This Day In Baseball April 8
Debuts, Milestones, No Hitters, Rule Changes, Events, Birthdays, Deaths, and more on This Day In Baseball.
Events for April 8
Outfielder Tris Speaker is still a holdout as a reaction to Boston Red Sox owner Joseph Lannin’s proposal to cut his salary from $11,000 to $9,000. Speaker wants $15,000. The Red Sox, in anticipation of resolving the contract dispute by trading Speaker, purchase OF Tilly Walker from the St. Louis Browns.
At Sportsman’s Park, the St. Louis Cardinals wear their new uniforms (two red birds on a bat with the words “Cardinals” across the front) for the first time in an exhibition contest with the St. Louis Browns. Browns pitcher Urban Shocker tops the Cardinals’ Willie Sherdel, 3 – 2, the same result as their matchup a week ago.
Prior to a pre-season contest in New York, (and exactly one week before Schoolboy Rowe’s official major league debut), the highly touted Tigers pitching prospect launches a batting practice bomb into the Polo Grounds’ center-field bleachers, a feat never before performed since the stadium’s 1923 reconfiguration. It will be more than 15 years—July 18, 1948, to be precise—before Rowe’s feat is finally matched in the course of a game, by Negro Leaguer Luke Easter, and roughly 20—i.e. April 29, 1953—before the first major league version, courtesy of Joe Adcock.
Bernice Lombardi finds her husband Ernie lying on the bed after the former major league catcher slit his throat from ear to ear with a razor he found in a relative’s bathroom. The former Reds’ backstop, battling a similar bout of depression that caused his teammate Willard Hershberger to commit suicide in 1940, is given little hope to live, at the time, but he will manage to survive his horrific self-inflicted wound.
The Tigers claim Denny McLain on first-year waivers from the White Sox. The right-hander, who will become the game’s last 30-game winner playing in the Motor City, will win the American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award in 1968, helping Detroit to win its first World Series in 23 years.
After being promised the Secretary of Labor would intervene to mediate their dispute, the D.C. Stadium striking vendors do not appear at the ballpark, and President Kennedy doesn’t have to cross a picket line to toss out the ceremonial first pitch. The Senators lose the game 3-1, and JFK’s suggestion of playing Tom Brown doesn’t pan out as the rookie first baseman fans three times.
Five days before the start of the season, right-hander Jim Umbricht, the only pitcher to post a winning record in Houston’s first two seasons, loses his well-publicized battle with cancer when he succumbs to a malignant melanoma. The popular 33 year-old Colt .45’s relief pitcher, whose uniform number 32 will be retired by Houston, underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his leg before the 1963 season, returning to the club to post a 4-3 record along with a 2.61 ERA in 35 games.
At the Astrodome, the Astros and Dodgers play baseball’s first game on synthetic grass. Thanks to the Monsanto chemical company, who proposed using an experimental playing surface of nylon grass, the plan to play on an all-dirt field, necessitated by the need to paint the dome’s glass panes to reduce the glare which prevented natural grass from growing, was alleviated by the use of ‘AstroTurf.’
Four expansion teams make their debuts. The Kansas City Royals, Seattle Pilots, Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres all win their inaugural games. At Shea Stadium, the Expos defeat the New York Mets, 11 – 10, to keep the Mets winless for openers. Pitcher Dan McGinn hits the Expos’ first home run as the key hit, a three-run home run by Coco Laboy, is given up by Canadian-born Mets relieverRon Taylor.
With 23,370 fans in attendance, the Padres dedicate Jack Murphy Stadium, which was formerly called San Diego Stadium, posthumously honoring the sports editor and columnist for the San Diego Union, who was responsible for garnering much of the support to bring an expansion team to the southern California city. Visiting Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy continued to refer to the ballpark using his older brother’s name when the multi-purpose venue became known Qualcomm Stadium after the corporation paid $18 million for the naming rights in 1997.
The Pilots make their major league debut, defeating the Angels at Anaheim Stadium, 4-3. Scoring all of their runs in the top of the first inning, Seattle’s leadoff hitter Tommy Harper starts the game with the franchise’s first hit, and then crosses the plate with its first run, when Mike Hegan, the next batter, hits the first homer in team history.
