On Opening Day, April 16, 1926, rookie Earl Averill became the first American Leaguer to hit a home run in his first major league at-bat. The Indians center fielder’s blast came on an 0-2 count against Detroit pitcher Earl Whitehill as Cleveland defeated the Tigers, 5-4.
During a spring training game on April 7, 1925, A’s first baseman Joe Hauser shattered his kneecap, an injury that would cause him to miss the entire season. After batting .323 and blasting 27 homers, second only to Babe Ruth’s total (46) during the 1924 season, Hauser would only remain in the majors a few more years, until 1929, eventually returning to the minor leagues. Back in the minors, Hauser became a prodigious home run hitter before a batted ball broke a kneecap again in 1934.
On April 2, 1982, during an exhibition contest at Jack Murphy Stadium against the San Diego Padres, Oakland manager Billy Martin ordered pitcher Steve McCatty to go to home plate with a 15-inch toy bat. The move was a protest of the rule preventing the use of the designated hitter in National League ballparks. Umpire Jim Quick refused to let McCatty use the bat, however, so McCatty instead took three called strikes while holding a real bat.
On April 1, 1989, This Week In Baseball aired the segment below announcing that Major League Baseball has legalized aluminum bats for one season. I have to say, they did a convincing job of it, and I would be curious to find out how many fans fell for this fabricated story.
Right-handed pitcher Denny McLain’s major league career came to an end on March 27, 1973 when he was released by the Atlanta Braves. Only 29 years old at the time, McLain ended his ten-year career with a 131-92 career record and an ERA of 3.39. In 1968, McLain was the first 30-game winner since 1934.
In a spring exhibition game on March 23, 1934, Babe Didrikson pitched the first inning for the St. Louis Cardinals. The female track and field Olympian gave up three runs against the Red Sox in Bradenton, Florida.
During World War II, Philadelphia Athletics catcher Harry O’Neill was killed by a sniper at Iwo Jima on March 6, 1945. O’Neill had only appeared in one game for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1939. O’Neill and Elmer Gedeon were the only two Major League Baseball players killed during World War II.
On the first day of spring training, March 1, 1954, Ted Williams broke his collarbone running after a line drive. Williams would be out for six weeks, and in April he wrote an article with Joe Reichler of the Saturday Evening Post saying that he intended to retire at the end of the season. Williams instead returned to the Red Sox lineup on May 7th, and during the 1954 season he hit .345 with 386 at bats in 117 games.
On February 17, 1937, the New York Yankees purchased the contract of Babe Dahlgren from the Boston Red Sox. Dahlgren would go on to replace Lou Gehrig in the Yankees lineup at the end of the Iron Horse’s consecutive game streak in 1939. During his four-year tenure with the Bronx Bombers, Dahlgren would compile a .248 batting average in 1,143 at-bats before being bought by the Boston Braves.
While coaching a high school basketball team on February 9, 1946, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Preacher Roe got into a fight with the referee that resulted in him hitting his head on the floor and fracturing his skull. As a result, the southpaw would report to spring training a month late, and his pitching suffered during the season, with his record falling to 3–8 and posting an ERA of 5.14 in 1946.