August 12th in baseball history: Olympic baseball attracts crowd

"Springtime for Hitler..."

BERLIN, GERMANY | AUGUST 12, 1936 - The largest crowd ever to watch a baseball game, up to that point, saw a “demonstration” game at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin on this date in baseball history. A crowd in excess of 90,000 saw two teams of amateurs, both from the U.S., play a 7-inning contest of America's pastime. The final score was 6-5.

German fans had to be helped along with the nuances of the game. According to Baseball in the Olympics by Pete Cava, not until the announcer told the crowd that a batter making it all the way around the bases for an inside-the-park home run was a good thing for the batter did they cheer.

The Berlin attendance record stood until 93,103 fans showed up for an exhibition game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees in honor of former Dodger catcher Roy Campanella at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1959. The Dodgers, new to Los Angeles, made the Coliseum home for a few seasons waiting for Dodger Stadium to be built.

Speaking of international baseball, did you know more than 100 countries belong to the International Baseball Federation? For example, Argentina has 355 teams/3,500 players. Australia has 5,000 teams/57,000 players. Canada has 6,621 teams/119,178 players. Czech Republic has 60 teams/2,668 players.

1936 Olympics
Baseball attendance records
Los Angeles Coliseum attendance records
Baseball in the Olympics, by Pete Cava, 1991

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July 22nd in baseball history: 6 for 6

6 for 6 for weak-hitting Sox

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS | JULY 22, 1962 - Floyd Robinson of the Chicago White Sox went 6 for 6, all singles, on this date in 1962, tying an American League record held by 38 others for the most hits in a 9-inning game (Alex Rios, also, of the White Sox, is the most recent. He had 6 hits July 9, 2013).

The record in the National League is 7 held by Rennie Stennett of the 1975 Pittsburgh Pirates and Wilbert Robinson of the 1892 Baltimore Orioles (disbanded by the National League in 1899).

Floyd Robinson, the White Sox right fielder, had a great year in '62. He hit .312, drove in 109 runs (on just 11 home runs) and led the league in doubles with 45, but he played for a team that was anemic offensively. The team batting average was .257, Robinson was the only regular to hit over .300, and the team leader in home runs was Al Smith with 16.

Three years removed from playing the Dodgers in the 1959 World Series, the Sox finished 5th, 11 games out. Despite their lousy hitting, the Sox contended for the next few years behind the pitching of Gary Peters and Joel Horlen. They won 94 games in 1963, 98 in 1964 and 95 in 1965, but finished second to the New York Yankees in '63 and '64 and second to the Minnesota Twins in '65.

Floyd Robinson hit over .300 a couple more times in his career, but never had more than 75 RBI. He finished his career with Boston in 1968.


Here's a little known fact; Dave Debusschere was a promising young pitcher on those early 1960's White Sox teams. He appeared in 36 games with an ERA of 3.09, but decided to forego baseball for the NBA. Debusschere went on to a Hall of Fame basketball career with the New York Knickerbockers.

Contributing sources:
Hits records, baseball-almanac 
Floyd Robinson stats 
July 22, 1962 box score, etc. 

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July 20th in baseball history: Huge crowd for the day

If you build it...

Koppett's Concise HistoryLONG ISLAND, NEW YORK | JULY 20, 1858 - Not 1958. 1858.

It's not significant by today's standards, but it was monumental before The Civil War. According to Koppett's Concise History of Major League Baseball, a crowd of "no fewer than 1,500" paying spectators came out to Fashion Race Course on Long Island on July 20, 1858 to watch a pseudo all-star baseball game.

The best players of New York City took on the best Brooklyn had to offer (back then they were two separate cities). New York won 22-18, and promoters saw dollar signs.

The main reason admission was charged was to defray the cost of converting a field into a baseball diamond - there weren't too many around back then. The gate receipts added up to over $700 dollars - a big chunk of change in the mid-19th Century. The event showed that if you put teams together with good players, fans will pay money to watch, and there will be more money to buy better players. Is this a great country or what!

It had a ripple effect. As Leonard Koppett wrote, "...those who would travel far and then pay 50 cents to watch a game would undoubtedly pay a penny or two to read about one." Newspapers soon found another way to attract readers; baseball scores, and eventually box scores, and there were new ones every day.

Contributing Source:
Koppett's Concise History of Major League Baseball, 2004, by Leonard Koppett, Carrol & Graf Publishers, New York

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July 17th in baseball history: Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak ends at 56

56 it is

CLEVELAND, OHIO | JULY 17, 1941 - The Cleveland Indians put an end to Joe DiMaggio's consecutive games hitting streak on this date in 1941, making 56 an iconic number in the world of sports. Joltin Joe got at least one hit in 56 straight games.

The streak captivated the nation for weeks, and drew a record-breaking 67,468 fans to Cleveland Municipal Stadium on a Thursday night to watch the New York Yankee slugger try to extend his streak.

It was stopped at the hands of two relatively unknown Cleveland pitchers, left-hander Al Smith and right-hander Jim Bagby, and all-star third baseman Ken Keltner who made two dazzling plays to rob DiMaggio of hits. Had Keltner not made those plays we could very well be talking about a 73 game hitting streak. After going hitless on July 17th, DiMaggio went on hitting in 16 more consecutive games.

The streak started quietly in Chicago on May 15th. Interest intensified as "Joltin Joe" reached 30 consecutive games and grew into an obsession for many fans when he passed Wee Willie Keeler's 44 games hit streak on July 2nd and just kept on going. Remarkably, DiMaggio didn't just break Keeler's record he smashed by 12 games.

How remarkable is DiMaggio's record? To this day no one has surpassed Wee Willie Keeler's mark of 44 consecutive games... except DiMaggio.
Consecutive game hit leaders:
Joe DiMaggio 56
Wee Willie Keeler 44
Pete Rose 44
Bill Dahlen 42
George Sisler 41
Ty Cobb 40
Paul Molitor 39
Jimmy Rollins 38
Tommy Holmes 37
Fred Clarke 35
Luis Castillo 35
Chase Utley 35

Contributing sources:
The Associated Press, July 18, 1941

Consecutive games with at least one hit

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July 15th in baseball history: Bench takes catcher homerun lead

A Bench mark

CINCINNATI, OHIO | JULY 15, 1980Cincinnati Reds' catcher Johnny Bench hit his 314th home run as a catcher on this date in 1980, passing Yogi Berra for the most home runs by a backstop. Bench hit a two-run homer in the 5th inning, one batter after George Foster hit a three-run homer for the Reds as they beat the Montreal Expos 11-7.

Carlton Fisk of the Chicago White Sox broke Bench's record for the most home runs by a catcher in 1990. Mike Piazza broke Fisk's record in 2004.

Here are the career home run leaders by position (they don't necessarily match the player's career home runs because some were hit while playing other positions):

1B Mark McGuire (566)
2B Jeff Kent (351)
3B Mike Schmidt (509)
SS Cal Ripken, Jr. (345)
C   Mike Piazza (396)
OF Barry Bonds (748)
OF Babe Ruth (686)
OF Willie Mays (640*)
P   Wes Farrell (37)
DH David Ortiz (333-still active)

Surprising as it is, Henry Aaron, the home run king until 2007 is not one of the outfield leaders because he hit a lot of his home runs playing 2nd and 3rd early in his career, and 1st base late in his career.


Baseball Almanac

*Mays' home runs as an outfielder is an estimate. Baseball-Almanac only lists the top two career home runs by outfielders. A review of the statistics indicates Mays was third because he hit 660 career home runs. About 20 were hit while he was playing positions other than outfield.

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