Centennial anniversary: Johnson-Wood showdown

100 years ago today was one of the greatest pitching showdowns of all-time. It was advertised in advance as a classic pitchers duel, and it lived up to its hype.

On Sept. 6, 1912, Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators faced off against Smokey Joe Wood of the Red Sox with more than just a game at stake.

These two of the best pitchers in all baseball. Wood was a 22-year-old phenom having a breakout season. Though he’d won 23 games in 1911 (against 17 losses), that was nothing compared to his performance in 1912. He’d end the season with a 34-5 record, a 1.91 ERA, and 10 shutouts. Bill James would later rank Wood as one of the 100 best pitchers of all-time and it was entirely based on the strength of his peak.

Johnson was the elder pitcher, though not too much older. Though he’d won 100 games by the time the game began 100 years ago, he was just 26 years old. Johnson was younger that day than Felix Hernandez is today.

Though Johnson had established himself as a tremendous talent in previous seasons, he took his game to a whole new level in 1912. Though his 33-12 record on the year isn’t as flashy as Wood’s 34-5, it isn’t much worse and came despite pitching for a worse team. Johnson’s ERA of 1.39 easily topped Wood’s mark and led the league.

More than that, Johnson had made American League history just a few weeks earlier when he set a new consecutive wins record. In the summer, Johnson was unstoppable, winning 16 consecutive decisions.

Yet as soon as Johnson finally recorded a loss in late August, there was already a challenger to Johnson’s newly forged record: Smokey Joe Wood. Even before Johnson’s streak came to an end, Wood had already begun a winning streak of his own. On Sept. 2, Wood won his 13th consecutive decision, putting Johnson’s record within sight.

And then the Senators traveled to Boston for a series.

Well, naturally they had to square off against each other. With Wood bearing down on his record, Walter Johnson got the chance to defend his winning streak in person 100 years ago today. So many churned out to Fenway Park—in its inaugural season as a ballpark—that the Red Sox had to create a standing room only section of people roped off in the outfield. Stuff like that happened in those days.

It promised to be a day of great pitching, and so it proved to be. Early on, neither team could score. In the bottom of the sixth, the Red Sox finally broke the deadlock. With two outs an no one on, Boston’s star 24-year-old centerfielder Tris Speaker hit one that landed into the standing room only crowd in the outfield. On other days it might’ve been a flyout, but today it was a ground-rule double. Immediately after that, Duffy Lewis drove him home with a shot down the rightfield line.

On a day like this, you figured one run might be enough, and so it was. Wood won 1-0 for his 14th straight win. Johnson had his chance to defend his streak but it was not to be. Washington put a runner in scoring position in the eighth and ninth innings, but Wood prevented them from scoring each time.

As it happens, Wood would get to 16 straight wins to tie Johnson, but be unable to surpass it. And the showdown between the two became one of the most famous games of the day. Its popularity would be rediscovered a half-century later when several players of the day recounted it to Lawrence Ritter in his classic baseball book, The Glory of Their Times.

Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim through things.

Day-versaries

1,000 days since the Royals sign free agent catcher Jason Kendall.

3,000 days since Ken Griffey Jr. hits his 500th home run.

3,000 days since Frank Thomas plays the field for the final time. It’s at first base, of course.

4,000 days since Rickey Henderson hits his 500th double.

4,000 days since Craig Wilson of the Pirates hits his seventh pinch-hit home run of the year.

4,000 days since Jamie Moyer wins his 10th straight decision, a personal longest winning streak. He has a 1.65 ERA in this span lasting 12 starts.

4,000 days since Tuffy Rhodes hits his 55th home run of the year for the Kinetsu Buffaloes, tying the Japanese League record held by Sadaharu Oh.

6,000 days since St. Francis College destroys Robert Morris University 71-1 in a game that is called off after four innings. St. Francis scores 26 in the first, 22 in the second, four in the third, and 19 in the fourth.

7,000 days since Barry Bonds belts his 200th home run.

7,000 days since Bill Doran plays in his last game.

8,000 days since the Reds one-hit the Pirates in Game Six of the 1990 NLCS. The Pirates commit three errors in their 2-1 loss.

10,000 days since Alan Trammell gets his 1,000th hit. It takes him 999 games, so almost perfectly a one per game average.

20,000 days since the birth of Lee Smith, the one-time all-time saves leader.

20,000 days since Cleveland trades Al Smith and Early Wynn to the White Sox for Minnie Minoso and Fred Hatfield.

Anniversaries

1886 Harry Stovey, the first man to ever hit 100 home runs, hits an inside the park grand slam.

1888 Red Faber, Hall of Fame White Sox pitcher, is born.

1894 Veteran pitcher Jouett Meekin hits a walk-off home run.

1903 Tommy Thevenow, infielder, is born.

1905 Frank Smith throws a no-hitter in a 15-0 White Sox victory over Detroit.

1912 Giants pitcher Jeff Tesreau throws a no-hitter over the Phillies for a 3-0 win.

1912 Bobby Veach makes his big league debut.

1912 Vince DiMaggio is born.

1913 The Browns name Branch Rickey their new manager.

1920 Cleveland purchases Joe Sewell from New Orleans in the Southern Association.

1923 The Giants purchase Hack Wilson from Portsmouth in the Virginia League.

1924 Phillies hitter Joe Schultz hits into the rare walk-off triple play.

1924 Larry Gardner, infielder, plays in his last game.

1924 Travis Jackson hits a grand slam for the second consecutive day. Both come in the second game of doubleheaders in Philadelphia.

1924 Browns ace Urban Shocker wins two complete game victories over the White Sox. Both have the same final score: 6-2.

1925 Joe Oeschger, who threw a 26-inning complete game in 1920, plays in his last game.

1925 Babe Ruth has to apologize to Yankees manager Miller Huggins in front of all the Yankees. Huggins has just won the power struggle between them.

1927 Lave Cross, superlative turn-of-the-century defensive third baseman, dies.

1928 Burleigh Grimes allows a pinch-hit walk-off home run to George Harper in the 10th inning..

1929 For the third time this year, Babe Herman legs out an inside the park home run versus Burleigh Grimes.

1932 Hall of Fame centerfielder Earl Averill clubs his 100th home run. All of come with Cleveland, making him the first player in franchise history with 100 homers. Cleveland is the 11th franchise with a 100 homer guy.

1936 Stu Flythe appears in his last game. You never heard of him, but he threw 16 wild pitches—including one today—in 39.1 career innings. Despite his lack of innings, he’ll lead the league in wild pitches this year. He also has 61 walks, three HBP, and a balk.

1937 Lou Gehrig churns out his 500th double.

1927 Mel Ott’s longest hitting streak peaks at 21 games.

1942 Early Wynn loses his 10th straight decision, his worst ever stretch. His line: 10 G, 8 GS, 47 IP, 88 H, 58 R, 44 ER, 23 BB, 15 K, and a 8.43 ERA.

1943 Hall of Fame managers Leo Durocher and Casey Stengel face off against each other for the 100th time.

1943 The A’s send Carl Scheib, age 16 years, five months, and three days, to take the mount. He lasts less than an inning.

1945 Red Sox executive Larry Lucchino is born.

1945 A’s catcher Greek George punches umpire Joe Roe. He’ll be suspended indefinitely and never play again. Then again, he’s hitting .177.

1948 Phillies pitcher Curt Simmons walks 15 in eight innings versus the Giants.

1948 Dutch Verban, in his 2,423rd career at bat, hits his first home run. Johnny Vander Meer allows it.

1948 Warren Spahn has the highest Game Score of his career: 102. His line: 14 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, and 8 K. His 16 inning showdown against Juan Marichal had a lower Game Score.

1948 Hank Bauer makes his big league debut.

1948 The Pirates and Cardinals hit into a record 13 double plays in one doubleheader.

1950 Don Newcombe tries to start and win both tends of a doubleheader, but it doesn’t work. He wins the first game against the Phillies with a three-hitter, but leaves in the seventh of the second game trailing, 2-0. The Dodgers come back to win it, though.

1951 Danny Murtaugh plays in his last game. He’ll become a longtime Pirates manager.

1952 Bob Lemon completes his 12th consecutive start. He’s 10-2 with a 1.83 ERA in that stretch.

1952 Harvey Kuenn, eventual batting champion, makes his big league debut.

1952 Workhorse pitcher Robin Roberts has his longest start: 17 IP, 18 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, and 5 K in a 7-6 win over the Braves.

1953 Dodgers rightfielder Carl Furillo is hit by a pitch against the Giants, and then lunges into the New York dugout to fight manager Leo Durocher. The Giants predictably stomp him, and he’s out for the rest of the year with a broken bone in his left hand.

1954 Cuba’s Carlos Paula becomes the first black player for the Washington Senators.

1954 Casey Stengel uses 10 pinch-hitters, including pitcher Tommy Byrne (for Phil Rizzuto).

1957 Dixie Howell, pitcher, hits a walk-off home run against Wally Burnette. Incredibly, it’s the second time this year Burnette’s allowed the pitcher to belt a walk-off home run against him.

1959 Roberto Clemente suffers his worst WPA game: -0.553 WPA by going 0-for-4 with a K.

1960 A week after turning 42 years old Ted Williams tries to steal a base. He fails in his last stolen base attempt.

1960 Al Lopez wins his 1,000th game. His managerial record: 1,000-682.

1961 Jim Perry has his worst Game Score ever: 11. His line: 5.2 IP, 13 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, and 8 K.

1961 Ed Brinkman makes his big league debut.

1963 A Senators-Indians game is the 100,000th game in major leagues history.

1963 The Angels top the A’s 4-3 in 14 innings on a walk-off HBP. It’s the latest walk-off HBP since at least 1950.

1963 Milt Pappas helps his own cause with a three-run homer for a 6-4 Orioles win over the Red Sox.

1963 Tommy John makes his big league debut.

1963 Willie Davis lays down three sacrifice bunts in one game.

1964 Ron Santo hits his 100th career home run.

1964 For the second time in four day, Zoilo Versalles gets the sole Twins hit in a game.

1964 Milt Pappas throws his third straight complete game shutout. His line: 27 IP, 11 H, 0 R/ER, 5 BB, and 19 K.

1964 The Pirates purchase Wilbur Wood from the Red Sox.

1965 John Hiller makes his big league debut.

1966 Hoyt Wilhelm lose his 100th decision for a 116-100 record.

1967 Amos Otis makes his big league debut.

1967 Graig Nettles makes his major league debut.

1968 Graig Nettles hits his first home run in his career.

1971 Lou Brock ties a personal best with four stolen bases in one game.

1971 Roberto Clemente’s batting average reaches an all-time high with an eighth-inning single. He’s .317895 (2,869/9,025) at that moment.

1971 It’s time for some creativity. The Red Sox use two entirely different nine-man lineups in a doubleheader versus the Yankees. It fails and Boston loses both games.

1972 Gary Matthews Sr. makes his big league debut.

1973 The Pirates fire manager Bill Virdon, and call on Danny Murtaugh to manage the club for the fourth time. Murtaugh probably would’ve managed the team for the last 20 years, but he has a heart ailment that causes him to take time away from the dugout.

1974 Baltimore pitches two shutouts in a doubleheader to give the team a total of 54 consecutive scoreless innings by the team.

1974 Larry Parrish makes his big league debut.

1975 Derrek Lee is born.

1975 Omar Moreno makes his big league debut.

1976 Cincinnati nearly blow an 8-0 lead to top the Astros, 9-8.

1976 For the first time in nine years and over 2,000 innings, Jerry Koosman walks in a run.

1976 Tony Armas makes his big league debut.

1976 Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager is injured in the on-deck circle when bat fragments from the batter at the plate hit him in the neck. It will lead to Yeager creating a neck guard for catchers behind the plate.

