Three quarters of a century ago, baseball witnessed one of its most amazing pitching performances, a performance especially memorable because of how young the athlete was.
In the first game of a doubleheader against the A’s on Sept. 13, 1936 the Indians trotted out their young rookie Bob Feller for just his fifth major league start. What he did that day, well, it was impressive enough to be worth mentioning all these decades later.
Feller tied a major league record by fanning 17 A’s in the game, an especially appropriate number given that he was a mere 17 years old at the time. For the record, the AL as a whole averaged 3.3 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in 1936. Yeah, looks like the Indians had themselves a keeper on their staff. The only modern comparison to it came in 1998, when a 20-year-old Kerry Wood fanned 20 Astros in a game.
In Feller’s dominant performance, the A’s scratched out just two singles, but were able to score two runs, thanks to Feller walking nine in the game. Like Nolan Ryan a generation later, Feller combined the ability to blow batters away with a difficulty in locating his pitches. Two years later, while still a teen, Feller would walk 208 batters in a season, but also lead the league in Ks for the first of seven times.
He was the ultimate workhorse, and it’s all the more impressive because he did it at such a young age. In 1946, for instance, Feller pitched 371.1 innings, struck out a near AL record 348 batters, and walked walking 153. All those totals easily topped the league. He probably threw more pitches that season than anyone in the live ball era.
Eventually, the wear and tear on Feller’s arm from throwing all those pitches would catch up with him. On June 13, 1947, in his 239th career start, Feller posted double digits in strikeouts for the 50th time in his career. Though the 245 games remaining in his career, he had just one more double-digit K game.
But all that would be in the future. On that day 75 years ago, Bob Feller appeared as though he could be the greatest pitcher of his generation. Feller’s performance on that day in 1936, as great as it was, shouldn’t have been too surprising. When he started his first game just three weeks earlier, he blew away 15 batters.
As it turned out, Feller would top his 17-year-old one-game mark only once, at the end of the 1938 season when he set a record by fanning 18 Tigers in a game. But it was three quarters of a century ago today that Feller came off age on the big league diamond.
Aside from that, plenty of 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 if bold if you just want to skim the list.
1,000 days since Dave Smith, former Astros closer, dies.
3,000 days since the Red Sox score 10 runs in the first inning before making the first out in a 50-minute bottom of the first.
3,000 days since Tampa releases John Rocker.
6,000 days since the Marlins sign Andre Dawson.
7,000 days since the Orioles trade Jose Mesa to the Indians.
20,000 days since Tim Kurkjian, ESPN, is born.
20,000 days since Grace Comiskey, the widow of Hall of Famer Charles, dies. Controlling interest in the team goes to her daughter, Dorothy Rigney.
30,000 days since Lefty Grove has his best hitting day, going 3-for-4 with a double and a home run. He scores two runs and drives in five as the A’s destroy the Indians, 21-3.
1845 Alexander Cartwright presents his codified rules of baseball, all 20 of them.
1876 Redleg Snyder of Cincinnati hits into a walk-off triple play versus Philadelphia.
1883 Hugh Daily tosses a no-hitter.
1886 Elton Chamberlain makes his big league debut. He’s also known as Icebox Chamberlain, a great nickname.
1889 Old Hoss Radbourn pitches two complete games in one day, but walks away with zero wins. His team loses the first game 3-0, and the second ends in a 4-4 tie—despite Radbourn belting a home run in it.
1897 Eddie Rommel, A’s pitcher in the 1920s, is born.
1906 Cubs ace Mordecai Brown wins his 11th consecutive decision.
1906 White Sox pitcher Thornton Lee is born.
1908 Walt “Smoke” Justis tosses his fourth no-hitter of the year in the Ohio State League.
1909 Ty Cobb belts his ninth and final home run of the year. With that total, he’ll lead the league. All of his shots were inside-the-park home runs.
1910 Catcher Hank Gowdy makes his big league debut.
1916 Infielder-turned-manager Miller Huggins plays in his last game. He’ll no longer be a hyphenated player-manager.
1916 Brooklyn pitcher Nap Rucker plays in his last regular season. (After toiling brilliantly for some terrible Dodgers teams years earlier, Rucker’s final big league appearance will be in the World Series against the Red Sox).
