This Day In Baseball May 17
Debuts, Milestones, No Hitters, Rule Changes, Events, Birthdays, Deaths, and more on This Day In Baseball.
Events for May 17
Phillies outfielder Billy Hamilton becomes the first player to have hit both a leadoff and walk-off home run in the same game when he blasts a two-run round-tripper off Al Maul, giving the team an 11-9 victory over Washington at the Philadelphia Baseball Grounds. The 27 year-old future Hall of Famer’s performance will not be duplicated again until Vic Power accomplishes the rare feat for the A’s in 1957.
The first baseball game ever televised – Princeton against Columbia at the Baker Bowl – is watched by a handful of viewers via W2XBS in New York City. Bill Sternannounces the ten-inning victory of visiting Princeton, 2 – 1. Reviewing the game the next day, the New York Times reports: “it is difficult to see how this sort of thing can catch the public fancy.”
A sold-out crowd, including representatives from each of the other 15 major league clubs, attends Connie Mack Day in Philadelphia to honor the 78 year-old president-manager of the A’s. The celebration includes the renaming of the team’s home field from Shibe Park to Connie Mack Stadium, a change that doesn’t officially take hold until 1953.
Due to his slow start in his sophomore season, the Cardinals trade Bill Virdon, last year’s Rookie of the Year, to the Pirates in exchange for Bobby Del Greco and Dick Littlefield. The 25 year-old outfielder will finish the season hitting .334 in 133 games for the Bucs and will play a vital role in the team’s World Championship in 1960.
Loudly echoing teammate Dick Stuart’s May 1st moon shot, Roberto Clemente likewise sets off a two-out, 9th-inning bomb, which, like its predecessor, leaves Pittsburgh one run short while winning admirers in the opposing clubhouse. Unaided by wind, it performs the rare, perhaps unprecedented feat of clearing the diagonal fence behind the centerfield bleachers; in so doing, it barely misses becoming the only batted ball ever to strike Wrigley Field’s distant right centerfield scoreboard, and will long be remembered in that light (along with HRs hit to the right field side by the Braves’ Eddie Mathews and Chicago’s Bill Nicholson.) What it does become is the longest Wrigley Field HR ever witnessed by several of those present: notably, future HOFer Ernie Banks — citing the consensus amongst Cubs players and coaches that the ball “must have traveled more than 500 feet on its trip into Waveland Avenue” — and longtime Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse, who rates this well above Dave Kingman’s contrastingly wind-boosted rocket launched exactly 20 years later (see 1979 below). Moreover, Cubs skipper Bob Scheffing and batting coach Rogers Hornsby take it farther still, telling TSN that Clemente’s is the longest they’ve ever seen, period. (For the record, Hornsby was present at Sportsman’s Park on October 6, 1926 to witness two Babe Ruth blasts, estimated, respectively, at 515 and 530 feet by researcher Bill Jenkinson.) All this notwithstanding, there is one crucial caveat: not one of these witnesses can offer more than an educated guess as to this ball’s distance. It is only by virtue of George Castle’s 1998 Sammy Sosa biography, stating that Clemente’s “missile left the ballpark to the left of the Wrigley Field scoreboard, landing in a gas station across the street”, and of a December 2015 interview with the source of that assertion, Wrigley ballhawk Rich Buhrke (revealing that the ball did at least end up in that seemingly scoreboard-sheltered gas station via one quirky carom and two huge hops), that we will finally arrive at a reasonably accurate estimate: roughly 520-525 feet, making this one of the three or four longest home runs in Wrigley Field history (alongside both the aforementioned 1979 Kingman blast and one from April 14, 1976, as well as Sammy Sosa’s GPS-measured 536-footer of June 26, 2003).
5/17/1963: A doubleheader between the Tigers and Senators in Washington was cancelled in the second inning of the first game after a 1 hour and 12 minute rain delay. In the first inning, the Senators’ Bobo Osborne hit a grand slam off Don Mossi over the right field fence. In the top of the second, Al Kaline hit a solo homer off Bennie Daniels into the Washington bullpen. Those two blasts accounted for all the runs in the game when the rains came to wash it all away. Like the one he lost on 6/1/58, this one could have given Kaline 400 for his career.
Roberto Clemente puts on quite a show but can’t prevent Pittsburgh’s 3 – 2 loss to Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers. Frank Finch of the Los Angeles Times reports: “Pittsburgh’s exciting right fielder, Roberto Clemente, waged a one-man war against Los Angeles with a spectacular display of throwing and batting. The fiery Puerto Rican smacked a triple, double and single to keep Koufax in hot water, but it was his arm that captured the fans’ fancy and left two baserunners for dead. Dick Tracewski ended a promising scoring spree in the 2nd inning when Clemente’s strike to Ducky Schofield nailed him as he tried to scramble back to second base. When Ron Fairly’s triple eluded Clemente in the 7th, he retrieved the ball and threw it on the fly from the warning track to home plate. And then Roberto took John Roseboro’s game-winning sacrifice fly and pegged another shot to the plate that nearly nipped Fairly. The next batter, Willie Davis, challenged Clemente’s arm by trying to stretch a single. He was out at second by a couple of lengths. Not since their own Carl Furillo was in his prime have the Dodgers seen such a display of throwing as Clemente’s.”
