Golden anniversary: NL expansion draft

Fifty years marked a big day for the National League. The league, which hadn’t let any new teams join in 70 years, staged its first expansion draft for its newest franchises, the New York Mets and the Houston Colt .45s.

As you may very well know, the day went better for Houston than for the Mets. Ultimately, the 1962 Mets would lose 120 games, a 20th-century record. The Astros would lose 96, a much more typical total that not only was better than the Mets, but also superior to the Cubs that year.

But on draft day Oct. 10, 1961, all that lay in the future. The Astros and Mets took a different approach to the early rounds, with the Astros focusing largely on position players and the Mets on pitchers. In their first six picks, the Mets took Roger Craig, Jay Hook, and Bob Miller, who combine to start 88 of the team’s 161 contests. Later in the draft, they tapped Al Jackson, who started 33 more.

In its first six picks, Houston tabbed four of their eight starting position players in 1962: Joey Amalfitano, Bob Aspromonte, Bob Lillis, and Hal Smith. By the 11th round, they’d added two-thirds of their outfield as well. Meanwhile, in the first 25 rounds, they landed just one pitcher who would play a prominent role for them, Turk Farrell.

The Mets got almost nothing in terms of position players in the draft, especially high up in it. In the first 25 rounds, they claimed just three of the eight position players listed at as starters for them in 1962.

This helped set up the season. Houston’s GM was Paul Richards, a man who earned his nickname, “The Wizard of Waxahachie,” for his ability to get production out of unlikely pitchers. That explains why Houston passed on pitchers earlier—Richards believed he could find gems by going dumpster diving later on.

That’s what happened. Some late round picks helped, such as 35th-round pick Jim Umbricht, who posted a 2.01 ERA from the bullpen. That was an extreme example, but several other late-round picks helped eat innings without considerably hurting the staff’s overall quality, such as 26th-round pick Ken Johnson (197 IP with a 98 ERA+) and 37th-round pick Jim Golden (152.2 IP as a swingman with a 92 ERA+).

Richards grabbed other pitchers after the draft via purchase or trade, most notably Don McMahon, who proved to be one of baseball’s best relievers for Houston with a 1.53 ERA in 76.2 IP. The Wizard still had his magic.

The Mets? Turns out their front office braintrust was past its prime. It wasn’t that their early-round picks were that bad, but it’s that they weren’t that good and they got very little after that. They spent 1962 churning talent in a series of meaningless trades.

Aside from that, many other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event 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 White Sox sign free agent Bartolo Colon.

2,000 days since Tom Glavine tosses his 14th consecutive Quality Start, his longest such streak. His line in that time: 7-5 W-L, 101.1 IP, 76 H, 21 R, 19 ER, 20 BB, and 73 K for a 1.69 ERA.

3,000 days since Barry Bonds belts the seventh of his 10 career walk-off home runs.

6,000 days since Larry Walker connects for his 100th home run.

6,000 days since authorities arrest Braves manager Bobby Cox on domestic battery charges. The charges will later be dropped after he seeks counseling.

6,000 days since Manny Ramirez, just one week after getting his first career sacrafice hit, gets his second and last one. He’ll have over 9,300 more plate appearances but never do it again.

The Incompleat Starting Pitcher
The end of the nine-inning start and how we got here.

6,000 days since pitcher Gus Bell dies. He’s most famous as Jim Bouton’s roommate in Ball Four.

7,000 days since Floyd Bannister pitches in his last major league contest.

8,000 days since the Mets release future Hall of Famer Gary Carter.

30,000 days since Cubs first baseman Charlie Grimm injures his hand, sidelining him for the rest of the season—the regular season that is. He’ll play in the World Series that year (1929).


1881 A meeting takes place in Pittsburgh to discuss forming a rival league to the NL. It will result in the American Association, which shouldn’t be confused with the current minor league of that name. This will be the first rival major league, and out if it will come the Pirates, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Reds.

1887 Bobby Mathews, a pitcher who has been around since the 1871 National Association, appears in his last big league game.

1893 Lip Pike, 1870s star player, dies.

1898 Harry Howell, a hard-luck pitcher whose win-loss record is much worse than his ERA and ERA+, makes his big league debut.

1904 The first great Red Sox-Yankees pennant race ends with a victory for Boston. Yankee star hurler Jack Chesbro, who won a 20th-century record 41 games in this season, tosses a wild pitch late in a close game helping the Red Sox triumph, 3-2. This also helps ensure Boston wins the pennant.

1905 Wally Berger, great slugger for the Boston Braves, is born.

1906 Cub hurler Ed Reulbach tosses a one-hitter as the Cubs beat the White Sox, 7-1, in Game Two of the only all-Chicago World Series. The victory evens the Series one game apiece, but the White Sox will go on to claim the world title in an upset of the 116-win Cubs.

1908 The Cubs win Game One of the World Series, 10-6, over the Tigers. The contest had some odd twists and turns. First the Cubs led, 5-1, at the seventh-inning stretch, but an inning and a half later Detroit led, 6-5. In the top of the ninth, the Cubs score five times to lock up the win.

1913 In Game Four of the World Series, the A’s hold off a desperate Giants comeback. The A’s win, 6-5, after leading 6-0. The Giants had the tying run on third base in the eighth inning, but couldn’t plate him. The A’s go up three games to one in the Series.

1914 Miracle Braves hurler Bill James tosses a complete-game shutout two-hitter over the defending champion A’s in Game Two of the World Series. Boston wins, 1-0, and is halfway through their unexpected sweep.

1917 Giants starting pitcher Rube Benton tosses a five-hit shutout over the White Sox in Game Three of the World Series, for a 2-0 win. Chicago still leads the Series, two games to one.

1919 Gamblers trying to fix the 1919 World Series give several Black Sox players some money. Chick Gandil gets $35,000, Swede Risberg gets $15,000, and Fred McMullin gets $5,000.

1919 Chicago Tribune scribe Hugh Fullerton alleges that the 1919 World Series is not being played on the level.

1919 Star Chicago left fielder Joe Jackson asks for a meeting with team owner Charles Comiskey. He waits in vain for two hours before going home.

1920 It’s a historic game for several reasons in the World Series Game Five between the Indians and Dodgers. Cleveland does three remarkable things in it: Jim Bagby becomes the first hurler to homer in the Fall Classic, right fielder Elmer Smith hits the first grand slam in the Series and, last but not least, second baseman Bill Wambsganss pulls off an unassisted triple play. The Indians triumph, 8-1.

1923 In Game One of this year’s World Series, the defending Giants top the Yankees, 5-4, in the third consecutive all-NYC Series. The Giants win in spectacular fashion, as outfielder Casey Stengel scampers around the bases for an inside-the-park home run in the top of the ninth inning.

1924 In arguably the greatest game ever played, the Senators claim their first (and only) world title, topping the Giants, 4-3, in 12 innings in Game Seven. Washington scores their tying run in the bottom of the ninth in surprising fashion, as a ball takes an improbably huge hop over the head of third baseman Fred Lindstrom after hitting a rock. In the 12th inning, as improbable as it sounds, they win the game when the exact same thing happens. Walter Johnson gets the victory.

1925 Washington outfielder Sam Rice makes one of the greatest and most controversial catches in World Series history. In Game Three against the Pirates, the Senators star leaps at the wall and falls in the stands, emerging with the ball, helping Washington win, 4-3.

Did he really catch it? He refuses to say, leaving his account in a letter to be opened after his death. When he dies, he states he caught the ball and never lost control of it (at which point a spectator from the first row of the stands on that day publicly says he remembers Rice catching the ball but losing control of it after landing).

1926 Game Seven of the World Series features the most famous strikeout in baseball history. An aging Pete Alexander is called upon in relief against Tony Lazzeri of the Yankees. After a near home run goes foul, Alexander fans him and pitches the rest of the way for St. Louis to claim their first world title with a 3-2 win. The game ends when Babe Ruth bizarrely attempts to steal second base and is thrown out. It’s the only World Series game ever to end on a caught stealing.

1929 Brooklyn release two future Hall of Famers: Max Carey and Dave Bancroft.

1945 In Game Seven of the World Series, the Tigers become champions of the world, defeating the Cubs, 9-3. This is also, of course, the last World Series game the Cubs ever play in.

1946 Future Mustache Gang star catcher Gene Tenace is born.

1955 The Orioles release pitcher Eddie Lopat.

1956 The Yankees do it again, beating Brooklyn in Game Seven of the World Series, 9-0, to claim the world title. Brooklyn has only three hits on the day, giving them seven in the last three contests combined. The game ends on a Jackie Robinson strikeout, and that’s the last at-bat of his career. This is also the last all-New York City World Series for over 40 years.

1957 Lew Burdette becomes a legend, defeating the Yankees, 5-0, for Milwaukee in Game Seven of the World Series. He does it despite working on just two days rest, after throwing an earlier complete-game shutout in Game Five.

1962 Boston signs an amateur free agent named Tony Conigliaro.

1964 Mickey Mantle belts his only walk-off World Series home run. His bottom-of-the-ninth solo shot gives New York a 2-1 win in Game Three, garnering them a two-games-to-one advantage.

1967 The Reds trade Deron Johnson to the Braves for three players.

1968 In Game Seven of the World Series, the Tigers finish coming back from their earlier three-games-to-one deficit to become world champs. They beat St. Louis, 4-1. Bob Gibson, the greatest October pitcher of his generation, gets the unexpected loss, and defensive whiz Curt Flood makes a critical misplay in the field. Detroit’s Mickey Lolich wins his third decision of the Series.

1970 The Orioles top the Reds, 4-3, in Game One of the World Series, a contest famous more for its plays than the game itself. Brooks Robinson begins his October of defensive dominance, making a great backhanded grab on a hard Lee May grounder down the third base line and throwing him out.

More famously, there’s a play at the plate where the runner, catcher, and umpire all screw things up. Cincinnati’s Bernie Carbo slides but misses the plate. Catcher Elrod Hendricks tags Carbo with his glove—but the ball is in his bare hand. Lastly, umpire Ken Burkhart is up the line with his back to the play, and makes a wild guess calling Carbo out. Carbo actually does touch the plate while arguing with him, but it doesn’t matter.

