trevor Hoffman creates the 500-save club.
2008 Armando Benitez plays his last game.
2009 Kelvim Escobar plays in his last game.
2012 The Orioles sign aging pitcher Jamie Moyer. It doesn’t take.