25 years ago today, one of baseball’s most amazing streaks came to an end. It’s not the most heavily publicized streak, but it’s a truly impressive iron man streak. Naturally, it involves Cal Ripken Jr.
On Sept. 14, 1987, Cal Ripken took an inning off, ending a streak of playing 8,423 consecutive innings.
As it happened, the game was noteworthy for other reasons. It featured a record-setting home run barrage. Actually, that home run barrage is part of the reason Ripken sat out an inning.
We all know that Cal Ripken set the record for most consecutive games, breaking Lou Gehrig’s old mark. But in some ways it’s even more impressive that he played in so many straight innings. A consecutive games streak is impressive because it shows the guy came to play every day regardless of any cuts and bruises or soreness or illness. But a consecutive innings streak showed that he truly was grinding out completely.
If you look back at Gehrig’s consecutive games streak, for instance, you can find 18 games in which he had zero or one plate appearances. He made a brief appearance, keet the streak alive, and then was done for the day. In the last week of the 1937 season, Gehrig had four games in which he came to the plate a grand total of one time. That’s not an average of one PA per game—that’s the sum. Three times in five days the team took him out of the game before he could bat.
So Ripken’s innings streak really was remarkable. From the beginning of his games-played streak in 1982 until late 1987, he’d not only played in every game, but hadn’t missed a single moment of any game. As a bonus, he did it while playing shortstop, one of the more athletically demanding positions on the diamond.
But on Sept. 14, 1987, in game No. 930 of Ripken’s more famous streak, he finally sat out the end of a game.
He wasn’t injured or ejected. There was no special reason that demanded he spend time on the bench. It was just an utter rout.
In Toronto, the Orioles got clobbered. Baltimore held the Blue Jays scoreless in the first inning—and then let them score in every remaining inning. Five in the second. Two in the third. One in the fourth, fifth, and sixth. Then a big seven-spot in the bottom of the seventh.
What’s more, Toronto kept scoring thanks to a series of long balls. The Jays had there homers in the second, and another pair in the third. They kept adding more as the game went on, and would end the day with a record 10 home runs in one contest. Veteran catcher Ernie Whitt had three, certainly a personal best.
Anyhow, heading into the eighth, Toronto led, 17-2. Ripken came to the plate in the top of the inning and drive in a run on a ground out to make it 17-3. But in the bottom of the eighth (when Toronto scored the game’s last run—on a home run, of course, by Fred McGriff—to make it 18-3), Ripken was not at shortstop. Baltimore decided to pull its star shortstop for aging veteran Ron Washington. That’s right—the current Texas Rangers manager.
Ripken never replicated his consecutive innings streak. A few weeks later he left a game after just one plate appearance. Two years later, for the only time in his streak, he played in a game without any plate appearances. He’d leave early in occasional games, but keep his games streak going until nearly the end of 1998. But the innings streak ended, exactly 25 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate either 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 rather just glance over things.
3,000 days since Shane Reynolds appears in his last game.
3,000 days since the Royals purchase Jose Bautista from Tampa.
5,000 days since Nolan Ryan becomes the first passenger to board the Nolan Ryan Express, SW Boeing 737.
6,000 days since Roger Clemens loses his 100th decision. His record is 182-100.
6,000 days since Seattle’s Dan Wilson knocks out three home runs in one game.
6,000 days since Greg Maddux finally loses on the road, ending an 18-game road warrior winning streak.
10,000 days since Larry Parrish hits three home runs in a game for the fourth time. Imagine that, Larry Parrish of all people did it four times. Sure, he had power but the record is six times. Hank Aaron did it only once.
30,000 days since Reds reliever Ken Ash throws just one pitch to get the win. His pitch becomes a triple play and then he is lifted for a pinch-hitter.
1898 Topsy Hartsel, one of the best leadoff hitters ever, makes his major league debut.
1903 Red Ames makes his big league debut a memorable one, throwing a no-hitter in a five-inning shortened game.
1907 The Cubs and Reds combine for 29 hits—all singles. The Cubs win, 12-5, behind their 19 singles.
1907 Sam Lanford makes his big league debut for the Senators, and it’s one of the worst debuts ever. He walks two, hits two, throws a wild pitch, and balks—and that’s all in the first inning. And that doesn’t even cover the passed ball and two errors.
