It was 70,000 days ago (a “day-versary” as I like to call it) that baseball had one of its most important births.
It wasn’t a slugger born. The liveball era is far younger than 70,000 days old. It wasn’t a hitting specialist, nor was it an ace starter born on that day. No famous or noteworthy player of any sort is 70,000 days old. Why, 70,000 days ago puts us in the James Monroe administration shortly after the War of 1812.
What baseball figure could possibly be that old? Well, rather fittingly, the only person who can claim that is the first baseball figure—Alexander Cartwright. He’s the guy in Cooperstown for helping to invent the game.
Well, it was less an invention than it was a codification. The game of baseball was a gradual evolution from a British game called rounders, but in 1845 (about 60,000 days ago), Cartwright wrote up a rulebook that set down official and standardized guidelines for how to play this game. That was the first rulebook for baseball.
Mind you, the game Cartwright played wouldn’t be very recognizable to us now. Overhand pitching, for instance, wouldn’t be legalized for decades. The four-ball, three-strike count didn’t come into being until 1889. But the basis of the game lay in Cartwright’s rulebook.
After he wrote up the rulebook, the game played under its guidelines took place in Hoboken, New Jersey. By all rights, that’s where the Hall of Fame should be, and THT’s very own Bruce Markusen should live there instead of in Cooperstown.
But in the early 20th century, there was a debate over how baseball began. On one side, the British-born Henry Chadwick, the game’s preeminent sportswriter, argued baseball came from rounders. On the other side, ace pitcher turned sporting goods magnate Albert Spalding hated the idea that the preeminent American sport actually began as an English game, and he argued for purely American roots.
To prove his case, Spalding appointed a committee with the official goal of investigating baseball’s origins, but with the real goal of making a case for Spalding. They promoted a fictional story that U.S. Civil War military hero General Abner Doubleday invented the game from scratch in his home town of Cooperstown.
The story sat there until the Great Depression, when Cooperstown wanted a museum to attract tourism at the same time baseball wanted a place to glorify the game’s history. They came together at the perfect time. Shortly after it was decided to put the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, scholarship came out that clearly and openly debunked the Doubleday story. That’s why Cartwright is in Cooperstown but Doubleday isn’t, despite the museum being in Doubleday’s hometown.
Regardless of all that, Cartwright was the man born 70,000 days ago today.
Aside from that, many other events celebrate their “day-versary” or anniversary today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you prefer to skim.
1,000 days since Whitey Lockman dies.
2,000 days since Jose Reyes hits for the cycle.
3,000 days since Carlos Delgado bashes four home runs in a game. Previously, he’d knocked out three in a game on four separate occasions.
5,000 days since Mark McGwire hits his fourth homer of the 1998 season in St. Louis’ fourth game of the year. In doing so, he becomes only the second player to homer in each of his team’s first four games. Only Willie Mays did it previously.
6,000 days since the major league debut of Joe Borowski.
6,000 days since Bud Black, now manager of the Padres, plays in his last game.
6,000 days since Chuck Finley, after pitching 1,729.1 innings in his career, allows his first career grand slam. It’s the 152nd home run he’s allowed.
6,000 days since a worker installing lights in Toronto’s SkyDome falls 25 feet to his death.
10,000 days since Cincinnati trades longtime Red Dan Driessen to the Expos.
10,000 days since commissioner Bowie Kuhn announces that pitcher Vida Blue will be suspended for the rest of the year due to his recent cocaine conviction.
30,000 days since the Yankees, having failed to land Donie Bush, Eddie Collins, and Art Fletcher as their manager to replace the recently demised Miller Huggins, sign Bob Shawkey for the job. He’ll last one season before New York turns to Joe McCarthy.
Also, in the same spirit of day-versaries, at some point today it will be 1,000,000,000 seconds since Dave Kingman dumps a large plastic bucket full of ice water on a writer.
1887 A baseball reporters association is organized with the goal of standardizing scoring practices.
1902 Harry Pulliam is elected National League president.
1903 The Cubs send iron man Jack Taylor (all-time record holder for most complete games for a hurler), along with another player, to the Cardinals in exchange for future Hall of Famer Mordecai Brown and a second player.