1970 Deadball Pirates pitcher Lefty Leifield dies.

1971 Boston trades George Scott, Jim Lonborg, Ken Brett and three others to Milwaukee for Tommy Harper, Lew Krausse, Marty Pattin, and a minor leaguer.

1976 Pat Burrell is born.

1978 The Dodgers retire Jim Gilliam’s number.

1980 In the top of the seventh with the Royals trailing the Yankees, 2-1, George Brett destroys a Rich Gossage fastball, launching it into the upper deck for a three-run homer for a 4-2 Royals win in Game Three of the ALCS. This completes Kansas City’s sweep of the 103-win Yanks, avenging Yankee victories over the Royals in three consecutive ALCS from 1976 to 1978.

1980 In Game Three of the NLCS, the Astros top the Phillies in a tense, extra-inning pitchers duel, 1-0, in 11 innings. It’s the second of four consecutive extra-inning games in what’s probably the greatest best-of-five LCS ever, and arguably the best LCS ever of any length.

1981 Due to the strike earlier that year, 1981 becomes the only pre-1995 season with a LDS, and in Game Four of the NLDS, the Phillies top the Expos, 5-4, in 10 innings to force a winner-takes-all fifth game (which Montreal will win).

1981 In a tight pitchers’ duel, the Brewers triumph, 2-1, over the Yankees in Game Four of the ALDS in which the teams combine for only nine hits. Milwaukee has only four hits, but three come in the fourth inning when Milwaukee scores its runs. This game forces a winner-takes-all Game Five in which the Yankees will be victorious.

1982 In the winner-takes-all Game Five of the ALCS, the Milwaukee Brewers complete their rise from the dead, defeating the Angels, 4-2, for their first (and as of this writing still only) pennant. The Angels won the first pair of games in the best-of-five series, but Milwaukee won the last three contests.

1983 Pizza king Tom Monaghan buys the Tigers from John Fetzer.

1984 Rockies infielder Troy Tulowitzki is born.

1987 The Tigers get a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to top the Twins, 7-6, in Game Three of the ALCS. This will be Detroit’s only win of the postseason.

1987 The Giants top the Cardinals, 4-2, in Game Four of the NLCS, thanks in part to Jeffrey Leonard, who has homered in every game in the series so far.

1990 Roger Clemens loses his mind, but unfortunately not his tongue. While starting Game Four for Boston (which trails Oakland three games to none in the ALCS), Clemens decides the second inning is a good time to start screaming profanities at the umpire. He’s tossed, ending what minimal hopes Boston had in the postseason, as they fall, 3-1. A teammate empties a bunch of Gatorade on the field, earning his ejection as well.

The TV network broadcasting the game is ready for an umpire-related controversy. They have an expert in the studio to talk about these things, none other than 1985 World Series ump Don Denkinger.

1990 Wally Moses dies.

1991 Atlanta tops Pittsburgh, 1-0, in Game Two of the NLCS, the first of three 1-0 games in the series. Atlanta’s win evens the series at one game apiece.

1992 Mike Ilitch buys the Tigers from Tom Monaghan.

1995 Major league baseball fines Yankee owner George Steinbrenner $50,000 for criticizing the umpires.

1995 The Reds lose a squeaker to Atlanta, 2-1, in 11 innings in Game One of the NLCS. The Braves tied it in the bottom of the ninth en route to their victory.

1995 Kevin McClatchey and partners buy the Pirates for $85 million.

1999 The Red Sox set a one-game postseason scoring record, devastating the Indians, 23-7,z` in Game Four of the ALCS. Then they’ll win the next game to complete a comeback from a two-games-to-none deficit.

2000 The Blue Jays fire Jim Fregosi, ending his managing career.

2001 Tom Glavine and John Smoltz combine to shutdown Houston, 1-0, in Game Two of the NLDS. The Astros will be swept, and that will end Larry Dierker’s managerial career.

2003 Former reliever Johnny Klippstein dies.

2003 In Game Three of the NLCS, the Cubs top the Marlins, 5-4, in 11 innings to go ahead two games to one. A triple by Doug Glanville brings home the winning run.

2004 Former MVP and admitted steroid user Ken Caminiti dies.

2004 Atlanta tops the Astros, 6-5, with a run in the top of the ninth in Game Four of the NLDS. This will force a Game Five, in which Houston will triumph.

2010 In Game Three of the NLDS, Atlanta’s Brooks Conrad has a day in hell, committing three errors that help the Giants go up two games to one. His errors aren’t minor ones. He blows an early pop-up, causing San Francisco’s first run to score. In the top of the ninth of a 2-2 game, Conrad muffs a two-out grounder that lets the winning run come across for the Giants.

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John Agius
John Agius

Gus Bell was not Bouton’s roommate.  That was pitcher Gary Bell. Gus was known for his time with the Reds and the 1962 Mets and for being the father of Buddy Bell.

Chris J
Chris J

John – Good catch.  Thanks.

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