1884 – The Union Association admits the Boston Reds club organized by George Wright, bringing the number of teams to eight. The UA also decides to stick with the seven-ball walk rule, and the schedule is expanded to 112 games, with the percentage system adopted for determining the champion team. The regular season opens with three games. Baltimore Monumentals pitcher Bill Sweeney throws a five-hit, 7 – 3 victory over the Washington Nationals. It is the first of what will be a season-high 40 victories for Sweeney, 12 more than his closest rival, Hugh Daily.
After yesterday’s vicious attack on the groundskeeper’s wife by his troubled outfielder, Tigers owner Frank Navin makes an all-out effort to trade Ty Cobb. Indian skipper Nap Lajoie turns down a straight swap for former league batting champ Elmer Flick, calling the ‘Georgia Peach’ a problem player, and Connie Mack of the A’s, given his already strong outfield, shows only a passing interest.
1919 – The Boston Red Sox, minus holdouts Carl Mays and Babe Ruth, sail from New York aboard the USS Arapahoe. The trip to spring training is stormy and most of the players will be seasick. Ruth will sign on the 21st in New York and leave that night for Florida. Mays, unsigned, will join Ruth and the Sox in Tampa.
The New York Yankees, training in Shreveport, Louisiana, journey to Lake Charles to play a game against the St. Louis Cardinals, based in Orange, Texas. The game is proclaimed “Ruth-Hornsby Day,” but Hornsby hits only a single while Ruth lofts a home run over the short right field fence. The Yankees win, 14 – 5.
1946 – In Daytona Beach, the Brooklyn Dodgers take the field against their minor-league farm team, the Montreal Royals. With Jackie Robinson in the lineup for Montreal, the game marks the first appearance of an integrated team in Organized Baseball in this century. A crowd of 3,100 attends the game at City Island Park, which will be renamed “Jackie Robinson Stadium” in 1990.
The Braves’ spring training game against the Yankees in Bradenton will prove to be the team’s last full one representing the city of Boston. During the sixth inning of tomorrow’s exhibition contest, the club learns the National League has approved its shift next month to Milwaukee, unlike the Junior Circuit’s decision two days ago that denied Bill Veeck permission to move his Browns to Baltimore due to the short amount of time left before Opening Day.
All clubs will comply within forty-eight hours to Commissioner Kuhn’s orders to open spring training camps as soon as possible, abruptly ending the 17-day work stoppage. The lockout, initiated by the owners over their concerns about free agency and the free-entry draft, will not impact the start of the regular season.
1978 – For a St. Patrick’s Day exhibition game, the Cincinnati Reds wear special green uniforms, rather than their traditional red, starting an annual ritual. The good luck works and the Reds beat the New York Yankees, 9 – 2. The St. Louis Cardinals, among other teams, will be next to follow suit. Although the Reds will never use the uniforms in regular season play, the green colors will become a spring training tradition for the team.
1984 – Ferguson Jenkins announces his retirement. The 1971 National League Cy Young Award winner, Jenkins posted a record of 284-226 with 3192 strikeouts and a 3.34 ERA in 4500 innings pitched in a 19-season major career. He will be elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1991.
During a Cactus League contest, Carney Lansford is credited with an unusual two-run inside-the-park homer in the A’s 5-3 victory over the Indians in Phoenix. The infielder circles the bases in the fourth inning when Mel Hall’s shirt gets stuck on the fence, preventing the outfielder from playing the ball, that is just barely out of reach, while his teammate, shortstop Julio Franco, closest to the play, is so incapacitated with laughter he is unable to help.
2005 – During more than 11 hours of hearings by the Committee on Government Reform concerning major league players’ use of steroids, Mark McGwire refuses to talk about the past and does not deny taking performance enhancing drugs. Other players testifying include Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and former big leaguer Jose Canseco, whose recent book, Juiced, prompted the congressional hearing. Palmeiro will be found guilty of steroid usage later this year.
The government of South Korea decides to exempt national baseball team members competing at the World Baseball Classic from mandatory military service as a reward for advancing to the tournament’s semifinals. In a sour note, pitcher Myung Hwan Park tests positive for a banned substance and is thrown out of the Classic.
