70 years ago today, Ted Williams did it. He did what no one else has done in all the year since then – completed a season batting over .400. And he did it in especially dramatic fashion.
Always a great hitter, Williams crossed the .400 barrier with a 4-for-5 performance on May 25, and aside from a brief downturn in July, was over it the rest of the season. (Even in July, his average never fell lower than .393).
That said, he began fading a bit late in the season. After his average hit .413 on Sept. 10, 1941, Williams fell off a bit. In Boston’s next 13 games, Williams hit 11-for-41 for a .268 average (with 15 walks for a .464 OBP).
That led to the final day of the season. Williams had his average right at .400—ever so barely. With 179 hits in 448 at bats, his average was .39955—which rounds up to .400.
With the Red Sox about to play a season-ending doubleheader in Philadelphia against the A’s, manager Joe Cronin gave Williams a chance. If Ted wanted to, Cronin would sit him, and he could preserve his .400 batting average If Williams played, there is no telling what could happen, especially the way Williams had recently played.
But of course, Ted Williams had to be Ted Williams. No way he was going to make it by his shoelaces. He’d feel like a fraud if he sat out the last day to preserve his number. He wanted to play.
So Cronin filled in his name as the left fielder. There must have been considerable anticipation when Williams came to the plate. An out puts the pressure on, while a hit would give him a little bit of wiggle room.
Williams got the hit. And there was plenty more where that came from. In the first game, he went 4-for-5, sealing up his quest for a .400 average. He added a 2-for-3 performance in the season finale, giving him his legendary batting average of .406 on the season.
And it happened 70 years ago today, on Sept. 28, 1941.
Aside from that, many other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim.
2,000 days since Ivan Rodriguez’s only 5-for-5 games. He has three doubles and a homer for five RBIs in arguably the best game of his career.
2,000 days since Brian Bannister makes his big league debut.
3,000 days since Albert Pujols hits his first walk-off home run.
4,000 days since Roger Clemens tosses a complete game, one-hit shutout in Game Four of the ALCS for a 4-0 Yankee win over the Mariners.
6,000 days since baseball returns from the 1994 strike.
9,000 days since Dave Dravecky tosses a two-hit shutout for the Giants over the Cardinals in Game Two of the NLCS.
10,000 days since Chuck Tanner loses his 1,000th game. His managerial record: 1,077-1,000.
10,000 days since Jim Palmer appears in his final big league game.
15,000 days since Billy Williams, describing himself as “pooped,” takes the day off, ending his 1,117 consecutive games played streak.
20,000 days since Expos starting pitcher Charlie Lea is born.
1865 It’s the first known example of a fixed baseball game as the New York Mutuals take a dive against the Brooklyn Eckfords, losing 23-11.
1884 Ed Cushman tosses a no-hitter.
1886 Starting pitcher Silver King makes his big league debut. He’ll be fantastic for a while before blowing out his arm.
1889 Jack Fournier, underrated player in the 1910s and 1920s, is born.
1898 Tommy Leach makes his big league debut. He’ll be the only person to play in the 19th century big leagues that gets interviewed for The Glory of Their Times.
1911 The Yankees steal 15 bases against the Browns, including six in one inning.
1912 The Cubs fire Frank Chance as manager.
1912 Hooks Dauss, pitcher, makes his big league debut.
1913 Jimmy Samuel Tilden Sheckard, arguably a Hall of Fame-caliber player, appears in his final game.
1919 Chick Gandil plays in his last regular season game. He’ll help throw the 1919 World Series, and then live off his fixed earnings.
1919 Nat Evans, the man for gamblers Sport Sullivan and Arnold Rothstein, meets with Chick Gandil, point man for the Black Sox.
1920 White Sox owner Charlie Comiskey suspends eight players on his team as the Black Sox scandal breaks.
1920 Hall of Fame manager Bill McKechnie appears in his last game as a player.
1921 Stuffy McInnis becomes one of only 11 men to join the 300 sacrifice hit club. He gets three in this game, in fact.
1923 Howard Ehmke allows 16 earned runs, something no pitcher has done since in one outing. His line: 6 IP, 21 H, 17 R, 16 ER, 4 BB, and 6 K for a Game Score of –34 as the Yankees crush Ehmke’s Red Sox, 24-4. Just four days earlier he nearly no-hit the Yankees, too. Baseball is a funny game sometimes.
