1,000,000,000 seconds of fantasy baseball (7/26/11)

At some point today, it’ll be 1,000,000,000 seconds since baseball experienced one of its biggest and most unlikely transformations.

All those ticks of the clock ago, Dan Okrent drew up the rules for Rotisserie Baseball, beginning the fantasy sports craze. Started as something small among a group of friends, fantasy baseball—and fantasy sports as a whole—has transformed into a mutli-million (multi-billion?) dollar annual industry, completing reworking how people follow the game. Old local allegiances can be replaced by overriding concern for how your players are doing.

It’s so all-pervasive now that it’s like breathing the air. It’s all around and you can’t imagine sports without it. That said, it’s also the creature of modern media communications. In order to have fantasy sports, you need to be able to follow your players on a daily basis, and that means follow all teams. That was tough to do back in the day.

As a kid growing up in the 1980s, the local paper gave box scores and some info, but only on Sunday would they give you season’s stats for all around the league, and that was highly fragmentary. The first revolution was USA Today, a national paper with much a much wider number of season stats made available.

The real breakthrough, of course, was the intern. Now we all have access to players’ seasonal numbers, often updated to the second. Dan Okrent’s billion second moment greatly predates the internet, but Rotisserie and similar leagues have become much larger as a result. It’s so big that Okrent once said he could create a number of inventions, win a shelf-full of awards, and further humanity in numerous ways, but when he dies the first line of his obituary will still say “invented Rotisserie baseball.”

Aside from that, many other events celebrate benchmarks today, whether it is traditional anniversaries or “day-versaries” (which are events occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim:


1,000 days since the monsoon game in the World Series (AKA Game Five in 2008) came to its belated conclusion. The Phillies won to clinch the world title.

3,000 days since the Giants signed amateur free agent Pablo Sandoval.

7,000 days since Ozzie Smith rapped out his 2,000th career hit.

30,000 days since Hall of Famer Earl Averill laid down two sacrifice hits in one game for the only time in his career.


1888 Ed Seward throws a no-hitter for Philadelphia in the American Association (which was a major league back then). They win, 12-2 over Cincinnati. Yup, he allows two runs while surrendering zero hits. Welcome to baseball, 19th-century style.

1892 Sad Sam Jones, pitcher, born.

1894 Tony Mullane, one of the best pitchers of the 1880s, last appears in a major league game, but doesn’t go out with a bang. Instead, he allows a pair of inside-the-park home runs, the fifth time this happens to him. Again, welcome to baseball, 19th-century style.

1909 Pete Alexander, pitcher for a minor league team from Galesburg, Illinois, tosses an 18-inning shutout against Macomb. He doesn’t allow a hit until the 10th inning and wins, 1-0.

1911 Christy Mathewson leads the Giants to a 5-3 win over the Reds, making it Mathewson’s 21st consecutive victory over Cincinnati.

Homestretch: The 1967 AL Pennant Race, Part 3
A tight race shows no signs of letting up.

1914 Ellis Kinder, relief pitcher, born.

1916 Tiger outfielder Harry Heilmann dives into the Detroit River at night to save a drowning woman. Tomorrow, he’ll get a big cheer at the park.

1922 Hoyt Wilhelm, the first Hall of Fame reliever, born.

1922 Yankee teammates Bob Meusel and Wally Schang get in a dugout fistfight. Later that day, Babe Ruth challenges fellow Yankee Wally Pipp to a fight.

1923 Pie Traynor hits an inside-the-park walk-off home run, the first of two such shots in his career. He also has one outside the park walk-off home run.

1924 Burleigh Grimes ties a personal best by fanning 10 men in one game. The other time he did it in 12 innings, while this one was in a normal nine innings.

1924 37-year-old Eddie Collins swipes three bases in a game. He did it exactly three weeks earlier, too. He never does it again.

1927 Ty Cobb creates the 4,000 hit club. It takes Cobb only 2,888 games.

1927 Longtime Pirate Max Carey returns to Forbes Field as a Dodger for the first time. He steals home, the 33rd and last time he does it, an NL record.

1928 Bob Meusel becomes the second person to collect three cycles in his career.

1928 Charlie Root has the longest relief outing of his career: 9.2 innings. He (and the Cubs) lose 7-6 in 14 innings to the Braves.

1928 Hall of Famer Harry Heilmann has a career high 8 RBIs, in part thanks to his second career grand slam (which is his first one to go over the fence). He’s 3-for-4 with a triple and the slam as the Tigers top the Yankees, 13-10. That’s in the second game of a doubleheader. In the first game, the Yankees score a record 11 runs in the 12th inning for a 13-1 win.

1928 Ty Cobb appears in the starting lineup for the final time, going 2-for-5 with a double before being pulled for a late-game replacement. He has nine pinch hit appearances left and that’s it.

