Fifty years ago today, one of the most famous swings in baseball history occurred. Roger Maris took a Tracy Stallard offering and put it in the seats in Yankee Stadium for a home run. Specifically, it was his 61st home run, making him the all-time home run champ.
Of course, many didn’t want to acknowledge his single season home run supremacy at the time. He did it in the first 162-game schedule (previously, teams played just 154), and Maris took the entire season to reach 61.
More than that, many treated the historical record as a moral matter. Maris wasn’t as good player or slugger as Ruth—so how dare he presume to hit so many home runs. Thus Maris’ mark became the famously asterisked record.
A couple of fun facts about the game from 50 years ago: First, it was the only run of the game. Maris’ 61st home gave the Yankees a 1-0 win over the Red Sox for their 109th and final win of the season. On the day, Stallard surrendered the homer, and four other singles, two of which didn’t leave the infield.
Later in the game, Stallard was lifted for pinch-hitter Jackie Jensen. He had been the league’s MVP just three years earlier, nut this would prove to be the final game Jensen ever played in. He popped up to short.
Only 23,154 fans attended this game. In his autobiography, Bill Veeck blasted the Yankees for their inability to turn the home run chase into a box office bonanza, saying that if it was his team he’d play it up to the hilt, including the controversy over the 162-game schedule.
To be fair, that was slightly more than the average attendance at a Yankee home game—21,577 was the normal crowd. And it was autumn, when the kids were back in school and temperatures dropping. Yeah, but it was 70 degrees and a Sunday. The weather was great and everyone had the day off. Yet with Maris sitting on 60 homers, the team played before a half-empty stadium.
And it happened 50 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim:
1,000 days since Tampa signs free agent Pat Burrell.
5,000 days since the A’s sign free agent Rickey Henderson. It’s a return for him.
6,000 days since the Ontario Labor Board says replacement umpires are not allowed to work games in Toronto next week. There’s an Ontario law that says replacement workers can’t be used in a strike.
6,000 days since the big league debut of Jason Schmidt.
6,000 days since the major league debut of Mark Grudzielanek.
7,000 days since Paul Molitor hits his second career game with two triples. He’s nearly 40 years old when it happens.
9,000 days since Larry French, starting pitcher, dies.
25,000 days since Eddie Stanky’s big league debut.
30,000 days since Reading Keystones minor league outfielder George McQullich gets a hit in his 15th consecutive at bats, apparently an organized baseball record.
40,000 days since the first time the nickname Cubs is used, as a reporter writes of the Chicago manger: “Frank Selee will devote his strongest efforts on the team work of the new Cubs this year.”
1877 The Louisville Courier-Journal breaks the story that players on the Louisville NL team threw a few games for money.
1879 The Cincinnati Enquirer leaks the story of the new (and still secret) reserve clause that will soon go into effect.
1882 Since the American Association has a rule against playing National League teams, the AA champion Cincinnati Reds release their entire roster and resign them as a “new” team so they can play an NL opponent and not technically violate a league rule.
1884 Charlie Getzein throws a six-inning, shortened game, no-hitter.
1890 Ed Morris, the god of the complete game, pitches for the last time.
1892 Harry Wright manages his 2,000th game, becoming the first man to do that. His record: 1,147-823.
1903 The Pirates top the Red Sox 7-3 in the first World Series game ever.
1908 Ed Reulbach of the Cubs tosses his fourth straight complete game shutout.
1914 The A’s all-time cumulative franchise record peaks at 385 games over .500 (1,220-835). They’ll tie that mark once at the start of 1915, but that’s it. The managerial record of Connie Mack peaks at 400 games over .500 (1,369-969). He managed the Pirates in the 1890s, which accounts for the difference. For the rest of the career, Mack will be 2,362-2,979.
1914 Irish Meusel makes his big league debut.
1919 Eddie Cicotte plunks the first batter he faces in Game One of the 1919 World Series, indicating that the fix is in. Chicago loses to the Reds, 9-1.
1920 Two Hall of Famers have a great pitchers duel: Pete Alexander and Jesse Haines. Both go the distance as Alexander’s Cubs win 3-2 in 17 innings. Alexander’s line: 17 H, 16 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, and 8 K for a Game Score of 94. Haines’ line: 16.1 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, and 8 K for a Game Score of 87.
1921 Good-fielding first baseman Ed Konetchy plays in his last game.
1921 The Yankees clinch their first AL pennant.
1921 White Sox catcher Ray Schalk records an out at every single base in a game.
1924 Commissioner Kenesaw Landis bans two New York Giants, Cozy Dolan and Jimmy O’Connell, because they’d approached a Phillie about laying down for a late-season game. O’Connell claims he’s a scapegoat and that Frankie Frisch and several other teammates knew about it, but they all deny it now.