1908 Former big league outfielder Ike Van Zandt commits suicide by shooting himself at age 31.
1909 The NL announces it’ll use two umpires per game in 1910.
1912 Hall of Fame batter turned 60-year-old president of the Connecticut League Jim O’Rourke takes the mound and pitches a complete game for New Haven.
1913 Despite allowing 14 hits to the Giants, Cubs starter Larry Cheney throws a shutout.
1921 Herb Pennock enjoys his best Game Score in a nine-inning game (at least from 1918 onward) when he posts the following line: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K for a Game Score of 87.
1921 Walter Johnson faces the minimum 27 batters in a complete game despite allowing three hits and getting no double plays turned behind him. He picks off one guy and has a triple play behind him. Hey—I said no double plays, not anything about triple plays.
1923 George Burns of the Red Sox pulls off an unassisted triple play versus Cleveland.
1927 Max Carey hits an inside the park grand slam. It’s his 27th and final career inside the park home run.
1930 Fantastic Tigers slugger Hank Greenberg makes his big league debut.
1933 En route to a 7-27 final record, Reds starter Paul Derringer loses his eighth straight. He pitches well on the season, but has some of the worst run support by anyone ever. His ERA+ is above average, but he’ll still have more losses in one season than any pitcher in the last 100 years.
1934 St. Louis Browns workhorse Bobo Newsom starts both ends of a doubleheader against the A’s. In the first game, the team yanks him after he walks the first four batters. After getting the loss there, he comes back for the second game and—apparently recovered from his early loss of control—strikes out the first four batters in this game en route to the win.
1936 Stan Williams, pitcher with a reputation for headhunting, is born.
1938 Hall of Fame outfielder Kiki Cuyler plays in his final game.
1938 Mort Cooper, pitcher, makes his big league debut.
1939 Legendary umpire Bill Klem works his 3,500th game behind the plate. Cincinnati 9, New York 3.
1940 Hank Greenberg homers for the fifth straight game.
1941 Ted Williams sets a personal record by drawing a walk in a 19th consecutive game. He has 36 walks in these games.
1944 The Army Air Corps discharges Joe DiMaggio.
1945 A train carrying the Brooklyn Dodgers wrecks at midnight on Sept. 14-15. The team is OK, but the train engineer dies.
1946 Hank Greenberg sets a personal best with seven RBIs, in a 3-for-4 game with a double and two homers. The Tigers top the Yankees 7-4, so Greenberg drove in all their runs single-handed.
1947 Rick Ferrell, terrible Hall of Fame pick by the Veterans Committee, plays in his final big league game.
1947 Vic Wertz hits for the cycle.
1951 Bob Nieman homers in his first big league at-bat—and then does it again in his second. He’ll end his career with 125 homers in 3,452 at-bats.
1952 Charlie Keller, a monster of a hitter before being derailed by back problems, plays in his last game.
1952 Birdie Tebbetts plays in his last game. He’ll soon become a manager.
1953 In back-to-back innings, Whitey Ford walks in a run. Both men receiving the RBI base on balls are Hall of Famers: Early Wynn, and Larry Doby. Yes, Ford walked the opposing pitcher with the bases loaded.
1954 Frank Lary, pitcher, makes his big league debut.
1954 Paul Richards becomes the new manager of the Baltimore Orioles, effective next year.
1956 George Brunet, a long-lasting, rubber-armed pitcher, makes his big league debut. When he’s done in the bigs, he’ll last forever in the minors.
1957 Ernie Banks belts three home runs in a game for the second time in his career.
1957 Hall of Fame third baseman George Kell plays in his last big league contest.
1947 Tim Wallach, All-Star third baseman, is born.
1957 Vic Wertz ties a big league record by tallying seven RBIs in two innings.
1958 Former Negro League pitcher Connie Johnson last pitches in the major leagues.
1958 On the Yankees train ride after clinching the pennant, an incident occurs between coach Ralph Houk and reliever Ryne Duren. First Duren mashes a cigar in the face of Houk and then Houk hits Duren with a backhanded blow.
