1893 – In arguably the most significant rule change in major league history, the National League eliminates the pitching box and adds a pitcher’s rubber five feet behind the previous back line of the box, establishing the modern pitching distance of 60 feet 6 inches. In addition, bats flattened on one side to facilitate bunting are banned.
1896 – A Chicago, IL sportswriter quoted in the New York Clipper notes that “Bill Dahlen is one of the few now in the National League who came blood new from a punky little league and became a good thing at first jump.” Indeed, Dahlen will eventually accumulate 2,460 hits and a .272 average over a 21-year major league career.
1908 – Near Lexington, Kentucky, the train carrying the Cleveland Naps is struck by two bricks, shattering windows. Elmer Flick, Bill Bradley, and Harry Bay are hit by the flying glass while playing euchre, but no injuries occur. Tomorrow, the team will arrive safely in Macon, Georgia for spring training.
In the last inning of an intrasquad exhibition game of the International League’s Baltimore Orioles, the recently-signed George Herman Ruth Jr. hits his first professional home run, a 400 foot shot at the Cape Fear Fairgrounds in Fayetteville. A state marker claims the famous moniker ‘Babe’ was given to the 19 year-old during his stay in this North Carolina city when his teammates teased him about being adopted by the team’s manager Jack Dunn, who legally became the parent of St. Mary’s Industrial School to keep him on the club.
Pat Moran is replaced immediately by coach Jack Hendricks when he dies of Bright’s disease during the team’s spring training in Orlando. The 48 year-old Reds’ manager, who also piloted the Phillies, compiled a 748-586 (.561) record, capturing two pennants and a world championship during his nine-year tenure as a skipper.
1924 – At Orlando, Florida, Cincinnati Reds manager Pat Moran dies from Bright’s disease at the age of 48. A veteran of nine National League seasons as a manager, Moran guided the Reds to a record of 91-63 and a second-place finish in 1923. Coach Jack Hendricks replaces the popular Moran, who was the Reds’ manager when they won the controversial 1919 World Series.
1941 – At Havana, the Brooklyn Dodgers roll over the Cleveland Indians, 15 – 0. Pee Wee Reese and Joe Medwick use a batting helmet designed by two Johns Hopkins Hospital doctors with the help of Larry MacPhail. The two Dodgers, victims of several hit by pitches last year, pronounce the helmets satisfactory. Brooklyn pitcher Van Lingle Mungo celebrates the victory a little too hard and when tomorrow’s game is rained out, he continues to party. The result is that manager Leo Durocher sends him a note informing he’s been reassigned to the Dodgers’ minor league camp in Macon, Georgia. Mungo will pitch just two innings for Brooklyn this year.
The major league player representatives accept the owners’ position on the World Series and All-Star game television deal, which expires after this season, and the proposed minimum salary structure, which will remain at $6,000 but will be reviewed by management. The players are still seeking workman’s compensation coverage by all the clubs.
Slugging outfielder Hack Wilson and longtime executive Warren Giles are elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. Wilson, who had a relatively short career, won four National League home run titles while with the Chicago Cubs. His most productive season came in 1930, when he set an all-time major league record with 191 RBI, hit 56 home runs (a NL record for 68 years) and batted .356. For his career, Wilson hit .307 with 244 home runs and 1063 RBI. Giles served as president of the Cincinnati Reds from 1937 to 1951, before becoming National League President for 18 seasons.
1999 – In a historic agreement, it is announced that the Baltimore Orioles will travel to Cuba for a March 28th exhibition game against the Cuban national team in Havana. The Cuban team will travel to the United States for a return contest later this season. It is the first time in 40 years that a team from the USA will play a professional game in Cuba.
Boston Red Sox backup catcher John Flaherty retires, ending his 14-year major league career with the team he started it with. He signed last December as a free agent after three seasons with the New York Yankees. Flaherty, who also played for Detroit, San Diego and Tampa Bay, posted a .252 batting average with 80 home runs and 395 RBI in 1,047 games. He will remain active in the game as a broadcaster.
Five games are played today in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. In Pool B, Derrek Lee and Chipper Jones hammer solo home runs powering the USA to a 2 – 0 win over Mexico. Jake Peavy is the starting pitcher for the U.S. and combines with six relievers on the four-hit shutout. Canada narrowly avoids a startling loss in its debut, rallying for four runs in the top of the 9th inning to beat South Africa.
In Pool C, Bernie Williams drives in a 6th-inning run to hand Puerto Rico a 2 – 1 victory over Panama, while in Pool D, Adrian Beltre and David Ortiz each belt two home runs as the Dominican Republic crushes Venezuela, 11 – 5. Pitchers Jason Grilli and Riccardo De Santis combine on a one-hitter over seven innings and Mark Saccomanno and Vincent Sinisi each belt two-run home runs as Italy defeats Australia, 10 – 0.
