Today is Roberto Clemente Day in Major League Baseball. Roberto Clemente was the first player from Latin America inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but he is also remembered as a selfless humanitarian. When Clemente passed away on December 31, 1972, he was aboard a cargo plane that crashed on its way to Nicaragua. The plane had been carrying crucial supplies to the survivors of an earthquake in the area.
Roberto Clemente Day coincides with the start of Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States, and on this day, MLB takes the opportunity to remember both Clemente’s altruism and his prowess as a baseball player. The Roberto Clemente Award, which is awarded annually, recognizes players who exemplify good character, community involvement, philanthropy, and positive contributions, both on and off the field.
The list of nominees for the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award can be found here.
Babe Ruth hit the 300th home run of his career on September 8, 1925. The knock came in the seventh inning of the second game of a doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees won that game 7-4 to complete a doubleheader sweep at Fenway Park.
Vida Blue was a left-handed pitcher who is primarily known as a vital member of the Oakland Athletics dynasty that won three consecutive World Series championships from 1972 to 1974. Blue won the American League Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player Award in 1971, and he was the first pitcher ever to start the All-Star Game for both the American League (1971) and the National League (1978).
This tribute by Albert Jones was released in 1971.
A couple weeks ago, the Cubs posted this documentary about the restoration and expansion of Wrigley Field. The film also includes a lot of history of the ballpark and is certainly worth the watch. Even if you’re not a Cubs fan, one can’t deny Wrigley is an important landmark in the sport, and it would be nice to keep it around for as long as possible.
On August 28, 1884, New York Gothams pitcher Mickey Welch struck out the first nine Cleveland Blues hitters to come to the plate, establishing a major league record for consecutive strikeouts. Welch’s mark lasted until 1970, when New York Mets right-hander Tom Seaver would strike out the last ten San Diego batters he faced in a game at Shea Stadium.
This documentary, “Fastball,” is fun to watch, and currently, it’s available for free through YouTube. Kevin Costner narrates, and you also get to hear from Joe Posnanski, Derek Jeter, Goose Gossage, Hank Aaron, plus a number of other hard-throwing pitchers and the hitters who had to face them. The documentary is rich with stories about many of the great fastball pitchers in the game, both past and present, and I even found myself experiencing small surges of adrenaline as I watched. The science presented in the film is fascinating, as well.
It looks like you’ll have to make your way to YouTube to watch it, as I’m unable to drop the video here due to restrictions. Definitely check it out, if you get the chance!
In a publicity stunt arranged by the Come to Cleveland Committee on August 20, 1938, five members of the Indians (catchers Hank Helf, Frank Pytlak, and Rollie Hemsley and coaches Wally Schang and Johnny Bassler) attempted to set a record by catching a baseball dropped from the top of the 708-foot tall Terminal Tower. In front of a crowd of approximately 10,000 people, rookie reserve catcher Hank Helf managed to catch a ball dropped from the 52-story structure, which was estimated to be traveling at 138 mph. The catch broke Gabby Street’s 1908 mark for a vertical catch, established when Street snagged a ball dropped 555 feet from the top of the Washington Monument.
I enjoy the imagery presented in this piece. The metaphor comparing a pitcher to a dancer can be a good one, especially with some pitchers, like Luis Tiant, who have some rather elaborate windups.
Clear August sunlight spotlighted the dancer
he twirled in the style of Tiant
technical in spin, placed practiced choreography.
A white ball, laced red with a season’s skill and hope,
hurled to the stanched batter,
who would nick it to the dirt
In his 7th inning finale
a foul, a strike released in a summer’s era,
the spiraling pitcher spun to a season’s final ovation,
in late afternoon shadows.
On July 28, 1952, the Cincinnati Reds fired manager Luke Sewell. Sewell was then replaced by the recently released skipper of the St. Louis Browns, Rogers Hornsby, who was fired due to a disagreement with Bill Veeck over an incident against the Yankees. The Reds went 27-23 for the rest of the season.
On July 20, 1926, outfielder Al Simmons of the A’s established an American League record by playing in 394 consecutive games to start his career. The record held until Hideki Matsui played in 518 straight games after signing as a Japanese free agent with the Yankees, surpassing Simmons’s mark in 2005.