1926 Babe Ruth tells 11-year-old Johnny Sylvester, a boy suffering from near-death blood poisoning, that he’ll hit a home run for him.
1927 Eddie Collins appears in the starting lineup for the last time. He’ll be a just pinch-hitter for three more years. He hasn’t started since July 13, 1927 before this game.
1929 Lee Richmond, the game’s first notable left-handed pitcher, dies.
1932 Joe DiMaggio makes his pro debut, playing shortstop for the Pacific Coast League the San Francisco Seals. He triples.
1932 Babe Ruth has his most famous moment, blasting the Called Shot homer against the Cubs for a 7-5 Yankee win in Game Three of the World Series. Among the people in the stands is future Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens.
1933 Babe Ruth pitches a complete game in a 6-5 win over the Red Sox. He also belts his 34th home run.
1938 The Cubs clinch their last peacetime pennant.
1939 Bobo Newsom wins his 100th game, for a career record of 100-97. He’ll be under .500 for the rest of his career.
1939 Veteran infielder Jimmie Dykes plays in his last game.
1942 Washington purchases Paul Dean from the Cardinals.
1942 In Game Two of the Fall Classic, the Cardinals top the Yankees 4-3. St. Louis led 3-0 before the Yanks tied it with three in the top of the eighth, but St. Louis gets the winning run in the bottom of the frame.
1943 The Braves lose, dropping manager Casey Stengel’s career record to 162 games under .500 (579-741), his all time low point. He’ll tie it two games later, but never fall lower.
1943 Stan Musial sets a personal best by reaching base for the 55th consecutive game.
1944 The Browns clinch their only pennant.
1944 St. Louis Cardinals star Pepper Martin plays in his last game. Though the team plays in the Series, he won’t.
1945 Rod Carew is born.
1946 The NL has its first ever playoff game. St. Louis tops Brooklyn in the opening game in a best-of-three contest.
1949 The Braves acquire Sam Jethroe from the Dodgers, becoming the fifth team with a black player.
1949 It’s Joe DiMaggio Day at Yankee Stadium. In a big game in a pennant race, the Yankees fall behind 4-0 to the Red Sox but come back to win, 5-4.
1950 Robin Roberts pitches 10 innings, the first of 25 times he’ll get at least 28 outs in a game.
1950 The Whiz Kids win it. They defeat the Brooklyn Dodgers on the last day of the regular season to clinch a pennant. Dick Sisler’s three-run homer in the 10th inning is the big blow in their 4-1 win. It’s also the last game for Dodgers skipper Burt Shotton.
1950 Connie Mack manages his last game. It’s against Bucky Harris—the 453rd time they’ve squared off against each other, by far the most any pair of managers have faced each other.
1950 Tommy Henrich plays in his last regular season game—but he’ll play in the World Series this year.
1953 The Yankees defeat the Dodgers 4-2 in Game Two of the World Series. The Yanks come back to win with one run in the bottom of the seventh and a pair in the eighth.
1954 The Cubs trade Johnny Klippstein to the Reds.
1955 Jeff Reardon, who was briefly the game’s all-time saves king, is born.
1956 The Briggs family heirs sell their shares of the Tigers to a syndicate headed by Fred Knorr, John Fetzer and Kenyon Brown for $5.5 million.
1958 The defending world champion Milwaukee Braves defeat the New York Yankees in Game One of the World Series, 4-3 in 10 innings. Milwaukee scores in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game before winning it in extra frames.
1959 It’s the worst Game One in World Series history. The Dodgers crush the White Sox, 11-0, with all runs scoring in the first inning.
1960 Hall of Famer Billy Williams hits his first home run.
1960 Don Newcombe plays in his last game.
1961 Billy Martin plays in his final game.
1961 Ted Kluszewski plays in his last big league game.
1963 Mark McGwire is born.
1964 Dick Williams plays in his final game as a player.
1965 Hall of Famer Warren Spahn pitches in his last game.
1966 Joe Adcock appears in his last big league game.
1967 Jim Kaat’s arm gives out. On the mound with a chance to clinch the pennant for Minnesota, his arm falls off, having thrown 63 innings since Sept. 1. The Red Sox win, 6-3 and clinch the pennant the next day.
1970 John Hiller of Detroit fans seven Indians in a row in a 1-0 win.
1970 It’s the last game for baseball’s first modern stadium: Connie Mack Stadium. When the Phillies-Expos game ends, the crowd tears the place up for souvenirs. One person even takes a toilet.
