Silver anniversary: Andre Dawson’s greatest game

Twenty-five years ago today, baseball Hall of Famer Andre Dawson had the greatest game of his career. It was pretty good timing for it, too. Not only was he in his first month playing for his new team, the Cubs, but the game occurred at home in Wrigley Field. What Dawson did that day went a long way to creating a love affair between Dawson and the Wrigley Field fans.

Heading into the game on April 29, 1987, Dawson was having a rocky start in Chicago. It was 19 games into the season, and he was hitting .236—and that was thanks to a recent hot streak. Less than a week earlier he had been well under .200.

The team couldn’t complain too much about the price. In the 1986-87 collusion offseason the Cubs signed him because Dawson offered them a blank check. They could name their price if they were willing to sign him for one year. And so Dawson came for $500,000. But that would put more pressure on Dawson to deliver so he could get a paycheck he deserved.

And that takes us April 29, 1987.

Dawson’s day got off to a terrific start. In the bottom of the first, he belted a solo home run to tie the game, 1-1.

As nice as that was, Dawson outdid himself a half inning later with a great defensive play. While playing in right field, he threw a runner out at first for the rare 9-3 ground out. Yeah, you don’t see that too often. Sure, it was just opposing pitcher Roger Mason he threw out, but still—he threw out a guy at first from the outfield!

The rest of the game, Dawson continued to batter San Francisco with his bat. In the third inning, Dawson doubled in a run to give Chicago its first lead of the game, 3-2. Not bad. He nearly drove in another run, but the Giants threw out Ryne Sandberg at the plate.

Next inning Dawson faced Giants reliever Greg Minton and singled. He was now 3-for-3 and just a triple away from the cycle. So you know what happened next, right? Yep, in the sixth inning Dawson tripled to right to complete the cycle.

Last but not least, Dawson singled in his last plate appearance to conclude a perfect day. He was 5-for-5 with a double, triple, homer, and pair of singles. Oh— and let’s not forget that assist on a 9-3 groundout.

Dawson’s batting average leapt from .236 to .286. His slugging percentage catapulted from .500 to .610. By the time the Cubs’ home stand ended less than a week later he was hitting .317 with three more homers.

Dawson would win the MVP in 1987. By the numbers, he didn’t deserve it. Yes, he led the league in homers and RBIs, but he also made his share of outs.

That said, the fans at Wrigley fell in love with him, and you could see why. At Wrigley in 1987, Dawson batted .332 with 27 homers and 71 RBIs in 74 games. But he was never better at Wrigley—or anywhere—than he was on April 29, 1987, exactly a quarter-century ago today.

Aside from that, many other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim the list.

Day-versary

1,000 days since the Padres release former Cubs pitcher Mark Prior.

2,000 days since Johnny Sain, 20-game winner turned great pitching coach, dies. Also, Sain was one of the toughest batters in baseball history to strike out. He wasn’t just tough for a pitcher—he was tough period; he fanned 20 times in 856 plate appearances.

4,000 days since Steve Trachsel becomes the first Met to allows four homers in an inning. Yeah, that sounds like him.

8,000 days since Ramon Martinez fans 18 batters in a three-hit win.

8,000 days since the 1990 draft is held. Among the highlights, the following teams drafted (and would later sign) these players: Atlanta gets Chipper Jones, Philadelphia signs Mike Lieberthal and Mike Williams; the White Sox land Alex Fernandez, Ray Durham, Jason Bere and Bob Wickman; the Yankees claim Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Carl Everett; the Twins have Todd Ritchie, Everyday Eddie Guardado and Damian Miller; the Mets get Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Daubach and Fernando Vina; the Orioles draft Mike Mussina; the Expos draft Rondell White; Texas claims Rusty Greer; Seattle drafts Bret Boone and Mike Hampton; the Angels draft Garret Anderson and Troy Percival.

10,000 days since the Pirates trade John Tudor and Brian Harper to the Cardinals for George Hendrick and a minor leaguer. This works out better for St. Louis.

