This Week in History: June 4-10
June 4, 1937, for instance, saw Pirates first baseman Gus Suhr play in his 822nd consecutive game, setting a new National League record – one that would be cemented the next day when Suhr would miss his first game in six seasons to attend his mother’s funeral.
On this date in 1986, a journey of 1000 miles (or 762 home runs, in this case) began with a single dinger: Barry Bonds’ first career home run. The shot off Atlanta’s Craig McMurtry would, in fact, be the first of many for the controversial slugger.
And in 2009, Randy Johnson reached a hallowed pitching milestone, defeating the Nationals to record his 300th victory. “The Big Unit,” who was in his final MLB season with the Giants, became the first pitcher to hit 300 on his first try since then-White Sox hurler Tom Seaver beat the Yankees in 1985.
Finally, in a milestone of just two franchises, June 4, 1996 saw the Devil Rays and Diamondbacks make their first-ever draft picks. Tampa selected Paul Wilder, an outfielder who never made it above Single-A in his five year career, while Arizona took pitcher Nick Bierbrodt – who would end up making 29 of his 38 career MLB appearances for one of those two expansion teams.
June 5, 1939 saw a Yankees milestone – for the other team. That day, Tigers righty Tommy Bridges threw a four-hitter in shutting out the Yankees 3-0, marking the only time all season anyone would blank the Bombers.
Four decades later, a milestone that ended against the Yankees, Cal Ripken’s streak, saw an important genesis; on June 5, 1982, Ripken began a string of 8,243 consecutive innings played – one that would last 904 games before the shortstop was lifted for a pinch-runner in a game in September 1987.
And, on this date in 1986, baseball became a family affair of a different sort when Casey Candaele made his Major League debut for the Expos. The utility man’s mom, Helen Callaghan, was an outfielder in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, making her and her baby boy Casey the only mother and so to have both played professional baseball.
June 6 has seen several milestones – Trevor Hoffman’s 500th save in 2007, Eddie Murray’s switch-hitter record 1,510th RBI in 1992, and the first-ever “fog out” at Ebbets Field in 1957, for example – but the biggest may have come when Lundy Lumber defeated Lycoming Dairy in Williamsport, PA.
Lundy’s 23-8 win on June 6, 1939 marked the first game for Carl Stolz’ new organization aimed at bringing baseball to local youth, something you know today as Little League.
6/6 is also the birthdate of the Angels’ famed “Rally Monkey,” a mascot born simply from a video producer at Angel Stadium inserting those two words over footage of the giddy monkey from the movie “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” on this date in 2000.
And, in an international milestone, June 6, 2006 marked the first time that an All-French-Canadian battery took the field in MLB. That day, Eric Gagne and Russell Martin – who both attended the same Montreal high school – became the first pitcher/catcher duo in the history of “Les Ligues Majeure” to both be of French-Canadian descent.
June 7 is the date of the first Major League game to be played both indoors and out – as that date in 1989 marked the first time that the retractable roof at Toronto’s SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) was closed in the middle of a game due to inclement weather.
June 8 saw Tony Lazzeri do something that many Yankees, including Curtis Granderson just weeks ago, would later do: hit three home runs in a game. The Murderers’ Row stalwart blasted three round trippers on this date in 1927, helping the Bombers beat the White Sox 12-11 in the Bronx.
Forty-two years later, another famed Yankee got a permanent day in the sun, as the Yankees retired Mickey Mantle’s No. 7 on June 8, 1969 – Mickey Mantle Day.
This date in history also saw the city of Kansas City see their baseball franchises twice make notable choices in the Major League Draft.
On June 8, 1965, the first MLB Rule 4 Draft was held, with the Kansas City Athletics selecting Rick Monday as the first-ever No. 1 overall choice. Monday would debut the following season, and was a .264 career hitter in 19 years with the Athletics, Cubs, and Dodgers.
Then, in 1979, KC’s new franchise, the Royals, selected two future NFL Hall of Famers in the 1979 Draft. Although neither one would ever play for the franchise, their fourth and seventeenth round choices – two guys named Marino and Elway – would both end up being drafted in the NFL’s famed “quarterback class of ’83,” and would go on to compile 112,836 passing yards and 720 touchdowns combined.
June 9 has been a day where big hits and home runs came at a premium.
On this date in 1914, Pittsburgh’s Honus Wagner made his famed baseball card that much more valuable by becoming just the second Major Leaguer to record 3,000 hits. Wagner’s double off Philadelphia’s Erskine Meyer made he and Cap Anson the only two men in history at that point to reach the milestone.
As for home runs, June 9, 2005 saw Alex Rodriguez hit his 399th and 400th home runs, surpassing Ken Griffey, Jr. to become the youngest player ever (at 29 years, 316 days) to reach 400 homers. Griffey would get his home run heat back three years later, however, as he hit his 600th career round-tripper on June 9, 2008.
Rounding out the week, June 10 has seen a handful of home run milestones and another international first.
The first home run milestone came in 1921, as Babe Ruth became baseball’s all-time leader on that date…by hitting his 120th career dinger off Indians pitcher Jim Bagby.
Five decades later, on 6/10/72, the man who would eventually break Babe’s record got a little closer as Hank Aaron hit his 649th career homer against the Phillies to pass Willie Mays for second-place all-time. Although Mays was also still active at the time (and would remain so through 1973), he would not hit No. 649 of his own until June 30 – when Aaron was already up to No. 654 – and would not surpass “Hammerin’ Hank” again at all.
And finally, in 2002, Marcus Thames made history for the 17th time, becoming the 17th player in history to hit a home run on the first pitch he saw in the Majors. The Yankees rookie’s dinger, which came off Randy Johnson of all people, made him the second Bomber (behind John Miller in 1966) to homer in his first career at-bat.
As for the international milestone, the same date as Thames’ home run saw former Orix Blue Wave teammates Ichiro Suzuki and So Taguchi play against each other in the Mariners’ 10-0 win over the Cardinals – marking the first time that two Japanese position players played in the same MLB game.
And that’s the week that was, for the week that is.
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES
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