One hundred years ago today, baseball witnessed probably it’s first great postseason home run.
On Oct. 17, 1911, the A’s and Giants squared off in Game Three of the World Series, tied at one game apiece. For most of the day, it looked like the Giants would win handily. They scored an early run for a 1-0 lead, and with Christy Mathewson pitching that appeared to be all they needed. Mathewson shut down Philadelphia’s formidable offense, holding them to just three hits through seventh inning.
The A’s finally threatened in the eighth, with a double and single putting runners on the corners with no outs. Instead of a breakthrough, the Giants threw out two runners at the plate, and Mathewson fanned another batter to end the inning. Entering the ninth, it was still 1-0, New York.
Nowadays, an ace giving up a double and single to start a late inning would mean he wouldn’t last much longer. But it was different 100 years ago, and Mathewson stayed in the game.
This is one instance in which modern pitching staff practices work better. With one away in the top of the ninth, Mathewson faced Philadelphia’s star third baseman Frank Baker, one of the most dangerous hitters of the era. Baker showed just how dangerous he could be, depositing a Mathewson offering deep into the stands for a home run.
The game went into extra innings, and in the 11th, the A’s combined three singles (including one by Baker) and a Giants error for a pair of runs and a 3-1 lead. Yes, they all came against Mathewson, who threw a complete game.
Good thing the A’s scored twice, because the Giants pushed one run across the board in the bottom of the 11th for a 3-2 final score. Random fact: Both the top and bottom of the 11th inning ended with a runner out trying to steal second base. It was a different time.
Not only was it a great game, but the home run by Baker gave him a lasting nickname: Home Run Baker. The nickname is also because he belted a home run in the previous game, making Baker the first man to homer in consecutive postseason games, but this was by far the more important of the two shots. After all, it did come in the bottom of the ninth and tied the score.
Baker hit “only” 92 homers in his career, but for a player of his era, that was a pretty good total. And he certainly hit the biggest and best homer of the time period when he went deep off of Mathewson, exactly 100 years ago today. The A’s went on to claim the world title in six games over the Giants.
Aside from that, other events also 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 it.
2,000 days since Mike Piazza belts his 400th home run.
2,000 days since Tampa beats the Yankees 4-2 despite issuing 14 walks, the franchise record for the Rays.
3,000 days since Alex Rodriguez belts the second walk-off grand slam of his career.
3,000 days since the Reds trade Aaron Boone to the Yankees.
3,000 days since the Expos retire Gary Carter’s number.
3,000 days since the Yankees trade Robin Ventura to the Dodgers.
4,000 days since the Reds hire Bob Boone as their new manager.
6,000 days since Sammy Sosa smashes his 100th home run.
7,000 days since Kevin Gross tosses a no-hitter, walking two as the Dodgers top the Giants, 2-0.
9,000 days since baseball bans former Cy Young Award winner La Marr Hoyt for the season for possession of illegal pills.
15,000 days since the birth of Mike Matheny.
15,000 days since the Yankees release Bobby Cox.
1859 Hall of Fame catcher Buck Ewing is born.
1892 Game One of a 19th-century World Series ends after 11 innings in a scoreless tie between Boston and Cleveland.
1906 Paul Derringer, 200 game winner, is born.
1908 Red Rolfe, third baseman, is born.
1927 AL head honcho and founder Ban Johnson resigns his presidency after 27 years on the job. Will Harridge will become the new president.
1927 Relief pitcher Johnny Klippstein is born.
1928 Junior Gilliam, infielder, is born.
1929 The Reds purchase outfielder Bob Meusel from the Yankees.
1940 Hall of Fame shortstop George Davis dies.
1944 Jack Powell, 200 game winner with a losing record, dies.
1953 Jim Delahanty, one of five brothers to make the majors, dies.
1960 NL owners vote to expand to 10 teams in 1962 with new teams in New York and Houston.
1964 The Yankees fire manager Yogi Berra, who led them to the World Series in his first (and only) season managing them.
1970 John Mabry, utility player, is born.
1971 In Game Seven of the World Series, the Pirates top the Orioles, 2-1.
1973 Oakland manager Dick Williams violates orders from team owner Chuck Finley in Game Four of the World Series when Williams calls on Mike Andrews to pinch-hit in the eighth inning. Earlier, Williams forced Andrews to sign a fraudulent medical report as punishment for making two key errors in one game. It blows up in his face, and Bowie Kuhn ordered Andrews reinstated.