15,000 days since the Astros debut a new, largely orange, uniform.

15,000 days since the Cardinals return Cecil Cooper to Boston.

25,000 days since Phillies owner William Cox, who is under investigation for betting on baseball games, writes to Commissioner Landis that, “I have . . . decided to devote all my time to my war-essential business” (it’s during World War II) and will resign as Phillies honcho.

Anniversary

1876 The NL has its first extra-inning game. The Braves top Hartford in 10 innings.

1879 Noodles Hahn, pitcher with Hall of Fame talent but not much durability, is born.

1885 Will White, a 200-game-winner, allows two inside the park homers in one game. Charles Comiskey and Curt Welch hit them.

1888 Charlie Ferguson, highly talented young Phillies pitcher, dies at age 25 years and 12 days old. He’s the first prominent major league player to die.

1891 Hall of Fame pitcher Amos Rusie, the greatest fastball hurler of his generation, surrenders a leadoff, inside-the-park home run to Hub Collins.

1897 Roger Connor, the all-time home run king before Babe Ruth, hits his 138th and final career home run.

1898 Frank Chance, part of poetry’s most famous infield, makes his big league debut.

1902 John McGraw hit by pitch five times but the umpire refuses to let him take first. McGraw sits in the batter’s box in protest, for which he’ll be suspended five games. I don’t really know what’s going on here, but I assume the ump was a stickler for the rule saying the batter must make an effort to get out of the way of the pitch. It probably didn’t help McGraw that umpires hated him.

1905 Speaking of stories I’d love to hear the background for .. .on this day Christy Mathewson punches a kid selling lemonade in the stands. The kid had been heckling Mathewson. Ohhhh-kay. This incident doesn’t really jibe with Mathewson’s gentlemanly reputation.

1913 Reds come to Chicago to play the Cubs but there’s a problem: They left their uniforms in Cincinnati. So they wear White Sox road uniforms.

1918 Tris Speaker pulls off his sixth career unassisted double play. It’s his second in less than two weeks

1919 Lefty O’Doul makes his big league debut. He’s a pitcher, but will later convert to batting, where he’ll do well.

1922 In Braves Field, the New York Giants leg out four inside-the-park homers. Two were by George “Highpockets” Kelly and one each by Ross Youngs and Dave Bancroft. All are now in Cooperstown. Kelly and Bancroft both hit one off another Hall of Famer, Rube Marquard. Kelly may have had the most homers, but Youngs had the best day: 5-for-5 with five runs and two RBI. He hit for the cycle with two doubles. Giants beat the Braves, 15-4.

1922 The longest outing in the career of Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt: 14 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 6 K.

1923 Major league debut: Rube Walberg, a quality pitcher on Connie Mack’s second dynasty.

1923 Yankees sign Lou Gehrig to a contract of $2,000 plus a $1,500 signing bonus.

1924 Bump Hadley, playing for Mercersburg Academy, not only tosses a perfect game against Hadley-Lynn of Massachusetts, but fans 26 of the 27 batters he faces. Hadley will become a productive major league pitcher for many years.

1925 Brooklyn Dodger president Ed McKeever dies from an illness that he initially contracted while standing in the cold rain during the funeral of former team honcho Charles Ebbets.

1926 Major league debut: Joe Cronin.

1930 Major league debut: Lefty Gomez.

1931 Jimmy McAleer, former major league manager and all-time winningest St. Louis Browns skipper, commits suicide

1931 Wes Ferrell has a game for the ages. He throws a no-hitter, hits a home run and a double, and drives in four runs. Rick Wise may not be impressed, but anyone else ought to be. With 26 outs, his brother Rick Ferrell comes to the plate and gets on board with what’s ruled an infield error.