1907 The White Sox purchase aging veteran John Anderson from Washington.
1913 The Pirates and Cardinals engage in an eight-player trade. The most notable person changing teams is first baseman Ed Konetchy, who goes to Pittsburgh.
1922 Yankee part owner Colonel Houston sells his share of the team to Jacob Ruppert for $1.5 million.
1924 The Indians trade their former ace hurler Stan Coveleski to the Senators. He’ll have a 20-5 season in 1925 and another good season in 1926, but that’s about it for the future Hall of Famer.
1930 Baseball owners vote to cancel the sacrifice fly rule. (This will be brought back, obviously). Also, they decree that balls that bounce into the stands will be doubles, not home runs.
Second, Mack sends starting pitcher George Earnshaw and the throw-in he just received from Detroit to the White Sox for a forgettable player and $20,000.
1935 The Reds are in a buying mood today. They purchase a pair of quality pitchers—Flint Rhem and Johnny Vander Meer (of double no-hit fame)— from the Braves and also pick up weak-hitting infielder Tommy Thevenow from the Braves.
1935 The Braves, having just sold Rhem and Vander Meer to the Reds, also get in a six-player trade with Brooklyn that brings catcher Al Lopez to Boston.
1938 The Tigers trade four players and cash to the Pacific Coast League’s Seattle franchise for pitcher Fred Hutchinson, who will later manage the team in the 1950s.
1941 The Pirates trade super shortstop Arky Vaughan to the Dodgers for four players.
1945 Ralph Garr is born.
1949 AL owners reject a motion to bring back the spitball by a 7-1 vote.
1950 Gorman Thomas, center fielder for the Harvey’s Wallbanger Brewers, is born.
1963 Harmon Killebrew undergoes surgery on his knee.
1966 The Supreme Court declines to hear a suit by the state of Wisconsin trying to prohibit the Braves from moving to Atlanta.
1968 The Royals, who have yet to play a game, trade Hoyt Wilhelm to the Angels for two players.
1975 Pittsburgh trades a young Art Howe to Houston.
1976 The Tigers waive Bill Freehan, their longtime star catcher.
1977 Orlando Hudson, second baseman, is born.
1979 Garrett Atkins is born.
1979 San Francisco signs free agent infielder Rennie Stennett.
1980 The Brewers and Cardinals construct a blockbuster trade. St. Louis, which earlier in the week picked up both Bruce Sutter and Rollie Fingers, trade Fingers along with star catcher Ted Simmons and starting pitcher Pete Vukovich to Milwaukee in exchange for outfielder Sixto Lezcano, pitchers Larry Sorensen and Dave LaPoint, and prospect Dave Green.
1984 The Cardinals trade good-hitting outfielder George Hendrick and a minor leaguer to the Pirates for Brian Harper and crafty lefty John Tudor. With St. Louis, Tudor will become the last man to hurl ten shutouts in a season. File that one away next time you want to stump your friends with baseball trivia.
1985 The Indians sign free agent Tom Candiotti.
1990 California signs free agent Floyd Bannister.
1990 The White Sox signs free agent Charlie Hough.
1991 Ken Keltner dies.
1993 Baltimore signs free agent first baseman Rafael Palmeiro.
1996 The Marlins sign free agent outfielder Moises Alou.
1997 Baltimore signs free agent outfielder Joe Carter.
1998 Former major league pitcher Denny Galehouse dies.
1998 The Dodger ink star pitcher Kevin Brown to baseball’s first nine-figure contract: seven years at $15 million per year for $105,000,000 in all.
2000 Operation Change-Up is in effect: Colorado signs free agent starting pitcher Mike Hampton to a big contract.
2001 Boston trades Carl Everett to the Rangers.
2002 Cincinnati trades second baseman Todd Walker to Boston.
2005 The Mets sign free agent Julio Franco.
2005 The Phillies send starting pitcher Vicente Padilla to the Rangers.
2007 Baltimore trades former MVP Miguel Tejada to the Astros for five players.