Fifty years ago today, baseball witnessed one of its greatest one-game performances of all-time.
In the top of the first inning in a Twins-Orioles game, Baltimore loaded the bases with no outs for its cleanup hitter, Jim Gentile. BOOM—a deep shot to center brought all the runners home and gave Baltimore an early 4-0 lead.
A mere one inning later, Gentile again found himself at the plate with the bases loaded, this time with one out. The result was the same, as Gentile slammed one out of the park for his second grand slam in the game, and it was only the second inning!
That was about it for Gentile—he also walked, struck out and drove in a ninth run on a sac fly—but it was more than enough. He became only the fourth player in baseball history to hit two slams in one game. To this day, it’s only happened 13 times, making it even rarer than a perfect game or triple play.
Oh, and Gentile’s nine RBIs set an Orioles team record that still stands (though Eddie Murray tied it in 1986). Not bad.
Actually, the RBIs came back into the limelight not so long ago. At the end of 1961, baseball record keepers credited Jim Gentile with 141 RBIs and Roger Maris with 142. Last year, a SABR researcher found out that there was an error in Maris’ official total, and he should have 141.
This had a nice little bounce back for Gentile. In 1961, he had a clause in his contract for a bonus if he led the league in RBIs. Well, 49 years be damned, the Orioles gave him the money. Looks like the long-forgotten sacrifice fly he had in that May 9, 1961 game came in handy after all.
While that’s the most dramatic baseball event to have a nice round anniversary, plenty of others celebrate their anniversary, or my own personal patented “day-versary” list. Let’s acknowledge them—I’ll bold the better items for any skimmers.
1,000 days since Red Sox 19, Rangers 17. Clearly, a pitcher’s duel.
1,000 days since Red Sox get Paul Byrd from the Indians
4,000 days since Royals hit four homers in one inning.
15,000 days since Tony Perez swats his 100th home run.
15,000 days since Opening Day at Wrigley Field is disrupted by a number of drunk and/or stoned teens and college students, who pick fights in the bleachers and upper deck. Many of them also run onto the field.
15,000 days since Steve Avery born
1871 Cuban Esteban Enrique Bellan becomes MLB’s first Hispanic player.
1888 With a 12-run lead, right-handed pitcher Icebox Chamberlain decides to have some fun. He pitches lefty for the last two innings and allows no runs.
1889 MLB debut: Amos Rusie, the greatest strikeout pitcher of his era. Random fact: Even though Rusie’s career is essentially over by 1898, he’s actually younger than Iron Man Joe McGinnity, a Hall of Famer whose MLB debut came in 1899. Really, two Hall of Fame pitchers—and not controversial selections, either—had careers that scarcely overlapped despite being born within two months of each other. Combined, they still won fewer games than Cy Young, a contemporary of both.
1892 Hall of Fame manager Ned Hanlon takes over as Baltimore Orioles skipper, and that’s the team largely responsible for his enshrinement in Cooperstown.
1896 Umpire Bob Emslie has to be escorted out of Reds ballpark by cops when a controversial non-call allows Baltimore to score a key run in a 6-5 triumph for the visitors.
1901 Earl Moore tosses nine innings of no-hit ball (though he allows two unearned runs) but loses his no-hitter in the 10th inning.
1901 Ted Breitenstein, one of those pitchers who was far better than his offensive support, plays his last game.
1905 Joe McGinnity, still younger than Amos Rusie, allows two inside-the-park home runs in one game.
1913 MLB debut: Wally Schang
1916 Thirty walks allowed in one Tigers-A’s game that Detroit wins. A’s walk 18 batsmen, and Tigers walk 12.
1916 Tris Speaker first plays in Fenway Park as a visitor. After the first inning, the new Indians centerfielder accidentally heads back to the Boston dugout. Fans predictably cheer him wildly all game long.
1916 New York Giants begin a 17-game winning streak. Not bad, especially since they began this day with a record of 2-13.
1919 Cyclone Joe Williams hurls no-hitter, defeating Negro Leagues rival ace Cannonball Dick Redding, 1-0.
1930 Sam Rice hits his 21st inside the park home run. He only hit 34 homers of any sort in his lengthy career.
1935 Charlie Gelbert, Cards, plays his first game since a 1932 hunting accident nearly severed his leg.
1935 Rabbit Maranville lays down his 300th career sacrifice hit. He’s the 11th man to do so, and since then no one has joined the club.
1936 Cub catcher Gabby Hartnett hits two triples in one game
1936 Senators sign Firpo Marberry as free agent
1940 Earl Averill collects his 2,000th career hit. I wonder how many he would’ve had if he’d been bought from the PCL earlier.
1944 After missing much of spring training due to illness, skipper Joe McCarthy returns to the Yankee dugout.
1946 In 12th inning of 2-2 tie, Johnny Hopp of Braves steals home. Braves beat Cubs 5-2.
1947 Dodgers make public the threatening letters Jackie Robinson has received.
1947 MLB debut: hot prospect Clint Hartung
1950 Ralph Kiner hits his second grand slam in four days
1953 Dom DiMaggio plays his last game
1954 Warren Spahn loses his 100th game, 154-100.
1955 White Sox release Phil Cavaretta
1958 In the bottom of the 12th inning, Robin Roberts allows walk-off home run to Ted Kluszewski. Roberts surrenders only four walk-off homers in his career, but two are on May 9.
