Terra’s Take: This Week in Baseball History (July 20th to July 26th)
Baseball is America’s pastime and with that, a rich history full of record breaking performances and appearances. While it is well and good to take interest in the players of today, let us not forget the players of yesteryear who served as role models for today’s All Stars. These are some of the intriguing facts you may not have known;
– (1944) St. Louis Browns pitcher Nels Potter becomes the first pitcher to be suspended for throwing an illegal pitch. Potter is suspended for ten games after he threw a spitball which was outlawed by the Joints Rule Committee twenty years earlier along with the shineball and the emeryball.
– (1976) Hank Aaron hits his last career home run. The current major league record holder goes deep off of Angels’ pitcher Dick Drago to help the Brewers win 6-2. The 755th home run, would remain the record until the Barry Bonds hits number 756 in 2007. *In what would have been a cool piece of history, the father of Mike Bacsik Jr. who gave up Bonds’ 756th home run, is one of the few pitchers who faced Aaron when he was at 755. Mike Bacsik Jr, joked that if his dad was a little worse than they could have both been in the record book for the same feat.
– (1959) The Boston Red Sox become the last team to integrate when shortstop Elijah “Pumpsie” Green takes the field. The organization was under a lot of scrutiny and pressure due to the fact that they were investigation from the Massachusetts Committee Against Discrimination. The Red Sox were one of the teams that scouted, but lost out on Jackie Robinson fourteen years earlier.
– Three players join the 2,000 hit club on this day. In 1956 Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese collects his 2,000th in a game they lose to the Cubs. In 2006, two people join the club. New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez hits a home run, which also makes him the fastest person to get to 450 HR. Later on that day, San Diego Padres catcher Mike Piazza collects his 2,000th hit on a double against the Giants.
– (1923) Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson becomes the first pitcher to strike out 3,000 batters. The milestone comes when the future All-Century pitcher strikes out Stan Coveleski. Johnson would be the only person in this club for 51 years until St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson collects his 3,000th K in 1974.
– (1969) At RFK Stadium in Washington, the All-Star game has its first ever rainout. The game would be played the following day, with the omission of one important person. President Richard Nixon was scheduled to throw out the first pitch, but had to leave to welcome back the astronauts from the Apollo 11 mission to the moon who were due to land sometime within the next day or so.
– (1962) In a memorable day in baseball history, Jackie Robinson becomes the first African American player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Robinson received 77.5% (124 votes) of the votes on his first time on the ballot The ceremony also marks the induction of pitcher Bob Feller, outfielder Edd Roush and manager Bill McKechnie.
– (2002) In what is seen as one of the best birthday performances, Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra hits three home runs including two grand slams in a 22-4 rout of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. This was the second time in his career that he has had this type of performance although this time he set a major record in doing it in the shortest time span. He hit two of his home runs in the second inning and the third, the second grand slam, the following inning.
– (1983) One of the most memorable meltdowns in sports history occurs when Kansas City third baseman George Brett has his home run disallowed. Brett believed he put his team on top 5-4 in the top of the ninth when Yankees manager Billy Martin questions the amount of pine tar on Brett’s bat. The umpires convene and call Brett out, ending the game. After protesting the result, American League President Lee MacPhail rules in favor of the Royals and the game is continued at a later point with the Royals winning by the score of 5-4.
– (2004) In another chapter of the long running rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, a brawl breaks out when Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is hit by a pitch from Red Sox starter Bronson Arroyo. Red Sox captain Jason Varitek attempts to act as a wall between the two, only to begin the fight by pushing his glove in Rodriguez’s face. Third baseman Bill Mueller ends the game with a walk-off home run off of Yankees legend Mariano Rivera. This game is believed to be the turning point in the Red Sox season that ended with the team’s first World Series Champion in 86 years.
– A number of well-known Hall of Famers were inducted into Cooperstown on this day. The list of players include Joe DiMaggio (1955), Ted Williams (1966), Nolan Ryan/Orlando Cepeda/Robin Yount/George Brett and “Smokey” Joe Williams (1999), Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley (2004) and Andre Dawson (2010).
– The Chicago Cubs display their newly added stadium lights which cost $5 million to install. The first night game at the historic park isn’t set to take place for two more weeks, but the players treat the fans that show up to a home run derby event. Up until this point the Cubs only played day games, but baseball demanded they install lights or be prohibited from hosting any postseason games.
– (1963) A very touching moment occurs in Houston when Colt .45 third baseman Bob Aspromonte hits a home run with ten year old fan Bill Bradley in the stands. Bradley had recently regained some of his eyesight after losing it when was hit by a tree that had fallen after being struck by lightning. The player and fan became friends after Aspromonte visited Bradley in the hospital before the previous season.
– (1992) Texas Rangers pitcher Nolan Ryan sets a record by striking out his 100th batter in his 23rd consecutive season. In a game that the Rangers beat the Orioles 6-2 at Camden Yards, Ryan also collects his 319th victory which surpasses Phil Niekro and gives Ryan sole possession of number twelve on the all-time list.
July 20th: Tony Oliva (76), Bengie Molina (40), Stephen Strasburg (26)
July 21st: Mike Bordick (49), CC Sabathia (34)
July 22nd: Jesse Haines (would be 111), Sparky Lyle (70), Dave Stieb (57)
July 23rd: Pee Wee Reese (would be 96), Don Drysdale (would be 78), Nomar Garciaparra (41)
July 24th: Barry Bonds (50)
July 25th: Larry Sherry (79), Billy Wagner (43)
July 26th: Sad Sam Jones (would be 122), Hoyt Williams (would be 89), Joaquin Benoit (37)
Two noticeable, hall of famers passed away during this week. Jimmie Foxx became the second player to hit 500 career home runs and was the youngest player to reach that milestone for 68 years until Alex Rodriguez passed that. Nicknamed “Double X” and “The Beast”, Foxx was a nine time All-Star and a three time MVP which is tied for second most in MLB history. Foxx passed away on July 21, 1967 when he choked on a piece of food. Also on July 21st, New York Yankee Catcher and Manager Ralph Houk passed away in 2010. He helped the Yankees win three World Series as a player where he was backup for Yogi Berra. After retiring, he succeeded Casey Stengel, and managed the Yankees to three more championships.