25 years ago today was the climax to one of the great pennant race stretch runs of the 1980s.
On Oct. 4, 1987, the final showdown took place between the Tigers and the Blue Jays.
In late September, it didn’t look like this would be much of a race. They played a four game series in Toronto from Sept. 24-27 and it looked like the Blue Jays finished off the Tigers. Toronto entered that series up 1.5 games, and then won the first three games against Detroit. The Jays led by 3.5 games with just seven left to play. Yeah, that’s a lead that’s hard to blow.
Well, blow it is exactly what Toronto did, and they did in nightmarish fashion. First the Tigers won the last game of the showdown in Canada, 3-2 in 13 innings. OK, so it’s still a 2.5 game lead with six for Toronto to play.
Then Toronto hosted the Brewers for a three game set—and got swept. All were close, two were decided by a pair of runs and the other by three, but they were all losses. But the good news was that the Tigers dropped two of four against the Orioles. Yeah, but that means Toronto led by just one game.
But, the season would end with Toronto traveling to Detroit. For the Blue Jays, it was simple—win one game, just one stinking game—and they clinch no worse than a tie for the division.
On Oct. 2, Detroit won the first game, 4-3. The next day, they won another one-run game, 3-2 in 12 innings. Improbably, Detroit now had the lead. This time the Blue Jays needed a win.
That was the situation when baseball began in the season finale on Oct. 4, 1987. Both teams had a dependable veteran pitcher on the mound, the aging warrior Frank Tanana for the Tigers, and crafty lefty Jimmy Key for Toronto.
And both pitchers brought their A-game. Tanana surrendered just six hits to Toronto, and no runs. They did have a few rallies, though. Most notably came the top of the fourth when the team really should’ve scored a run. Cecil Fielder hit a one-out single and then, in a moment that defies all popular images people have of Fielder, he tried to steal second base.
This was sneak attack syndrome. Fielder was playing in his 146th game played and he had never even tried to steal a base, let alone done it successfully. Well, long story short he was thrown out. Now there were two outs. Making it even worse, Manuel Lee then tripled, so you figure Fielder would’ve scored had he still been on base.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Key pitched terrifically for Toronto. Key allowed three hits and three walks – and half of the guys he let on base got rubbed out in double plays. (In fact, Detroit’s aging third baseman Bill Madlock hit into two of them, and struck out in his third at bat. It was arguably the worst game of his career—and it would turn out to be his last game, too).
While Key was fantastic, he made one fatal mistake. In the second inning he threw a pitch that Larry Herndon connected with for a solo home run. That was the only run Key would allow, but it was enough for Tanana. Behind his arm, Detroit won 1-0 to clinch the division.
Toronto lost each of their last seven games, four to Detroit—and all four of those were decided by one run. It was an amazing end to the division race, and it ended 25 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousands days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
1,000 days since the Royals sign free agent Scott Podsednik.
5,000 days since Texas signs free agent Mike Morgan.
5,000 days since Oakland signs free agent Tim Raines.
6,000 days since Gerald Williams of the Yankees collects six hits in a 15-inning game.
7,000 days since Dennis Martinez has his worst start: 4.1 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 2 BB, and 2 K for a Game Score of 7. He also allows his first grand slam in nearly a decade.
8,000 days since San Francisco signs free agent Bud Black.
9,000 days since Pete Harnisch makes his big league debut.
10,000 days since Graig Nettles gets his 2,000th hit. He does it in style, going 4-for-4 with a double.
10,000 days since Steve Rogers pitches for the final time.
10,000 days since Pete Rose plays in his 309th straight game without a homer, his longest drought ever.
15,000 days since Hank Aaron has not only his best game ever according to WPA, but also what that stat considers to be the best game ever by any Braves hitter. Aaron is 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a ROE, a run, and four RBIs in Atlanta’s 7-5 extra-inning win over the Giants. Aaron’s WPA is 1.159.
30,000 days ago, Rabbit Maranville plays his first game at third base. The Hall of Fame shortstop plays there three more times this week, but that’s it for his entire career.
1880 The National League outlaws Sunday baseball and the sale of beer during games. When Cincinnati protests, they are tossed out of the league.
1884 Sam Kimber of Brooklyn throws a no-hitter in an 11-inning American Association game. It ends 0-0 when called for darkness.
1886 Lee Richmond, baseball’s first notable southpaw, appears in his last game.
1890 Deacon White, star player in the 1870s and 1880s, plays in his final game.
1891 In his first major league start, Ted Breitenstein throws a no-hitter. That said, it’s in the American Association, which will be a major league for another week or so before folding.
1902 A Pirates-Reds game turns into a complete farce. Going by weather conditions, the game shouldn’t be played but Pittsburgh insists, because one more win will give them a new all-time single-season record for wins with 103. They play and the Reds treat the game as a joke, with players smoking cigars while fielding their position. The Pirates get their 103rd win, but that record lasts only two years, as baseball soon expands to a 154-game schedule.
