Bizarre Baseball Events

Baseball On a FieldWith a history approaching a century-and-a-half, the game of baseball has probably the most comprehensive available reference material of any other major sport. The game itself is remarkably unique, primarily because the basic rules have more or less remained the same as when the first recognized professional league (the National League) was created in 1876. Baseball’s statistical records have been charted and maintained practically since those early days, giving both fans and researchers an almost infinite amount of data to dissect and analyze.

As in any profession, the occasional bizarre event or set of circumstances is routine, and the following is a sampling of some of baseball’s most unusual occurrences as well as some of the game’s “firsts,” and the “just plain weird.”

  • Any self-respecting pitcher has an assortment of different pitches in his arsenal; fastball, slider, change-up and of course, the curve ball. Credit for the latter is generally attributed to Candy Cummings, who pitched for the Brooklyn Excelsiors in the 1860s, just prior to the formation of the National League. Cummings reportedly got the idea for a “breaking ball” while throwing seashells into the ocean and began experimenting with a ball to see if he could replicate the shell’s “curve.” After much trial-and-error, Cummings hit upon the proper technique and introduced the pitch in a game in Worcester, Mass. in 1867.
  • The only time in major league history that every visiting team was victorious occurred on July 30,1890 when all twelve contests that day were won by the visitors.
  • One of the game’s earliest standout catchers, Ray Schalk of the Chicago White Sox, is believed to be the only backstop in the history of the game to have made a putout at each base (first, second, third and home) in a game against the St. Louis Browns.
  • Hall of Fame pitcher Rube Waddell, one of the game’s most dominant hurlers in the early 1900s, had the unique distinction of being born on Friday the 13th, 1876 and his death occurred on April Fool’s Day, 1914.
  • Hall of Fame knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm came to bat for the first time in his long (21 years) career on April 23,1952. Wilhelm surprised everyone, including himself, by slugging a home run over the right-field fence. Wilhelm would eventually make 432 plate appearances during his career, but he never hit another home run.
  • As unbelievable as it sounds, Joe DiMaggio failed to receive the needed votes for election to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility (1953).
  • The player who holds the major league record for hitting into the most triple plays (four) is Hall of Fame third-baseman Brooks Robinson.
  • On August 4,1982, Joel Youngblood of the New York Mets lined a single in an afternoon game. Following the contest, Youngblood was informed that he’d been traded to the Montreal Expos, who were scheduled to play a night game in Philadelphia. Youngblood flew to Philadelphia, and later that night, singled for his new team, becoming the only player to record hits for two different teams on the sAme day.
  • Hall of Famer Warren Spahn holds the record for most wins by a left-handed pitcher with 363. For his career, Spahn collected 363 base hits.
  • Over a span of four consecutive days (May 14-17) in 1945, every scheduled game in the American League was rained out, the first and only time that’s occurred.
  • Pitcher Mickey Lolich was one of the game’s better hurlers during his 16-year career (1963-1979), but in more than 800 regular season at-bats, he never hit a home run. In the 1968 World Series however, in his first-ever postseason plate appearance, Lolich hit the only home run of his career.
  • On April 24,1987, Rickey Henderson of the New York Yankees hit an eighth-inning home run off of Cleveland’s Phil Niekro. An inning later, he duplicated the feat, this time connecting off of Steve Carlton. The accomplishment was a baseball first, hitting home runs off of two 300-game winners in the same contest.
  • Washington Senators pitcher Dean Stone holds the distinction of being the winning pitcher in the 1954 All-Star game without throwing a single pitch. With two outs in the eighth inning, Stone took the mound for the American League with Duke Snider at bat and Red Schoendienst on third base. Before Stone could make his first pitch, Schoendienst attempted to steal home but was thrown out by Stone, ending the inning. In the bottom half of the inning, the American Leaguers scored three runs, giving Stone the win.
  • April 23,1999 is a day that Fernando Tatis will never forget. The St. Louis third-baseman set a major league record by hitting two grand slams in one inning, both off pitcher Chan Ho Park of the Dodgers. In addition, his eight RBIs in a single inning also set a record.
