MAY 29-1st place on Memorial Day good omen

*2017 | MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL – USA • It’s a surprise to many that the Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees were leading their divisions this Memorial Day (2017).

Since Major League Baseball (MLB) division play began in 1969 records show that teams leading their division or in a wild-card position on Memorial Day have a better than average chance of making the playoffs.

American League LEADERS today-May 29, 2017:
East: YANKEES
Central: TWINS
West: ASTROS
Wildcard #1: RED SOX
Wildcard #2: ORIOLES

National League LEADERS today-May 29, 2017:
East: NATIONALS
Central: BREWERS
West: ROCKIES
Wildcard #1: DODGERS
Wildcard #2: DIAMONDBACKS

We’ll have to wait and see how predictive the division leaders were today.

Here’s how predictable Memorial Day standings were in 2016:

American League LEADERS on Memorial Day 2016
East: RED SOX (PREDICTIVE-WON THE DIVISION)
Central: TWINS (DID NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS)
West: ASTROS (DID NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS)
Wildcard #1: BLUE JAYS (PREDICTIVE-WON WILDCARD #1)
Wildcard #2: BALTIMORE (PREDICTIVE-WON WILDCARD #2)

National League LEADERS on Memorial Day 2016
East: NATIONALS (PREDICTIVE-WON THE DIVISION)
Central: CUBS (PREDICTIVE-WON THE DIVISION)
West: GIANTS (PREDICTIVE-MADE PLAYOFFS AS WILDCARD)
Wildcard #1: PIRATES (DID NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS)
Wildcard #2: METS (PREDICTIVE-WON WILDCARD #1)

2016’s Memorial Day standings were quite predictive of who would make the playoffs. There were 10 postseason playoff slots available in, and 70% of the Division leaders on Memorial Day 2016 made the playoffs.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Division standings
Wild card standings
May 29, 2016

MAY 27 – Size matters

*1960 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK –  It’s been said, ‘catching a knuckle-ball is like trying to catch a butterfly with a fly swatter.’  It’s one of the biggest challenges a catcher faces. The Baltimore Orioles tried to do something about it on this date in 1960.

One of their starters was premier knuckler Hoyt Wilhelm. Oriole catchers had an especially difficult time catching him. The Orioles set a record in 1959 for the most passed ball with 49, 38 while Wilhelm was on the mound.

On this date in 1960, Baltimore manager Paul Richards. had an idea. He came up with an oversized catcher’s mitt for catcher Clint Courtney.

It worked. Courtney had no passed balls on this date – there had been 11 in Wilhelm’s previous 28 innings – and Wilhelm pitched his first complete game of the season beating the New York Yankees 3-2.

The oversized mitt led to a rule change a few years later. Beginning with the 1965 season catcher’s mitts were limited to 38 inches in circumference and 15 ½ inches from top to bottom.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
The Official Rules of Baseball Illustrated, David Nemec,  2006
The knuckle-ball

MAY 26 – The greatest pitching performance

*1959 | MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – What a shame! Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates took a perfect game against the Milwaukee Braves into the 13th inning on this date in 1959 – no runs, no hits, no walks, no hit-by-pitch, no nothin’.

Up until the 13th, Haddix retired every single batter, but before the inning was over he would lose the game, the perfect game and the no-hitter, 1-0.

Talk about records that may never be broken, Haddix pitched a perfect game for 12 innings! No one had ever done more than 9.

The Pirates had 12 hits that night, including one by Haddix himself, but they couldn’t muster a single run for the guy on the mound.

Haddix lost the perfect game when his 3rd baseman Don Hoak committed an error. He lost the no-hitter when Braves’ first baseman Joe Adcock doubled. He lost the game when Felix Mantilla scored from second on Adcock’s double, and the run wasn’t even earned. The game went 13 innings, but only took 2 hours and 54 minutes. Of course, there wasn’t much scoring and no pitching changes.

Did you know that the Pirates had 12 hits that night, including one by Haddix himself, but they couldn’t muster a single run for the guy on the mound?


There was another interesting thing that happened that night, Braves slugger Eddie Matthews laid down a sacrifice bunt in the 13th inning to get Mantilla to second. When’s the last time you saw a slugger (he hit over 500 home runs) lay down a sacrifice bunt – successfully at that!

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
May 26, 1959 Box score
The Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, May 27, 1959

MAY 25 – 9 home runs in a week

cropped-nigiht-game-5.jpg*2002 | PHOENIX, ARIZONA – The Los Angles DodgersShawn Green hit his 8th and 9th home run in a week on this date in 2002 – at the time, a new National League record.

Green hit 4 home runs two days earlier (May 23rd).

Two days before that he hit a pair of home runs.

He hit one on May 24th.

The two he hit against the Arizona Diamondbacks on this date added up to nine for the week.

Shawn Green was born in Des Plaines, Illinois on November 10, 1972. His family later moved to California where he attended Tustin High School in Tustin, California. He received a scholarship to Stanford University in 1991, but was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays the same year.

He broke into the major leagues with Toronto in 1993 at age 20. At the end of the 2007 season Green had 328 career home runs.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
May 25, 2002 box score/stats
The Associated Press, Phoenix, AZ, May 26, 2002
Shawn Green background

MAY 24 – Let there be lights

*1935 | CINCINNATI, OHIO – The first night game took place on this date in 1935. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt flipped a switch from Washington, D.C. creating that now familiar glow emanating from night baseball. The first game under the lights took place at Crosley Field in Cincinnati where the Reds beat the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 before 20,422 fans.

Night baseball is commonplace today, but it took a while to catch on. A number of charter major league teams were still without lights well into the 1940’s (well into the 1980’s for the Cubs).

It’s a wonder night baseball didn’t arrive sooner because it brought out the fans. Attendance went up just about everywhere lights went up.

According to The Sporting News, September, 1940 issue, the New York Yankees led the majors in total attendance that year with a little over a million fans. That’s about 17,000 per game at Yankee Stadium which did not have lights. Cleveland had lights, and averaged 33,000 fans when it played at night, which was only during the week.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Attendance throughout the years
Retrosheet
Night baseball

a STORY from today in baseball history