1928 Carl Hubbell makes his big league debut.

1928 The Phillies purchase Chuck Klein from the Ft. Wayne Chiefs.

1929 Bill Dickey has the first of 15 multi-home run games.

1930 Hack Wilson blasts three homers, guiding the Cubs to victory in a 16-12 slugfest against the Phillies.

1930 Mel Harder tosses nine innings in relief, the longest bullpen stint of his career, as the Indians fall 10-9 to the A’s. The A’s had an early 7-0 lead and it was 10-3 heading into the bottom of the eighth, but Cleveland’s late comeback falls just short.

1931 Waite Hoyt has a Game Score of –1, the second worst of his career. His line: 6 IP, 15 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 4 BB, 1 K.

1932 Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan belts his first career home run.

1933 Rogers Hornsby clears waivers and the St. Louis Browns get him. They sign him to a three-year deal at $15,000/year.

1933 Minor leaguer Joe DiMaggio sees his 61-game hitting streak end against Ed Walsh Jr. of the Oakland Oaks.

1934 George Grantham plays his last game.

1935 The Yankees hit into a bizarre double play. A line drive bounces off the head of Senators pitcher Ed Linke, and goes back to the catcher, who grabs it for the first out. Then he tosses it to second to force the runner for the double play. Linke will spend two days in the hospital.

1936 Umpire Bill Summers takes a pop bottle to the groin and has to leave the game. Judge Landis, attending this particular game, has the PA announcer offer a $5,000 reward to however identifies the thrower. The crowd ridicules the offer and no one tries to claim it.

1938 Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons, a 200-game winner, balks for the first time in over nine years. He balks only three times in his career.

1938 After homering in his last two at bats yesterday, Hank Greenberg does it in his first two today, giving him four straight.

1939 The Yankees score in each of the eight innings they bat, in a 14-1 win over the Browns.

1940 Yankee pitcher Spud Chandler has six RBIs, four from a grand slam, in a win over the White Sox.

1943 Arky Vaughan this an inside-the-park grand slam, the second such homer of his career. This comes in the top of the 10th inning in a 6-6 game.

1948 Babe Ruth makes his last public appearance, attending the premiere of the horrible film, The Babe Ruth Story.

1950 Jim Russell of the Dodgers becomes the first person to homer from both sides of the plate twice in his career.

1950 The longest hitting streak of Stan Musial’s career peaks at 30 games. He’s 47-for-121 with 12 doubles, and seven homers.

1951 Mickey Mantle belts his first career grand slam. He’ll get No. 2 three days later.

1953 A Red Sox victory pushes the career manager record for Lou Boudreau 94 games over .500 (861-767), where it peaks. He’ll be 301-457 for the rest of his dugout days.

1955 A Cincinnati Reds loss drops their all-time franchise record (including their Double-A days in the 1880s) to 117 games under .500: 5,315-5.432. They’ll tie this mark two days later, but never fall lower.

1957 Mickey Mantle belts his 200th home run.

1959 Larry Doby plays his last game

1960 The Phillies score, after 38 straight innings without a run.

1961 The Indians belt four triples in one game.

1961 Johnny Blanchard of the Yankees homers in his four consecutive at bat, tying an all-time record.

1962 The Red Sox team bus stalls for 15 minutes en route to Yankee Stadium, during which team utility player Pumpsie Green and pitcher Gene Conley leave the bus and team outright.

1964 Braves pitcher Chi-Chi Olivo wins both games of a doubleheader against the Mets. Both teams use 11 pitchers in the doubleheader, a record.

1964 Tony Perez makes his big league debut.

1964 In the top of the second inning, Sandy Koufax loads the bases with no outs, and then strikes out the next three batters to get out of the jam without allowing a run. This is the only time Koufax ever does that.

1965 Casey Stengel undergoes hip replacement surgery.

1965 Jay Dahl, age 19, becomes the younger major league player to die. He played with Houston on September 27, 1963, the day of their super-young lineup, and dies in a car crash.

1965 Sam Rice writes a sealed letter to the Hall of Fame not to be opened until after he died. The letter states whether or not he caught a famous fly ball in the stands in the 1925 World Series. The umps said he did, but it was always controversial because he fell behind the wall of the stands when catching it and so people couldn’t tell if he had really caught it or not.

1966 Catfish Hunter undergoes an appendectomy.

1968 Jimmy Wynn belts his 100th home run. He’s the first Astro with 100 homers.

1968 Hank Aaron hits his best home run, according to WPA: its’ a three-run shot in the top of the ninth with two outs for a 5-4 Atlanta win. Its WPA: 0.785

1969 Seattle police arrest a 22-year-old blonde who climbed a tree and peeped into the Pilots’ team shower.

1970 Johnny Bench hits three home runs in a game, tallying a personal best 13 total bases and seven RBIs. It’s all against Steve Carlton, in the only game he allows 10 runs. As it happens, next time Bench belts three home runs in game, it’ll again be against Carlton.