1970 Ray Oyler plays in his last game.
1970 Mayo Smith manages his last game.
1970 Milwaukee signs amateur free agent Sixto Lezcano.
1971 George Steinbrenner and Al Rosen make a bid to buy the Cleveland Indians. Imagine how history would be different if they did get them.
1972 Gaylord Perry ends his Cy Young Award season (24 wins for a last place team in a slightly shortened season) with his second highest Game Score ever. His line: 11 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, and 11 K for a 96 Game Score.
1972 Julian Javier plays in his last game.
1972 Wes Parker plays in his last game.
1972 Milt Pappas wins his 11th straight, his best ever streak. He sports a 1.86 ERA in that period.
1972 Reggie Jackson reaches base via catcher’s interference for the only time in his career.
1973 Renovations on Yankee Stadium begin.
1975 Hall of Fame executive Larry MacPhail dies at age 85.
1975 The Expos fire Gene Mauch, their first-ever manager.
1976 Alex Johnson plays in his final game.
1976 Dave Duncan, catcher who will become a great pitching coach, plays in his final game.
1976 Nate Colbert plays in his last game.
1977 Larry Dierker plays in his last game.
1978 Cito Gaston plays in his final game.
1978 Keith Moreland makes his big league debut.
1978 The Red Sox catch the Yankees, in the second remarkable comeback of the 1978 AL East pennant race. Luis Tiant pitches a shutout.
1980 The Red Sox fire manager Don Zimmer.
1980 Mark Fidrych, former phenom, plays in his last game.
1982 Nolan Ryan uncorks four wild pitches in one game.
1982 Phil Niekro has the greatest game of his life at the best time In the midst of a tight pennant race, for the only time in his career, Niekro combines a complete game shutout with a home run at the plate. Braves 4, Padres 0. Reggie Smith, in the last complete game he ever plays, fans with the bases loaded to end the game.
1983 Bert Campaneris plays in his last game. He’s a defensive replacement in the 12th inning.
1984 Matt Cain is born.
1984 Walter Alston dies.
1986 Bill Russell, longtime Dodgers shortstop, plays in his last game,
1987 Whitey Herzog manages his 2,000th game. His record: 1,085-914.
1988 Rafael Palmeiro hits the first of 12 career grand slams.
1989 Orel Hershiser throws 11 innings for the Dodgers, the longest outing of his career and the last time any Dodger goes over nine innings. He gets the win, but not the complete game.
1991 The Dodgers win, pushing Tommy Lasorda to 178 games over .500 (1,277-1,099), his all-time peak.
1991 Oil Can Boyd plays in his last game.
1992 Fifteen days after his 33rd birthday, Tim Raines triples twice.
1993 Barry Bonds drives in seven runs, going 3-for-3 with a double and two home runs. The Giants beat the Dodgers, 8-7.
1993 Frank Tanana plays in his last game.
1993 Carlos Delgado makes his big league debut.
1995 Alex Fernandez pitches 10 innings for the White Sox, the last time any of their pitchers have gone over nine in a game
1995 On the last day of the season, Cito Gaston manages his 1,000th game. His record: 537-463.
1995 The following athletes appear in the last game of their careers: Dave Winfield, Don Mattingly, Lou Whitaker, Kevin Bass, Howard Johnson and Bill Wegman. In similar news, Sparky Anderson manages his last game, retiring as the third-winningest manager of all-time (but he’s since been passed by a few guys).
1997 In Game Two of the NLDS, the Marlins top the Giants 7-6 in a back-and-forth game in which both clubs led three times.
1998 The Astros top the Astros 5-4 in Game Two of the NLDS. The Astros lead 4-2 after eight, and San Diego ties it in the top of the ninth, but Houston wins it in the bottom of the ninth.
1998 The Braves beat the Cubs 2-1 in 10 innings in Game Two of the NLDS. Atlanta ties it 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth before winning it next inning.
1999 Terry Steinbach plays in his last game.
2000 On the last day of the season, Jim Fregosi manages his last game.
2000 The Mets top the Expos 3-2 in 13 innings when the winning run scores on a walk-off error. Hell of a way to lose a season finale.
2000 The Twins’ all-time franchise record bottoms out at 739 games under .500 (7,344-8.083).
2003 The A’s top the Red Sox 5-4 in 12 innings in the ALDS. The A’s tie the game in the bottom of the ninth before winning.
2005 Ismael Valdez appears in his last game.
2006 Devern Hansack throws a shortened game, five-inning no-hitter.
2006 Ivan Rodriguez gets on base six times with three walks and three hits (all for extra bases).