1959 Pirates blow 9-1 lead over Phillies.
1960 Tony Gwynn born
1961 Carl Yastrzemski hits his first career home run.
1962 Orioles trade “Marvelous” Marv Thorneberry to the Mets.
1962 Milt Pappas, Orioles, fans a career-high 13 men in one game.
1963 Frank Robinson has one of his best games, going 5-for-5 with three runs, seven RBIs, a double, and two homers. He’ll have a better game a few years later, when he joins Gentile in the rare two-slams-in-one-game club.
1966 Tom Cheney pitches his last game. His moment of glory came when he fanned 21 batters in a 16-inning complete game.
1970 Brooks Robinson hits his 200th home run.
1973 Al Bumbry and Rich Coggins do something neat in Orioles-A’s game: They each hit their first career home runs in back-to-back plate appearances against Oakland ace Catfish Hunter. A’s win anyway, 4-3.
1975 Jim Kaat notches a personal best 12th straight win. His numbers in that spell: 16 G, 14 GS, 7 CG, 2 SHO, 113 IP, 89 H, 25 H, 17 ER, 26 BB, 74 K, and a 1.35 ERA.
1976 In the bottom of the first inning, Gaylord Perry walk in a run—something he’d last done on June 19, 1971, some 1,531.1 innings previously.
1976 Line drive fractures the kneecap of White Sox workhorse Wilbur Wood. He’s done for the year.
1976 MLB debut: Bruce Sutter.
1978 Gary Carter’s best WPA game: 0.834 WPA. He was 2-for-2 with a home run, walk, and three RBIs in 7-6 Expos win over the Braves. His homer was a three-run shot with two outs in the top of the ninth with the Expos trailing 6-4.
1979 During an umpire’s strike, substitute umpire Dave Pallone ejects the entire St. Louis Cardinals bench after a player tosses helmets and bats onto the field to protest a call.
1979 Speaking of umpire troubles during their strike, four bench-clearing brawls highlight Pittsburgh’s 17-9 win over the Braves. Five players and both managers are ejected. Today’s events help the strike end with a victory for the umpires.
1979 Brandon Webb born
1979 Carl Yastrzemski hits his first walk-off home run in 14 years.
1979 The only time a game ends with Robin Yount fanning with the bases loaded. Indians beat Brewers, 8-7.
1980 Jim Rice gets his 1,000th hit.
1981 Tom Paciorek hits a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth for the second straight game. Not bad.
1982 Expos release Bill Lee, who walked off the team the day before.
1984 Harold Baines homers in the bottom of the 25th to end the longest game in AL history: CWS 8, MIL 7 (25).
1984 Umpire “Cowboy” Joe West tosses two cameramen from the dugout for showing replays to players of a controversial play.
1984 Prince Fielder born
1986 Mariners name Dick Williams their new manager. He resigned from the Padres in February.
1986 Phillies release Dave Stewart, whose best years are still to come.
1987 Chris Speier hits his second grand slam of the year. Previously, he’d gone 15 years without one.
1987 Eddie Murray homers from both sides of the plate for the second straight day, something unprecedented in MLB.
1988 A’s win their 14th straight game, a franchise record, and MLB’s longest winning streak since 1977.
1988 Jerry Reuss wins his 200th game, becoming one of the few to do it without a 20-win season. At one point, Milt Pappas was the only one to lodge that many career wins without a 20-win season, but Reuss and Charlie Hough and others expand the club.
1989 Jose Canseco undergoes operation to repair a stress fracture on his left hand and will miss half of the season.
1990 Double-A player Bernard Gilkey gets three hits in an inning.
1990 Roger Clemens wins his 100th career game. He’s 100-47.
1990 Rickey Henderson receives his second and final career walk-off walk. The other one came when he was a rookie.
1993 Mark Grace hits for the cycle. I remember this one. That day, I decided to keep score while watching the game at home, something I never do. But it happened this day. From memory, every time Grace came up, there were two outs and none on.
1993 Rockies draw their 1,000,000th fan in 17 home games, a new record.
1994 Rockies minor leaguer Neifi Perez achieves an unassisted triple play
1995 MLB debut: Ugueth Urbina
1995 Indians score eight runs before making their first out in a game.
1995 High school star Sean Gallagher from Wilmington, NC has his consecutive game his streak snapped at 51 games. He was intentionally walked his last time up.
1995 Rickey Henderson hits a pinch-hit, walk-off, three-run homer for 7-5 Oakland win over the Mariners. The homers’ WPA is 0.796, the best one-swing WPA Henderson ever had.
1997 Prior to the game, Pittsburgh Pirate players stand inside stadium gates to shake hands with fans and pose for pictures. Then they beat the Braves, 9-0.
1997 Confusing play: Jay Bell called out for passing his teammate in a rundown, but the call is reversed by the umpires because the other guy was already called out earlier in the play. Bell goes on to score. The opposing team protests to the league, but the league sides with the umpires.
1999 Florida State University slugger Marshall McDougall homers in six consecutive trips to the plate in 26-2 win over Maryland. He also homered to start the game. He had 16 RBIs on the day.
2000 Cal Ripken first plays DH.
2003 MLB debut: Dontrelle Willis
2006 Minor leaguer Delmon Young suspended 50 games for tossing his bat that hit a replacement umpire in the chest (during the minor league umpires’ strike).
2008 Padres release Jim Edmonds, in what turns out to be a premature move.
2009 1-0 loss raises Zach Greinkie’s ERA up to 0.51.
2010 Dallas Braden tosses a perfect game.