Carlos Silva and Felix Hernandez each pitch four scoreless innings as Venezuela shuts out Italy, 7 – 0, in Toronto. Mark DiFelice also throws four scoreless frames for the Italians, but reliever Jason Grilli is greeted by a solo home run from Carlos Guillen in the 5th to open the floodgates for Venezuela.
In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, the Netherlands register a tremendous upset by beating the Dominican Republic, 3 – 2, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Dominicans hurt themselves by playing poor fundamental baseball: two Dutch runs score on a throwing error by shortstop Hanley Ramirez, while Willy Taveras is gunned down by C Kenley Jansen on an attempted steal of third base in the bottom of the 9th. Sidney Ponson allows both Dominican runs in 4 innings of work but gets the win in his debut for the Dutch squad, while Rob Cordemans, Juan Carlos Sulbaran and Leon Boyd provide scoreless relief work.
At the KBO meeting, a couple of rule changes are introduced. NCsoft, which is to get an expansion team in 2013 (the league’s first expansion in 12 years), is given extra picks in the draft its first two years in order to make it more competitive. Also, the KBO decides to institute the Rule 5 draft; given the larger rosters in Korea, it is unknown if this will be meaningful or not.
With the Marlins about to inaugurate Marlins Park, team President David Samson does what he does best – put his foot in his mouth. According to Miami Today, speaking before the high-powered “Beacon Council” of Miami, FL, Samson makes disparaging remarks about state politicians and the intellect of local residents. This is particularly damaging given the new ballpark has been largely financed by local taxpayers, to a degree such that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether the bonds issued to finance the stadium were proposed on terms misleading to potential investors. For his part, Samson claims he was misquoted.
In the other game of the day, the Dominican Republic makes easy work of Venezuela with a 9 – 3 win. Jose Reyes has four hits and his teammates score three quick runs off loser Anibal Sanchez to send the Dominicans on their way in a game marred by constant rain and an hour-long delay in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Venezuelans observe a minute of silence and wear black armbands in honor of recently deceased President Hugo Chávez, but can’t get the job done in a game that features a parade of 15 pitchers between the two teams.
Italy registers a huge upset in the opening game of Pool D in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, coming back to beat Mexico, 6 – 5, with a pair of runs against closer Sergio Romo in the top of the 9th. Almost as surprising is light-hitting catcher Drew Butera hitting a two-run homer off Alfredo Aceves in the 4th. Anthony Rizzo provides the other key blow, hitting a towering fly ball to right field that drops out of Edgar Gonzalez’s glove for a two-run double off Romo. Jason Grilli then loads the bases in the bottom of the inning before getting Jorge Cantu to ground out to end the game. Mexico now has to beat both Canada and the USA to have any hope of advancing further.
2015 – The Colombian national team makes the Pan American Games for the first time since 1983 by beating host Brazil, 6 – 4, in the finale of the 2015 South American Championship. Javier Ortiz gets the victory over Rafael Miranda, while Cristián Mendoza saves it. The game MVP is center fielder Efrain Contreras, who homers twice. Fabio Murakami goes deep for Brazil. Peru stuns Argentina for the Bronze, 6 – 2, after a 23 – 2 loss to Argentina in round one.
At the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Israel wins for the second time in as many days as they defeat Chinese Taipei, 15 – 7. Two major league veterans homer for Israel in the contest, Ryan Lavarnway with a two-run shot in the 3rd, and Nate Freiman with a three-run blast in the 9th. Tyler Krieger adds 3 RBIs, and Ike Davis adds a pair as ten different players have at least one hit for the winners. Taiwanese starter Chun-Lin Kuo is chased from the game before he can record three outs, allowing 4 runs.
In the other WBC games, South Korea suffers its second humiliating loss, being blanked, 5 – 0, by the Netherlands. Rick van den Hurk (4 innings), Diegomar Markwell (2 innings) and Shairon Martis (1 inning) set the tone on the mound, while CF Jurickson Profar hits a two-run homer off Kyu-min Woo in the 1st. LF Randolph Oduber adds another two-run blast in the 6th to put the game away. Finally, Japan defeats Cuba, 11 – 6, thanks to a three-run homer by 3B Nobuhiro Matsuda and a two-run shot by LF Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. Ayumu Ishikawa is the winner over Yoanni Yera.
1962 – KPRC-AM introduces Gene Elston and Al Helfer as the Colts’ first radio play-by-play team. Loel Passe, a local favorite after his years with the Houston Buffs, is later added to the crew. Although Helfer leaves after the first year, Elston and Passe would be together for the next fourteen seasons. Elston would remain with the club through 1986.