Frank Robinson makes his debut as major league baseball’s first black manager. Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson, throws out the ceremonial first pitch before a crowd of 56,204. As the player-manager of the Cleveland Indians, Frank Robinson hits a home run in his first at-bat, helping Cleveland to a 5 – 3 victory over the New York Yankees. For Robinson, it is his eighth Opening Day home run, setting a major league record which will later be tied by Ken Griffey and Adam Dunn.
In the season opener at Fenway Park, Tony Conigliaro, who retired four years ago after being traded to the Angels in 1970, plays in the first game of his attempted comeback with the Red Sox. As a designated hitter, the 30 year-old Pope of Kenmore Square, who will collect only seven hits in 21 games, singles in his first at-bat in Boston’s 5-2 victory over the Brewers.
In a 3 – 1 loss to the Mets, Houston Astros shortstop Dickie Thon is hit in the face by a Mike Torrez pitch that breaks the orbital bone around his eye. Thon will be operated on April 11th, but will miss the rest of the season. When he returns, the All-Star SS will be plagued with blurred vision and be relegated to a back-up role for some time.
A pitch thrown by Mike Torrez, in the Mets’ 3-1 victory over Houston at the Astrodome, damages Dickie Thon’s face, compromising the promising 25 year-old shortstop’s career. The orbital bone around the left eye is broken by the remorseful right-hander’s fastball, ending the infielder’s season and impacting his future as a major leaguer due to problems with depth perception as a result of the injury.
At Fenway Park, 46-year-old Phil Niekro starts for the New York Yankees, becoming the second oldest pitcher ever to start on Opening Day. Only Jack Quinn, for the Brooklyn Robins in 1931, was older at age 47. The Boston Red Sox chase Niekro after four innings and, behind the pitching of Oil Can Boyd, coast to a 9 – 2 win. Niekro walks four in the 3rd inning, including two with the bases loaded, to lose his seventh opener in a row (six with Atlanta), the worst opening day record ever. Outfielders Tony Armas, Dwight Evans and Jim Rice stroke home runs for Boston.
Jim Presley hits two home runs, helping the Mariners beat the Angels, 8-4, in a dramatic extra-inning comeback Opening Day victory. The Seattle third baseman’s two-run blast in the bottom of the ninth off Donnie Moore knots the game at four runs apiece, and his two-out grand slam off Ken Forsch in the following frame ends the Kingdome contest.
Cleveland Indians pitchers Phil Niekro and Steve Carlton combine to beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 14 – 3, making it the first time in major league history that two 300-game winners pitch for the same team in the same game. Niekro goes six innings to get his 312th career win and Carlton blanks Toronto for three innings.
One-handed pitcher Jim Abbott makes his major league debut for the California Angels. Born without a right hand, Abbott bypassed the minors completely after starring at the University of Michigan, heading directly to the Angels’ starting rotation. He lasts only four and two-thirds innings in a 7 – 0 loss to the Seattle Mariners, but will finish his rookie season with 12 wins and a 3.92 ERA, the most major league wins in a first pro season since St. Louis Browns pitcher Ernie Wingard won 13 in his first professional season, in 1925.
Major league umpires strike on Opening Day, and amateur umpires are used as replacements. The arbiters, whose working agreement expired on December 31st, will settle and return to work the next day. Among the benefits won by the Major League Umpires Association is an increase in starting salaries from $41,000 to $60,000.
Contributing to the Indians’ 15-5 rout of New York at Cleveland Stadium, Carlos Baerga becomes the first major leaguer to homer from both sides of the plate in the same inning. In the seventh, the Tribe’s second baseman, batting right-handed, goes deep off Steve Howe, and, later in the frame, connects with a pitch thrown by Steve Farr from the left side of the plate.
Free agents signed include outfielder Larry Walker and pitcher Bill Swift by the Rockies, and pitcher Orel Hershiser by the Indians. In other transactions, the Red Sox trade third baseman Scott Cooper, pitcher Cory Bailey, and a player to be named to the Cardinals, in exchange for outfielder Mark Whiten and pitcher Rheal Cormier.
