This Day In Baseball March 20
1918 – Although the major leagues optimistically keep the schedules at 154 games, the owners agree to halve the spring training time in an attempt to save money with the United States now engaged in World War I, as the St. Louis Cardinals open their camp at Hot Springs, Arkansas. In fact, the season’s last month will never be played, with the World Series starting at the beginning of September.
Babe Didrikson, a renowned female athlete, gives up no hits and walks only one Dodger when she pitches the first inning of the Philadelphia A’s spring training game at McCurdy Field in Frederick, Maryland. The founder of the LPGA and Olympic track and field Gold Medalist will also participate in exhibition contests with the Indians and Cardinals.
1934 – Mildred Didrickson (also known as Babe Zaharias), the renowned all-around female athlete, pitches the 1st inning for the Philadelphia Athletics in a spring training exhibition game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. She gives up one walk but no hits. Two days later she pitches again, this time one inning for the St. Louis Cardinals against the Boston Red Sox. Didrickson is less successful the second time, giving up four hits and three runs. Bill Hallahan relieves her, as she does not have an at bat in either game. She will also play several games for the House of David this season. Didrickson is the second female to play exhibitions with a major league team. Previously, first baseman Lizzie Murphy played for an American League All-Star team on August 14, 1922.
Although the Department of Justice outlawed this practice in 1949, U.S. Senator Edwin C. Johnson proposes a bill, banning the broadcast of major league games in minor league territories. The lawmaker, who is baseball executive Bob Howsam’s father-in-law, presently serves as the President of the Class A Western League and played a significant role in the construction of Mile High Stadium, formerly known as Bears Stadium.
1953 – U.S. Senator Edwin C. Johnson offers a bill to give clubs the sole right to ban radio-TV broadcasts of major league games in their own territory. The antitrust division of the Justice Department outlawed this practice in 1949. Johnson believes that it started the decline of baseball in small towns and cities throughout the country. His bill aims to restore the equity between large communities and the small areas.
1955 – While the Chicago Cubs are in Arizona beating their Los Angeles farm team, 7 – 0, major league baseball is played at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. In a rematch of last year’s World Series, the New York Giants beat the Cleveland Indians again, 7 – 3. Willie Mays and Dusty Rhodes hit home runs for New York, while Ralph Kiner’s 9th-inning homer is the first score for Cleveland. A crowd of 24,434 is on hand.
1957 – In today’s issue of The Sporting News, former Pittsburgh Pirates GM – and current Pirate batting instructor (at least while George Sisler recuperates from a recent operation), Branch Rickey, – raves about Roberto Clemente, who will be seen as Rickey’s most illustrious Pirate hire. The article features a classic example of bandwagon-jumping, coming in the wake of Clemente’s dramatically improved sophomore showing, as Rickey radically revises his initial, considerably more pessimistic prognosis made in January but which won’t be made public until years later. Moreover, he shamelessly inflates his own role in acquiring Clemente, in effect stealing the credit from his longtime subordinate, pitching coach Clyde Sukeforth, the man who actually discovered Clemente last year while on assignment from Rickey to scout demoted Dodger hurler Joe Black. Ironically, just as Rickey has jumped on the bandwagon, Clemente, thanks to an off-season back injury which has somehow escaped the “Mahatma”‘s omniscient eye, is about to embark on the worst season of his career.
1961 – The New York Yankees of the American League announce the team will oppose any plan that would enable the new National League expansion franchise in New York, NY to use Yankee Stadium. This decision leaves the old Polo Grounds as the only viable option for the NL’s new team, the New York Mets, who will begin play in a year’s time.
A rare spring training brawl takes place when Ranger second baseman Dave Nelson takes exception to the two brushback pitches thrown at him by Yankee southpaw Mike Wallace in the seventh inning of an exhibition contest at played Fort Lauderdale. The trouble begins brewing early when Jim Bibby’ first pitch of the game plunks the shoulder New York’s leadoff hitter Elliot Maddox, who had deeply angered Texas skipper Billy Martin when he told the local press that his former manager “has a habit of lying to his players.”
1976 – Leo Durocher, hired to manage the Taiyo Whales of the Japanese Central League, is sick with hepatitis and asks for a five-week delay in reporting. Durocher receives a telegram from the Taiyo Whales stating: “Since the championship starts in twenty days, it’s better if you stay home and take care of yourself for the remainder of the season.”
2000 – The new World Umpires Association agrees to consolidate all umpires as part of an interim agreement with the commissioner’s office. The umpires will merge into a single unit reporting directly to Major League Baseball this season, after being employed by either the National League or the American League since the latter’s creation in 1901.
The Commissioner’s office announces MLB will continue the practice that began after the September 11 attacks of singing ‘God Bless America’ during the seventh-inning stretch in each team’s first homestand. Also, an American flag patch will be worn on the jackets of 28 major league teams this season and as well as distinctive logos for Opening Day, Memorial Day weekend, and the Fourth of July, with Canadian versions designed for the Blue Jays and Expos.
The commissioner’s office announces that Major League Baseball will continue the practice that began after the September 11th attacks of singing God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch in each team’s first homestand. In addition, a Flag of the United States patch will be worn on the jackets of all 30 major league teams this season and special logos will be used on Opening Day, Memorial Day weekend and the Fourth of July, with Canadian versions designed for the Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos.
