2006 | ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – In a shocker, Mexico eliminated the United States from the first World Baseball Classic on this date in 2006. With the likes of Alex Rodriquez, Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon and Vernon Wells on the U-S team Mexico beat the Americans 2-1 in Anaheim.
Clemens took the loss for the USA. The winning pitcher was Culiacan, Mexico native Oliver Perez, at the time a 5-year major league veteran, but certainly no Roger Clemens.
The United States’ mediocre record was 3 wins and 3 losses. The team had an impressive .337 team batting average and 3.13 ERA in the first round, but slipped in both categories in round two – .242 batting average and 4.32 ERA.
Japan ended up beating Cuba to win the Classic in 2006.
The New York Times, March 17, 2006, Anaheim, CA
The New York Times, March 15, 2006, Anaheim, CA
1945 | FRENCH LICK, INDIANA • More spring training camps opened on this date to prepare for the 1945 season, but not in the hot-spots you’d expect. The country was still in the midst of World War II. Travel restrictions forced teams to train close to home. Indiana turned out to be a popular place.
Here where spring training was for a number of teams:
The New York Yankees – Atlantic City, New Jersey
The Cleveland Indians – LaFayette, Indiana
The Chicago White Sox – Terre Haute, Indiana
The Boston Red Sox – Pleasantville, New Jersey
The Philadelphia Athletics – Frederick, Maryland
The Detroit Tigers in – Evansville, Indiana
The St. Louis Cardinals – Cairo, Illinois
The Chicago Cubs – French Lick, Indiana
The Pittsburgh Pirates – Muncie, Indiana
… Just to name a few.
Major League Baseball also drastically limited exhibition games at the urging of The United States Office of Defense Transportation. Teams could only play games with other teams if they were on a direct route to their home city. Side trips were not allowed. Some teams played very few exhibition games against other teams that spring.
Spring Training Notes, Los Angeles Times, March 15, 1945
United Press, March 16, 1945
The Baseball Guru
2003 | SOLVANG, CALIFORNIA – Al Gionfriddo died on this date in 2003. He was 81. Gionfriddo’s major league career only lasted 4 years, a total of 228 games, but the 5-foot 6-inch, 165 lb outfielder ended his short career by taking the spotlight from a Hall of Famer, and it guaranteed the Dysart, Pennsylvania native a place in baseball history.
It was the sixth game of the 1947 World Series at Yankee Stadium. More than 74,000 fans were on hand, most hoping the Yankees would close out the Series. They had a 3 games to 2 lead. It was the bottom of the 6th inning. The Brooklyn Dodgers had grabbed an 8-5 lead in the top of the 6th. There were two out, but the Yankees had two men on. Joe DiMaggio was up. He could tie the game.
DiMaggio hit the first pitch from Dodger reliever Joe Hatten. It looked like it might be a new ballgame. Gionfriddo, who’d been put in left field as a defensive replacement that inning, raced toward the left field corner. He was running out of room, and surrounded by Yankee fans. His hat flew off. At the last moment he reached out and grabbed DiMaggio’s shot – just feet before the 415 mark. The inning was over. The Yankees didn’t score. DiMaggio kicked the dirt. One of the rare times in his entire career he showed any emotion on the field.
The Dodgers went on to win that game 8-6, but the Yankees closed out the series in the next day. Al Gionfriddo didn’t get in the lineup. He would not play another game. After the 1947 season he retired, feeling pretty good about himself.
MLB box scores etc.,
1954 | ST. PETERSBERG, FLORIDA – A nasty break for a veteran opened the door for a future superstar on this date in 1954. It was an exhibition game against the New York Yankees. Milwaukee Braves outfielder Bobby Thomson was trying to beat a throw to second base. The former New York Giant , who hit “the shot heard round the world,” in October of ’51, slid awkwardly and broke his ankle in three places.
Thomson would be out of the lineup until July. Put into the lineup was a skinny, 20-year old kid from Mobile, Alabama by the name of Henry Louis Aaron . He would be a regular in the Braves outfield for the next 21 years (He played 2 more years for the Milwaukee Brewers).
With Thomson’s injury many thought the Braves were out of the 1954 pennant race. Sportswriter Henry McCormick wrote, “With him [Thomson] may go the Braves’ hopes of staying in the thick of the pennant fight.” But the Braves stayed in the ‘54 race almost until the end. They were only four games out on September 15th, finishing 8 games out in third place, 89-65. Aaron played 122 games, hit .280 with 13 home runs and 69 RBI.
Hammerin Hank would become and remain the home run king (755) until Barry Bonds broke it in 2007. Aaron remains (as of this date) the all-time RBI leader (2,297). He was voted to 25 all-star games (they used to play two each season).
Wisconsin State Journal, March 14, 1954, by Henry McCormick,
1954 NL pennant race
1903 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – The New York Yankees are synonymous with Major League Baseball, especially the American League, but did you know they were not one of the original American League teams (actually they were, but why let the facts stand in the way of a good story?). Let me explain:
This much is true; there was no American League team in New York City when the AL was established in 1901. New York officially got a team on this date in 1903 when the owners approved a franchise move.
The franchise that would become the New York Yankees existed in Baltimore as the Orioles, not the Orioles currently taking up residence by Chesapeake Bay. Those Orioles trace their origins back to Milwaukee as the Brewers, no not the current Brewers, the Brewers of old that became the St. Louis Browns, which then moved to Baltimore and became the current Orioles.
Clear as pine tar?
This list of the charter American League franchises of the inaugural year of 1901 and what became of them may help:
- Cleveland Blues – name changed to Bronchos in 1902, Naps in 1903 and finally Indians in 1914.
- Milwaukee Brewers – Franchise moved to St. Louis in 1902 and became the Browns, moved to Baltimore in 1954 and became the Orioles
- Baltimore Orioles – moved to New York in 1903 and became the Highlanders. Name changed to Yankees in 1913.
- Chicago White Stockings – officially became the White Sox in 1903
- Boston Americans – became the Red Sox in 1906.
- Philadelphia Athletics – moved to Kansas City in 1956. Moved to Oakland in 1968. Named reduced to A’s over time.
- Washington Senators – moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul in 1961 and became the Minnesota Twins
- Detroit Tigers – remain in Detroit as the Tigers
It appears the Detroit Tigers are the only charter franchise to neither move nor change its name in the slightest.