1921 Hall of Famer Harry Hooper hits two home runs in a game for the second and final time in his career. Both times came in 1921. (The first was June 22).
1922 The pennant chances for the St. Louis Browns take a big hit when George Sisler badly sprains ligaments in his right arm.
1923 Walter Johnson posts his 350th win. He’s 350-241 for his career, and will go 67-38 for his remaining days.
1923 Eddie Collins legs out his 18th and final inside the park home run.
1925 George Uhle wins his 100th game. He’s 100-81 for his career thus far. After this game, he’ll go 100-85, so that’s consistent.
1925 Dazzy Vance no-hits the Phillies. He walks one and they score an unearned run.
1926 For the first and only time in baseball history, two guys win their 200th career game on the same day: Hall of Famers Eppa Rixey and Red Faber. Rixey’s career record is 200-180 and Faber’s is 200-142 after today. In their remaining games Rixey will be 66-71, and Faber will go 54-71.
1927 Hall of Famer Jesse Haines loses his 100th decision, for a career record of 118-100. After this game, he’ll go 92-58 for the rest of his career.
1931 Bill Terry belts two triples in a game for the fourth time this season. Aside from 1931, Terry never does that in any game he plays in. He also belts two doubles in this game for his sole four extra base hit game.
1931 In the 12th inning, Yankee second baseman Tony Lazzeri steals second, third and home for a 2-1 win over the Tigers. In that game, Lazzeri’s Hall of Fame teammate Lefty Gomez has his longest start: 12 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 10 K.
1931 Rogers Hornsby belts by far the coolest home run of his career—a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 11th inning, for an 11-7 Cubs win over the Braves. It’s his fifth and final walk-off homer and his only pinch-hit walk-off.
1933 The White Sox have an old pitching duo in today’s doubleheader versus the A’s: 44-year-old Red Faber and 41-year-old kid Sad Sam Jones.
1934 Ford Motor Company buys the radio broadcasting rights to the World Series for $100,000.
1937 When Cincinnati manager Chuck Dressen presses Reds GM Warren Giles for a contract renewal, he is fired instead.
1939 300-game winning four-decade-player Early Wynn makes his big league debut.
1941 Umpire Bill Klem works his last game, ending his 30-plus year career. It’s a great game, too. With the Dodgers and Cardinals meeting in a game with serious pennant implications, St. Louis starter Mort Cooper has a no-hitter until the eighth, but then allows back-to-back doubles for a 1-0 Brooklyn win. Random note: four days after this, Stan Musial makes his big league debut. Just think—Stan Musial, who played into the 1960s, nearly appeared in a game that Bill Klem ump’ed.
1941 Vern Stephens makes his big league debut.
1942 On the same day he becomes a father, Cubs infielder Lennie Merullo makes four errors in an inning. As a result, he starts calling his son “Boots.”
1943 Danny MacFayden, pitcher, plays in his last big league game.
1945 By sweeping a doubleheader, the all-time cumulative record for the Pittsburgh Pirates peaks at 582 games over .500 (4,904-4,322). They’ll tie that mark two days later, but never exceed it. Also, the career record for Pirates manager Frankie Frisch peaks at 146 games over .500 (932-786). For the rest of his career, Frisch will go 206-292.
1945 Rick Wise is born.
1946 Ted Williams belts his only inside the park home run. From what I know, he hit against the Boudreau Shift.
1948 Indians pitcher Don Black suffers a cerebral hemorrhage while batting against the Browns in the second inning.
1949 After homering in his last two at bats yesterday, Ralph Kiner goes deep in his first two homers today, for four in a row, tying a record.
1949 Schoolboy Rowe, pitcher, appears in his final game.
1949 The Red Sox cumulative franchise mark hits .500 (3,691-3,691). They’ll stay over it for the next 16 years.
1949 Catcher Rick Dempsey is born.
1950 Scoreless inning streak for Sal Maglie ends at 45, but he leads the Giants to a 3-1 win over the Pirates.
1951 For the first time in the 20th century, a team plays two different squads in one day. In their different kind of doubleheader, the Cardinals play the Braves and Giants.
1951 For the only time in his illustrious career, Mickey Mantle begins a game with a leadoff home run. He’ll mostly bat in the heart of the order after this.
1951 Ouch—Warren Spahn falls short in his quest for his first career no-hitter when the opposing pitcher gets a sixth-inning single. That’s the only hit he allows all day.
1953 The A’s integrate, with Bob Trice becoming their first black player. The A’s are the seventh team to integrate and the first in two years (behind the Dodgers, Indians, Browns, Giants, Braves and White Sox). The Cubs will integrate later this month and two more will on Opening Day, 1954.
1953 Harry Brecheen plays in his last game.
1953 Johnny Mize hits his seventh and final pinch-hit home run.
1953 Duke Snider’s career best hitting streak peaks at 27 games. He’s 49-for-109 with a half-dozen doubles and 10 home runs for a .450/.508/.780 line in that spell.
1954 Ted Kluszewski of the Reds scores in his 17th straight game, a modern record.
1955 Vic Raschi appears in his final game
1956 Warren Spahn wins his 200th game in style. He tosses 12 innings and goes 3-for-3 at the plate with two walks and a pair of RBIs as the Braves win, 4-3. This gives Spahn a career record of 200-134 record. From here on out, he’ll go 163-111.
1958 Jim Bunning has only eight balks in his career, but two come in a game on this day.
1958 The Phillies sign amateur free agent Lee Elia.
1960 Nellie Fox, of all people, belts a walk-off home run—the first of two in his career. The Sox top the Senators 6-5 in 11 innings.
1960 The Phillies sign amateur free agent Mike Marshall.
1961 Bill Mazeroski has possibly his best day at the plate (in the regular season, anyway). He’s 4-for-5 with two homers as the Pirates pummel the Dodgers, 8-2.
1962 Washington outfielder Jimmy Piersall goes into the stands before a game against the Orioles. For his actions, authorities arrest him for disorderly conduct (though he’s later cleared).
1963 On the 24th anniversary of his big league debut, Early Wynn appears in his last game.
1964 The Cardinals score in every inning while beating the Cubs, 15-2.
1967 It’s a monster of pitching duel, as the White Sox top the Indians 1-0 in 17 innings. It’s a big win for the White Sox, who are in the midst of a tight four-team pennant race. For Chicago, Gary Peters pitches 11 innings of one-hit ball (albeit with 10 walks). For Cleveland, Sonny Siebert allows no runs in 11 innings.
1968 Bernie Williams is born.
1968 Denny Neagle is born.
1969 In a nice pitchers duel, the Astros and Braves are scoreless after 12 innings, only to have Atlanta win 3-2 in the 13th. For Houston, Larry Dierker keeps a no-hitter going until the ninth inning, and he lasts 12 before pulled for pinch hitter John Mayberry in the top of the 13th. For Atlanta, Phil Niekro lasts 11 innings and gets a career-best WPA of 0.914.
1970 A’s shortstop Bert Campaneris gets his 1,000th hit.
1970 It’s a tough loss for the Pirates. They’re up 2-1 with two outs in the ninth and none on when Matty Alou drops a routine fly that would’ve ended the game. Given new life, the Cubs belt three consecutive singles and win, 3-2.
1971 Frank Robinson becomes the 11th member of the 500 home run club. It really grew quickly from 1965-onward.
1973 Tom Seaver enjoys his 19th consecutive Quality Start, the second of two times he does that in his career. His line in this stretch: 10-5, 164.2 IP, 126 H, 32 R, 28 ER, 31 BB, and 142 K for a 1.53 ERA. That helps the “You gotta believe” Mets surge to the division title (and then pennant).
1974 White Sox star Dick Allen announces he’s retiring from baseball effective immediately. He’ll later come back.
1974 The Phillies use 27 players in a 7-3 loss to the Cardinals in 17 innings. It was 2-2 after 16 innings. For St. Louis, Reggie Smith walks five times (twice intentionally). From 1919 onward, there have been only four times a Cardinal walked five times in a game, but two of them were in 1974 (Ted Sizemore did it on Aug. 12). It won’t happen again for the club until 2011.
