Monday, September 14, 2009

Just a Day: April 15, 1968

I've finally broken the twin streaks of posting these on the 10th of the month and writing about the 10th of a month. This time around, the randomizer gave us Tax Day in the Year of the Pitcher, April 15, 1968.

1968 was a fascinating year, but April 15 was a Monday, which, like now, was probably the slowest baseball day of the week. Only six games were played, and five of them were kind of unspectacular. Let's get to that one huge, glaring exception right away, huh?
  • The Astros beat the Mets 1-0 in 24 innings. About 35% of the innings played in all of MLB on this day are played between the two relatively recent expansion squads. 23 year old Tom Seaver starts and goes 10 for the Metropolitans, permitting only two hits and no walks, and at one point retiring 25 batters in a row, but I guess he didn't pitch well enough to win, as Don Wilson gives up five hits and three walks but holds the Mets scoreless through nine.

    The Mets threaten in a few innings, but can't get anything through; the Astros get a man on third with one out in the second (on a double and a Seaver wild pitch), but then see him erased on a fielder's choice groundout and don't get another baserunner until the 10th. There's a lot of back and forth in extras, but nobody can get a run across until the 24th. In the bottom of that inning, with Les Rohr pitching, Norm Miller singles. Rohr then balks with Jimmy Wynn batting, so Wynn is then intentionally walked. After a weak Rusty Staub groundout advances both runners, pinch hitter John Bateman is also intentionally walked, bringing up Bob Aspromonte, who blew the Astros' previous best chance in the 2nd. Here, he hits a grounder to short. Utilityman Al Weis boots it, and the longest shutout win in history is over. Some contemporary accounts reprinted here.

  • Just a couple more things about that amazing game--Tommie Agee and Ron Swaboda both go 0-f0r-10. Both teams finish an identical 11-for-79, a .139 batting average. Pitchers issue a total of twelve walks, six of them intentional. One of the only hitters to have what you might call a good day is Hector Torres, a career .218/.260/.281 hitter, who had three singles in eight at-bats. There are 35 strikeouts, and Seaver records only three of them.

  • The Twins beat the Orioles 6-3. Carew and Oliva collect two hits apiece, and Bob Allison has two doubles and a triple. Dick Boswell goes the distance to get the win, permitting four hits and six walks while striking out seven (too bad they don't have pitch counts available). The Twins go to 5-0 on the year, but go 74-83 the rest of the way and finish 24 games behind Detroit. One telling sign of the times: Bob Allison, a fading star in his last full year at just 33, had a productive season batting 5th in a pretty powerful lineup in front of three pretty great hitters (though they were rarely all healthy at the same time this season), cracks out 22 home runs...and ends up with 52 RBI.

  • Bob Gibson has arguably the "worst" game of his incredible season, permitting three earned on five hits and three walks (striking out five) in seven innings of work. The Cards come back to win it in 10 innings, 4-3, Joe Hoerner facing one batter to earn credit for the "win." Gibson gives up 3 or more earned seven times in 1968, but after this, his second start of the season, doesn't go less than 8 innings in any other start all season (he'd also gone 7 in his first start on April 10).

  • The A's beat the Yankees, 6-3. I mention this only because a 22 year old named Reggie Jackson, who hits his second home run of the season, was batting second in the A's order. He batted second for the first 32 games, 8th (!) for a while, then 5th or 6th for a while, then moved back to second for most of the rest of the season, starting a total of 69 games there. Almost nobody these days (or then, I would think) would bat a guy who strikes out as often as Reggie in the #2 slot, but it's a pretty good spot to put him. Of course, the following year, 1969, is the one in which Reggie had 37 homers at the break, and 47 for the year. He started that year batting second too, but was very quickly moved to the third slot, and spent the next 18 years or so batting third or fourth somewhere.

  • Billy Brewer is born. Lefty reliever in the mid to late nineties, and one of the great baseball names of all time.

1 comment:

  1. For the folks over at Walkoff Walk, it's a shame that Swoboda didn't win the game by walking with the bases loaded...