Twenty-five years ago today, one of the most memorable major league careers of recent times began. On Aug. 22, 1986, in a game against the Yankees, the Oakland A’s debuted a new infielder: Mark McGwire.
McGwire only played a little bit as a September call-up in 1986, but the next year he became a sensation, shattering the old rookie record by blasting 49 homers in a season. After some ups and downs and injury-riddled seasons, he turned into one of the great home run hitters as a Cardinal in the late 1990s.
But 25 years ago, that was in the future. There are a couple fun facts about McGwire’s debut.
First, he played third base. Yeah, I wouldn’t have guessed that. What mental image do you have of McGwire? Is it one of a third baseman? No, of course not. Many players shift to easier defensive positions as they age, but few do it as quickly as McGwire. After 1986, he played eight games at third—and only five of them were full games.
The A’s had a fun lineup that day. Aside from McGwire, there were two others in it known for crushing the ball: Dave Kingman and Jose Canseco. For Canseco, it was the conclusion of the Rookie of the Year Award season. For Kingman, it was the conclusion of a career. After 1986, Kingman was done.
While Canseco would win the 1986 Rookie of the Year Award, and McGwire do likewise in 1987, a third member of the lineup also won that award—shortstop Alfredo Griffin, who claimed it back in 1979. Only 28 in 1986, Griffin was on the verge of the downside of his career. It was the 13th anniversary of the Griffin’s first big league signing.
While McGwire made his major league debut that day, another guy in the lineup made his Oakland A’s debut: Hawaiian-born veteran Lenn Sakata. Most famous as an Oriole, Sakata played 17 games for Oakland, only nine of which he started, but this was one of them.
There were two other aging veterans not normally associated with the A’s playing for Oakland that day: Joaquin Andujar and Dusty Baker. In his last effective season, Andujar pitched a complete game, 3-2. For Baker, like Kingman, this was it. Baker was an aging outfielder hitting .240, and the team didn’t need him with Canseco’s emergence. After 1986, no other team wanted him, either.
There’s an extra fun bit in Baker’s tenure with the A’s. It means he played for current Cardinals skipper Tony LaRussa. Baker and LaRussa—those two just don’t get along. They’ve managed in the same division for several years now, often competing for playoff slots with each other, and their teams had an ugly brawl last year—and LaRussa was Baker’s final manager.
(On a side note, also on hand that day was Lou Piniella, then in his first season as a rookie skipper. Piniella later replaced Baker as Cubs manager and face off against Tony LaRussa—and his hitting instructor Mark McGwire—as recently as last year before retiring).
Rounding them out were three A’s warhorses: Past-his-prime outfielder Dwayne Murphy, in-his-prime veteran Carney Lansford, and still emerging Mickey Tettleton. It’s pretty impressive, almost everyone starting the game for Oakland had a decent career.
Aside from that, many other baseball events have their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim.
3,000 days since Art Howe manages his 2,000th game. He’s 1,018-982.
4,000 days since pitcher Bryce Florie is hit in the face with a liner off the bat of Ryan Thompson in a Yankee-Red Sox game. Florie leaves the game with a fractured cheek, a broken orb socket, and blood gushing down his face. Ouch.
7,000 days since the Orioles sign free agent Rick Dempsey. It’s a homecoming for the aging catcher.
7,000 days since Mariners outfielder Dave Cochrane has two assists in one game. He also commits three errors.
10,000 days since infielder Glenn Wright dies.
15,000 days since Angels catcher Tom Egan allows five passed balls, each one from a different pitcher. Oh, he also commits an error.
30,000 days since George Sisler last pitches in a big league game. Though he became a Hall of Famer with his bat, he first made it to the majors as a hurler.
1857 Hall of Fame skipper Ned Hanlon is born.
1889 Wally Schang, a borderline Hall of Fame catcher, is born.
1891 Black Sox Happy Felsch is born.
1892 Ben Sanders tosses a no-hitter, winning 6-2.
1903 Pittsburgh’s all-time cumulative record (including the Amercan Association years) hits .500 (1,409-1,409). They’ve been over .500 ever since.
