50th anniversary: Braves balk-a-thon

Fifty years ago today, the Braves made the history books—but not in a good way. It wasn’t a terrible day they had, but it sure was a terribly frustrating day for their pitchers, especially starter Bob Shaw. He committed a record five balks and the club ended the day with the all-time high, six.

On May 4, 1963, the Milwaukee Braves hosted the Chicago Cubs, and it didn’t take long for Shaw to start bulking up on balks.

With two outs in the first, Shaw allowed a single to Billy Williams. That was the first Cubs base runner. A few minutes later Williams stood on second, thanks to the first balk of the day.

In the second inning, Shaw allowed three base runners, but managed to get out of the inning without issuing a balk.

Sure enough, in the third, Williams led off with another single. He must’ve been dancing around off the back something fierce, because soon enough Shaw had once again balked him to second. And things weren’t done yet. Before you knew it, Williams induced another Shaw balk. That was three, all of which advanced Williams.

And the inning still wasn’t over.

After two outs failed to advance Williams, leaving him seemingly stranded on third, Shaw walked shortstop Andre Rodgers. And wouldn’t you know it—Shaw balked yet again. That finished off balking Williams around the bases. Three balks in one inning, and four on the day.

In the fourth inning Shaw managed to avoid another balk despite putting base stealing threat Lou Brock on base, but that was his last hurrah. In the fifth, he allowed singles to Williams (of course!) and Ernie Banks. And that’s when Shaw unleashed balk No. 5. No one else has ever balked five times in one outing, and Shaw did it in five innings. Rather interestingly, Williams was the lead runner for all five balks. Did Williams have the whammy or him or was it just a coincidence? Who knows?

Anyhow, after the fifth balk Shaw walked two straight batters and then had to take a walk to the showers. The bullpen generally avoided balks, but in the eighth Denny Lemaster issued their sixth balk of the game. The runner? Would you believe it was yet again Williams. Whatever Williams did on the bases that day sure was working.

Oh, and the Cubs issued a balk of their own, one that scored a run when umpires called Paul Toth for it in the seventh. Truly the umpires were looking for the balk that day. The Cubs won, 7-5, but more memorable than the score were all those pesky balks.

Aside from that, many other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.


1,000 days since Brandon Morrow has one of the greatest starts in Blue Jays history, fanning 17 in a complete game one-hit 1-0 win over Tampa. The hit is by Evan Longoria and comes with two outs in the ninth.

1,000 days since Jody Davis, manager of the Boise Hawks, gets a six-game suspension for pulling his team off the field. Davis contends that rain made the field unsafe, but umpires disagree, so it’s a forfeit for the team and a suspension for Davis.

2,000 days since the Cubs trade outfielder Jacque Jones to Detroit for Omar Infante.

4,000 days since Rickey Henderson plays in his 3,000th game.

4,000 days since Tigers pitcher Jeff Weaver nearly no-hits the Indians. An eighth-inning double by Chris Magruder gives him a one-hitter instead.

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4,000 days since Minnesota’s Gov. Jesse Ventura approves of a $330 million framework agreement to finance building an open air stadium in Minnesota. The deal requires a $120 million down payment by the Twins.

4,000 days since the A’s shock the sabermetric world by trading Jeremy Giambi to the Phillies for John Mabry.

4,000 days since highly touted pitching prospect Mark Prior makes his big league debut.

5,000 days since Jeff Kent gets his 1,000th hit.

5,000 days since Vladimir Guerrero’s best career hit streak peaks at 31 games. He’s 49-for-121 with 12 doubles, a triple, and 11 home runs in this span.

8,000 days since Orel Hershiser records his 100th career win. He’s 100-66 in his career so far.

9,000 days since Eddie Murray laces his 2,000th hit.

20,000 days since Robin Roberts wins game No. 200. He’s 200-151 on his career so far. He’ll be under .500 (86-94) for the rest of his time, though.


1869 The Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional baseball team, play their first game. It’s a 45-9 romp over the Great Westerns of Cincinnati.

1871 The National Association, the primordial major league, plays its first game. Bobby Mathews is a starting pitcher and Ezra Sutton and Hall of Famer Deacon White also play that day.

1875 Charley Jones, one of the best sluggers of his generation, makes his major league debut. So do George Bradley (a fine pitcher for several years), and Silver Flint (a durable catcher).

1889 Jerry Denny, player for the NL’s Indianapolis club, gets six hits in one game.

1892 Jack Tobin is born. He’ll be a fine outfielder for the 1920s Browns, leading the 1921 AL in triples and at bats.

1902 George Mullin, a good Tigers pitcher, makes his big league debut.

1906 The Braves trade veteran pitcher Chick Fraser to the Reds for a player to be named later.

1910 President William Howard Taft attends two games in one day in St. Louis. He is our first president who is a big baseball fan.

1910 Today’s Reds-Cardinals game features a record 23 walks. The Cards receive 16 of them.

1911 For the only time in his career, Honus Wagner hits a ball over the fence for a grand slam. He has four other slams, but they are all inside the park ones.

