April 20th in baseball history: Ted Williams arrives

Ted Williams' career begins

NEW YORK, NEW YORK | APRIL 20, 1939 - A skinny 20-year old kid from San Diego by the name of Theodore Samuel Williams played his first major league game for the Boston Red Sox on this date in 1939. The first of the Spendid Splinter's 2,654 hits was a 400-foot double in the vast outfield of Yankee Stadium as the Red Sox lost 2-0.

Ted Williams' career spanned 19 seasons and 4 decades. He amassed some of the greatest offensive numbers of all time, despite missing three full seasons - 1943, '44 & '45 - to serve in World War II, and playing only 43 games during the 1952 and 1953 seasons because of the Korean War.

Lifetime Stats: 
.344 lifetime batting average
521 home runs
1,839 RBI
2-time Triple Crown winner (1942, 1947)
2-time MVP (1946, 1949)


Take a close look at the stats above. Williams' 2 MVP years and 2 Triple Crown years do not overlap. They're 4 separate seasons. How he could win the Triple Crown and not be named MVP is a mystery.

And consider this; until Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012, no one in either league had won it since Carl Yaztrzemski in 1967 (a 45 year span), Williams won it twice in three years. In addition, "Teddy Ballgame" won the batting crown at the age of 40.

Williams was truly larger than life; a Hall of Famer, a decorated fighter pilot, a tireless champion of charity and the loudest guy in the room almost until his death July 5, 2002.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCE:
The Boston Globe, New York, New York, April 21, 1939

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April 19th in baseball history: 33-run baseball game

Rangers - Orioles score 33 runs

ARLINGTON, TEXAS | APRIL 18, 1996 - On this day in 1996 the Texas Rangers ran up a heck of a score against the Baltimore Orioles - both teams happened to be in first place in their respective divisions at the time. The host Rangers showed no mercy in beating the Orioles 26 to 7.

The game was relatively close into the bottom of the eighth, the Rangers last at bat if they were ahead, which they were; 10 - 7. But the Rangers scored an astounding 16 runs in an 8th inning that lasted almost an hour. No team ever scored that many runs in an 8th inning. The inning consisted of a grand slam home run and an Oriole reliever walking four - three with the bases loaded.

Some sniping developed between the managers, Davey Johnson for Baltimore and Johnny Oates for Texas. Each thought the other had run up the score in previous games.

That was not the only time Texas and Baltimore were involved in a massive slugfest. Texas set a new record for the most runs scored in an American League game by beating Baltimore 30 to 3 August 22, 2007.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Runs scored records: Baseball-Alamanac
April 19, 1996 box score, etc: Retrosheet

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April 18th in baseball history: Tigers ruin christening

Inauspicious Start

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS | APRIL 18, 1991 -  The Chicago White Sox opened New Comiskey Park (now called U-S Cellular) on this date in 1991 and got clobbered. The Detroit Tigers were not polite guests. Before the Sox came to bat in the third they were down 6-0. That was nothin'. Before Carlton Fisk, Frank Thomas and company came to bat in the fourth they were down 16-0, which how the game ended.

White Sox ace starter Jack McDowell didn't make it out of the second inning. Thirty-seven year old Tiger starter Frank Tanana pitched a complete game shutout. The Tigers had 19 hits. Alan Trammel, Tony Phillips and Lou Whitaker had 11 hits between them.

The White Sox had a better year than that first game hinted, going 87-75. Jack McDowell had a record of 17-10. The Tigers went 84-78, with Frank Tanana finishing 13-12. Neither team made the playoffs that year.

Contributing Sources:
April 18, 1991 box score & play-by-play

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April 17th in baseball history: A mamouth tape measure home run by Mantle

"Ground control to Major Tom" 

WASHINGTON, D.C. | APRIL 17, 1953- Imagine someone hitting a ball the length of almost two football fields! Sportswriters, and others who claim to know, believe 21-year old Mickey Mantle did that on this date in 1953. The prevailing belief is that the blast traveled an estimated 565 feet out of old Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. where the old Washington Senators (today's Minnesota Twins) were hosting the New York Yankees.

Mantle wasn't a superstar yet. At this stage of his career, he was a young, inconsistent ‘can miss' switch-hitter from Commerce, Oklahoma.

Yogi Berra had walked just before Mantle came to bat with two outs in the 5th. The switch hitter was batting right-handed. On a 1 and 0 pitch, Mantle crushed the ball. According to those present, it not only cleared the regular fence, it sailed over a 55 foot wall 70 feet behind the left center field fence! No one had ever done that before.

It hit off a scoreboard on top of the back wall, and sailed out of view. A ten-year old boy found it in a back yard 105 feet further back. Baseball-Almanac.com is skeptical of the 565 foot estimate. It believes the actual distance is more like 510 feet, still, an awesome display of power.

Almost overlooked in the same game were some of the all-around talents Mantle had early in his career. He dragged a bunt for a single and stole a base. Before a series of nagging injuries, and the toll of many nights on the town, Mantle was clocked at 3.1 seconds from the left-handed batter's box to first. One of the fastest home-to-first times ever recorded.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
About Mickey Mantle 
April 17, 1953 boxscore 

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April 16th in baseball history: Home run in first MLB at bat

Off on the right foot

DETROIT, MICHIGAN | APRIL 16, 2014 - What a way to start a career. On this date in 1929 Cleveland Indians outfielder Earl Averill hit a home run in his first major league at bat. He hit an 0-2 pitch off Detroit's Earl Whitehill to help the Indians beat the Detroit Tigers 5 to 4 in 11 innings.

That first at bat turned out to be an indicator of a stellar career for Averill. He had 18 home runs and 96 RBIs that first year, ended up with 238 career home runs, was 6 time all-star, and ended up in the Hall of Fame.

As spectacular as it is to hit a home run in your first major league at-bat, it has not been a great omen for everyone who's done it. According to Baseball-Almanac, 113 rookies got the ultimate hit in their first at bat (26 of them on the first pitch), but 21 never hit another major league home run.

Then there is Tommy Milone. He homered in his first at-bat for the Washington Nationals in 2011, but it's unlikely he'll hit many more. Milone is a pitcher, and is now in in the American League (Oakland A's) where pitchers only bat in interleague play.

The first American League player to hit a home run in his first at bat, Luke Stuart of the St. Louis Browns, not only never hit another, he only had two more major league at bats.

The first at-bat home run hitter with the most career home runs is Gary Gaetti who finished with 360. Second is Jermaine Dye who retired with 325.

Contributing Source:
First at-bat HRs

Jermaine Dye

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