Archive for the ‘Just a Day’ Category

Just a Day: April 15, 1968

September 14, 2009

I’ve finally broken the twin streaks of posting these on the 10th of the month and writing about the 10th of a month. This time around, the randomizer gave us Tax Day in the Year of the Pitcher, April 15, 1968.

1968 was a fascinating year, but April 15 was a Monday, which, like now, was probably the slowest baseball day of the week. Only six games were played, and five of them were kind of unspectacular. Let’s get to that one huge, glaring exception right away, huh?

  • The Astros beat the Mets 1-0 in 24 innings. About 35% of the innings played in all of MLB on this day are played between the two relatively recent expansion squads. 23 year old Tom Seaver starts and goes 10 for the Metropolitans, permitting only two hits and no walks, and at one point retiring 25 batters in a row, but I guess he didn’t pitch well enough to win, as Don Wilson gives up five hits and three walks but holds the Mets scoreless through nine.

    The Mets threaten in a few innings, but can’t get anything through; the Astros get a man on third with one out in the second (on a double and a Seaver wild pitch), but then see him erased on a fielder’s choice groundout and don’t get another baserunner until the 10th. There’s a lot of back and forth in extras, but nobody can get a run across until the 24th. In the bottom of that inning, with Les Rohr pitching, Norm Miller singles. Rohr then balks with Jimmy Wynn batting, so Wynn is then intentionally walked. After a weak Rusty Staub groundout advances both runners, pinch hitter John Bateman is also intentionally walked, bringing up Bob Aspromonte, who blew the Astros’ previous best chance in the 2nd. Here, he hits a grounder to short. Utilityman Al Weis boots it, and the longest shutout win in history is over. Some contemporary accounts reprinted here.

  • Just a couple more things about that amazing game–Tommie Agee and Ron Swaboda both go 0-f0r-10. Both teams finish an identical 11-for-79, a .139 batting average. Pitchers issue a total of twelve walks, six of them intentional. One of the only hitters to have what you might call a good day is Hector Torres, a career .218/.260/.281 hitter, who had three singles in eight at-bats. There are 35 strikeouts, and Seaver records only three of them.
  • The Twins beat the Orioles 6-3. Carew and Oliva collect two hits apiece, and Bob Allison has two doubles and a triple. Dick Boswell goes the distance to get the win, permitting four hits and six walks while striking out seven (too bad they don’t have pitch counts available). The Twins go to 5-0 on the year, but go 74-83 the rest of the way and finish 24 games behind Detroit. One telling sign of the times: Bob Allison, a fading star in his last full year at just 33, had a productive season batting 5th in a pretty powerful lineup in front of three pretty great hitters (though they were rarely all healthy at the same time this season), cracks out 22 home runs…and ends up with 52 RBI.
  • Bob Gibson has arguably the “worst” game of his incredible season, permitting three earned on five hits and three walks (striking out five) in seven innings of work. The Cards come back to win it in 10 innings, 4-3, Joe Hoerner facing one batter to earn credit for the “win.” Gibson gives up 3 or more earned seven times in 1968, but after this, his second start of the season, doesn’t go less than 8 innings in any other start all season (he’d also gone 7 in his first start on April 10).
  • The A’s beat the Yankees, 6-3. I mention this only because a 22 year old named Reggie Jackson, who hits his second home run of the season, was batting second in the A’s order. He batted second for the first 32 games, 8th (!) for a while, then 5th or 6th for a while, then moved back to second for most of the rest of the season, starting a total of 69 games there. Almost nobody these days (or then, I would think) would bat a guy who strikes out as often as Reggie in the #2 slot, but it’s a pretty good spot to put him. Of course, the following year, 1969, is the one in which Reggie had 37 homers at the break, and 47 for the year. He started that year batting second too, but was very quickly moved to the third slot, and spent the next 18 years or so batting third or fourth somewhere.
  • Billy Brewer is born. Lefty reliever in the mid to late nineties, and one of the great baseball names of all time.

Just a Day: June 10, 1989

August 10, 2009

Aaaaand we’re back! In the last seven days I’ve been able to follow no baseball at all save watching parts of most of the Nats games with my Beltway-centric extended family (and what were the odds that they’d turn out to be the team of the week?) and checking Twins scores. So while I get caught up, let’s talk about stuff that happened 20 years ago.
Oddly enough, the randomizer came up with the same month and day it did the last time we did this, which happened to be one month ago today. That is to say: the two posts were written for July 10th and August 10th, and both times it came up with June 10th. Coincidence? (Yes.)