1905 Detroit forfeits to Washington. They refused to play after a lengthy argument. Washington was up 2-1 at the time.
1910 Honus Wagner goes 7-for-7 in a doubleheader with three doubles and a homer.
1912 Honus Wagner hits for the cycle.
1915 Hall of Famer Edd Roush hits an inside-the-park walk-off home run for Newark in the Federal League.
1917 Brooklyn beats the Pirates 6-5 in 22 innings. It’s the third straight extra-inning game between the two teams. Pittsburgh’s Carson Bigbee goes 6-for-11 in the contest.
1920 Pitcher Ernie Shore plays his last game.
1923 Babe Ruth connects for his 1,000th career hit.
1926 After three straight rain outs, Connie Mack goes to the court for a special injunction so he can play a game on Sunday, which normally isn’t allowed in Pennsylvania.
1929 Herbert and Stella Aaron marry, the parents of Hank Aaron.
1933 Hank Greenberg has the first of 35 multi-home run games.
1933 Bill Veeck, Sr., farther of the Hall of Famer and himself president of the Cubs, urges a midsummer series of interleague games, and proposes a split season.
1934 Rudy York makes his big league debut.
1934 Pitcher Wes Ferrell blasts two home runs for Boston in their 3-2 win over the White Sox.
1937 Dizzy Dean has perhaps his best day at the plate ever, going 3-for-4, including a three-run homer in St. Louis’s 9-7 win over the Pirates. Dean goes the distance, posting a line of: 9 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, and 0 K.
1938 Carl Hubbell has an operation to remove bone chips. He’s done for the year.
1938 Preacher Roe makes his big league debut.
1939 Carl Yastrzemski is born.
1944 Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser has his worst Game Score: 4.1 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, and 4 K for a Game Score of 12.
1946 Baseball owners approve a move to a 168-game schedule. The change will be rescinded next month.
1948 Brooklyn pulls off a triple steal with Jackie Robinson swiping home. The team steals eight bases on the day.
1949 The Yankees purchase Johnny Mize from the Giants for $40,000.
1950 Pitcher Ray Burris is born.
1951 Yankee hurler Tommy Byrne walks 16 Red Sox in a 13-inning game. Boston wins 3-1 despite stranding 22 runners.
1951 Jackie Robinson has his best known WPA game: 0.786 WPA. He goes 5-for-6 with a double, a run, and three RBIs in Brooklyn’s 8-7 win over St. Louis.
1954 Ernie Banks enjoys the first of 42 multi-home run games.
1956 Mickey Mantle belts one that comes within 20 feet of clearing Yankee Stadium. It lands 20 rows into the upper left field stands.
1956 Paul Molitor is born.
1957 Stan Musial is sidelined upon tearing a muscle and chipping a bone in his shoulder. This will end his consecutive games played streak.
1958 Early Wynn loses his 200th decision. He’s 245-200 on his career so far. He’ll go 56-44 from here on out.
1958 Nellie Fox plays his 98th consecutive game without striking out. He’s 116-for-396 in that stretch for a .293 average.
1958 Dummy Taylor, pitcher, dies.
1959 Frank Robinson belts three homers in one game.
1960 The Cubs sign amateur free agent Lou Brock. If I recall correctly, Buck O’Neil is the scout.
1960 Cub pitcher Jim Brewer and the Cubs team sue Billy Martin for over $1 million over a fight Martin started 17 days earlier that resulted in a broken cheekbone for Brewer. It’ll be settled out of court with Martin paying $25,000.
1961 Roger Maris knocks out his 50th home run. He’s on the fastest pace in history so far.
1963 Al Lopez manages his 2,000th game. He’s 1,164-825 in his career so far.
1966 Andy Etchebarren saves teammate Frank Robinson from drowning at a pool party for the Baltimore Orioles.
1968 Heinie Groh, Hall of Fame-caliber third baseman, dies.
1969 Jim Palmer tosses three wild pitches in one game, but gets the complete game win anyway.
1970 In a 16-inning game, Don Sutton steals the only base of his career. It happens in the seventh inning with the game tied 1-1. The opposing Pirates beat Sutton’s Dodgers 2-1 later on.
1971 Reggie Jackson hits an inside-the-park, walk-off home run. It’s his fourth and final inside-the-park homer and second of 10 walk-offs.
1972 The Tigers and A’s brawl, setting up bad blood in that year’s ALCS showdown between them.
1973 Padre catcher Fred Kendall hits two triples in one game.
1973 The Indians sign amateur free agent Alfredo Griffin.
1974 Salem outfielder Alfredo Edmond in the Carolina League dies from an on-field collision with a teammate. It’s a massive skull fracture.
1974 The Cardinals sign amateur free agent Tommy Herr.
1976 The Angels lead the Yankees 8-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth. Stunningly, the Yanks tie it but lose 11-8 in 11 innings anyway.
1976 Jeff Weaver, pitcher, is born.
1976 Randy Wolf, pitcher, is born.
1976 Reggie Jackson launches a pinch-hit grand slam.
1978 Knuckleballer Wilbur Wood plays his last game.
1978 Ron LeFlore sets an AL record with his 27th consecutive successful stolen base.
1979 Johnny Bench hits his 325th home run as a Red, passing Frank Robinson as the all-time franchise leader. Bench is still the Cincinnati homer king.
1979 Dave Parker belts his 1,000th career hit.
1979 Phil Niekro completes his 200th complete game.
1980 Eddie DeBartolo, Sr. reaches an agreement with Bill Veeck to buy the White Sox for $20,000,000. Baseball owners will nix it, fearing the Italian DeBartolo has mafia ties. Instead, DeBartolo becomes the owner of the 49ers for their 1980s dynasty.
1981 Steve Bedrosian runs out of the dugout for his first big league start—and hits the railing, bruising his forearm and swallowing his tobacco. He’s hurt and sick all game.
1982 Third-string catcher Glenn Brummer steals home in the bottom of the 12th for a 5-4 Cardinals win over the Giants. He ran on his own, despite only four previous career steals.
1982 The Cubs retire Ernie Banks’ number.
1984 Graig Nettles homers for the sixth straight game. He’s 10-for-18 in that span.
1988 Craig Biggio hits his first home run.
1989 Marquis Grissom makes his big league debut.
1989 Nolan Ryan strikes out his 5,000th batter. It’s Ricky Henderson.
1989 Paul Assenmacher fans four batters in one inning.
1989 The Blue Jays beat the Tigers, 3-2 (14), on a walk-off error. Here’s the blow-by-blow in the bottom of the 14th: Walk, sacrifice hit, intentional walk, ground out forcing the trailing runner, stolen base by the new trailing runner, and an error by the pitcher.
1991 John Kruk gets hit by a pitch for the first time in 2,682 at bats.
1991 Reggie Sanders makes his big league debut.
1995 After more than 7,700 plate appearances, Tony Gwynn hits his first grand slam. He’ll get two more in his career.
1996 Andruw Jones records the first of 40 multi-home run games.
1997 Torii Hunter makes his big league debut.
1998 Ivan Rodriguez hits his 100th home run.
1999 Mark McGwire hits a 504-foot home run against the Mets.
2000 Eric Karros belts two home runs in one inning.
2000 Eric Byrnes makes his big league debut.
2001 The White Sox top the Royals 13-12 despite the Royals scoring seven runs in the first inning.
2001 Sammy Sosa hits three homers in one game for the fourth time in his career. It’s also the second time he’s done it in two weeks. Sosa also leaves this game in the sixth inning.
2002 The Cubs trade Tom Gordon to the Astros.
2003 The Giants win, giving manager Felipe Alou a winning record (768-767). He’ll stay over .500 from now on.
2004 Craig Biggio hits his only pinch-hit homer. It comes with the Astros trailing the Cubs 11-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning.
2004 Sterling Hitchcock makes his last big league appearance on the mound.
2006 Albert Pujols belts his fifth career grand slam. He gets two homers on the day for a new personal best seven RBIs in one game. Despite his performance, the Mets beat the Cardinals, 8-7. So yes, Pujols drove in all of St. Louis’ runs in that game.
2006 Arizona trades Shawn Green to the Mets.
2006 Dustin Pedroia makes his big league debut.
2006 The Orioles’ Nick Markakis connects for three home runs in one game.
2007 Barry Bonds hits his 600th double.
2007 Albert Pujols homers for the fifth consecutive game.
2007 The Rangers set a post-1900 record by beating the Orioles, 30-3.
2009 The Cardinals win their 10,000th game (including their days in the AA from 1882-91).
2010 Cub manager Lou Piniella retires on a down note: His Cubs lose 16-5 to the Braves.