JUNE 1-Iron horse begins his journey

20170222_144857_resized*1925 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – On this date in 1925 twenty-one year old Henry Louis Gehrig pinched hit for New York Yankee shortstop Paul Wanninger. It was the start of something special. Lou Gehrig would play in every single game for the next 14 years. He would surpass Everett Scott‘s consecutive game record of 1,307 and set his own of 2,130 consecutive games played.

The oft-repeated story is that Gehrig’s streak began when New York Yankee first baseman Wally Pipp asked for a day off because of a headache. Another story is Yankee manager Miller Huggins didn’t start Pipp and several other regulars that day to shake up a slumping lineup. Either story may be true. Gehrig did start at first in place of Pipp, but it was the second day of his streak, June 2nd.

Interestingly, the guy Gehrig pinch hit for on June 1st to start his streak, Paul Wanninger, several years earlier had replaced former consecutive game record holder Everett Scott in the Yankee lineup.

Gehrig’s consecutive game streak ended sadly in 1939. He was forced out of the lineup by a rare disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), now more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. His seemingly unbreakable record would stand for 56 years. It was broken by Cal Ripken of the Baltimore Orioles in 1995.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
June 1, 1925
ESPN on Gehrig
Wally Pipp

 

May 31-Legends meet in Milwaukee

1975 | MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – Baseball generations were bridged in dramatic fashion at Milwaukee County Stadium on this date in 1975. The Brewers were hosting the Kansas City Royals. Hank Aaron, in a Brewer uniform, was in his 22 major league baseball season, as was Harmon Killebrew, in a Royals uniform.

Also in Royals blue was pitcher Lindy McDaniel, in his 21st season. Playing shortstop for the Brewers was a tall slender, curly haired 19-year old named Robin Yount. Aaron, Killebrew and McDaniel all started playing major league baseball before Yount was born.

Aaron and Killebrew were at the ends of Hall of Fame careers. Yount was at the beginning of one. He would end up in Cooperstown twenty-four years later.

Yount would be American League MVP as a shortstop in 1982, the year the Brewers went to the World Series. He would be MVP a second time in 1989, as a centerfielder. One of only three players in baseball history to win the MVP at two positions. The others were Stan Musial and Hank Greenberg.

The ever modest Yount was probably in awe being on the same field with those legends back in 1975, but he went on to prove he belonged.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCE:
Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, by Leonard Koppett, 2004

 

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

a STORY from today in baseball history