1977 The Angels claim Dave Kingman off waivers from the Padres.

1977 Carlton Fisk gets seven RBIs in a game, a personal best. He’ll tie this best exactly eight year later on this day.

1978 Robin Yount enjoys the first of 14 career multi-home run games.

1979 Johnny Bench’s longest career hitting streak peaks at 18 games.

1980 Tim Wallach makes his big league debut.

1982 Mark Teahen is born.

1982 Jerry Koosman allows his first grand slam ever. Brian Downing hits it. Koosman had 3,310.2 IP before Downing’s swing.

1982 Bill Doran makes his big league debut.

1983 Ron Darling makes his big league debut—and it could’ve gone better. He commits two balks in the game.

1983 Cincinnati native Skeeter Barnes makes his big league debut with the Reds – and gets hit by two pitches.

1985 Burt Hooton appears in his last game.

1985 It’s one of the best pitching duels of the decade. The Mets top the Dodgers 2-0 in 13 innings. Fernando Valenzuela lasts 11 innings, and Dwight Gooden goes nine. Both end up with Game Scores in 87.

1986 Robin Yount joins the 2,000 hit club.

1986 Jose Cruz enjoys the best WPA game by any Astros hitter ever. He’s 2-for-3 with a double, home run, two walks, and three RBIs for a 1.015 WPA in a 7-6 Houston win over St. Louis.

1986 George Foster appears in his last game.

1987 Tim Belcher makes his big league debut.

1987 Ron Gant makes his big league debut.

1991 The White Sox score 10 runs in the fourth inning against the Royals—with all runs scoring with two outs. In the same game, Frank Thomas chips two teeth at first base on a throwing error by pitcher Charlie Hough.

1991 Houston’s Pete Harnisch strikes out the side on nine pitches in the seventh inning against the Phillies.

1992 Albert Belle hits three home runs in one game.

1992 Seattle pitcher Mike Schooler serves up his fourth grand slam of the year, a record.

1993 It’s the first all-Canadian battery in modern big league history: Denis Boucher on the mound and Joe Siddall behind the plate. It’s for the Expos, too.

1993 For the second straight game, Rafael Palmeiro has four extra base hits in a game.

1995 Cal Ripken Jr. plays in his 2,131st straight game, breaking Lou Gehrig’s record.

1996 Eddie Murray hits his 500th home run.

1996 Brett Butler returns to the Dodgers after four months off due to throat cancer surgery. He scores the deciding run in a 3-2 win over the Pirates.

1996 Enos Slaughter’s No. 9 is retired by the Cardinals.

1997 Larry Walker hits his 195th career home run, becoming Canada’s all-time slugging leader.

1998 John Smoltz has his best game: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K for a Game Score of 93.

1998 Carlos Guillen makes his big league debut.

1998 Matt Clement makes his big league debut.

1999 Jason Giambi hits his 100th career home run. Two innings later he gets No. 101.

2000 Rick Aguilera appears in his last game.

2000 MLB comes to terms with the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Blockis LLP for a the right to the mlb.com url.

2000 Texas Rangers player Scott Sheldon becomes the third person ever—and the first in decades—to play all nine positions in one game. The White Sox destroy Texas, 13-1.

2002 Oakland’s 20 game winning streak is snapped by Brad Radke and the Minnesota Twins.

2002 In today’s Cardinals and Cubs game, brothers Alan Benes and Andy Benes take the mound against each other.

2003 Roy Halladay becomes the first person since Jack Morris in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series to throw a 10-inning complete game shutout.

2005 Jeff Kent smacks his fifth and final career walk-off home run.

2006 Anibal Sanchez throws a no-hitter for a 2-0 win for Florida over Arizona.

2008 Alfonso Soriano hits three home runs in one game for the third time in his career.

2008 Jim Thome hits a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 15th. Thome is the all-time walk-off home run king and this is his latest walk-off home run.

2009 Ichiro Suzuki hits his 2,000th North American hit. It takes him just 1,402 games to do it.

2009 Chris Young of Arizona hits three home runs in one game.

2010 Alex Rodriguez drives in his 100th run, becoming the 14th player to ever have 14 different 100 RBI seasons.

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