1932 Hall of Fame White Sox pitcher Red Faber loses his 200th game. He’s 249-200 on his career now

1932 Greenelee Field, Negro League park, opens in Pittsburgh.

1933 Dodgers release Jack Quinn, who until Jamie Moyer came along was the oldest pitcher to ever win a game.

1933 One of the most bizarre plays in baseball history: Yankee teammates Lou Gehrig and Dixie Walker both tagged out at the plate bang-bang one right after the other in one play against the Senators. The same thing happened to the Yanks about a half-century later against the White Sox.

1934 Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio is born

1934 Phillies play their first legal Sunday home game. So does Pittsburgh. Sunday ball finally has come to all of major league baseball.

1936 It’s the first pro baseball game in Japanese Baseball League.

1936 Epic pitchers duel as Cardinals defeat Giants 2-1 in 17 innings. St. Louis’ Roy Parmelee and New York’s Carl Hubbell both go the distance. Parmelee: 17 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 9 K. Hubbell: 16.1 IP, 11 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 6 K.

1936 For the third time in his career, Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons pitches a complete game shutout and hits a home run in one game. NYG 9, BRK 0.

1939 Joe DiMaggio tears a muscle in his leg and will be out five weeks

1940 Ted Williams hits two triples in a game. He’ll do it once more in his career.

1940 200-game winner Paul Derringer is having one heck of a season. He tosses his 14th straight Quality Start, a career high he’ll tie three months later. In this stretch, he’s 12-1 in 126 IP with 131 H, 35 R, 30 ER, 18 BB, and 52 K for a 2.14 ERA.

1944 St. Louis Browns, of all teams, set AL record by winning their first nine decisions.

1947 Yankees release Joe Medwick, who in his prime had won a Triple Crown in the NL.

1948 200 homers: Ted Williams.

1948 After 77 straight appearances dating back to 1945 without picking up a loss, Ted Wilks of the Cardinals loses a game.

1952 Al Rosen, Cleveland, homers three times in one game.

1952 Bob Feller sets personal record with most hits allowed, 18. He wins in complete game anyway: Indians 21, A’s 9. Feller’s teammate Jim Fridley smacks six hits in that game.

1953 Joe Adcock becomes first person to homer into Polo Grounds’ center field bleachers, 475 feet from the plate.

1956 Richie Ashburn hits an inside the park home run in the first game of a double header. He also hit two homers in a game the day before. Those are his only homers on the year. Think about it: He gets only three home runs in 719 plates appearances, and they all come within five PA.

1962 New York Mets outfielder Frank Thomas suffers from two HBP in one inning.

1963 Willie Mays hits his 100th career triple.

1966 Hank Aaron homers in his fifth consecutive game, his longest streak.

1967 Whitey Ford notches his 236th and final career win.

1969 Bobby Bonds has his best game according to WPA: 1.126, which is incredibly high. In a 13-inning game against the Reds, he’s 4-for-7 with a homer, two runs, three RBI and a reached on error. The Giants win, 4-3.

1970 Paul Blair hits three home runs in one game.

1971 Sterling Hitchcock born.

1973 Astros pitcher Tom Walker suffers one of the worst indignities—he’s called for a walk-off balk to end the game against Montreal.

1975 The Yankees perform six double plays in one game against Cleveland.

1977 Young Yankees reliever Ron Guidry is called into service as an emergency starting pitcher for Billy Martin’s depleted rotation. Guidry piches eight shutout innings for the win. His days in the bullpen are now over.

1978 Pete Rose hits three homers in one game. It’s his first multi-homer game in eight years and last one in his career.

1979 Gary Carter hits an inside-the-park home run. It’s the first of two in his career. He gets two homers in this game, the second time in three games he’s done that.

1980 The Phillies sign amateur free agent Juan Samuel.

1980 Rangers owner Bradford G. Corbett (nicknamed “Chuckles the Clown” by unhappy Texas fans) sells majority interest in the club to Eddie Chiles.

1981 Steve Carlton fans his 3,000th batter.

1982 Orioles pitcher Storm Davis makes his big league debut.

1983 Steve Carlton picks off three base runners in game vs. Houston.

1983 Lee Elia has his memorable postgame tirade denouncing Cubs fans. Mind you, he’s the Cubs’ manager at the time. It can be heard here (audio NSFW).