Roberto Clemente’s two-out, two-run, walk-off triple transforms a frustrating 5 – 4 loss to fifth-place Montreal into a sudden-death 6 – 5 decision, pulling Pittsburgh to within one game of the New York Mets. After failing twice in crucial spots earlier in the game, Clemente clubs Mike Marshall’s 1-1 pitch high off the wall near the 410-foot mark.
Tommy McCraw of the Washington Senators hits one of the shortest home runs in major league history. McCraw’s 140-foot pop fly falls in between three Cleveland Indians, shortstop Jack Heidemann and outfielders Vada Pinson and John Lowenstein. When the three players collide, McCraw circles the bases for an inside-the-park home run.
At Anaheim Stadium, a horrific injury dampens Bobby Valentine’s promising major league career when his spikes get caught in the outfield’s chain link fence attempting to catch a home run ball hit by Dick Green. The 23 year-old speedster, who had started the season hitting .400 in April, suffers a multiple compound leg fracture and will miss the rest of the season, eventually finishing his playing days as a utility player with the Padres, Mets, and Mariners.
With the wind really blowing out at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies join in a wild ten-inning slugfest won by the Phillies, 23 – 22. Dave Kingman hits three home runs and collects six RBI for the Cubs while teammate Bill Buckner has a grand slam and seven RBI. Kingman’s third blast is a tape measure shot, touching down at almost the identical spot as his already legendary April 14, 1976 moon shot. Mike Schmidt belts two home runs for the Phils, including the game-winner in the 10th inning. Bob Boone, pitcher Randy Lerch, and Garry Maddox also homer for the Phillies and Steve Ontiveros and Jerry Martin do it for the Cubs. The eleven home runs between the two teams tie a major league game record. The contest includes 50 hits. In 2010, the MLB Network will name it the 20th greatest game of the previous 50 years.
Ike Brown dies from cancer in Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 59. A popular member of the Detroit Tigers for six seasons, Brown was one of the last Negro League players still active in the majors during the 1970s, and the last to make his major league debut. The versatile Brown played every infield and outfield position but center field during his Tigers stint.
Mets free agent acquisition Steve Trachsel becomes the first pitcher in franchise history to give up four home runs in an inning, pitching himself out of the starting rotation in the process (one day later, he’ll be off the roster altogether, off to Norfolk for a three-week Triple A stint). To be fair, the Met bullpen does not exactly cover itself in glory either, with Rick White and John Franco each contributing 4 runs to San Diego’s 15-run total; an uncharacteristically economical Franco accomplishes all this in one third of an inning. The one Met bright spot is the performance turned in by a newcomer assigned mop-up duty in the 9th, super sub Desi Relaford, who moves over from SS to make the only mound appearance of his major league career. Sporting a tailing change-up and a fastball, which at 91 MPH is about 5 MPH faster than anything Trachsel was able to muster, Desi fans the opposing pitcher, then induces two consecutive Padres to fly out to the deepest part of the park.
Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets, becomes a huge recording studio as Sesame Street’s Bob McGrath along with a chorus of 15,000 school children sing an uplifting song to Ronald Sterling, a seven year-old with the immune deficiency disorder Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome. The non-profit group, Songs of Love Foundation, which creates personalized songs for sick children throughout the country, arranged for the ‘…You’re a Grand Slam’ tune to be sung and recorded at the ballpark, with the baseball-loving youngster listening on the phone.
Scott Feldman pitches six scoreless innings and three relievers complete the whitewash as Texas beats Los Angeles to complete a sweep. David Murphy drives in the game’s first run with a sacrifice fly in the 7th, then Ian Kinsler and Marlon Byrd hit RBI doubles to seal the affair. Texas has now won seven in a row, and 13 of its last 15 games.
It’s another epic battle between the Yankees and Red Sox at New Yankee Stadium. The Yanks take a 5 – 0 lead in the 1st inning against Daisuke Matsuzaka, but the Sox storm back to take the lead with five home runs, two by Victor Martinez, and one each by David Ortiz, J.D. Drew and Kevin Youkilis. Then, in the bottom of the 9th, Jonathan Papelbon gives up a pair of two-run homers, to Alex Rodriguez and Marcus Thames, and the Yankees end up on top, 11 – 9.
The Dodgers extend their winning streak to 8 games with a 6 – 2 victory over the Astros. Rookie John Ely allows only one run in 7 innings facing the worst offense in the major leagues; he has yet to allow a walk while striking out 25 in 25 1/3 innings this season. Blake DeWitt hits two triples for the Dodgers who have moved to within two games of the NL West lead after a slow start.
Yan Gomes becomes the first Brazilian player in Major League history when he is inserted in the Blue Jays’ starting line-up at 3B in today’s game against the Yankees, taking over for Brett Lawrie who is beginning a four-game suspension. Gomes goes 2 for 3, but it is homers by Jose Bautista and J.P. Arencibia which lead the Jays to a 4 – 1 win.
The A’s dispose of the Rangers, 5 – 4, in a closely-fought 10-inning game. There is a controversial call in the 6th inning, when the Rangers’ Craig Gentry scores from third on a squeeze bunt by Elvis Andrus. Oakland P Brandon McCarthy argues vainly that he caught the ball on the fly, but the only result is that his manager Bob Melvin is ejected for pressing the case too much. Mitch Moreland hits a pair of homers for Texas, but Oakland keeps fighting back, and in the 10th, Kila Ka’aihue drives in Jonny Gomes with a single off Mike Adams to seal the win. Winner Ryan Cook extends his scoreless streak from the start of the season to 19 2/3 innings.
The Astros find yet a new way to lose. After blowing a 6th-inning 4 – 1 lead, they allow the Pirates to load the bases in the 9th, and with two outs, Edgar Gonzalez forces Russell Martin to hit an easy pop fly to shallow right field to apparently send the game to extra innings. But a backtracking 2B Jake Elmore crashes into RF Jimmy Paredes, who drops the ball and allows the winning run to score.
The Diamondbacks set club records with 21 hits and 13 extra-base hits in defeating the Dodgers, 18 – 7. The D-Backs score 7 times in the 2nd as they chase Clayton Kershaw from the mound, but the Dodgers charge back with a five-run inning in the 6th. Paul Goldschmidt has two homers and 6 RBIs, including one off C Drew Butera, who makes his second pitching appearance of the week. For Los Angeles, Yasiel Puig hits a two-run homer off Chase Anderson in the 3rd inning, extending his hitting streak to 16 games, and his streak of games with an extra-base hit and an RBI to 8, a club record.
Danny Duffy pitches the best game of his career, taking a perfect game into the 7th inning before Adam Jones singles with two outs. His solid outing is necessary to make a 1st-inning Royals run stand up for a 1 – 0 win. Duffy is taken out of the game after allowing a lead-off single in the 8th, and the Orioles manage to load the bases in the 9th against Greg Holland before Nelson Cruz strikes out to end the game.
Shortly after coming within one out of being no-hit by the Braves’ Shelby Miller, the Marlins fire manager Mike Redmond and bench coach Rob Leary. Justin Bour singles with two outs in the bottom of the 9th to break up Miller’s bid, but the Marlins still lose, 6 – 0, completing a three-game sweep. Expecting to compete this season, the Fish find themselves with a disappointing 16-22 mark.
The Marlins fire manager Mike Redmond (155-207), who had his contract extended through 2017 prior to the final game of last season as a reward for Miami improving by 15 victories during his second year at the helm. The 44 year-old skipper, after seeing his team get off to a disappointing 16-22 start, will be replaced by the team’s general manager Dan Jennings, who has never played in the majors and has never managed at any professional level.
In a case of how the mighty have fallen, the Dodgers, coming off an appearance in the World Series and winners of five straight division titles, enter today’s game against the Marlins, who have just gone through an off-season fire sale, with an identically bad record of 16-26. Worse, the Dodgers have just lost six straight against the two worst teams in the National League, the Marlins and the Reds. They manage to stop the bleeding with a 7 – 0 win, thanks to 5 RBIs from Justin Turner in just his third game back after missing six weeks due to an injury sustained at the end of spring training, and 8 solid innings by Kenta Maeda. While they may look like they are already out of the postseason race given how much ground they have lost, they will turn things around to win the division again and return to the World Series.
Jorge Alomá is named the Cuban Serie Nacional MVP for 2018-2019 after the shortstop led the league in average (.008) and was second in OPS (just 64 points behind a DH, Frederich Cepeda). He split the season between Artemisa and Las Tunas, the first Serie Nacional MVP to play for two teams in their award-winning campaign and the first Cuban MVP on multiple teams since Adrián Zabala in the Cuban Winter League 68 years prior. Meanwhile, César Prieto is the first Serie Nacional Rookie of the Year on multiple teams as he shattered Kendry Morales’ 18-year-old record for hits by a rookie; Prieto had spent the first half with Cienfuegos and the second half with Villa Clara.
2009 – Ivan Rodriguez belts the 300th homer of his career in a 6-5 victory at Chicago. Wrigley fans toss back the momento, much to the catcher’s delight. Chris Sampson picks up his first career save but does so only after allowing two runs in the ninth and needing Jeff Keppinger to catch a screaming liner with two men on for the final out. Sampson was pressed into service after three Houston relievers had been sent to the Disabled List and a fourth was dinged up the day before.
1990 – Eric Anthony becomes the first Astro to reach the Dome’s upper reserved seats in right field with a mammoth blast off Mike Bielecki in a 5-4, eleven-inning victory against Chicago. Cincinnati’s Bernie Carbo was the only previous player to do it. Ken Oberkfell’s sacrifice fly scores Ken Caminiti with the game-winner.
1963 – Don Nottebart hurls the first no-hitter in franchise history, a 4-1 triumph over Philadelphia at Colt Stadium. Nottebart fans eight and walks three. Carl Warwick and Howie Goss homer to supply Houston its runs. Al Spangler snares Wes Covington’s fly on the run for the final out. It is just the third Colts win in 24 tries against their early nemesis.