1916 Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson allows an opposing pitcher to belt a homer over the fence against him. Lefty Tyler is the pitcher. Mathewson allowed another homer from a pitcher back in 1901, but that bounced over the fence (and back then those could be homers).

1922 Hall of Fame Tigers outfielder Harry Heilmann smacks his only career walk-off homer. It’s a doozy, too. With the Tigers trailing the Browns 5-3 and two on, he hits a three-run shot off Elam Vangilder.

1923 Hall of Famer Edd Roush legs out his 100th career triple. It takes him just 1,044 games to get there. It was a very different time.

1928 Ty Cobb becomes the second member of the 700-double club, joining Tris Speaker. All these years later only two have joined them: Stan Musial and Pete Rose.

1928 Hall of Fame starting pitcher Herb Pennock notches his ninth straight win, his longest streak. He has a 1.96 ERA in that span, pretty good for the 1920s.

1929 Lou Gehrig hits three homers in one game. It’s his second time doing that. Only Babe Ruth and George Kelly had done it multiple times before—and Ruth’s came in the World Series.

1931 Cubs infielder Billy Jurges makes his big league debut.

1931 Due to Babe Ruth’s bad leg, he swaps positions with Lou Gehrig. Ruth does all right at first, but Gehrig makes a costly error in right.

1933 Tony Lazzeri smashes his 100th career home run.

1939 Ted Williams, just a month into his major league career, enjoys the first of 39 multiple home run games. In fact, one of his blasts completely clears the right field seats in Briggs Stadium in Detroit, something no one has done before.

1943 NL president Ford Frick attempts to demonstrate to reporters that this year’s balata ball is livelier by bouncing it on the carpet of his office.

1944 St. Louis’ Sportsman’s Park, home to the last segregated stands in the major leagues, announces a new ticket policy that lets blacks watch from the grandstand.

1947 Hall of Fame shortstop Luke Appling has a personal best nine total bases by going 4-for-5 with two doubles and a homer. Not normally much of a slugger, that Luke Appling.

1949 Phil Rizzuto, he of 38 career home runs, goes deep for the second straight game today.

1956 Ken Oberkfell, longtime utility player, is born.

1957 Juan Pizarro, pitcher, makes his big league debut.

1957 Roberto Clemente suffers his 77th straight game without a homer, his longest ever drought.

1958 Pirates player Roman Mejias homers three times in one game.

1960 In one inning, Baltimore catcher Gus Triandos allows three passed balls. As any fan of The Wire TV show knows, the pitcher was Hoyt Wilhelm. Six days later Trianaos’ record will be tied by his teammate, Joe Ginsberg. Of course, Wilhelm is on the mound.

1960 Charlie Grimm manages his last game. In an odd move, the Cubs will move him into the broadcast booth and make broadcaster Lou Boudreau the skipper.

1961 Reds pitcher Joey Jay nearly has a no-hitter. He allows a one out single from Johnny Callison in the first, but that’s it. One hit in nine innings for a 4-0 win over the Phillies.

1962 Former wunderkind Herb Score pitches in his last game.

1963 Clean Sox pitcher Dickie Kerr dies at age 69.

1964 The Mets and Braves get in a brawl, with manager Casey Stengel tangling with Denis Menke, who is a half-century younger than him. That doesn’t sound like a good idea at all.

1964 For the first time in nearly seven years, Sandy Koufax picks off a runner. Despite being a lefty, he’ll end his career with five pickoffs. Maybe some weren’t counted as pickoffs.

1966 Bob Elliott dies at age 49. He had over 2,000 hits in his career as an NL outfielder.

1966 Willie Mays passes Mel Ott as all-time Giants home run leader with dinger No. 512. Nearly 50 years later, Mays is still the club’s home run champ.

1968 Beltin’ Bill Melton makes his big league debut with the White Sox.

1969 Bob Oliver of the Royals becomes the first AL batter in seven years to get six hits in one game.

1969 The Giants hit into a major league record seven GIDPs in one game.

1972 Vic Sorrell, a decent Tigers pitcher around 1930, dies at age 71.

1973 The Phillies top the Braves 5-4 in a 20-inning game that takes five hours and 16 minutes.

1974 Rick Burleson makes his big league debut.

1974 The Twins retire No. 3 for Harmon Killebrew. That’s an especially nice honor given that he still plays for the Twins.

1974 Feared Pirates slugger Willie Stargell receives four base on balls in one game, though none intentional.

1975 Bob Watson scores the millionth run in baseball history, just a second before Dave Concepcion does it.

1975 The Phillies trade Willie Montanez to the Giants for Garry Maddox.

1975 The Cardinals sign amateur free agent Ken Oberkfell. It’s the best birthday present he’s ever received.

1976 Gene Mauch, king of the sacrifice bunt, ties a personal most by having his team lay down five in one game.

1976 The Illinois state legislature declares it Rick Monday Day because he saved a U.S. flag from would-be flag burners on April 25.

