Sixty years ago today, baseball saw one of its least likely home runs.
At the plate was a 28-year-old rookie Giant stepping into a major league batters box for the very first time. But it wasn’t just any 28-year-old rookie, but a 28-year-old rookie pitcher. Yeah, that’s someone unlikely to homer in his first at-bat.
This particular aging rookie was Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm. He’d made his pitching debut a few days earlier, but this was his first time at the plate. He faced Boston Braves reliever Dick Hoover, who had just entered the game after the starting pitcher allowed two homers and a hit batsmen to the last three batters he faced.
Wilhelm belted a solo home run in his first at-bat, clearly not a bad way to start his career. One could be forgiven for wondering if this newest pitcher would be better suited to an everyday role, but that was not to be. Rather famously, Wilhelm’s first-at-bat home run would be the only one in his career.
He’ll play 21 years and have 493 plate appearances, but never go deep again. In fact, he proved to be a .088 hitter. Even for a pitcher, that’s bad.
An inning after his homer, Wilhelm drove in another run on a ground out. He wouldn’t drive in another run for 14 months. Wilhelm had only one other multi-RBI game in his career.
After this game, his best shot was a triple, which he hit in 1953. He also hit two of his three career doubles that year. From 1954-73, Wilhelm hit .075/.125/.078.
As unlikely as it sounds, a pitcher homered in his first at-bat and then played another 20-plus years without another longball. And that homer was 60 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event that happened X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim:
1,000 days since Mark Buehrle retires the first 17 batters he faces. Including his recent perfect game (and the fact he retired the last batter he faced in the start before that), he now has 45 consecutive batters retired, a new all-time record. However, the Sox lose this game, 5-3 to the Twins.
1,000 days since the Red Sox retire Jim Rice’s number.
4,000 days since The Red Sox lose 7-6 to the A’s. It’s a very strange loss, as the would-be game-tying sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth turns into a double play. The trailing runner tagged up and is nailed before the lead runner can cross the plate.
4,000 days since the Cardinals send struggling pitcher Rick Ankiel to the minors. He needs work on his control, as he tossed five wild pitches the day before.
5,000 days since seven games go into extra-innings, matching a record set in 1918.
8,000 days since the Mets fire Davey Johnson, the best skipper in franchise history.
15,000 days since the Mets trade former Cy Young Award winner Dean Chance to the Tigers.
20,000 days since Cub reliever Jim Brosnan injures his Achilles’ heel by falling off the mound during pre-game warm-ups. He becomes one of the rare starting pitchers who never tosses a single in-game pitch.
30,000 days since Del Crandall, catcher, is born.
1886 Harry Coveleski, Giant-killer pitcher who beat them repeatedly in the 1908 NL pennant race, is born.
1888 Cupid Childs, a second baseman of arguable Hall of Fame talent, makes his big league debut.
1890 Kid Nichols, the dominant pitcher of the 1890s, makes his debut.
1891 Darby O’Brien hits into a walk-off triple play.
1892 Charles Comiskey manages his 1,000th game. His record: 643-340.
1900 Jim Bottomley, Hall of Famer, is born in Oglesby, Illinois.
1903 The New York Yankees win their first game, topping the Senators, 7-2. Well, they were called the Highlanders, not the Yankees, but close enough.
1903 The Braves win, giving them an all-time franchise record 523 games over .500 (1,833-1,310). That’s their franchise peak.
1907 Dolph Camilli, NL slugger, is born.
1914 It’s the first game ever played at Weegham Park in Chicago. You know it as Wrigley Field. The Chicago Whales of the Federal League win, 9-1.
1919 Babe Ruth legs out the first of his 10 inside-the-park home runs.
1919 Walter Johnson hurls his fifth Opening Day shutout, a 1-0 win over the A’s in 13 frames.
1921 Warren Spahn, the winningest pitcher of the last 80 years, is born.
1923 Rogers Hornsby hits his 100th home run. All his homers have come with the Cardinals, making them the fourth franchise to have a guy with triple-digit homers.
1923 Rabbit Maranville hits his 100th triple.
1924 The Cubs begin regular radio coverage of their home games with Hal Trotten broadcasting on WMAQ.
1924 Sherm Lollar, catcher, is born.
1926 For the only time in his career, Lefty Grove doesn’t record a single out in one of his starts. He walks two, allows a hit, and has another guy get on via error.
1932 Hall of Famer Fred Lindstrom gets a hit-by-pitch for the first time since July 1928, a stretch of nearly 450 games.
1933 Tim Keefe, 300-game-winner, dies.
1939 Ted Williams goes 4-for-5, including his first career home run.
1940 Pee Wee Reese makes his big league debut.
1941 Phil Rizzuto hits his only walk-off home run. It’s a two-run shot in the 11th inning for a 4-2 Yankees win over the Red Sox.
1942 Lloyd Waner fans for the first since Aug. 4, 1940. He played over 100 games since then.
1943 Amid complaints that the new balata balls are 25 percent less resilient, Spalding Company denies charges of inferior balls.