1959 Murry Dickson, maybe the game’s greatest swingman reliever/starter, plays in his final big league game.
1961 Ken Boyer has what WPA considers the best game ever by a St. Louis hitter. Boyer goes 5-for-6 with a double, triple and home run in a 6-5, 11-inning St. Louis victory over the Cubs. He scores once and drives home three for a 1.137 WPA. It’s half of a doubleheader in which the two teams combine to use 72 players. St. Louis wins the other game, 8-7.
1961 Luis Arroyo has the worst day by any pitcher all year according to WPA. His line: 1.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K for a –0.838 WPA as the White Sox top the Yankees, 4-3.
1961 Former Dodgers pitcher (and current Giant hurler) Billy Loes plays in his final game.
1961 Jim Fregosi makes his big league debut.
1962 Ernie Banks’ longest hitting streak maxes at 15 games. His line in that time: .344/.338/.547. Yes, that’s right: His OBP is lower than his batting average in that spell.
1962 Jim Piersall, upon learning he’ll be arrested for entering the stands yesterday to fight a fan, is knocked unconscious by a revolving door at the Baltimore hotel where he’s staying. I guess it’s self-inflicted but I don’t know for sure.
1962 Tommie Agee makes his big league debut.
1963 Robin Roberts surrenders his fourth and final career walk-off home run.
1966 Jim Bunning tosses his 14th consecutive Quality Start, a personal best he’ll later tie. His numbers in that span: 8-4 W-L, 119.2 IP, 85 H, 20 R, 19 ER, 15 BB, 92 K, and a 1.43 ERA.
1967 Cito Gaston makes his big league playing debut.
1967 One-time Houston super-prospect Walt Bond dies way too young at age 29.
1969 Don Sutton wins his 50th game, giving him a career record of 50-57. He’ll be a much better 274-199 for the remainder of his career.
1969 Catfish Hunter loses, dropping his career record to 12 games under .500 (52-64), his low point. It’s also his eighth consecutive loss, the longest losing streak of his career. Hunter will be 172-102 after this day.
1971 Hank Aaron passes Stan Musial as the all-time NL RBI leader with 1,953.
1971 The Indians pitching staff allows 19 walks in a game. Sure, it was a 20-inning game, but that’s the most walks by any team in the Retrosheet era. Washington wins, 8-6.
1971 Bill Stoneman pitches nine innings in relief for the Expos. He’s the last pitcher for that franchise (or indeed, for any team currently in the NL East) to do that.
1971 Joe Torre endures the worst game of his career, according to WPA. He’s 1-for-5 with a K and a –0.568 WPA.
1974 Chad Bradford, Moneyball relief pitcher, is born.
1974 Dick Allen tells the White Sox that he’s retiring from baseball. It doesn’t take.
1975 Joe Morgan steals five bases in one game for the only time in his career.
1975 Donnie Moore makes his big league debut.
1976 Slugging Boston shortstop Rico Petrocelli plays in his final game.
1976 El Presidente Dennis Martinez makes his big league debut.
1976 Len Barker, pitcher who will later throw a perfect game, makes his big league debut.
1978 38-year-old Jim Bouton, enjoying an unlikely comeback with the Braves, defeats the Giants, 4-1.
1978 The Angels top the Rangers 16-1, thanks to 13 unearned runs in the ninth inning.
1979 Future Cy Young Award winner LaMarr Hoyt makes his big league debut.
1980 Frank Tanana wins his 100th game, for a 100-76 record. He’ll be 140-160 for the rest of his career.
1980 Eddie Murray knocks out three home runs in game for the second time in his career.
1981 Johnny Bench enjoys his 17th consecutive day without striking out. He’s 25-for-55 in this span.
1982 Cal Ripken hits his first (of eight) career grand slam.
1983 Tommy John throws 13 innings, his longest start, but gets a no-decision. He allows 13 hits, but they’re all singles and so doesn’t allow any runs. It helps that he avoids walking anyone.