In a 14-8 Mariners victory over the Indians at the Kingdome, M’s pitcher Josias Manzanillo, who doesn’t wear a protective cup, is hit the groin by a Manny Ramirez 107 mph line drive. Now a firm believer in the use of protective gear, the 29 year-old reliever will be put on the 15-day disabled list for surgery needed to repair a tear in his testicles.
At Ameriquest Field in Arlington, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher David Wells allows nine hits in shutting out the Texas Rangers, 4 – 0. Pitcher Kenny Rogers loses at home ending his 19-game home winning streak, the third longest in Major league history. The streak dates to June 28, 1997 when Rogers was with the Yankees. Since then, Rogers has pitched for Oakland and the Mets.
On Opening Day at PNC Park, the Pittsburgh Pirates unveil a sculpture of Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner. Kiner, who is depicted in the bronze artwork gripping a Kiner-model Louisville Slugger bat, joins Willie Stargell, Honus Wagner and Roberto Clemente as other former Pirates honored with ballpark statutes.
At the home opener at PNC Park, Pittsburgh unveils a sculpture of Ralph Kiner. The Hall of Fame home run hitter, depicted in the bronze artwork gripping a Kiner-model Louisville Slugger bat, joins Willie Stargell, Honus Wagner, and Roberto Clemente as other former Pirates honored with a ballpark statue.
At Wrigley Field, a few of the 29,138 patrons at the Cubs opener boo when the Canadian national anthem, “O’ Canada,” is performed before the game against the Expos. The Chicago fans reaction comes as a result of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” being booed before an Islanders-Canadiens hockey game in Montreal due to some of their fans’ opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq.
Jimmy Carter, who was not invited by the current administration to be part of the American delegation for today’s funeral of Pope John Paul, attends the home opener at Turner Field. The former president and his wife Roslyn, who both stayed for the entire game, enjoy watching the Braves beat the Mets, 3-1.
Top Atlanta Braves prospect Jordan Schafer, who was named the best prospect in the Carolina League in 2007, is suspended 50 games for using Human Growth Hormone. Schafer had hit only .240 in 2006 before leading the affiliated minor leagues in hits last year. He almost won the Braves’ centerfield job in spring training.
An emotional Bill Buckner returns to Fenway Park for the first time in more than a decade to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Red Sox home opener. The beleaguered former Boston first baseman, best known for letting Mookie Wilson’s grounder roll between his legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, receives a heartfelt standing ovation from the stunned crowd as he slowly walks from left field to the pitcher’s mound.
At the Play Ball, Chicago! Event in the Windy City, the U.S. Postal Service unveils a stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the song, Take Me Out to the Ball Game. The favorite tune was written on a New York City train a century ago when passenger Jack Norworth, actor, singer, and songwriter, who claimed never to have seen a major league game, wrote the lyrics after seeing a sign about an upcoming contest at the Polo Grounds, home of the New York Giants.
Trailing Atlanta, 10 – 3, in the bottom of the 7th inning, the Phillies score 8 runs off four pitchers on their way to a 12 – 11 win. Eight consecutive batters drive in a run – four on bases-loaded walks – during the fateful inning. For the Braves, Jordan Schafer and Brian McCann both hit two-run homers and Matt Diaz adds a solo shot in the 9th, but it is not enough to stop Brad Lidge’s streak of 52 consecutive successful save opportunities, dating back to 2007.
Randy Wells, one of the National League’s top rookie pitchers in 2009, picks up where he left off, pitching six shutout innings in leading the Cubs to their first win of the season, a 2 – 0 blanking of the Braves and fellow sophomore Tommy Hanson. Tyler Colvin and Marlon Byrd hit solo homers for the game’s only runs.
The 2011 Hoofdklasse season opens. Diegomar Markwell, Berry van Driel and Arshwin Asjes team up on a three-hit shutout for DOOR Neptunus against the L&D Amsterdam Pirates. The Pirates also get quality pitching, as Rob Cordemans fans ten in six innings of one-run ball; Neptunus wins, 2 – 0. Jeffrey Arends drives in Benjamin Dille with the first run of the year.