1904 Hall of Famer Dan Brouthers plays in his final game.
1906 The Cubs win their 116th game of the year.
1910 Longtime Yankee fixture Frankie Crosetti is born.
1913 Star White Sox pitcher Doc White plays in his last game.
1913 Another season-ending contest plays out as farce. In a season-ending Senators-Red Sox game, guys swap positions and treat it as a lark. Walter Johnson spends time in center field, and when he takes the mound he just throws batting practice, allowing four earned runs in one inning. As a result, his seasonal ERA jumps to 1.14, making it slightly higher than Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA in 1968.
1919 When Chick Gandil tells Boston gambler Sport Sullivan that the fix is off, Sullivan gives him another $20,000 to keep it going.
1922 In Game One of the World Series, the Giants score three in the bottom of the eighth to top the Yankees, 3-2.
1924 One of the greatest World Series of all begins, as the Giants top the Senators 4-3 in 12 innings in Game One. Freddie Lindstrom becomes the youngest player in Series history, age 18 years and 10 months.
1925 Ty Cobb pitches the last inning of an 11-6 Tigers win over the Browns, and gives up a run in the process. Browns star George Sisler tosses the last two innings for St. Louis, and gives up no runs.
1925 Star Tiger outfielder Harry Heilmann gets six hits in a doubleheader to edge Ty Cobb, his teammate and manager, for the batting title.
1925 Dickie Kerr, Clean Sox pitcher, appears in his last game.
1925 Hall of Fame outfielder Harry Hooper plays in his last big league game.
1927 The Giants draft Lefty O’Doul from San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League in the Rule 5 draft. Also in the Rule 5 draft, the Phillies take Pinky Whitney from New Orleans in the Southern Association, and the Cardinals claim Spud Davis from Buffalo in the International League.
1930 Jack Quinn, at age 46, becomes the oldest person to appear in a World Series game, pitching for the A’s against the Cardinals.
1934 Schoolboy Rowe has one of the best pitching performances in World Series history, retiring 22 in a row and 27 of the last 28 he faces in a 12-inning 3-2 win for his Tigers over the Cardinals in Game Two.
1935 In Game Three of the World Series, the Tigers top the Cubs 6-5 in 11 innings.
1937 The Cincinnati Reds release Kiki Cuyler.
1937 The Cardinals trade Leo Durocher to the Dodgers for four players.
1938 Brooklyn drafts Hugh Casey from Memphis of the Southern Association in the Rule 5 draft.
1939 In Game One of the World Series, the Yankees score the winning run in the bottom of the ninth to top the Reds, 2-1. There are only 10 hits in the game, six by New York and four by Cincinnati.
1941 40-year-old Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons becomes the oldest pitcher to start a World Series game. The Yankees top his Dodgers, 2-1, with all the runs scoring in the eighth inning.
1944 Tony LaRussa is born.
1944 In the first all-St. Louis World Series game, the Browns top the Cardinals, 2-1. The Browns get only two hits all game, but one is a homer.
1947 In Game Five of the World Series, the Yankees top the Dodgers 2-1 in a game with only nine hits altogether.
1948 The A’s release the Rudy York.
1949 Brooklyn trades Sam Jethroe to the Braves.
1950 Vic Raschi tosses a two-hit complete game shutout in a 1-0 Yankee win over the Phillies in Game One of the World Series. Philadelphia uses Jim Konstancy as a surprise starter despite his appearing solely out of the bullpen in the season.
1951 The Cubs trade Smoky Burgess to the Reds.
1952 Allie Reynolds tosses a complete-game four-hit shutout in a 2-0 Yankee win over the Dodgers in Game Four of the World Series. New York gets just four hits in the game.
1953 Mickey Mantle hits a grand slam in Game Five of the World Series as the Yankees win 11-7 over Brooklyn.
1955 Brooklyn finally does it, winning their first world title when Sandy Amoros’ great catch preserves a 2-0 win over the Yankees in Game Seven of the World Series.
1956 Charlie Leibrandt is born.
1957 In an off day of the World Series, the Braves return to Milwaukee where 200,000 greet them at the airport. A civic commission welcomes the Yankees to town, which the Yankees consider to be bush league.
1958 The Yomiuri Giants sign schoolboy baseball star Sadaharu Oh. Good move.
1960 Billy Hatcher is born.
1961 Whitey Ford tosses his third consecutive complete-game shutout in a World Series game. He tosses a two-hitter to stop the Reds 2-0 in Game One of the Series, after tossing two shutouts in the 1960 World Series.
1962 Whitey Ford’s scoreless innings streak in the World Series ends at 33.2 IP, but he leads the Yankees to a 6-2 win over the Giants in Game One.
1963 The White Sox release Sherm Lollar.
1964 The Giants name Herman Franks as their new manager.
1964 The Phillies defeat the Reds, 10-0, as both teams end the season one game behind the Cardinals.
1965 The Red Sox trade starting pitcher Bill Monbouquette to the Tigers.
1966 Baltimore’s mayor begs local saloon keepers to serve blacks beer when the World Series comes to town.
1966 The Cubs release Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts.
1967 Bob Gibson leads St. Louis to a win in Game One, beating the Red Sox, 2-1. The Winning run scores in the top of the seventh.
1969 The first ALCS game ever goes 12 innings, as the Orioles top the Twins, 4-3. Baltimore ties it in the bottom of the ninth en route to victory.