  • After Al Leiter of the New York Mets was credited with the win in a game with Arizona on April 30,2002, he became the first pitcher in major league history to have victories over all thirty teams.
  • With his home run on September 22,2002, Fred McGriff became the only player in major league history to slug 30+ homers in a season for five different teams (Toronto, San Diego, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Chicago Cubs).
  • On September 2,2006, Kevin Kouzmanoff of Cleveland hit a grand slam in his first major-league at-bat. Even more remarkably, he connected on the very first PITCH thrown to him as a big leaguer.
  • The New York Mets, on April 30,2012, sent seven consecutive batters to the plate versus the Houston Astros. Nothing unusual, except that each batter faced a different pitcher, a major league first.
  • The starting lineup for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a June 1,2012 game included Tony Gwynn, Jr., Scott Van Slyke, Ivan De Jesus, Dee Gordon and Jerry Hairston, Jr. The five players happened to all be sons of former major-leaguers, a baseball first.
  • Speaking of Tony Gwynn, the San Diego Padre Hall of Famer collected the first of his 3,141 major-league hits on July 19,1982. Twenty-four years later, on July 19,2006, his son, Tony, Jr., collected HIS first major league hit.
  • Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez had a 25th birthday to remember on July 27,2002 when, as a member of the Texas Rangers, he became the first major-leaguer to hit a game-winning grand slam on his birthday.
  • It’s hard to believe now, but until the rule was changed prior to the 1954 season, it was standard practice for players to leave their gloves on the field while they were at-bat.
  • Boston’s Dwight Evans, batting leadoff, slugged the game’s very first pitch for a home run on Opening Day, 1986, the only time that has occurred.
  • In 1979, St. Louis shortstop Garry Templeton, a switch-hitter, collected at least 100 hits from either side of the plate, a major league first.
  • The Montreal Expos finished dead last in the National League East standings in 1987, but their slugging outfielder Andre Dawson was named the League’s Most Valuable Player, the first and only time (to date) that has happened.
  • Steve Garvey appeared in a total of ten All-Star games for the National League during his career, and the National Leaguers won every game, finishing 10-0.
  • Stan “The Man” Musial, St. Louis Cardinal legend and Hall of Famer, was born on November 21,1920 in Donora, Pa. Another future Hall of Famer, Ken Griffey, Jr., was also born in Donora, on November 21,1969, forty-nine years apart.
  • Staying with the Griffey’s, Ken Sr. and Jr. are the only father-son combination to collect back-to-back home runs, accomplished on September 14,1990 when they were teammates on the Seattle Mariners.
  • The only player in the history of major-league baseball to be caught attempting to steal a base four times in a single game was Robby Thompson of the San Francisco Giants on June 17,1986.
  • When pitcher Octavio Dotel took the mound for the Detroit Tigers on April 7,2012, it marked the 13th different team he’d suited up for, a major-league record. In chronological order, Dotel’s employers have been: New York Mets, Houston, Oakland, New York Yankees, Kansas City, Atlanta, Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado, Toronto, St. Louis and Detroit.
  • On August 3,1994, pitchers Dave Otto of the Chicago Cubs and Robb Nen of the Florida Marlins became the first two palindromic pitchers (surnames spelled the same both forward and backward) to oppose each other. Informed of the fact after the game, Nen reportedly responded, “Wow.”
  • Hall of Fame knuckleballer Phil Niekro was more successful later in his career than earlier, collecting 121 wins while in his 40s, compared to just 31 wins during his 20s.
  • The 1994 Most Valuable Players in both the American (Frank Thomas) and National (Jeff Bagwell), were both born on the exact same day, May 27,1968.
  • John Paciorek’s major-league debut on September 29,1963 was, to say the least, promising and he appeared to have a bright future with the Houston Colt .45s (later renamed Astros). All he did in the final game of the regular season against the New York Mets was come to bat five times, collect three singles, draw two base on balls, score four runs and drive in three runs. However, during the off-season, he injured his back and never again appeared in a major-league game, ending his career with a perfect 1.000 batting average.