1974 Rod Carew, of all people, belts a walk-off home run; the first of two in his career.
1975 In his next to last start as a Detroit Tiger, Mickey Lolich is yet again victimized by a lack of run support, as the Tigers are shut out. While in previous years the Tigers scored for him, in his last 13 games, run support dried up entirely. Detroit gave him a total of 12 runs in those 13 contests, which is the worst run support over that long a stretch any pitcher has ever had. (Well, I’m pretty sure it was anyway; I’ll stand by it until someone proves me wrong). Here’s the game-by-game run support: 0, 2, 0, 1, 4, 0, 0, 3, 1, 1, 0, and 0. Good thing they had that four-run outburst. Lolich will lead the league in shutouts, but it’s hard to blame him—that’s seven shutouts in 12 starts.
1976 Dale Murphy makes his big league debut.
1980 The Rangers trade Sparky Lyle to the Phillies.
1982 For the fourth time in his career, Steve Carlton belts a home run and tosses a complete game shutout in one game. It’s the third decade he’s done that in, something no one else has ever done. Oh, and today’s contest is his 20th win of the year.
1982 San Diego’s Joe Lefebvre gets six hits in a 16-inning game.
1982 Oil Can Boyd, possessor of maybe the best nickname of the 1980s, makes his big league debut.
1982 Rickie Weeks is born.
1983. Milwaukee purchases Teddy Higuera from the Mexican League.
1983 Oil Can Boyd tosses 11 innings without striking out a single batter. It’s the only time since 1959 anyone has done that.
1985 Alan Trammell endures his worst WPA game, doing 0-for-5 with a GIDP in Detroit’s 6-4 loss to Baltimore for a –0.334 WPA.
1985 The Yankees sign amateur free agent Bernie Williams.
1986 Bert Blyleven surrenders a personal worst five home runs in one game, as the Rangers obliterate the Twins, 14-1.
1988 Pete Harnisch makes his big league debut.
1989 Fay Vincent selected the new baseball commissioner. It doesn’t take.
1989 The Royals’ all-time franchise record peaks at 162 games over .500 (1,739-1,577). It’s the highest water mark by any of the 14 expansion franchises.
1990 John Tudor, the last man to pitch 10 shutouts in a season, appears in his final big league game.
1990 Robert E. Nederlander becomes managing general partner of the Yankees, as George Steinbrenner is temporarily banned.
1991 A 55-ton slab of concrete falls from the roof of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. The Expos will have to play their remaining games on the road.
1992 Cal Ripken endures his 73rd straight game without hitting a home run, his worst ever drought.
1995 Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell appear in their 1,915th game together, the most by any duo ever. Whitaker ends the game by hitting his eighth and final walk-off home run. That’s a lot—the all-time record is just 12.
1995 Billy Wagner makes his big league debut.
1996 Blue Jays catcher Charlie O’Brien begins a new era, becoming the first catcher to wear a hockey goalie’s mask behind home plate.
1998 Cecil Fielder plays in his final game.
1998 Mike Lowell makes his big league debut.
1998 Sammy Sosa hits his 61st and 62nd homer of the year, as the Cubs triumph over the Brewers 11-10, in what might be the wildest offensive shutout three-game series in Wrigley Field history. All three games see both teams score 10 or more runs and take the drama into the ninth inning.
2000 Scott Rolen triples twice in one game for the only time.
2001 Baseball postpones all games through Sept. 17. They’ll be played after what was going to be the season’s last week.
2002 Steve Finley gets his 2,000th hit.
2002 Mike Mussina walks the first batter of the game, something he last did in July 1999.
2002 Brandon Phillips makes his big league debut.
2002 The U.S. Senate passes a resolution honoring Ernie Harwell, who will retire after this season.
2004 Mark Teixeira gets a triple, home run and two doubles—but misses the cycle by that dang single.
2004 Curtis Granderson makes his big league debut.
2005 In the second inning against the Padres, all three Dodger outfielders make an error. Oops.
2006 The all-time cumulative record for the Milwaukee Brewer franchise bottoms out a 354 games under .500 (2,826-3,180). They’ll twice tie this mark, but never fall lower.
2006 Gary Matthews Jr. hits for the cycle.
2007 Only game (so far) in which Albert Pujols has two sacrifice hits.