Slugger Manny Ramirez, who signed with the Tampa Bay Rays in the off-season, announces his retirement after a failure to conform with Major League Baseball’s drug policy. After having been suspended for 50 games in 2009 because of PED use, he would have faced an unprecedented 100-game suspension if, as rumored, he has failed another drug test. The retirement under a cloud casts a doubt over his eventual election to the Hall of Fame. He will change his mind in a few months and return to organized baseball in 2012, but fail to make it back to the majors.
The Red Sox finally record their first win of the season after starting 0-6, defeating their arch-rivals the New York Yankees, 9 – 6, in their home opener. Dustin Pedroia hits a homer in his first at-bat with his team down 2 – 0 and finishes the day with 3 hits and as many RBI to lead the Boston attack. John Lackey is the winner in spite of giving up 6 runs over 5 innings.
Jose Tabata doubles off Franklin Morales to end a 14-inning, 5 hour, 11 minute, marathon between the Rockies and Pirates. With the Pirates’ bench and bullpen both depleted, the score tied at 3-all with two outs and Josh Rodriguez on first, Rockies’ manager Jim Tracy declines to issue an intentional walk to Tabata, who hit a solo homer earlier in the game, in order to face P Garrett Olson, and pays the price. The Pirates bullpen puts together a stellar performance: 6 pitchers combine to keep Colorado off the scoreboard for 11 1/3 innings after relieving starter Ross Ohlendorf with a 3 – 0 deficit in the 3rd inning.
After being informed by MLB that he faces a 100-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy for the second time, Rays’ outfielder/DH Manny Ramirez announces his retirement as an active player. The 12-time All-Star, best known for helping the Red Sox win two World Championships, ends his 19-year big league career with a .312 batting average and 555 home runs.
The Red Sox and Tigers stage an epic battle on Easter Sunday. Detroit takes an early 5 – 0 lead off Clay Buchholz, but Boston roars back to chase Max Scherzer in the 3rd inning after he has coughed up 7 runs. Sox closer Alfredo Aceves takes the mound in the bottom of the 9th with a 10 – 7 lead, but gives up a pair of singles and a three-run homer to Miguel Cabrera without retiring anyone. Boston scores two runs off Joaquin Benoit in the top of the 11th, but this time it’s Mark Melancon who can’t close the game. After giving up a sacrifice fly to Delmon Young, he has two strikes on Alex Avila with two outs when the Tigers’ catcher hits a ball off the top of the railing of the right field fence for a game-winning two-run homer after 4 hours and 45 minutes of baseball.
Joe Nathan picks up his 300th career save for the Rangers with a bit of assistance from umpire Marty Foster. With Texas up, 5 – 4, the tying run on third base and a full count on Ben Zobrist of Tampa Bay, Nathan throws a change-up that appears to be both low and outside. Zobrist tosses his bat and begins walking to first base when Foster makes a belated strikecall, ending the game, to the disbelief of both Nathan and Rays manager Joe Maddon. Foster later admits he blew the call.
The Reds spoil the Cardinals’ home opener by scoring 9 runs in the top of the 9th to break a 4 – 4 tie and win, 13 – 4. Stand-in closer Mitchell Boggs gives up the first seven runs while recording only a single out. Shin-Soo Choo, who committed a couple of errors on dropped fly balls earlier in the game, starts the ball rolling by drawing a lead-off walk off Boggs, then hits a three-run double when the Reds bat around. Before the game, the Cardinals unveil a huge number 6 on the outfield fence at Busch Stadium, in tribute to team great Stan Musialwho passed away during the winter.
Brewers slugger Ryan Braun is greeted by boos in his first appearance in Philadelphia since serving a 65-game suspension for PED use, but he gets his revenge by hitting his first three homers of the year to lead his team to a 10 – 4 win. His first long ball, off Kyle Kendrick in the 3rd, is Braun’s first since May 22, 2013, ending the longest drought of his career, while his 7 RBIs tie a team record. He also makes a great catch in right field, robbing the Phillies of two runs when he snags Carlos Ruiz’s sinking line drive to end the 2nd inning.
The White Sox explode for 6 home runs, including the first two of Cuban defector Jose Abreu’s career, as they defeat Colorado, 15 – 3, in a game typical of Coors Field. Avisail Garciaalso hits two homers, and Tyler Flowers and Alexei Ramirez each go deep once as the White Sox score 11 times over the last three innings to break open what was a close game until then.
Yankee third baseman Yangervis Solarte becomes the first player in major league history to double six times in the first seven games of his career when he collects a pair of two-baggers in the team’s 14-5 loss to Baltimore in the Bronx. The 26 year-old rookie, who will be traded to the Padres in July, along with minor leaguer Rafael De Paula, for Chase Headley and cash, ends the day with a .429 batting average, going 12-for-28 since the start of the season.
Adrian Gonzalez is the first major league hitter to hit three homers in a game this season, as he does the trick against the Padres in a 7 – 4 Dodgers win. The outburst makes him the first player in major league history to hit five home runs in his team’s first three games; he also has 10 hits over the span, and is the first National League hitter to begin a season with three consecutive games of three or more hits since Orlando Cepeda in 1963. All three long balls are hit against losing pitcher Andrew Cashner, while Brandon McCarthy earns his first win in a Dodgers uniform.
Trevor Story is definitely the story of the early season: the Rockies SS hits two more homers today, to give him six in first four career games. He is the first player to go deep in his first four games, and he already was the first to do so in his first three. But the Padres, who extend their record for being held scoreless from the start of the season to 30 innings, finally get on the board in the 4th, and eventually break through for a 13 – 6 win, spoiling Colorado’s home opener. Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton hit homers, and Kemp and Yangervis Solarteeach drive in four runs.
The Phillies have the biggest 1st inning in team history as they score 12 runs on their way to a 17 – 3 rout of the Nationals. A bases-loaded triple by Howie Kendrick highlights the frame which features 9 hits and 4 walks against Jeremy Guthrie and Enny Romero. Washington sets a team mark for most runs allowed in any inning.
The awards are announced for the 2016-2017 Cuban Serie Nacional. Lázaro Blanco of Granma wins MVP after going 14-3 with a 1.63 ERA, leading in wins, ERA and shutouts (3). Eliecer Griñán is the second straight Pinar del Río player to win Serie Nacional Rookie of the Year, having batted .336/.402/.495.
Tommy Hansen, who did not hit a home run as a member of the freshman team last season, becomes the first high schooler in history to hit three consecutive grand slams in one game when he goes deep three times in Roncalli’s 12-1 win over Metamora Township (IL). Five other players in a high school game have also hit a trio of bases-full round-trippers in a high school contest, but none accomplished the feat in consecutive at-bats.
The legend of Shohei Ohtani will not stop growing. Today, in his second pitching start for the Angels, he retires the first 19 batters he faces before allowing a single to Marcus Semienof the Athletics with one out in the 7th. He leaves after 7 scoreless innings, having struck out 12 batters, and is credited with the 6 – 1 win, his second in as many starts.
The Trump Administration cancels an agreement reached in the previous December between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation that allows Cuban players to join organized baseball through a formal transfer process, as is the case with South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. The current administration objects to the fact that transfer fees are being paid to the Federation; however, the agreement’s demise is likely to lead to a return of danger-fraught defections as the only path for Cuban players to reach the U.S.
2005 – Roger Clemens wins for the 329th time in his career – tying Steve Carlton for ninth on the all-time list – using his bat as well as his arm. Clemens’ infield hit in the sixth scores two for a 3-2 squeaker over the Reds. Luke Scott and Willy Taveras, two rookies making the jump from AA ball, score runs with Scott pounding a triple for his first major league hit – just 16 behind Clemens on the all-time hit list.
2002 – Craig Biggio becomes the fourth player in franchise history to hit for the cycle in an 8-4 triumph in Colorado. After reaching with a single and a triple his first two times up, Biggio homers off Denny Neagle for two runs then doubles in the eighth off Mike James for two more. Richard Hidalgo and Lance Berkman also go deep.
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