This Week in History: June 11-17
June 11, 1963, for instance, saw one of the most famous home runs ever hit at Tiger Stadium. In Game 1 of a doubleheader against Washington, Detroit slugger Norm Cash became the first Tiger to hit a homer over the vaunted right field roof in his team’s 7-4 loss.
In 1985, Philadelphia’s Von Hayes made his own homer history, becoming the first player to hit two home runs in the first inning of a game. That day, Hayes hit a leadoff solo shot and capped off the Phillies’ nine-run frame with a grand slam, greatly contributing to his team’s 26-7 win over the Mets.
Five years later, the Ryan Express made history as 43-year-old Nolan Ryan threw his record sixth no-hitter. Then with Texas, Ryan blanked the Athletics on 6/11/90 to become both the oldest man to throw a no-no and the only one to do so for three different teams.
And, on this date in 1999, future Hall of Famer Paul Molitor had his number retired by the Brewers at County Stadium. That day, Molitor, who also played for Minnesota and Toronto, said that if he made the Hall, he would go in as a Brewer – a promise he made good on when he was elected in 2004.
June 12 has been quite a history-making day, but perhaps nothing will ever top what happened in 1939: the dedication of the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.
Nearly five decades after the Hall was established, two men who are enshrined in it were given their team’s highest honor as well. On June 12, 1983, the Detroit Tigers retired the numbers of Charlie Gehringer and Hank Greenberg, putting Nos. 2 and 5 alongside Al Kaline’s No. 6 as the only digits honored by the Motor City Kitties.
And, in 1997, a contest that will forever be in the record books was played, as the Giants defeated the Rangers 4-3 to mark the first interleague game in MLB’s 126-year history.
June 13 has been a big day for a pair of New York Hall of Famers.
On this date in 1905, former Giants star Christy Mathewson threw his second career no-hitter, blanking the Cardinals en route to a 5-0 victory. Eight years later, he would get a milestone victory on the same date: No. 300, which came in a 3-2 Giants win over the Cubs at the Polo Grounds.
In 1921, it was Babe Ruth’s turn to make history…sort of. On this date, he pitched five innings and hit two homers in the Yankees’ 11-8 win over Detroit at the Polo Grounds. While the two homers contributed to what would be his then-record total of 59 that season, the bigger moment comes from that being “The Babe’s” only start of the year on the mound – and one of just four he would made total for the Bombers.
Twenty-seven years later, however, Ruth did in fact become part of history. On June 13, 1948, the Yankees held Babe Ruth Day at Yankee Stadium – and with nearly 50,000 fans and several members of the 1923 team that opened the Stadium in attendance, Ruth’s No. 3 became the second number to be retired by the franchise.
June 14 saw a man who isn’t in the Hall, but is a Hall, make history. On this date in 1876, George Hall of the Philadelphia Athletics became the first Major Leaguer to hit for the cycle, a feat that required him to hit one of only 13 home runs he would hit in his seven-year career.
This date in 1919 also saw the longest hitting streak in professional baseball history begin. Yes, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game streak is the longest in MLB history, but on 6/14/19, Joe Wilhoit, an outfielder for the Wichita Jobbers of the Western League, scratched out a first-inning single to begin what would end up as a 69-game hitting streak. Even more impressively, Wihoit would bat .515 during the streak, collecting 153 hits in 297 at-bats.
And, keeping in time with the world records, Cal Ripken set a new world mark on this date in 1996 by playing in his 2,216th consecutive game. While he had passed Lou Gehrig’s MLB mark the previous season, Ripken reaching 2,216 put him one ahead of former Nippon Professional Baseball star Sachio Kinugasa, who had played in 2,215 straight for the Hiroshima Carp.
June 15 saw the MLB saves record change hands, as on this date in 1982, Jeff Reardon saved his 342nd career game, passing Rollie Fingers to become the all-time leader. Reardon would finish his career with 367, a total which has him currently seventh all-time, and 30 years later, Fingers’ 341 is good enough for just tenth place on the list.
What would be the “Ides of June” is also a bittersweet day in Mets franchise history, as on this date, they’ve said goodbye to a pair of franchise cornerstones but hello to another. In 1977, the Mets said goodbye to both Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman in separate deals, sending Seaver to the Reds for five players and Kingman to the Angels for a young player named Bobby Valentine. Six years later, however, the Mets would send two right-handed pitchers to St. Louis to acquire a man who is still with the organization (somewhat) today: legendary first baseman Keith Hernandez.
And, on this date in 2005, Yankees history was made as George Steinbrenner officially announced plans for the new Yankee Stadium, with the new cathedral to be erected just north of the original “House that Ruth Built.”
June 16 is the official date of the Brewers’ first-ever game in Milwaukee…sort of.
On that date in 1969, as part of MLB’s efforts to return Major League Baseball to Milwaukee, the Chicago White Sox beat the Seattle Pilots 8-3 in front of 13,133 fans at Milwaukee’s County Stadium. The Pilots, of course, would spend only their inaugural season in Seattle before being bought by current MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and moving to the sudsy city to become the Brewers.
In 1992, a man who made his final Major League appearance in Seattle would receive a team’s highest honor for the first of three times. That man is Nolan Ryan, whose number was retired by the California Angels on 6/16/92.
Ryan would later have his number retired by both Texas and Houston, but this one was a rare feat in itself, as the hurler was still active! The righty was 45 at the time and playing for the Rangers, and actually started for Texas against the Angels the day after his number was honored.
And, on this date in 1997, the “Subway Series” officially became a reality, as the Mets played the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the first-ever regular season meeting between the cross-town rivals. That day, Dave Mlicki threw a complete game shutout to lead the Queens team to a 6-0 victory.
Rounding out the week, June 17 has seen three pieces of home run history, the first of many pieces of New York history, and the birth of one Major League record.
The homer history began in 1954, as Braves slugger Joe Adcock hit a blast off Brooklyn’s Ed Roebuck that became the first (and only) round-tripper to land on the roof at Ebbets Field. Then, on this date in 1960, Ted Williams homered off Indians hurler Wayne Hawkins at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium to reach the vaunted 500 home run plateau, and exactly a decade later, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks both went deep in a 6-1 Cubs win over the Giants to mark the first time in MLB history that two men with 500 or more homers both hit one in the same game.
As for the New York history, that came in 1962, as outfielder Gene Woodling made his Mets debut to become the first of what is now 112 men to play for both the Yankees and the Mets.
And finally, the Major League record is one belonging to a man who played in New York for a half-season, Ivan Rodriguez. On this date in 2009, “Pudge” caught his 2,227th game, breaking the record set by the man who he shared his nickname he was once given – Carlton Fisk. Even more fitting, perhaps, is that the then-Astros backstop – who would be traded to the Yankees just six weeks later – broke the record in an interleague game against the Rangers, the team he broke into the Majors with in 1991.
And that’s the week that is, for the week that was.
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES