Exactly a half-century ago today, one of baseball’s more derided ballparks had its signature moment.
July 11, 1961: There was only one game scheduled to be played that day, and it was a big one: The All-Star Game, pitting the best of the National Leauge versus the best of the American League.
And this particular All-Star Game took place in one of the game’s newest stadiums, San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, which was only in it second season of operation.
If you know your baseball history, you probably already know where this one was headed.
The NL appeared to be cruising to an easy victory, leading 3-1 after eight innings. The first AL batter in the top of the ninth went down swinging, further making it look like the game was in the bag.
And then it happened. The wind.
Candlestick Park was famous for its wind. The place had a tendency to become a hellish wind tunnel late in the day. There are famous stories of pop flies hit foul on one side of the infield and landing foul on the entire other side of the diamond. That’s a stiff wind. There are stories of people coming to the park on bright, sunny summer days armed with blankets and jackets because they knew they’d need them later in the day when the wind picked up.
Well, in the ninth inning of the All-Star game, the wind picked up. And as it happened, so did the AL offense. A double and two singles cut the NL lead to one run, 3-2, and put the tying and winning runs on base. Time for a new pitcher.
The NL went to perhaps the least equipped pitcher on their All-Star squad to handle this environment, relief ace Stu Miller. There was nothing wrong with his game, or his arm, or his mental toughness. He was fine in all those areas. Miller had a more fundamental problem that caused him problems: His weight. The 5-foot-11 hurler was listed at a mere 165 pounds.
This immediately became a problem. Miller wound up to pitch, but before he could deliver the ball, a gust of wind picked up, and damned if it didn’t blow Miller out of his wind up. The wind blew the pitcher over for one of the most famous balks in history, the All-Star Game wind-aided balk.
The runners advanced, putting the tying run at third and the winning run in scoring position.
The rest of the inning played like a comedy of errors. From the NL’s point of view, it was just plain errors. In the wind tunnel called Candlestick Park, third baseman Ken Boyer made an error that inning. Second baseman Don Zimmer made another error. Catcher Smokey Burgess couldn’t handle a foul pop up in the Candlestick Park wind. All these miscues, as well as Miller’s balk, came in a stretch of three plate appearances.
Yeah, it was windy.
The NL allowed two runs, tying the game at 3-3. In extra innings, Boyer made another error, and the AL took a 4-3 lead, but the NL rampaged back for two in the bottom of the tenth for the comeback, 5-4 win.
But this All-Star Game isn’t famous for a great finish. No, it’s the game where the wind blew the pitcher off the mound.
Candlestick Park would always be infamous for its wind, and this is its most infamous story.
Aside from that, other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event that occurred X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim:
8,000 days since Dave Dravecky played his last game. That’s the nice way of putting it. He threw a pitch, and his arm broke with an audible sound heard throughout the stadium. He later had to have it amputated.
15,000 days since the big league debut of the Mad Hungarian, Al Hrabosky.
1887 The New York Metros acquire Charley Jones, one of the best sluggers of the 1880s, from Cincinnati for $1,000.
1908 The White Sox play their second 16-inning game in two days: CWS 5, PHA 4 (16).
1910 Addie Joss, Hall of Famer, plays his last game.
1911 A train carrying members of the St. Louis Cardinals to Boston gets in a wreck, killing 14. The team is OK, but they had previously spent time in the car the wreck destroyed. Creepy.
1914 An International League game in Baltimore draws 26 spectators.
1914 Big league debut: Babe Ruth. In his first time up, he struck out.
1917 The St. Louis Cardinals sign Bobby Wallace. The future Hall of Famer will turn 44 years old in a few months.
1918 Big league debut: Tom Zachary, a long-lasting journeyman most famous for giving up Babe Ruth’s 60th homer in 1927.
1918 Wrigley Field becomes the sight of a federal raid. As part of an ongoing effort to make sure all the nation’s young men have registered for the draft, federal officials ask all males to produce their registration paperwork as they leave the stadium that day. (People were supposed to keep this sort of stuff with them).
1920 Walter Johnson loses his 200th game: 305-200 on his career.
1921 A Yankee victory pulls the career record of manager Miller Huggins over .500 (628-627). It’ll stay over .500 from here on out. It was under because he got his start managing some talent-deprived Cardinals teams.
1922 Larry Gardner lays down his 300th career sacrifice hit, something only 11 men have ever done (but four started on the 1919-20 Indians, including Gardner).
1923 Harry Frazee sells the Boston Red Sox to Bo Quinn and E. M. Schoenborn for $1.5 million.
1927 Hall of Famer Goose Goslin gets his 1,000th hit in his 787th game.
1927 The White Sox tie a big league record by laying down eight sacrifice hits in one game, as they beat the Red Sox, 7-6.
1934 Bob Allison born.
1935 Charlie Gehringer hits his 100th home run. He’s the 51st man to do so.
1939 In recognition of baseball’s “centennial” (based on Abner Doubleday’s fictional invention of the game in 1839), Connie Mack is chosen to manage the AL in the All-Star Game. He’s ill, so Joe McCarthy ends up doing it anyway.