Team USA eliminates the Puerto Rican national team from the 2009 World Baseball Classic while locking up a spot in the semifinals. They trail 5 – 3 entering the bottom of the 9th, but J.C. Romero allows 3 of 4 batters to reach. Fernando Cabrera then walks Kevin Youkilis with the bases loaded and gives up a 2-run single to David Wright to end the game.
Two troubled outfielders are in trouble again. Seattle’s off-season acquisition, Milton Bradley, is ejected from an exhibition game for protesting a strikeout call from umpire Dan Bellino, while the Nationals’ Elijah Dukes, who has seen his career derailed by legal and behaviorial problems, is released because of poor hitting. He had been expected to be Washington’s starting right fielder this year.
2011 – Injured Philles All-Star 2B Chase Utley is absent from spring training today, visiting a specialist to look at his injured right knee, which has kept him off the playing field since the beginning of camp. As the knee is apparently not healing, surgery is becoming more likely, and no one in the Phillies’ front office dares to set a timetable for Utley’s return to the line-up. He will only play his first game on May 23rd.
2012 – Padres OF Carlos Quentin receives MRI results on his ailing knee and the news is not good, as he faces immediate surgery. While he will miss the start of the season, having surgery now should ensure that he will be healthy for the bulk of the year, once he has worked himself back into playing shape.
2013 – Puerto Rico defeats two-time champions Japan, 3 – 1, in the first semi-final of the 2013 World Baseball Classic to earn a spot in the finals for the first time. Alex Rios hits a two-run homer off Atsushi Nohmi in the 7th for the key blow. Mario Santiago gets his team off to a good start by shutting out the Japanese into the 5th inning, then five relievers combine to finish the job. Mike Aviles drives in the first run against Kenta Maeda in the 1st and is on board for Rios’s shot. Takashi Toritani triples and scores for Japan in the 8th, but it’s not enough as Fernando Cabrera picks up the save by retiring Kaz Matsui for the game’s last out.
2015 – Agent Scott Boras lashes out at the Cubs, convinced that they want to send the hottest prospect in baseball, 3B Kris Bryant, to the minor leagues to start the season. Boras is convinced this is simply a cost-cutting move that makes no sense if the Cubs really want to win. Fans are also clamoring to see Bryant make the team, given he’s leading all players with 6 homers in spring training games so far. However, team President Theo Epstein explains that he is concerned that Bryant needs more work on his defense before he’s ready for the Show.
2016 – Groups B and C of the 2017 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers get under way. In Mexicali, Baja California, the Czech national team gives host Mexico a run for its money, only losing 2 – 1 after allowing a pair of 1st-inning runs, while in the other game, it takes 10 innings for Nicaragua to best Germany, 5 – 4, on a walk-off double by Alex Blandino. In the other group, playing in Panama City, Colombia launches its bid for a first participation in the main tournament, with an emphatic 9 – 2 win over Spain; Colombia draws 12 walks to pad its run total. In the final game, host Panama defeats France, 9 – 2, behind two homers and four RBIs by veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz.
Puerto Rico qualifies for the final round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic by defeating Team USA, 6 – 5, in a second-round game. The undefeated Puerto Ricans score four times against Marcus Stroman in the 1st as their first six batters all collect singles. The U.S. manages to chip away at the lead with three runs in the middle innings, thanks in part to solo homers by Buster Posey and Adam Jones, but Puerto Rico adds two more runs in the bottom of the 6th. The U.S. makes a last push in the 9th when Brandon Crawford hits a two-run triple with two outs, but Edwin Diaz ends the game by striking out Josh Harrison.
In the sort of weirdness that only happens in spring training, the Rangers play a couple of innings against the Royals with a double play combination composed of Rougned Odor at second base and Rougned Odor at shortstop. It is a first time the two brothers, who share a first name but have different middle names, have played together in a professional game.
Not to be outdone, the Blue Jays field a line-up straight out of the 1990s in their 11 – 3 win over the Canadian junior national team. The team features an infield of Clemens, Biggio, Bichette and Guerrero, with Dwight Smith Jr. in left field and Grudzielanek at DH. They are all sons of major leaguers, except for Grudzielanek, who is Mark’s nephew. Joining them by pitching a perfect 8th inning in 17-year-old Braden Halladay, son of the late Roy Halladay, who qualifies to play for the Canadians by virtue of having been born in Toronto, ON.