1974 | WINTER HAVEN, FLORIDA – All good things must come to an end, and on this date in 1974 it was the 18-year Hall of Fame career of shortstop Luis Aparicio. “Little Louie” – 5’9″, 160 lb. – was given his walking papers by Boston Red Sox manager Darrell Johnson right after they beat the Montreal Expos in an exhibition game. Aparicio was still in uniform.
Aparicio would be 40 in a few weeks and be able to spend his birthday at home in Maracaibo, Venezuela for the first time in 21 years.
Being let go was a disappointment, but Aparicio took it in stride, “The first thing I thought about when I walked out of the office was about my five kids.” Aparicio would be 40 in a few weeks and be able to spend his birthday at home in Maracaibo, Venezuela for the first time in 21 years.
Aparicio had been with the Boston Red Sox for three years, but played mostly for the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles. He was an 11 time all-star with 9 Gold Gloves and a prototype lead-off man with 506 career stolen bases. Aparicio was on two World Series teams. He put the “go” in the 1959 “go-go” White Sox, which lost the Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he got some revenge while playing for the Orioles in 1966 when they swept the Dodgers in 4 games.
United Press International (UPI), by Milton Richman, March 27, 1974
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1985 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – A Cook County, Illinois Judge ruled on this date in 1985 that the Chicago Cubs had gone without lights their entire history, there was no need to change now. The Cubs had held out decades longer than any other team in playing all their games during the day, but then they made it to the postseason in 1984, something they hadn’t done since 1945. Major League Baseball had been scheduling night games in the post-season for years. Since Wrigley Field didn’t have lights the Cubs had to give up a home game in the National League Championship Series in ‘84.
The shoe was now on the other foot. The Cubs wanted lights. Former general manager Dallas Green first proposed them in 1982. The neighborhood and the city (the mayor at the time, Richard J. Daley, was lifelong White Sox fan) didn’t, so the Cubs sued.
A judge ruled on March 25, 1985 that the ban on lights at Wrigley was constitutional – no night games at Wrigley.
It took a few more years of political cajoling and maneuvering for an ordinance to finally be passed allowing night games at Wrigley, but no more than 18 per season. The first night game at Wrigley was played on August 8, 1988 – 8/8/88, but it was called due to rain before it became official (maybe they shouldn’t have put lights in Wrigley).
MLB.com: 20 years of night baseball at Wrigley Field
Chicago Tribune, “The Cubs get lights at Wrigley,” August 8, 1988
2001 | TUCSON, ARIZONA – Many hitters thought Randy Johnson‘s fastballs were deadly. On this date in 2001 one of them truly was, and the dove it struck never knew what hit it.
During an exhibition game against the San Francisco Giants, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ pitcher wound up and threw a fastball to a Giants hitter at precisely the moment a dove flew in front of home plate. The ball hit the bird. The result was a cloud of feathers and an ex-bird
According to the Associated Press (AP), Diamondbacks catcher Rod Barajas said, “I’m sitting there waiting for it, and I’m expecting to catch the thing and all you see is an explosion.” The home plate umpire called it a “no pitch.”
Sportswriters and columnists had a field day with the unfortunate demise of the bird, which ended up in “fowl” territory. Johnson said he didn’t think it was all that funny.
When wildlife wasn’t getting in the way of Randy Johnson pitches he was pretty good, and as of this writing, still is. He’s won five Cy Young awards. Entering the 2009 season, has a record of 295 wins and 160 losses. He’s been on 10 all-star teams, and was a member of the 2001 World Series Champion Diamondbacks. And as far as we know, no more of his fastballs have collided with any birds.
The Associated Press (AP), Tucson, Arizona, March 25, 2001
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1990 | BRONX, NEW YORK – A messy soap opera involving New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and Dave Winfield, one of his players, hit the headlines again today with the arrest of Howard Spira. Spira, a small-time gambler and former sports radio station stringer, was arrested and charged with extortion.
Spira was convicted a year later for trying to extort $110,000 from Steinbrenner. The mess ended up getting the Yankee owner banned from baseball when it was revealed that he had given Spira $40,000 to find out some dirt about Winfield. Steinbrenner insisted the money was to help “Howie” get back on his feet.
Steinbrenner and Winfield had been feuding for a number of reasons since Winfield signed a 10-year, $23 million contract with the Yankees that Steinbrenner didn’t feel he quite lived up to. Winfield was upset with Steinbrenner for, among other things, claiming he reneged on a promise to donate $300,000 to Winfield’s foundation. That’s where Howard Spira came in. Spira once worked as a publicist for the Foundation. Steinbrenner paid Spira to find out some stuff on Winfield that Steinbrenner could use against him.
Steinbrenner was reinstated as Yankees owner in 1993. Howard Spira served 26 months in a federal prison for extortion. What’s never been clear is why someone with the resources of George Steinbrenner would seek out someone like Howie Spira rather than, say, an ex-FBI agent.
1993 | CLERMONT, FLORIDA – On the one off-day the Cleveland Indians had the entire 1993 spring training an afternoon of relaxation turned into tragedy. Pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews were killed and Bobby Ojeda was seriously injured when the fishing boat they were in rammed into a pier on Little Lake Nellie in Clermont, Florida. The lake is about 25 miles north of their spring training site at Winter Haven, Florida.
The three Indians pitchers brought their families to the lake to enjoy the day off. Olin, Crews and Ojeda had been fishing and were returning to shore when the accident happened. Crews was piloting the boat. An autopsy showed Crews was legally drunk when the boat slammed into the pier. He was killed instantly. Olin was pronounced dead the next morning. Ojeda had serious head lacerations but survived and made a complete recovery.
Twenty-seven year old Steve Olin had come into his own as the Indians closer the previous season. He appeared 72 games and had 29 saves.
Thirty-one year old Tim Crews had just signed with Cleveland as a free agent after spending six seasons with the Dodgers. He had an off year in ’92 when his ERA ballooned to 5.19, but he was just two years removed from an ERA of 2.77 in 66 games.
Thirty-five year old Bob Ojeda was a 13-year veteran when the accident happened. He won 115 games in his career, and was a major part of the New York Mets World Championship season in 1986 going 18-5. He recovered enough to appear in 9 games in ’93. He signed with the Yankees in ’94 but was released after appearing in two games.
Tragedy still haunts