In his first appearance in a Nationals uniform, Alfonso Soriano refuses to play the outfield in an exhibition game against the Dodgers. The one-time All-Star second baseman, who was listed on Frank Robinson’s lineup to start in left field, could be placed on the disqualified list for his insubordination, preventing him from getting paid his $10 million salary and accruing service time, which is used to determine a player’s free agent status.
Scoring four runs in the 1st inning with only one ball hit out of the infield and four more in the 9th without an extra-base hit, Japan defeats Cuba, 10 – 6, to win the first World Baseball Classic. A sellout crowd of 42,696 packs PETCO Park for the finale to the 2 1/2-week tournament that fulfilled the expectations of its organizers. Starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who defeated Cuba in the 2004 Olympics, earns his third victory and is named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. Cuba’s Ormari Romero also comes in 2-0, but retires only one of four batters before being yanked in favor of Vicyohandri Odelin in the 1st inning.
2007 – Ivanon Coffie becomes the first Dutch citizen to play in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, edging out Rob Cordemans. The new Macoto Cobras infielder gets three hits in a fine debut before being sidelined by an injury. He will last about half the season before the constant turnover of foreign players in the CPBL ends his time there; he will return to the Netherlands to resume his career.
2008 – Alexei Bell hits his 31st home run of the season, setting a new Cuban League record. Orestes Kindelán had hit 30 in the 1986 Selective Series. Bell already had set the record for homers in a Cuban Serie Nacional. The Santiago de Cuba outfielder is slugging .720 with 108 RBI and 24 steals in an impressive campaign.
The Japanese Pacific League begins its 2010 season. Chihiro Kaneko of the Kintetsu Buffaloes outpitches Hisashi Iwakuma of the Rakuten Golden Eagles, 1 – 0, in a stellar duel. Hideaki Wakui fans 13 in a win for the Seibu Lions. The Softbank Hawks strike out 13 times against the Nippon Ham Fighters’ Yu Darvish but pound Darvish for five runs in a win.
2014 – In a trade of minor leaguers with excellent bloodlines, the Angels send 1B Matt Scioscia, son of manager Mike Scioscia, to the Cubs in return for OF Trevor Gretzky, son of all-time hockey great Wayne Gretzky. In spite of their athletic lineage, neither player is considered to be much of a prospect, however.
2015 – The Angels hit four triples in an inning in a Cactus League game against the Indians, with Erick Aybar, C.J. Cron, Johnny Giavotella and Collin Cowgill doing the damage against Trevor Bauer. The feat has not been accomplished in a regular season game since 1936, and for Bauer, it’s the second time this spring he gets featured for allowing long hits in a bunch, having previously served up three consecutive homers in an inning against the Cubs on March 10th.
Colombia qualifies for the World Baseball Classic for the first time by winning its group in the 2017 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers, defeating Panama, 2 – 1, thanks to an 8th-inning solo homer by Dilson Herrera. In the other qualifying pool, Mexico routs Nicaragua for the second time in three days, 12 – 1, to also advance.
Puerto Rico defeats the Netherlands, 4 – 3, in 11 innings in the first semi-final game of the 2017 World Baseball Classic to ensure a return trip to the finals. Wladimir Balentien opens the hostilities with a two-run homer off Jorge Lopez in the top of the 1st, but Carlos Correa and T.J. Rivera both homer off Rick van den Hurk in the first couple of innings to put Puerto Rico ahead, 3 – 2 after 2. Van den Hurk and Lopez both depart early, but the Netherlands tie the score in the 5th as Shawn Zarraga drives in Xander Bogaerts. That’s how it remains until the bottom of the 11th, when Puerto Rico uses the Schiller Rule after Curt Smith grounds into a bases loaded double play to end the top of the frame; Eddie Rosario hits a sacrifice fly off Loek van Mil to score Correa, who had been placed on second base to kick off the inning.
2019 – The Major League season opens at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, with the A’s hosting the Mariners in the first game of a two-game series. While most of the early attention is directed at 45-year-old Ichiro Suzuki, who starts in right field for Seattle, it’s the sluggers who define the game as the Mariners prevail, 9 – 7. Stephen Piscotty, Khris Davis and Matt Chapman all homer for Oakland, but the M’s reply with long balls by Domingo Santana – a grand slam – and Tim Beckham. Marco Gonzales pitches 6 innings for the win.
2009 – After winning their first spring game of the year, the Astros fail to win their next 19 Grapefruit League contests until beating the Reds, 4-2, behind six shutout innings from Russ Ortiz. It comes the same day that the Astros sign catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez to a one-year deal. The 37-year-old Rodriguez is a 14-time All-Star with 13 Gold Gloves and fills a need as none of the other catchers in camp were hitting above .200 in spring action.
1994 – Both teams train in Florida, yet the Astros and Rangers spar in a two-game series at the Astrodome as part of their in-state rivalry. Tony Eusebio is the hero in a 6-5 victory, driving in Luis Gonzalez with an eighth-inning double. Astro nemesis Will Clark delivers the game-winner for the Rangers the following day. It’s the first Dome visit for new Houston manager Terry Collins. Afterwards, both teams fly back to Florida.