1929 Red Sox skipper Bill Carrigan manages his 1,000th game. His record: 486-500.
1930 Hack Wilson drives in two RBIs, for 191 on the season with the Cubs.
1930 Dizzy Dean makes his big league debut.
1932 The A’s sell Jimmie Dykes to the White Sox for $100,000.
1935 Joe Medwick bashes his first career walk-off home run for a 7-5 Cardinals victory over the Dodgers in 11 innings.
1935 Veteran pitcher Sad Sam Jones plays in his last game.
1937 Lou Gehrig apparently hurts himself in the first game of a doubleheader, because the second game begins a stretch in which he plays just long enough to keep his consecutive games streak going. He takes one plate appearance in game two, and here’s how many PA he has in the next half-dozen games: zero, five, zero, four, five, and zero. That’s four games in seven he barely plays in. Something funny is going on.
1938 Hank Greenberg, sitting on 58 home runs, hits a foul ball onto the left field roof.
1938 Gabby Hartnett hits the “Homer in the Gloamin’” allowing the Cubs to top the Pirates, 6-5, and helping them toward the franchise’s last peacetime pennant.
1938 White Sox starting pitcher Thornton Lee records the worst Game Score for any starter who gets the win in the 1930s. His line: 9 IP, 16 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 6 BB, and 3 K for a Game Score of 9. Chicago tops Cleveland, 14-11.
1940 Chubby Dean surrenders 16 runs in a game, the last time anyone has done that in one game. His line: 8 IP, 19 H, 16 R, 14 ER, 5 BB, and 1 K for a Game Score of –20.
1941 Lefty Grove plays in his last game.
1943 Paul Derringer wins his 200th game. His record: 200-188.
1943 The White Sox purchase Johnny Dickshot from Hollywood in the Pacific Coast League. Not a great player, but his last name is Dickshot.
1943 George Kell makes his big league debut.
1947 Joe Cronin manages his last game. He’ll be GM next year.
1947 Browns announcer Dizzy Dean takes the mound for the team for his last professional pitching appearance.
1947 Curt Simmons makes his big league debut.
1948 Bill Veeck’s Indians host Good Old Joe Early Night. Joe Early is a fan who wrote to the team saying they should give a day to an average fan – so that’s just what Veeck does.
1951 Yankees ace Allie Reynolds tosses his second no-hitter of the year. With two out in the ninth, Ted Williams hits a foul pop up to catcher Yogi Berra, but Berra drops it. Given a second shot, Williams fouls again and Berra catches this one.
1952 The last Boston Braves game ends in a 5-5 tie at Ebbets Field, called at 12 innings for darkness.
1952 Stan Musial, a former minor league pitcher, makes his only big league appearance on the mound. He faces one batter, who reaches on an error. St. Louis’ starting pitcher is Harvey Haddix, who also faces only one batter in the game.
1953 The Braves release Gene Mauch.
1959 The Cubs hire Charlie Grimm to manage the team for a third time.
1959 Todd Worrell, reliever, is born.
1960 Gods don’t answer letters: Ted Williams homers in his last at bat at Fenway Park, and despite the cheering crowd, refuses to doff his cap for the crowd. It’s the last game Ted Williams ever plays in.
1960 Hank Aaron triples twice in one game. This is the first of two times he’ll do that.
1961 Don Drysdale dominates, belting a home run and tossing a complete game shutout. It’s the second time this year he’s done this.
1963 Whitey Herzog plays in his last big league game.
1966 For the fifth time this year, Larry Jaster tosses a complete game shutout against he Dodgers. On the season, he held them scoreless in 45 innings on 24 hits—all singles.
1967 Willie Mays suffers through his worst WPA game: -0.518 WPA. He’s 0-for-1 with a GIDP as the Giants top the Phillies 2-1. It sounds like a pinch-hit that went horribly wrong.
1968 Gaylord Perry allows a career high 16 hits, but picks up the win anyway. His line: 9 IP, 16 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, and 8 K as the Giants top the Reds, 10-4.
1968 Mickey Mantle plays in his final game.
1968 Rocky Colavito appears in his last big league game.
1971 Zoilo Versalles, one time AL MVP, plays in his last game.
1973 Luis Aparicio, Hall of Fame shortstop, appears in his final game.
1974 In his next-to-last game as a Brave, Hank Aaron hits his 600th double.
1974 Ron Hunt, HBP king, plays in his final game.
1974 Nolan Ryan tosses his third career no-hitter, leading the Angels to a 4-0 win over the Twins. Ryan fans 15 and walks eight, giving him over 200 for the year.
