1889 – The minor league season opens with the California League in San Francisco and Stockton. This year’s new rules include the first legal substitution rule and the reduction of balls for a walk from 5 to 4. The substitution rule, which allows a team to designate one man to be put into the game at the captain’s discretion at the end of any inning, will soon be modified.
The NY State Senate approves $55 million in funding to build a new stadium in Flushing Meadows Park for the new National League’s expansion team. Until the Queens’ ballpark is completed, which will become known as Shea Stadium, the Mets will play in the Polo Grounds during the first two years of their existence.
1966 – Roberto Clemente’s prodigious pre-season blast beats the still mediocre Mets, proving that his March 14th moon shot was no mirage. This has to make Harry Walker one happy camper, as the Pirate skipper had called for increased power numbers before the exhibition season began. According to UPI, “Clemente hit a tape-measure home run, estimated at 500 feet, over the center-field fence to crack the 5 – 5 tie in the 8th.” Thirty-some-odd years later, this vicious shot remains vividly etched in its victim’s consciousness. Darrell Sutherland recalls: “I threw a fastball a foot inside and he hit it on a dead line. It was still going up as it went over the center field fence.”
1973 – The Cleveland Indians trade former All-Star catcher Ray Fosse to the Oakland Athletics for outfielder George Hendrick and catcher Dave Duncan. Fosse was once considered an untouchable before going into decline following the 1970 All-Star Game, in which he had a serious collision with Pete Rose.
When he ends his three-week holdout, the Dodgers automatically renew Fernando Valenzuela’s contract for a reported $350,000, but the Mexican southpaw refuses to sign the deal that makes him the highest-paid second-year player in baseball history. After earning just $42,500 in his freshman season, the National League Cy Young Award and Rookie of the Year Awards recipient had asked for a raise to $850,000.
1982 – Pitcher Fernando Valenzuela ends his holdout and reports to the Dodgers spring training camp in Vero Beach, Florida. In 1981, Valenzuela captured the National League Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards after winning 13 games with a 2.48 ERA and 180 strikeouts during the strike-shortened season. After earning just $42,500 in his rookie season, Valenzuela had asked for a raise to $1 million this year. The Dodgers unilaterally renewed his contract for a reported $350,000 instead.
1984 – The Detroit Tigers acquire relief pitcher Willie Hernandez and first baseman Dave Bergman from the Philadelphia Phillies for catcher John Wockenfuss and outfielder Glenn Wilson. Hernandez will win the American League MVP and Cy Young awards after saving 32 games with an 1.92 ERA and 140.1 innings in 80 pitching appearances. His brilliant pitching during the postseason will help Detroit to the World Championship.
1995 – Braves replacement player Dave Shotkoski is held up while out for his daily walk in West Palm Beach, FL during spring training. Shotkoski is murdered by his assailant. Fellow replacement player Terry Blocker will help the police track down Neal Douglas Evans, who was out on parole. Evans will wind up with a 27-year jail sentence after a guilty plea.
2001 – Durable pitcher Tim Belcher announces his retirement. In a 14-season majors career, Belcher posted a 146-140 record with 1,519 strikeouts and a 4.24 ERA in 2,442.2 innings for seven teams. He was the first overall choice of the 1983 amateur draft but failed to come to terms with the Minnesota Twins.
At Mickey Mantle’s restaurant in New York City, the U.S. Postal Service unveils the “Baseball Sluggers” postage stamps which will be issued on July 15 at Yankee Stadium before the game against the White Sox. The four featured Hall of Famers all have roots in New York with Mickey Mantle (Yankees), Mel Ott (Giants), and Roy Campanella (Dodgers) playing their entire careers in the Big Apple, and the fourth, Hank Greenberg, setting schoolboy records at James Monroe High School in the Bronx.
The Kansas City Royals will start the season without pitcher Zack Greinke, and it remains uncertain when he will return. Greinke left spring training February 26th for unspecified personal reasons to return to his home in Orlando, Florida. He is later diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, but will make a remarkable comeback after undergoing treatment which will cause him to miss most of this season, and will win the 2009 American League Cy Young Award.
The Twins agree to a new deal with their All-Star closer, signing Joe Nathan (1.88, 37 saves) to a $47 million, four-year contract, which includes a 2012 club option. The 33 year-old right-hander’s 160 saves over the past four seasons is tied with Mariano Rivera of the Yankees for most in the American League.
Former Cy Young Award winner Dwight Gooden is back in trouble with the law. He faces charges of driving under the influence of drugs, child endangerment, and leaving the scene of an accident, after a 9:00 am crash in Franklin Lakes, NJ. Gooden’s problems with substance abuse in the 1980s and 1990s were well-publicized, but he had apparently turned his life around in recent years, serving as a senior vice-president of the Atlantic League’s Newark Bears until last November.
The probation sentence of Orioles 3B Miguel Tejada is extended by six months because he failed to complete the required 100 hours of community service in due time. Tejada was handed the sentence a year ago as a consequence of misleading Congress and withholding information during testimony regarding the use of steroids in baseball in 2005; he agreed to a $5000 fine and to community service in lieu of a prison sentence.
Major League Baseball announces that it will organize “El Torneo Supremo” (the Great Tournament) in the Dominican Republic starting April 11th. The event will feature four teams of unsigned prospects who will get an opportunity to enhance their skills and showcase their talent in front of scouts, while also receiving in-classroom education and being taught some life skills. Moises Alou is named Tournament Director, while the managers are Juan Bell, Nelson Norman, Jorge Meran and Nelson Silverio. Mel Rojas and Ben Rivera will serve as pitching instructors.
The Yankees acquire veteran OF Vernon Wells from the Angels, adding a much-needed major league bat to a line-up depleted by injuries and departures via free agency. However, Wells is still owed $42 million for the last two seasons on his huge multi-year contract, and has put up dismal OBPs since the Angels acquired him from Toronto two seasons ago; as part of the deal, the Angels will remain on the hook for the majority of the money owed him. The deal will officially be completed in two days, with the Yankees giving up two low-level minor league players in return for Wells.
2017 – Eight Angels pitchers combine to no-hit the Mariners, 4 – 0, in a Grapefruit League game. They need three diving defensive stops in the 9th to complete the feat, as 1B C.J. Cron, RF Shane Robinson and 3B Sherman Johnson pull out all the stops to help Abel De Los Santos close out the win. The other hurlers who see action are Bud Norris, Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson.