In the course of researching baseball's past, it's not often you come across a boxscore that really catches your attention. And yet today, July 14, marks the anniversary of one of the game's true oddities. Midway through the 1934 season, Yankees slugger Lou Gehrig was already well on his way to establishing a new consecutive games played streak which would stand for more than 50 years. In fact, by the time the team visited Detroit for a four-game series just after the All-Star break, the "Iron Horse" hadn't missed a single game in over nine full seasons.
With all the recent comments about the length of major league games, I thought a look back at a couple of marathon contests from an earlier era might provide a little perspective. When umpire Joe West publicly blasted the slow pace of Red Sox/Yankees games, calling them an "embarrassment" and this season's April 17 Cardinals/Mets game lasted 20 innings and took 6:53 to complete, long-time fans of the game just shook their collective heads in disbelief.
While I generally stay away from making predictions (pre-season or otherwise) in this space, I feel a compelling case can be made for Phillies starter Roy Halladay to become the major's first 25-game winner in more than two decades. Now before I lay out the rationale behind my theory, let's briefly look back in time for a little historical perspective on just how truly rare this milestone has become.
In late January, I had the opportunity to join 25 other baseball zealots on a 7-day odyssey to the island of Cuba. Organized by SABR member Kit Krieger out of Vancouver, who's been taking groups such as ours annually to the island since 2001, the Cubaball experience was one of the most satisfying travel journeys I've ever had. For, although the trip was themed around seeing baseball in the land of Fidel, the week quickly became a 50/50 split of baseball and culture.
In a season where several clubs have blown 10-run leads, it seems only fitting to relate the tale of the greatest two-out rally in the history of the Major Leagues. In fact, one would have to look long and hard to find two bigger collapses than those performed by a pair of American League clubs just this season. On May 25, the Tampa Bay Rays jumped out to a 10-0 lead after 3 1/2 innings at Cleveland. However, when the Indians came to bat in the bottom of the ninth still trailing 10-4, few at Jacobs Field held out much hope.
September 11 marks the anniversary of one of the strangest games in the history of the major leagues. Late in the 1946 season, the Cincinnati Reds visited Ebbets Field for a series with the Dodgers. At the time, Brooklyn was locked in a tight pennant race with the St. Louis Cardinals; a race that would eventually end in a dead heat at season's end, necessitating a three-game playoff series. The Reds, however, were struggling through another mediocre season which would see them lose 39 of their final 59 games to finish 30 games back in sixth place in the National League.
I'm sure the unassisted triple play turned by Phillies infielder Eric Bruntlett to end the game against the Mets the other day initiated a lot of conversations among die-hard baseball watchers about the rarity of certain feats like: a perfect game, the unassisted triple play and even hitting for the cycle. However, since all three of these events have happened in just the past 2 months, one has to argue that they come around more often than one would expect. After all,even the relatively low number of perfect games (Buehrle's was the 18th in M.L.
With all the media attention centered on pitcher Mark Buehrle's perfect game against Tampa Bay last week, I thought it only fitting to recall a couple of efforts that nearly duplicated Johnny Vander Meer's historic achievement of consecutive no-hitters in June, 1938. When you consider that there have been a total of 263 no-hitters thrown in major league history; but just 18 perfect games and that Buehrle is only the eighth pitcher to do both, you quickly realize how truely rare Vander Meer's feat of 18 consecutive no-hit innings really is.