1977 Pirates skipper Chuck Tanner manages his 1,000th big league game. He’s 502-495 so far.

1978 For the only time in his career, Jim Rice hits two triples in one game.

1979 Andre Dawson hits his only leadoff home run.

1979 Texas trades veteran shortstop Bert Campaneris to the Angels.

1980 Dave Winfield gets his 1,000th career hit.

1980 Mike Squires becomes one of the few southpaw catchers ever when he catches the final inning of an 11-1 loss for the White Sox.

1980 Otto Velez becomes the first Blue Jay to leg out three triples in one game.

1980 Slugging first baseman Jack Clark lays down a sacrifice bunt. In his remaining 6,285 career PA, he’ll never do that again.

1981 Relief pitcher Ron Davis fans eight straight A’s.

1983 Johnny Bench gets his 2,000th career hit.

1984 Well, that’s a new one. Dave Kingman hits a ball through a drainage hole in the roof of Minnesota’s Metrodome. It’s a ground rule double.

1985 Longtime platoon player John Lowenstein appears in his final game.

1986 The highly regarded former manager Paul Richards—”the Wizard of Waxahachie”—dies at age 77.

1986 The Phillies sign amateur free agent Andy Ashby.

1987 Montreal’s Tim Wallach hits three home runs.

1988 For the first time in a half-dozen seasons, George Brett hits an inside-the-park home run. Not bad for a man just nine days before his 35th birthday.

1988 The Twins release Joe Niekro, ending his long career.

1989 Bad knees be damned: For the first time since 1980, Andre Dawson hits two triples in one game.

1989 Junior Felix hits a home run in his first career at-bat.

1989 Jack Clark has one of the worst games of his career: 0-for-4 with two Ks and two GIDPs. Yeesh.

1991 Chris James sets an Indians franchise record by driving in nine runs in one game as the Indians destroy the A’s, 20-6.

1991 Larry Walker lays down a sacrifice bunt for the seventh and final time in his career. He has 7,431 more PA, but no more of that.

1991 Longtime reliever Jeff Fassero makes his big league debut.

1994 Lou Whitaker drives home a personal best seven runs in one game. It’s his ninth and last multi-home run game.

1994 Jeff Reardon, briefly baseball’s all-time saves king, has his last outing.

1996 Edgar Martinez hits his 100th career home run.

1996 The Texas Rangers become the first club in 79 years to pitch consecutive one-hitters. Ken Hill did it yesterday and Roger Pavlik today.

1996 For the only time in his career, Jason Giambi plays right field.

1999 Greg Maddux has one of his worst outings ever in Atlanta. His line: 4.1 IP, 12 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 1 BB, and 2 K. His Game Score of 8 ties his worst mark with the Braves.

2000 The Phillies hit four consecutive doubles in the first inning of a 14-1 rout of the Reds.

2001 Craig Biggio gets his 2,000th career hit.

2002 Shea Hillenbrand hits a two-out pinch-hit grand slam to give Boston a 7-5 road win over Tampa.

2004 Miguel Tejada raps out his 1,000th career hit.

2004 The Twins lose 4-3 to the Mariners in 16 innings in heartbreaking fashion, with the winning run scoring on a walk-off error.

2006 Terry Francona manages his 1,000th game, with a record of 494-506.

2006 The Houston Astros’ cumulative all-time franchise record peaks at four games over .500 (3,516-3,512). They are one of the very few expansion clubs to top .500 ever (not including the first week or two of existence, that is). It’s been all downhill since then for Houston.

2007 Jim Tracy manages his 1,000th game. His record: 507-493.

2008 Jerry Manuel manages his 1,000th game. His record: 516-484.

2009 Zack Greinke’s shutout win gives him a league-leading six victories—and an amazing ERA of 0.40.

2010 Ozzie Guillen manages his 1,000th game, and has a record of 523-477.

2010 Legendary Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell dies at age 92.

2010 Bobby Abreu has his worst game ever, according to WPA. He’s 0-for-4 with two Ks and a GIDP.

2011 The Royals lose in embarrassing fashion, a walk-off balk by Aaron Crowe for a 5-4 loss to the White Sox.

2012 The Dodgers sign aging hitter Bobby Abreu.

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I was at that game in 1988 when Brett hit the inside the parker.  Like most of them, there was a misplay.  At the time, there was a chain link fence in right between the field and the bullpen and Brett’s ball hit one of the support posts and bounced almost straight left along the fence.  Winfield, the right fielder, was in no position to field the ball as he was playing for a different carom.  The ball caromed past Ward in Center, who really wasn’t backing up the play and all the way into left field where Henderson had… Read more »
Bob Timmermann
Bob Timmermann

All the balks in 1963 came about from a brief part of the year when NL umpires were instructed to call balks on pitchers if they didn’t pause for a full second in the stretch. There were lots of balks called and fairly quickly the NL changed its mind.

Chris J.
Chris J.

Bob – Huh.  I didn’t know that.  Thanks for the info.