The book I: “This Day In Baseball: A Day-By-Day Record of the Events that Shaped the Game” by David Nemec and Scott Flatow (Taylor Trade, 330 pages, $15.95) Amazon has it, amazingly enough (linked here)
The book II: “Dodgers Journal: Year by Year & Day by Day with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers since 1884” by John Snyder (Clerisy Press, 797 pages, $29.95). Find it at the publisher’s website (linked here).
The scoop: There are now websites that offer the same service that these books do — NationalPasttime.com (linked here), for example. Or TodayInBaseballHistory.com (linked here). Or the BaseballLibrary.com (linked here). And calendars. And alamanacs.
So why have a phone-book sized publication, too? Why not. They’ve got cool covers. You can take it into the restroom. You can take it to a tailgate and fill your brain with numbers that you just can’t get on the back of baseball cards any more.
And on this day, you can find in “This Day in Baseball” — Jackie Robinson goes hitless in his ML debut with the Dodgers but handles 11 chances flawlessly at first base, his interim position.
No mention that he broke baseball’s color barrier? Now that’s savvy writing.
In the “Dodgers Journal,” it says: Jackie Robinson makes his debut in a regular season major league game before an Opening day crowd of 25,623 at Ebbets Field. Playing first base and batting second, Robinson was hitless in three at-bats during a 5-3 victory over the Braves befroe being lifted in the ninth inning for defensive purposes by Howie Schultz. Facing Johnny Sain in his first plate appearance, Robinson received a rousing cheer from the crowd, then grounded out to third baseman Bob Elliott.”
Also on this day, from “This Day in Baseball”:
1958: In the first official ML game on the West Coast, the Giants’ Ruben Gomez shuts out the Dodgers 8-0 at Seals Stadium. (Here’s the box score link, with Don Drysdale as the losing pitcher, and only 23,000-plus in attendance, and the San Francisco Chronicle front page the next day)
1968: The Mets and Astros set an ML record for longest scoreless game before Bob Aspromonte’s grounder eludes shortstop Al Weis, allowing the Astros to win 1-0 in the bottom of the 24th inning.
1998: Emergency repair work at Yankee Stadium creates a unique DBH at Shea Stadium when the Bombers shift their game to Queens, with the Yanks beating the Angels 6-3, followed by the Mets downing the Cubs 2-1 in the regularly scheduled night game.
1883: The maiden issue of Sporting Life, the first weekly paper devoted exclusively to sports, is published in Philadelphia with Francis Richter as editor.
1906: Brooklyn again circumvents local Blue Laws by charging no admission for a Sunday game against Boston and instead asking spectators to drop contributions in boxes as they enter the park.
1909: Red Ames of the Giants hurles what for many years is deemed the first Opening Day no-hitter in ML history but is no longer viewed as such by MLB because he gave up a hit in the 10th inning before losing 3-0 to Brooklyn in 13 frames.
1941: Cubs shortstop Lou Stringer sets a modern record when he makes four errors in his ML debut, but the Cubs still contrive to beat Pittsburgh 7-4 in their seasno opener.
1954: In the first AL or NL game in Baltimore since 1902, Orioles catcher Clint Courtney raps the first home run in Memorial Stadium as the O’s beat the White Sox 3-1 in front of 46,354.
And in 1946, the year before Robinson’s fateful day: With World War II over, most ML clubs announce an increase in ticket prices, with an average fee of $2 for box seats, $1.25 for general admisson and 60 cents for bleacher seats or standing room.
Bet you didn’t know such things shared history with No. 42, eh?
As for the really thick Dodger version of transaction history, Snyder, who has a master’s degree in history from the University of Cincinnati, merely expands on a series that he started documenting the history of the Reds, then added the Red Sox, Indians, Cardinals and White Sox.
The trick, of course, is to include stuff that fans wouldn’t normally know about and pin a date on it.
Sept. 11, 1961: Gordie Windhorn’s first major league homer is a walk-off, pinch hit blast in the 11th inning that beats the Phillies 6-5 at the Memorial Coliseum. It was struck off Don Ferrarese, who entered the game in the fourth inning and pitched seven shutout innings before the game-winning homer. Before stepping to the plate, Windhorn confidently told teammates he would hit the ball over the fence. Windhorn hit two homers in a three-year big-league career spanning 95 games and 108 at bats.
Here’s another to whet your appetite for the obscure and interesting:
June 17, 1885: The Dodgers intentionally make errors behind new pitcher John (Phenomenal) Smith and lose 18-5 to St. Louis at Washington Park (in New York). Smith was a 20-year-old from Allentown, Pennsylvania, playing in his first game with Brooklyn. He had previously appeared in two games with two different American Association teams in 1884, and lost both. Despite his lack of credentials, Smith gave himself the nickname “Phenomenal” and said that he was so good that he didn’t need the help of his teammates. The Dodgers made 14 errors behind him, many on purpose. Shortstop Germany Smith (no relation) set a major-league record with seven errors. Catcher Jackie Hayes was credited with five passed balls. … Smith had the distinction of playing for four different teams in his first four big-league games, and five clubs in his first seven contests, over four years. He finished in 1891 with a 54-74 record, became a long-time minor league player-manager and is credited with discovering Christy Mathewson.
Where else can you find that?
How they go down in the scorebook: 365 home runs. Plus one: On Feb. 29, 1972: Hank Aaron becomes the first $200,000-a-year ML player when he signs a three-year package with the Atlanta Braves. In 2008, the minimun required salary by an MLB player was $390,000. The average salary: $2.8 million.