1984 Dave Stewart becomes the first pitcher to go 0-6 in April. In his partial defense, there weren’t enough April ballgames for a pitcher to go 0-6 until not too long before this.

1985 Larry Parrish hits three homers in a game for the fourth time. Larry Parrish did it four times? Larry Parrish? He was a good hitter, but Hank Aaron did it only once.

1986 Roger Clemens has one of the greatest starts in history, setting a record by fanning 20 men in a nine-inning game.

1986 Expos hit four homers in fourth inning: Andre Dawson, Hubie Brooks, Tim Wallach and Mike Fitzgerald

1986 It’s a nightmare ending for Cubs. They enter bottom of the ninth leading the Padres 4-1. Then: single, force out, single, single, homer by Terry Kennedy off Ray Fontenot.

1987 Jack Clark slugs his 200th career home run.

1988 Joe Niekro pitches in his last game.

1988 Orioles FINALLY win a game, now 1-21 on the season. BAL 9, CWS 0.

1989 According to WPA, this is the worst game Andre Dawson ever had: 1-for-5, one run, GIDP. WPA: -0.400. He makes three inning-ending outs, most notably a GIDP with the bases loaded to end the seventh inning.

1990 Dan Quisenberry retires. When I was a kid, he was the ultimate relief ace. What the BBWAA thinks of Bruce Sutteris what I thought of Quis.

1990 Royals pitcher Jeff Montgomery fans the side on nine pitches in the eighth inning against Texas.

1992 Yankee farmhand Jeff Hoffman dies of previously undetected heart problem in his hotel room.

1993 John Olerud enjoys his only five-hit game. He’s 5-for-5 with a pair of doubles.

1994 Montreal Expo Kirk Rueter becomes first pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela to start his career at 10 wins and no losses.

1995 Major league debuts: Brad Radke, LaTroy Hawkins (both for Minnesota Twins), Andy Pettitte and Esteban Loaiza
.

1996 Tom Kelly offers a memorable quote about Mariano Rivera: “He needs to pitch in a higher league, if there is one. Ban him from baseball. He should be illegal.” I half-wonder if I have the right year for this one, but looking it up, Rivera had thrown three innings of hitless middle relief against the Twins the day before. Two days before that he had another three-inning relief stint against the Twins without surrendering a hit. So it was this early in Rivera’s career Kelly said that.

1999 A’s loss puts manager Art Howe 83 games under .500, his worst (618-701). He’ll tie that mark two games later, but will rise up from there.

1999 Roy Halladay suffers his worst start: 2.1 IP, 9 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 3 BB, and 1 K. He even surrenders his first grand slam as the Angels maul Toronto, 17-1. Halladay’s Game Score on the day is –7.

1999 Brewers sign Hideo Nomo.

2000 After losing their first half-dozen contests in their new stadium, the Giants finally win one at Pac Bell Park.

2001 Shawn Chacon makes his big league debut.

2001 Geoff Jenkins homers twice in one game, giving him five in two games.

2005 The first match-up between two 300-game winners in 18 years as Greg Maddux outduels Roger Clemens 3-2 in Houston.

2006 The 200th career homer for Magglio Ordonez helps Tigers beat Twins, 18-1.

2007 Jamie Moyer slugs his first double in 19 years.

2007 Troy Tulowitzki achieves the most boring of baseball’s noteworthy plays: the unassisted triple play. It’s the 13th ever. In that same game, Tulowitzki’s Colorado teammate Todd Helton draws five walks (none intentional). Helton is also 1-for-1 on the day.

2009 Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo has quite a nice day: Hits homer while winning 1-0.

2009 Zack Greinke’s scoreless inning streak ends at 43, but he tops Toronto, 11-3.

2010 Magglio Ordonez raps out his 2000th hit. Oh, and he also gets his 300th career home run.

2010 John Buck, Toronto, hits three homers in one game, all off different pitchers.

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