At the end of play on Saturday, June 10, 1989, your division leaders were Baltimore, Oakland, the Cubs, and the Reds (in a virtual tie with the Astros). The Cubs and A’s (the eventual world champs) would hang on; the Orioles and Redlegs, not so much.

  • Once upon a time, the Yankees and Red Sox sometimes played games without completely dominating all sports coverage everywhere, and this was, presumably, one of those games. The Red Sox visit The Stadium and win 14-8, behind a 4-single performance by Wade Boggs and a 3-for-4-with-a-homer by #8 hitter(??!) Nick Esasky. Esasky’s HR was his ninth of an eventual 30, good for fifth in what was kind of a sixties-esque American League. Roger Clemens starts for the Sox and picks up the win despite surrendering four earned in seven innings. Kind of a down year for Roger, actually, and in the heart of his otherwise eye-popping prime…though he still finishes fifth in ERA+.
  • There are five shutouts, though only a couple of them are complete games, which is a little surprising to me. In fact, pitchers were pulled early all over the place, many well before 100 pitches. In this game, Storm Davis is pulled after five innings, having permitted a run on two hits and a walk with six strikeouts, having thrown only 72 pitches, and having struck out the last two batters he faced. Injury, maybe (or maybe they just figured it was Storm Davis and they wouldn’t push their luck), but Davis certainly wasn’t the only one.
  • It’s quite a day for future Hall of Fame pitchers. Not a particularly good day, just a voluminous one:
    – Clemens, as mentioned, goes 7 and picks up a cheap win;
    – Bert Blyleven goes six, giving up 4 runs (3 earned)…and being pulled after only 79 pitches (he was 38, but was also having one of his best seasons);
    – Greg Maddux gets knocked around by the Cards for five and a third, and his Cubs can do nothing against Joe Magrane. Maddux, 23, already has an All-Star appearance under his belt and will finish third in the Cy Young voting (Magrane will finish fourth), but I think there’s a strong argument that Magrane, 24, looks like the better pitcher, both on this date and at the end of the season;
    – Randy Johnson shines for 7.2 innings (and a more back-in-the-good-old-days-like 122 pitches): 3 hits, 4 walks, 7 Ks, 1 ER in helping the Mariners beat Cleveland, 3-1. It’s just his third start for the M’s, and he hadn’t given up more than 2 earned, struck out fewer than six, or walked fewer than three in any of ’em; and
    – John Smoltz is even better but draws the “loss” because he pitches for a woeful Atlanta team that’s headed for 97 of them. Smoltz, having a brilliant season at 22, goes 7 (and again, just 89 pitches! …He’s pinch hit for, but with one out and no one on), strikes out 8 against 0 walks, and surrenders one earned run on just four hits. He and his horrible squad are bested by fearsome Jim Clancy and the Astros, 1-0.
  • It’s even a bad day just to be a very good pitcher; David Cone and Jimmy Key combine to give up 8 runs in 7 2/3.
  • It’s also bad day for the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev (can’t find a full and free article online) defends claims that he’s become a despot, denounces rumors of assassination and coup attempts, et cetera. The flailing superpower continues to hang on, if only to provide ready ominous enemy fodder for Tom Clancy novels, for two more years.
  • Tom Browning throws one of those shutouts, beating the Dodgers and another pretty good pitcher, Tim Belcher, 5-0. Browning pitches a nice game, and the Reds keep pace with the Astros in their lingering tie for first place.

    From that point on, the Reds are the second-worst team in baseball (ahead of only the Tigers, who lose 103 on the season), finishing a depressing 17 games back of the eventual NL champion Giants. Some might speculate that there were distractions. Regardless, the Reds’ abject failure (after foundering under Pete, they went a much-improved 16-21 under former Red All Star Tommy Helms) ushers in the Lou Piniella era and some pretty hefty housecleaning, which pays off in a pretty big way pretty quickly.

  • No one notable debuted, ended his career, or died on this date (though Alex Sanchez–no, not that one–did make his fourth and final appearance), and no one we know about yet was born (though Freddy Garcia blew out fourteen candles on this day).
  • Not a whole lot else worth noting happens in baseball (or elsewhere) either, though it’s worth noting that the Tiananmen Square Massacre had taken place just six days earlier. Also, I found this from just two days earlier (it’s from Wikipedia, and I like the story so much I don’t have the heart to fact-check it):

    June 8 – At Veterans Stadium, the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates score 10 runs in the top of the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies, three of which come on a Barry Bonds home run. As the Phillies come to bat in the bottom of the first, Pirate broadcaster Jim Rooker says on the air, “If we lose this game, I’ll walk home.” Both Von Hayes and Steve Jeltz hit two home runs to trigger the comeback for the Phillies, who finally tie the game in the 8th on a wild pitch, then take the lead on Darren Daulton’s two-run single and go on to win 15-11. After the season, Rooker conducts a 300-plus-mile charity walk from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.

  • Hitter of the day: probably Esasky for his 3 hits and a homer. Pitcher of the day: probably Browning for his complete-game, five-hit, one-walk shutout. I sure wish that Rob Deer had hit three homers or something, but alas.

Just a Day: June 10, 2002

July 10, 2009

The ol’ randomizer came up with a fairly recent one this time. Which is good, because it’s already pretty late at night, and maybe I can get away with saying less than I would if I got myself absorbed in 1957 or something. (If you missed the first one of these, here’s how it works.)

It’s also another day with more than one very long game, which is kind of fun. It’s interleague play, which is less fun (to me). In any case, onward!

  • Jamie Moyer throws a complete-game, 123-pitch shutout, the Mariners thumping the Cardinals 10-0. It’s Moyer’s second consecutive game allowing no runs (he’d gone 8 in a win over the A’s on the 5th), and runs his record to 6-2, 3.52. He had looked done as a 38 year old in 2000, then exploded back to win 20 for the first time in his career in 2001. He’d go on to have another fine season (128 ERA+, though with only 13 wins), then win 21 in 2003 at age 40. He’s won 68 games (and counting) since. I know I just talked about him a little while ago, but it’s always worth remembering what a wonderfully weird career he’s had. Ichiro! has three of his 212 hits, and inexplicable fan favorite Charles Gipson singles, triples, walks and drives in two.
  • In the same game, 32 year old So Taguchi makes his Major League debut and goes 0-for-3 for the Cards. I believe that Taguchi was the second Japanese position player to hit the Majors after Ichiro!, so it was fitting that he debuted opposite the first. Didn’t turn out quite as well.
  • The Twins beat the Braves, 6-5, in 15 innings. I’ve just remembered for some reason, as I’m looking this over, that The Common Man was at this game and told me about it at the time; here’s hoping he hops on and tells what he remembers (if anything). It was a historic opportunity to watch the great Greg Maddux at the Dome…and he’s very much off his game, giving up 5 runs in 7 innings. Luckily, Eric Milton matches him run for run, and the bullpens take over and make quite a show of it. Eventually, in the bottom of the 15th, 37 year old backup catcher Tom Prince singles, then somehow lumbers all the way around on a Cristian Guzman double to win it. That must’ve been quite a sight (or quite a double). Journeyman reliever Tony “the Vulture” Fiore goes three scoreless for maybe his most honest “win” of the year; that puts him at 4-1, and he ends the season 10-3.
    [Edit: here’s the recap. Apparently Prince was running on the pitch, but it still seems like an awful lot to ask of the slowest runner on the team. Guzman: “I thought, ‘hey, he can make it!'”]
  • Game of the Day: The Marlins blow out the Royals in 14 innings. Yes, you read that right. The Royals score in the bottom of the 9th to tie it at 6. Florida scores two in the 12th, but so do the Royals. So it’s 8-8 in the top of the 14th, and the Royals suddenly go all Royalsy: walk, wild pitch, fielder’s choice, wild pitch, double, intentional walk, single, walk, walk, single, fielder’s choice, popout. Seven runs come home in all that, and the Marlins waltz away with the 15-8 win. Pitcher Mac Suzuki was out there for better or worse, and thus responsible for all that ugly: four walks (five in his two IP) and two wild pitches. They actually let him into three more games after this one, the last three he’d ever get into (in the Majors, that is–seven years later, his career is still alive and kicking in one of professional baseball’s little out-of-the-way places).
    [EDIT: recap. Amazingly, not a word about Suzuki’s implosion. Derrek Lee homered twice for the second straight game, then hit 4 homers in his next 47 games.]
  • There was apparently a partial solar eclipse visible in parts of the Pacific side of the world.
  • According to Wikipedia (and uncredited), “the first direct electronic communication experiment between the nervous systems of two humans is carried out by Kevin Warwick in the United Kingdom.”
  • I was attempting to sell cars at a crummy dealership in Washington state. This lasted less than a month. Probably the worst idea ever. What were you doing?