1973 Bob Gibson collects five RBIs in a game, going 2-for-5 with a home run, strikeout, and a GIDP.

1973 Billy Williams hits his last career grand slam in the only game in which he comes to the plate three times with the bases loaded.

1974 Gaylord Perry allows nine earned runs in an 11-innning loss. His line: 10.2 IP, 13 hits, 9 R, 9 ER, 4 BB, 6 K. Welcome to baseball, 1970s style.

1975 Bill Madlock gets six hits in a 9-8 loss to the Mets for the Cubs in 10 innings.

1976 Jim Crawford becomes the last Tiger reliever to toss at least nine innings in relief, going 10 IP in all.

1976 For the second straight game, Pete Rose leads off with a home run.

1977 Gene Richards of the Padres collects six hits in one game. It’s the first time in Padres team history anyone has done it.

1977 Keith Hernandez legs out his only inside-the-park home run.

1977 Jimmy Wynn signed by the Brewers as a free agent.

1977 Jim Clancy makes his big league debut.

1977 Jack Morris makes his big league debut.

1978 Johnny Bench belts his 300th home run.

1978 George Steinbrenner has a secret meeting with Billy Martin about his returning to the Yankees.

1980 Harold Baines belts a walk-off home run off Fergie Jenkins, as Chicago tops the Rangers, 4-3.

1983 Carlton Fisk nails his 200th home run.

1984 Bowie Kuhn announces that pitcher Vida Blue will be suspended the rest of the year for his cocaine conviction back in November.

1984 Pete Rose belts his 3,092nd career single, tying Ty Cobb for the most singles in a career.

1985 Pedro Guerrero, Dodger, reaches base for the 14th straight plate appearance, an NL record.

1987 Milwaukee’s Paul Molitor steals second, third, and home plate in the first inning.

1989 Tommy Lasorda manages his 2,000th game (1,069-929).

1990 Moises Alou makes his big league debut.

1991 Chris Sabo of the Reds pushes an autograph seeker into a window at Busch Stadium.

1991 Dwight Evans hits his only pinch-hit home run, and it’s his sixth and final career grand slam.

1991 After nine innings of no-hit ball by Mark Gardner, reliever Jeff Fassero allows a hit to the leadoff hitter in the 10th inning in the Expos-Dodgers game.

1992 Von Hayes of the Angels somehow hits a three-RBI single. Even weirder: it’s his second three-RBI single of the season.

1994 Charlie Hough pitches in his last game.

1995 The Dodgers sign amateur free agent Eric Gagne.

1997 Fernando Tatis makes his major league debut.

1998 Jim Leyland losses his 1,000th game, for a 981-1,000 record.

1998 Ken Griffey Jr. steals three bases in a game for the only time.

1999 Big league debut for Erubiel Durazo.

1999 Baseball umps go to federal court to withdraw their mass resignations.

2000 Jamie Navarro pitches in his final game.

2000 The Phillies trade Curt Schilling to Arizona for Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Travis Lee, and Vicente Padilla.

2001 Curt Schilling collects his 100th loss, (124-100 for his career). In that game, Barry Bonds belts a pinch-hit grand slam off of Schilling.

2002 Edgar Renteria tallies his 1,000th hit.

2002 Texas’ Carl Everett homers twice in one inning.

2005 Andruw Jones receives a walk-off walk, his only one. Check that—his only regular season one, as he received a NLCS-ending walk-off walk in Game Six of the 1999 NLCS, of course.

2005 Greg Maddux fans his 3,000th batter.

2007 Jose Mesa pitches in his 1,000th game.

2007 Josh Fields of the White Sox receives a walk-off walk in a 4-3 win over Detroit.

2008 Charlie Manuel manages his 1,000th game. He’s 537-463 for his career.

2008 Cleveland trades Casey Blake to the Dodgers for Carlos Santana and Joe Meloan.

2008 Pittsburgh trades Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Yankees for Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, Ross Ohlendorf, and Jose Tabata.

2008 Skip Schumacher becomes the first Cardinal to get six hits in one game since 1935.

2010 The Giants retire the number for Hall of Famer Monte Irvin.

2010 Jason Kendall becomes the fifth player to catch 2,000 games.

2010 Matt Garza of the Tampa Bay Rays no-hits the Detroit Tigers. He walks one batter, who gets taken out in a second-inning double play, and faces the minimum of 27 batters in a 5-0 win

2010 Joe Mauer goes 5-for-5 with seven RBIs in a 19-1 Minnesota victory over the Royals.

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Greg Simons
Greg Simons

“1965 Sam Rice writes a sealed letter to the Hall of Fame not to be opened until after he died. The letter states whether or not he caught a famous fly ball in the stands in the 1925 World Series. The umps said he did, but it was always controversial because he fell behind the wall of the stands when catching it and so people couldn’t tell if he had really caught it or not.”

Well, the people want to know, did he catch it?