Andrews comes to the plate, the fans in Shea Stadium (who are aware of the backstory with Andrews) cheer wildly. They cheer so much that Finley himself joins in and opts not to punish Williams for breaking the order. He makes an out, and the Mets win, 6-1.
1974 Controversy magnet John Rocker is born.
1974 The A’s become the only non-Yankee team to three-peat, winning Game Five over the Dodgers to end the World Series.
1975 A’s owner Charles Finley fires manager Alvin Dark, who led the team to the world title exactly one year earlier.
1976 The Big Red Machine top the Yankees, 4-3, to win Game Two of the World Series on a walk-off, two-out single by Tony Perez. It’s the only close game of the series, which Cincinnati will sweep.
1977 Cal Hubbard, Hall of Fame umpire (and a Hall of Fame football player who played with the Green Bay Packers) dies at age 77.
1980 Entering the day trailing two games to one, the Royals pull off a big win in Game Three of the World Series, winning 4-3 in 11 innings over the Phillies. Willie Aikens’ belts a two-out single for the win, but Philadelphia will go on to take the Series.
1989 Just before a scheduled World Series game between the A’s and Giants, an earthquake strikes the Bay Area.
1990 The Reds upset the heavily-favored A’s for the second straight time, winning Game Two of the World Series, 5-4 in 10 innings. The A’s led 4-2 early, but Cincinnati kept chipping back. Three consecutive one-out singles off uber-closer Dennis Eckersley in the bottom of the 10th ends the game.
1991 The Braves win their first pennant since coming to Atlanta, taking Game Seven of the NLCS over the Pirates, 4-0. It is their third shutout of Pittsburgh in the NLCS (plus, the Pirates shut the Braves out once). Atlanta scores three times in the first, and John Smoltz shuts down the Pirates. Three times a Pirate gets to third base, but none ever makes it the last 90 feet.
1999 In Game Five of the NLCS, Robin Ventura hits the most famous grand slam that isn’t officially a grand slam. With the Mets trailing the Braves three games to one, this game enters extra innings tied, 2-2. Atlanta scores one in the top of the 15th for a 3-2 lead, only to see reliever Kevin McGlinchy blow it.
In the bottom of the inning, he walks in the winning run with one out and then delivers a fat pitch to Ventura. It clears the fence, giving New York the game, but teammates mob Ventura at second, so it’s officially a single. Otherwise, Nelson Cruz would not be the guy with the first ever postseason walk-off grand slam.
2004 In Game Four of the ALCS, the Red Sox begin their comeback from a three-games-to-zero deficit, topping the Yankees, 6-4 in 12 innings. There are two big moments. Trailing 4-3 in the ninth, Mariano Rivera walks Kevin Millar to lead off the inning. Then pinch runner Dave Roberts steals second and scores the tying run on a Bill Mueller single. Three innings later, David Ortiz blasts a clutch homer for the walk-off win.
2004 Ray Boone dies.
2005 In Game Five of the NLCS, the Astros miss a chance to clinch their first pennant in memorable fashion. Up three games to one, Houston enters the ninth up, 4-2. Star closer Brad Lidge fans the first two hitters, putting the Astros one out from victory. He then surrenders a single and a walk, letting Albert Pujols come to the plate as the winning run. Pujols promptly launches a monster home run that silences the crowd of 43,470 in attendance in Houston. St. Louis wins, 5-4.
2009 The Yankees top the Angels, 4-3 in 13 innings, in Game Two of the ALCS. It was 2-2 after nine innings, but Anaheim scores a run for a 3-2 lead in the top of the 11th. Not normally considered a great postseason clutch player, Alex Rodriguez homers to tie it, 3-3, in bottom half of the frame. New York wins on a walk-off error two innings later.