Just a Day: May 23, 19091981

July 2, 2009

So, last week was my wedding anniversary, and I took the opportunity to write about all the stuff that happened on that particular day. It was fun! So I thought that today, I’d look at some other random day in baseball history. I went to this site and had it pull random numbers: between 4 and 10 for the month; between 1 and [30 or 31] for the day; and between 1953 and 2008 for the year. Here’s what I got this time:

May 23, 1981.

(Okay, so I originally entered 1901 to 2008, and it came up with 1909. Which would be great…except that as you probably know, Retrosheet and Baseball Reference only have boxes from 1953 on [and from 1920-1930, which I’ll have to wade into sometime], and without that it’s really hard to come up with enough to say unless you happen to fall on a really momentous day, which isn’t the point. So 1981 it is!)

Anyway, on Saturday, May 23, 1981…

  • The Dodgers beat the Reds, 9-6. Rookie sensation Fernando Valenzuela (hey, check out the sponsor of that page!) has his second poor-ish start in a row after going 8-0 with 8 CG and an 0.50 ERA in the first 8 starts of his career. He still goes 8 innings, but gives up five runs, four earned, with six walks. Another notable rookie, Dave Stewart, bails him out by striking out two in a perfect ninth, and the Dodgers score four in the top of the tenth to give Stew the win. Ron “The Penguin” Cey belts his ninth home run of the young season, but he’s only got four more in him in this injury- and strike-shortened year. The win put the Dodgers at a MLB-best 29-11 (.725), already 6.5 games up on the NL West. Quite similar to 2009, when the Dodgers were 30-14 (.682) on May 23 and 8.5 games up on the (smaller and weaker) West.

    The 1981 squad would go on to finish first in the West for the first half, but play 27-26 ball and finish 4th in the second half, giving them a second-best-in-the-West record that would have kept them out of the postseason in any other year in history. The Reds, meanwhile, finished with the best overall record (66-42, .611) but didn’t win either half. The Dodgers won the World Series, while the division-best Reds watched the entire playoff run from their couches. Weird, weird year.

  • Gene Green passed away at just 47. He had one very solid year with the bat, in 1961, while with the hundred-loss Senators (though he did lead the league in GIDP). Oddly, I can’t find any indication anywhere of how it happened that he died so young.
  • Mike Schmidt hit his 14th home run of the season in the Phillies’ 6-4 comeback win over the Pirates. That put him on pace for 58, assuming a 162-game season. He finished the year with 31 in just 107 team games, a 47-HR 162G pace. He ended the short season leading the national league in HR, OBP, SLG, R, RBI, total bases, extra-base hits, walks, times on base, and OPS+ (199). And the career .267 hitter even finished fourth in the league in batting average at .316, the only time in his career he went over .293. Those extra 55 games might have given him a real chance at the majors’ only triple crown since 1967. Or (certainly more likely) he might have fallen back toward his career norms. Just too bad we didn’t get a chance to find out.
  • This was a big day for multiple-extra-inning games. The Rangers manage just seven hits in 12 innings, but also draw ten walks in beating the Mariners 6-4. Bill Stein pinch-hits in the 9th and ends up the star, going 2-for-3 with 3 RBI. The Rangers had been down 4-0 before scoring four in the ninth to tie, and added two in the twelfth to win.
  • That wasn’t even the longest game of the day…and neither was this one, though it came just one out shy. Rickey Henderson’s sacrifice fly plates Mitchell Page, and the Athletics beat the Blue Jays 3-2 in 15 innings. Henderson, in his second of four consecutive years leading the league in both stolen bases and caught stealing, goes 3-for-6, but is caught stealing for the 10th time after leading off the first with a single. Interestingly, this game featured a matchup of the very best and the fourth-worst leadoff hitters of all time: Rickey for the A’s, Alfredo Griffin for the Jays. Thankfully, the not-insane team won this one. Future A’s manager Ken Macha came in on defense in the 9th and went 3-for-3 against his future employer.
  • This was the longest game of the day — in outs, though almost certainly not in minutes. The Royals beat the Twins in 15 innings, 1-0. Paul Splittorff goes 11 shutout innings (six hits, two walks, two Ks…no pitch counts available, sadly), and Roger Erickson matches him for 9.1 of those innings (seven hits, one walk, seven Ks). It ends when Willie Wilson singles home pinch runner Danny Garcia, who played 12 games in ’81 and was never heard from again.

What I love about this, based on the inadequate sample of the two I’ve done so far, is that when I first start looking at the chosen day, it looks kind of boring and uninspiring, but as I dig into it, there’s always something. Like the Dodgers-Reds, and the three games that totaled 42 innings. I hope you enjoyed reading it some tiny percentage of as much as I enjoyed researching it…