1975 Vada Pinson plays in his final game.
1975 Big Daddy Rick Reuschel has his only 3-for-3 day at the plate, with a double and two RBIs.
1975 The A’s staff combines for a no-hitter over the Angels. Vida Blue tosses five innings, Glenn Abbott and Paul Lindblad go an inning each, and Rollie Fingers closes it out with two hitless innings at the end.
1975 For the only time in his career, Willie Randolph plays the entire game at third base.
1976 Atlanta signs amateur free agent Rafael Ramirez.
1976 Clay Kirby plays in his last game.
1976 Walter Alston manages his final game. In an oddity, he leaves the dugout with four games to go in the season.
1977 Pete Vuckovich pitches the longest relief outing in Blue Jays history: 7.2 IP.
1978 An apparently drunk Twins owner Calvin Griffith tells a group in Minneapolis that he moved there from Washington DC because, “I found out you had only 15,000 blacks here.”
1978 Gaylord Perry fans 13 in today’s game, giving him over 3,000 strikeouts in his career.
1979 Lou Brock attempts to steal his last stolen base. He’s caught.
1980 George Brett belts a pinch-hit grand slam. It’s his only pinch-hit home run, and one of only two slams in his career.
1981 The Astros win, putting manager Bill Virdon 90 games over .500 for his career (798-708), his all-time peak.
1982 John Mayberry plays in his final game.
1982 Micah Owings, great hitting pitcher, is born.
1984 Ryan Zimmerman is born.
1985 Whitey Herzog tells the
that 11 St. Louis Cardinals were “heavy users” of cocaine in the early 1980s.
1986 The Giants top the Dodgers, 6-5 in 16 innings. The Dodgers led 3-0 at the seventh inning stretch, but San Francisco scores one in the bottom of the seventh and two in the ninth. Both teams score two runs in the 14th inning. Will Clark has his worst WPA game: -0.409 WPA. He’s 0-for-8 with an intentional walk.
1988 Willie Upshaw plays in his final game.
1988 Orel Hershiser tosses 10 scoreless innings, running his scoreless inning streak to 59 innings, a new record. He gets a no-decision as the Padres top the Dodgers 2-1 in 16 innings. Padres starter Andy Hawkins also goes 10 scoreless inning, with each pitcher allowing four hits.
1990 Dave Winfield has the worst WPA game of any Hall of Famer: -0.673 WPA. He’s 0-for-5 with a strikeout and a GIDP. The Royals top Winfield’s Angels, 2-1.
1991 Bill Gullickson tosses 10 innings for Detroit, the last time any of their pitchers record 28 or more outs in a game.
1992 Jeff Torborg manages his 1,000th game: 476-524 career record.
1993 Shawn Green makes his big league debut.
1995 An idiot at Wrigley Field runs on the field to yell at Randy Myers after the closer yields a ninth inning home run. Myers knocks the moron down and pins him.
1995 Expos pitcher Greg Harris pitches with both hands—facing two batters as a righty and two as a lefty.
1995 Kirby Puckett’s last game is a nasty one. A Dennis Martinez fastball hits in him in the face, breaking Puckett’s jaw and causing considerable (and nasty) bleeding. When Puckett comes down with glaucoma ending his career next year, there will be considerable pains made to say this condition is unrelated to the beaning.
1996 Mike Greenwell plays in his final game.
1998 Joe Carter plays in his final game, a one-game play-in game between the Cubs and Giants for the wild card. Cubs win.
2002 Chuck Finley plays in his final game, and wins his 200th game, making him 200-173 for his career.
2002 Jose Rijo plays in his final game.
2002 Giants closer Robb Nen plays in his last regular season game. He’ll appear in the postseason, but that’s it.
2003 David Wells wins his 200th decision, giving him a career record of 200-128.
2003 The Cubs retire Ron Santo’s number.
2003 Jeff Bagwell has his 31st and final multi-home run game.
2006 Veteran Minnesota control specialist Brad Radke last pitches in the big leagues.
2007 David Wells appears in his finale game.
2008 Shea Stadium hosts its last Mets game. The home team loses, 4-2 to the Marlins.
2008 Mike Mussina, after five different seasons with 18 or 19 wins, finally wins his 20th in a year. It’s good timing, because this is his last appearance in the majors, as he’ll retire in the off-season.
2008 Boston retires Johnny Pesky’s number.
2010 Ken Burns: Baseball: Top of the 10th Inning first airs.