1942 Johnny Mize hits his only inside-the-park home run.
1944 Phil Cavarretta of the Cubs sets an All-Star Game record by reaching base five straight times, as the NL defeats the AL.
1947 Mel Ott plays his last game.
1947 The Yankees purchase Bobo Newsom from Washington.
1952 Robin Roberts pitches his 19th straight quality start, which is impressive because Roberts wasn’t the sort of pitcher to leave the game after the sixth or seventh inning. His numbers in this period: 12-5 record, 160.2 IP, 128 H, 39 R, 37 ER, 26 BB, 75 K, 2.07 ERA. That averages out to 8.4 innings per start.
1954 The Red Sox destroy the A’s 18-0 in one of the most one-sided shutouts of all-time.
1954 Steve O’Neill, a very successful manager, helms his last game. He and Joe McCarthy are the only men to last more than five seasons with a winning record in every season on the job, including partials. (If you exclude partials, Al Lopez joins their little club).
1956 The A’s trade Tommy Lasorda to the Yankees. Yes, he really did spend a little bit of time away from the Dodgers.
1964 Tommy John loses his eighth straight game.
1964 Vic Power is fined $250 and suspended 10 days for spitting on umpire Jim Honochick after a close play in yesterday’s doubleheader.
1965 According to WPA, Harmon Killebrew has his best game, going 3-for-4 with a home run, an intentional walk and a strikeout while scoring two runs and driving in a pair as the Twins beat the Yankee, 6-5. His WPA: 1.029.
1967 Andy Ashby, catcher, born.
1968 Earl Weaver manages his first big league game.
1968 Big league debut: Hal McRae.
1970 Orlando Cepeda nails his 2,000th hit in his 1,783rd game played.
1970 There’s a new GIDP king of all-time and his name is Henry Aaron. Hank Aaron grounds into #262, passing up previous leader Ernie Lombardi.
1971 Big league debut: pitcher Jon Matlack.
1971 Tony Conigliaro holds a press conference to announce his retirement. He’s playing for the Angels at this point.
1972 Sweet Swinging Billy Williams collects eight hits in one doubleheader.
1973 Jim Northrup of the Tigers gets eight RBIs in a win over Texas.
1973 Willie Stargell hits his 303rd home run as a Pirate, passing up Ralph as the all-time franchise leader, a standing Stargell still maintains.
1976 Hank Aaron’s ninth walk-off home run is #754 overall.
1977 Graig Nettles hits his 200th home run.
1978 Pete Rose plays psychological games on the AL before the All-Star Game. He has smaller Japanese balls tossed to the NL for batting practice. Those suckers fly further, and the goal is to freak out the AL hitters at how effortlessly the NL batters can bash.
1982 The Cincinnati Enquirer begins a contest: Guess the date when the Reds will be eliminated from the playoff race.
1985 Nolan Ryan fans his 4,000th batter, the first pitcher to ever do that.
1987 Roger Clemens wins his 50th game.
1987 The Cubs trade Gary Mathews to the Mariners.
1987 Dave Kingman signs with the Giants as a free agent.
1987 The last time a pitcher ever had a WPA over 1.000. It was White Sox hurler Bill Long, pitching in relief. His line: 7.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K for a 1.007 WPA.
1990 Jack McKeon resigns as Padres manager. At the time, only three managers in the NL were older, and one of them hardly counts. (Red Schoendienst stepped in as a stopgap interim manager for the Cardinals for a few weeks when Whitey Herzog resigned. As it happens, it was in that stretch McKeon resigned. McKeon is older than Herzog or the eventual St. Louis hire, Joe Torre). The other older managers in 1990 are Tommy Lasorda (by three years) and Roger Craig (by nine months).
1990 In one of the most successful and original promotional ideas in sports history, the White Sox host Turn Back the Clock Night at Comiskey, in part to honor the final season of Comiskey. Almost every team has adopted this at some point in time, and entire leagues have done it—and have used it as a tool to merchandise throw-back uniforms. The White Sox lose 12-9 in 13 innings to the Brewers after blowing a 9-3 lead in the final innings.
1997 Tony Gwynn goes 4-for-5 with two home runs for a personal best 10 total bases in one game.
1999 Chuck Knoblauch has his 10th consecutive multiple-hit game.
1999 The Giants retire Orlando Cepeda’s number.
2002 The Indians fire skipper Charlie Manuel.
2002 The Marlins trade pitcher Ryan Dempster to the Reds for three players.
2004 Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker manage against each other for the 100th time. They’re record is an even 50-50. Later this year, they’ll face each other for the 200th time, something that’s only happened once in the last 35 years (to Chuck Tanner and Dick Williams).
2008 Former Red Sox pitcher Chuck Stobbs dies.
2010 Andruw Jones hits his 400th home run. He’s the 46th member of the club.
2010 Bob Shepherd, the Voice of God, dies.