Eighty years ago today, one of the most famous baseball players of all-time was born, Mickey Mantle. He’s a Hall of Fame batter named after a Hall of Fame batter. His dad was a big fan of A’s catcher Mickey Cochrane.
I have nothing particularly insightful to say about Mantle’s career, so I won’t even try. What is striking is how young he was when he died, just 63 years old. His dad died at a much younger age, and Mantle rather famously lived wild and hard in his day, so it’s not really surprising that he died so young.
But 63 is still pretty young. To put into comparison, here is an All-Star team of guys currently 63 years old:
C – Johnny Bench (or Carlton Fisk)
1B – Richie Hebner
2B – Lee Lacy (hey, he played some second base)
SS – Davey Concepcion
3B – Ron Cey
OF – Willie Montanez
OF – Cesar Geronimo
OF – Billy North
SP – Charlie Hough
SP – Gary Nolan
SP – Larry Gura
SP – Ed Figueroa
SP – Bill Bonham
RP – Bill Campbell
RP – Gene Garber
RP – Reggie Cleveland
On a personal note, this hits home. Mantle was always history to me, not memory. But these guys? I can remember most of them playing. Heck, one guy left off the team is Ron LeFlore, who committed the rare four-base error in the first game I ever attended. He’s now as old as Mantle was when he died.
Nolan Ryan is 64, already older than Mantle ever became.
Another way of looking at this, Mantle died 25 years after his last at-bat. Here is an All-Star team of players who last stepped to the plate or on the mound in 1986:
C – Steve Yeager
1B – Tony Perez
2B – Bobby Grich
SS – Bill Russell
3B – Toby Harrah
OF – Pete Rose
OF – Dusty Baker
OF – George Foster
SP – Tom Seaver
SP – Vida Blue
SP – Jim Slaton
SP – Dennis Leonard
SP – John Denny
RP – Terry Forster
RP – Jim Kern
RP – Ken Forsch
Can you imagine what a jolt it would be if Tom Seaver died? Or Pete Rose? Well, that’s Mantle when he passed.
Happy birthday, Mr. Mantle.
Aside from that, many other events 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 for those who just want to skim through the lists.
2,000 days since Magglio Ordonez connects for his 200th home run. It helps the Tigers top the Twins, 18-1.
7,000 days since David Wells has the worst start of his career. In fact, according to Game Score, only two starts have been worse in the last 70 years.
Supposedly, Toronto manager Cito Gaston sought to teach Wells a lesson and let him suffer through a bad start, and then suffer some more. Wells’ line for the day: 4.1 IP, 11 H, 13 R, 13 ER, 4 BB, and 1 K for a Game Score of –14. That undersells it, if anything. Those 11 hits include seven doubles, a triple, and a homer, leaving just two for singles. Plus, Wells hits two batsmen and allows three stolen bases. Not surprisingly, Toronto loses to the Brewers, 16-3.
10,000 days since Dennis Eckersley commits his first balk in nearly five years.
20,000 days since Steve Balboni, a.k.a., Bye-Bye Balboni, is born.
1865 In a sign of just how very different the mid-19th-century game called base ball is from the current one, the Athletics of Philadelphia score nearly 300 runs in a doubleheader, winning 101-8 and 162-11.
1896 The Cincinnati Reds purchases talented pitcher Ted Breitenstein from the Cardinals.
1906 Hall of Famer Buck Ewing dies.
1910 Bob Shepherd, Voice of God and longtime Yankee PA announcer, is born.
1937 Juan Marichal, the Dominican Dandy, is born.
1947 MLB sells radio rights to the World Series for three years for $475,000.
1947 In the minor league draft, the Giants snag knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm, previously of the Braves organization.
1949 Dick Rudolph, stud pitcher for the 1914 Miracle Braves, dies.
1953 Keith Hernandez, co-MVP of the 1979 NL, is born.
1955 After five straight dismal seasons, Branch Rickey resigns as GM for the Pirates, effectively ending his career in the front office.