1970 The umpires returns from a brief strike with a four-year deal with escalating pay for the postseason.
1972 Bob Gibson allows 13 hits—but none for extra bases, as the Cardinals top the Pirates, 4-3.
1975 Joan W. Payson, the principal owner of the Mets, dies at age 72.
1977 With two runs in the top of the ninth, the Phillies beat the Dodgers 7-5 in Game One of the NLCS.
1978 Kyle Lohse is born.
1979 In Game Two of the ALCS, Baltimore nearly blows a 9-0 lead against the Angels, barely winning 9-8. California had the bases loaded when Brian Downing made the final out to end the game.
1980 Dwight Evans gets four extra-base hits in a 17-inning game, going 5-for-7 on the day. However, the Red Sox lose 7-6 to Toronto.
1980 Mike Boddicker makes his big league debut.
1981 Hall of Famer Freddie Lindstrom dies.
1981 Bobby Bonds appears in his last game.
1982 Jered Weaver, pitcher, is born.
1983 A Mike Schmidt home run accounts for the only run as the Phillies top the Dodgers in Game One of the NLCS.
1985 Tim Raines enjoys the first of seven multi-home run games for himself.
1986 Dusty Baker appears in his last big league game.
1986 Toby Harrah appears in his last major league contest.
1986 Minnesota Twins infielder Greg Gagne hits two inside-the-park homers in one game. He’s the last person to do that.
1987 After nearly 30 years in major league dugouts, Gene Mauch manages his final game.
1988 The Mets top the Dodgers 3-2 in Game One of the NLCS. All of New York’s runs come in the ninth, and it’s the first time anyone has scored of LA’s Orel Hershiser in 67 innings of pitching in the regular and postseason combined.
1989 In Game One of the NLCS, the Giants destroy the Cubs 11-3. The game is more important because supposedly at one point the Giants read the lips of Cub pitcher Greg Maddux during a mound discussion, and use that to thrash him for some runs. According to “Game of Inches,” by baseball historian Peter Morris, that begins the process of guys covering their mouths whenever they talk on the mound.
1991 Jim Thome hits his first home run.
1991 Second baseman Tommy Herr plays in his last game.
1992 In his last plate appearance of the year, Rickey Henderson notches his 2,000th hit. Incredibly, his 3,000th hit will also come in his last plate appearance of the season, albeit several years later.
1992 Roger Craig manages his last game.
1993 Baseball owners approve the sale of the Orioles to Peter Angelos and partners for $173 million.
1995 In Game Two of a legendary ALDS, the Yankees top the Mariners 7-5 in 15 innings to take a two games to none lead. Both squads score once in the 12th inning.
1995 The Reds top the Dodgers 5-4 in Game Two of the NLDS. Both teams scored twice in the ninth, but since it’s in LA the lead never changed hands.
1996 The Yankees score a pair of runs in the top of the ninth to defeat the Rangers 3-2 in Game Three of the ALDS. This gives them a two-games-to-one lead in the series, as they’re on their way to their first championship in 18 years.
1999 In a play-in game to determine the NL wild card, the Mets top the Reds, 5-0.
2001 Rickey Henderson becomes baseball’s all-time runs scored leader with his 2,246th score.
2001 Tim Raines plays in the outfield alongside Tim Raines Jr. for Baltimore in their 5-4 loss to the Red Sox.
2003 Bizarre and terrible base running cost the A’s a chance to sweep the ALDS against the Red Sox, as Boston goes on to win 3-1 in 11 innings in Game Three. Oakland will lose their next two games, too, allowing Boston to advance instead of them.
2003 The Marlins top the Giants 7-6 in Game Four to win the NLDS. It’s 5-5 in the middle of the fifth when Florida scores twice to take the lead and then holds San Francisco to just one run in the top of the ninth to close out the victory.
2009 On the last day of the season, several men play in their final game, including: Randy Johnson, Aaron Boone, Darin Erstad, Doug Mientkiewicz, Jermaine Dye, Mark Loretta, Nomar Garciaparra, and Rich Aurilia.
2009 Toronto’s season ends on a dismal note. Not only do they lose 5-4 in 11 innings to Baltimore, but the game’s ending is an exercise in frustration. After a leadoff single in the bottom of the 11th, the next two batters hit a sacrifice bunt to pitcher Brandon League, and both times he muffs it. The first one puts the lead runner on second and the next one brings him home. In 67 appearances, those are League’s only errors all season.
2011 In Game Four of the ALDS, Texas tops Tampa 4-3 on the strength of three Adrian Beltre solo homers. Texas clinches the series to advance to the ALCS.
2011 Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt hits a grand slam in his team’s 8-1 win over Milwaukee in Game Three of the NLDS. Arizona needs this one to stay alive, as they lost the first two games.
2011 Philadelphia tops St. Louis 3-2 in Game Three of the other NLDS. St. Louis has 12 hits, but leaves 14 men on base. It was 0-0 after six innings. Then Philadelphia scores three times in the top of the ninth. St. Louis rallies with one in the bottom of the seventh and another in the bottom of the ninth.