1984 Charlie Hough wins his 100th decision, for a 100-87 career record. He’ll be 116-129 after today for a 216-216 career record.
1984 Steve Carlton wins his 235th game as a Phillie, passing Robin Roberts as the all-time franchise leader. Carlton still is the all-time franchise win leader.
1985 Delmon Young is born.
1986 Bo Jackson hits the first home run of his big league career, a 475-foot blast that’s the longest ever hit to date at Royals Stadium. Bo Jackson always did have a flair for the dramatic.
1986 Bob Brenly makes four errors in one inning but makes up for it by hitting a walk-off home run with two outs in the ninth inning.
1986 Padres catcher Benito Santiago makes his big league debut.
1988 Orel Hershiser pitches his third straight complete game shutout, putting his scoreless streak at 31 innings. The Dodgers top the Braves, 1-0.
1988 Mike Greenwell hits for the cycle.
1989 Craig Biggio has the first of 16 multi-home run games.
1989 Major League Baseball approves the sale of the Mariners to Jeff Smulyan and Michael Browning for $77 million, a then-record price for an AL club.
1991 Brian Downing swats his 2,000th hit.
1991 Kenny Lofton makes his big league debut.
1991 The Blue Jays sign free agent Dave Parker.
1994 Bud Selig sends the Fax of Doom: the World Series is cancelled.
1995 Baseball owners approve the sale of the A’s to Steve Schott and Ken Hoffman for $85 million.
1996 The city of Houston and Harris County agree to terms with the Astros to build a $265 million stadium with a retractable roof for the club.
1997 Richie Sexson makes his big league debut.
1997 The White Sox retire the number of Carlton Fisk, who requests that team owner Jerry Reinsdorf and club GM Ron Schueler not show up for the occasion.
1998 In an incredible slugfest, the White Sox defeat the Tigers 17-16 in 12 innings. The game features 41 hits.
1998 Carlos Beltran makes his big league debut.
1999 For the third time ever, two Yankees hit a grand slam in the same game: Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neill do it in back-to-back innings for a 10-6 win over the Blue Jays.
1999 The Royals trade Glendon Rusch to the Mets. It’s a bad trade for KC as Rusch (a sabermetric darling at the time) will have a few good seasons.
1999 Mark Quinn makes his big league debut with the Royals—and hits two home runs.
1999 Alfonso Soriano makes his big league debut.
2002 Chin-Feng Chen becomes the first Taiwanese player in big league baseball.
2002 Randy Johnson fans 17 in a complete game shutout for a Game Score of 96.
2003 Tony LaRussa wins his 2,000th game as a manager. His record: 2,000-1,784.
2003 Vladimir Guerrero hits for the cycle.
2004 Andy Ashby appears in his last big league game.
2005 Andruw Jones launches his 300th home run.
2008 Ken Griffey Jr. gets his 500th double.
2008 Chicago Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano pitches a no-hitter against the Houston Astros in Milwaukee. Houston had to leave its hometown due to an incoming hurricane, and the supposed home game for Houston ends up far closer to Chicago. The Houston team ownership waited until the last possible minute to agree to the move, so the players are completely out of sorts and distracted during this game, which occurs as the hurricane lashes their homes. In fact, Cubs starter Ted Lilly has a no-hitter going until late in tomorrow’s game.
2008 Kenny Rogers plays in his final major league game.
2009 The Twins announce that Justin Morneau will miss the rest of the year with stress fractures in his back.
2009 Brett Tomko pitches in his final game.
2010 The Dodgers top the Giants 1-0 when the only run scores by odd means. After a HBP and two walks, an error brings home the score. Barry Zito loses his ninth straight game despite allowing only one hit in 5.2 innings.
2011 Carlos Beltran hits his 300th home run.
2011 Against the Rangers, Indians outfielder Shelley Duncan makes three straight leaping catches in the same spot in front of the scoreboard in the first and second innings. They are all difficult but all roughly the same.