1959 Clark Griffith says he won’t move the Washington Senators franchise to another city. In about a year, he’ll announce the exact opposite.
1960 The Yankees name Ralph Houk as their new manager.
1964 The Yankees hire Johnny Keane as their new manager. Keane just led the Cardinals to a seven-game World Series victory over these very same Yankees.
1967 The A’s name Bob Kennedy as their new manager. He’ll be the first skipper for their Oakland era.
1969 Juan Gonzalez, Juan Gone, is born.
1972 The Cubs trade Tony La Russa to the Braves for Tom Phoebus.
1972 Game Five of the World Series ends in a shocking double play that denies the underdog A’s the chance to clinch the world title at home. Up three games to one, Oakland trails, 5-4, entering the bottom of the ninth, but rallys to place runners on the corners with one out.
Bert Campaneris steps to the plate and fouls out along the first base line, and as soon as Cincinnati’s Joe Morgan catches the ball, he falls down. Immediately, Oakland’s Blue Moon Odom—inserted into the game as a pinch runner a few minutes earlier—breaks for home. Instead of scoring the tying run, Morgan fires a streak to the plate to end the game on a double play. The Series will go back to Cincinnati.
1973 Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, enjoys his first great World Series day in Game Six of this year’s Fall Classic. With Oakland down three games to two to the upstart Mets, Jackson goes 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, a run, and three RBIs. Oakland wins, 3-1, to force a Game Seven.
1982 Whitey Herzog wins his only world title as manager, as the Cardinals top the Brewers, 6-3, in Game Seven of the World Series. The most memorable moment comes in the top of the seventh when Milwaukee’s Jim Gantner grounds to pitcher Joaquin Andujar. Rather than throw right away, Andujar intentionally stalls before tossing out the batter.
They jaw at each other, and after the game when reporters asked him what he said, Andujar repeats it profanity for profanity, unaware that his comments were being broadcast across the entire stadium. The St. Louis fans cheer it.
1983 The Dodgers break with three decades of tradition and offer manager Tommy Lasorda a three-year contract.
1985 St. Louis stage an impressive rally in the top of the ninth inning against Kansas City in Game One of the World Series. Trailing 2-0, the Cardinals get four runs in the top of the ninth for a 4-2 victory.
1988 One of the most amazing upsets in World Series history concludes as the Dodgers top the A’s, 5-2, in Game Five. Pacing the win is LA’s Mickey Hatcher, who in the first inning belts his second homer of the World Series. In the regular season he had only one homer in 88 games. Orel Hershier runs his postseason scoreless inning streak to 21 frames before finally allowing a run.
1992 In Game Three of the World Series, the Blue Jays top the Braves, 3-2. It’s 1-1 after seven innings, then Atlanta takes a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth. Toronto scores one in the bottom of the eighth to tie and gets one in the ninth for the walk-off win.
1993 Game Four of the World Series is the greatest slugfest in the history of the Fall Classic. It’s more like a company softball game than a professional baseball contest between the continent’s two most elite teams, as the Blue Jays beat the Phillies, 15-14.
1999 Former Twins owner Calvin Griffith dies.
1999 The Rockies hire Buddy Bell as their new manager.
2002 Former Indians pitcher Mel Harder dies.
2002 The Angels top the Giants, 11-10, in a big old slugfest of a contest in Game Two of the World Series.
2004 The Boston Red Sox make history, becoming the first team to rally from a three-games-to-none deficit. They pound the Yankees, 10-3, in Game Seven of the ALCS, a contest that isn’t as close as the score. The Reds led 6-0 by the middle of the second inning.
2004 With Houston up three games to two in the NLCS, the Cardinals claw back for a 6-4 win in 12 innings to force a Game Seven. In the game itself, Houston fights back, as they tied it with a run in the top of the ninth, but they couldn’t find that elusive winning run.
2010 The Giants top the Phillies, 6-5, in Game Four of the NLCS thanks to a winning run in the bottom of the ninth.