1944 Jim Tobin of the Braves tosses an Opening Day one-hitter. Phillies second baseman Ford Mullen gets a safety in the sixth inning.
1946 Ed Head tosses a no-hitter. He walks three and there is one error.
1947 The White Sox purchase slugger Gus Zernial from the Indians.
1948 A dying Babe Ruth attends the ceremony for the 25th anniversary of Yankee Stadium, The House That He Built.
1950 In a first, a game begun during the day ends under lights. It’s the second game of a doubleheader at Braves Field.
1950 Joe Adcock makes his big league debut.
1951 According to WPA, Warren Spahn has the best start of his career: 1.021 WPA. He tosses a personal best 15.2 innings (that’s one more out than he recorded in his famous duel versus Juan Marichal) but loses 2-1 to the Dodgers. Spahn’s Game Score is 99.
1952 It’s a rarity, dueling one-hitters. St. Louis Browns pitcher Bob Cain tops Indians legend Bob Feller for a 1-0 win. Feller allows a triple to the first batter he faces, who scores. Cain surrenders a single in the fifth. This is Feller’s 11th career one-hitter. This is the only one in which he pitches fewer than nine innings. He tosses eight, as St. Louis doesn’t need a ninth frame.
1953 Mickey Mantle knocks out the first of his dozen walk-off home runs.
1954 Jackie Robinson steals second, third, and home (as the front of a triple steal) in a 6-5 Dodgers win over the Pirates in 13 innings. The winning run scores on a Robinson homer.
1955 Sherm Lollar celebrates his birthday by getting two hits in an inning—in two different innings. The White Sox destroy the Indians, 29-6.
1959 Jim Perry, star pitcher and brother of a Hall of Fame pitcher, makes his big league debut.
1960 The White Sox release the first great Venezuelan shortstop, Chico Carrasquel.
1962 The Mets finally win a game. They’re 1-9 on the year. They beat the Pirates, who came into the contest at 10-0, an NL record at the time.
1964 Astros pitcher Ken Johnson tosses a no-hitter but loses. He personally commits two errors in the ninth, and that brings in a run for a 1-0 Reds win. He thus didn’t last a full nine innings, and this isn’t considered a sanctioned no-hitter as a result.
1965 Jim Lonborg makes his big league debut.
1968 Relief pitcher Stu Miller appears in his final game.
1969 The White Sox play the first of 11 games this year in Milwaukee. It’s the second year they’ve done this. They won’t do it again, as the Brewers will be there in 1970.
1971 Walter Alston becomes the ninth manager to record his 1,500th win. His record: 1,500-1,210.
1974 Gene Mauch has win No. 1,000 as manager. His record: 1,000-1,144.
1974 Cy Williams dies.
1977 Andruw Jones, centerfielder who fizzled younger than he should have, is born.
1977 Veteran pitcher Ray Sadecki plays in his last game.
1978 Ron Hassey makes his big league debut.
1978 The Phillies sign amateur free agent Julio Franco, who proves to have some impressive staying power.
1979 Carlos Silva, starting pitcher with great control, is born.
1980 George Brett unleashes the only bases-loaded triple of his career.
1982 Julio Franco makes his big league debut.
1982 Ryne Sandberg has the first of 25 multi-home run games. They are career homers No. 1 and 2.
1982 The Yankees trade Bob Watson to the Braves.
1985 Teddy Higuera makes his major league debut.
1988 Steve Carlton plays in his final game.
1989 Andre Dawson connects for his 300th career home run.
1990 In the Chicago Crosstown Classic exhibition game, Steve Lyons of the Sox plays all nine positions.
1990 Dan Quisenberry, former relief ace, plays in his last game.
1992 Deron Johnson dies of lung cancer at age 53.
1994 John Mabry makes his big league debut.
1994 The Blue Jays all-time franchise record peaks at 14 games over .500 (1,363-1,349).
2000 Alex Rodriguez walks five times in five trips to the plate. He scores twice as the Mariners top the Royals, 8-5.
2004 Barry Bonds receives four intentional walks in one game. It’s the first of four times this happens. All four instances occur this year.
2004 Former ace pitcher Kevin Appier appears in his last game.
2005 Former big league pitcher Earl Wilson dies at age 70.
2005 Roger Clemens, for the third consecutive start, is on the wrong end of a 1-0 game. Today, Mark Mulder lasts 10 innings for a 1-0 win over Clemens and the Astros. It’s the first 10-inning complete game shutout win in a 1-0 game since Jack Morris did it in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series.
2006 Brian Wilson, famously bearded Giants closer, makes his big league debut.
2007 Alex Rodriguez’s best career hitting streak peaks at 23 games. He’s 39-for-90 with 10 doubles and 15 homers. He’s also walked 10 times. His line over this period: .433/.495/1.044.
2008 The Cubs win the 10,000th game in franchise history.
2010 The Reds replace GM Wayne Krivsky with Walt Jocketty, formerly of the Cardinals. Jocketty becomes the fourth Reds GM in six years.