I always play with a big smile on my face.
On April 6, 1971 at San Diego Stadium (later known as Jack Murphy Stadium), Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants hit a home run in the first inning off Tom Phoebus of the Padres on Opening Day. This blast marked the beginning of an historic streak in which Mays hit home runs in each of the Giants’ first four games, setting a major league record. The record would later be tied by Mark McGwire (1998), Nelson Cruz (2011), and Chris Davis (2013).
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.
Congratulations to Diamondbacks pitcher Tyler Gilbert, who threw a no-hitter in his first MLB start last night. Gilbert led the Diamondbacks to a 7-0 victory over the San Diego Padres with his performance. At 27 years old, Gilbert had spent six years in the minors before appearing in relief three times for the Diamondbacks prior to being given the start in last night’s game.
Gilbert didn’t play baseball in 2020 after the minor league season was canceled, due to the pandemic. He spent the summer learning to be an electrician from his dad and making some extra money. With last night’s achievement, however, Gilbert commented, “I’d rather be doing this than pulling wires. No offense, Dad.”
The television series Pitch aired on Fox in 2016, and I watched it perhaps a year later. I have been meaning to write about it here ever since, but I think the delay has been largely due to debating how I would approach this thing. When I watched Ken Burns’s Baseball documentary series, I wrote about it one episode at a time. However, each episode of that series is approximately two hours long and crammed full of information. Pitch, meanwhile, is more of a standard television drama. A separate post for each episode seems excessive. However, a really long, single, detailed post also seems excessive, so this is going to be quite the Reader’s Digest summary.
The series revolves around a character named Ginny Baker, who becomes the first woman to play Major League Baseball. In the first episode of the show, Ginny makes her Major League debut with the San Diego Padres. Though her first start goes terribly, the team opts not to send her back to the minors because they realize that having the first woman Major Leaguer is quite a draw for crowds (it’s always about the money, right?). Fortunately, Ginny manages to recover from her stumble, and thus, the series takes off.
Ginny’s father, Bill, is the one who not only taught her to pitch, but who also drove her to become good enough to go pro. We learn early on, however, that Bill actually died years ago in a car accident, right around when Ginny was first drafted by the Padres organization. His lessons and his death continue to haunt Ginny throughout the series.
Ginny’s relationship with her father is only one of many conflicts throughout the show. Pitch goes out of its way to try to accurately depict what it would really be like if a woman were to break into the majors. Ginny deals with an immense amount of pressure in this role, not just through her performance on the diamond, but also in being put up on a pedestal as a role model for girl athletes. Through all the publicity, Ginny’s primary goal with the team is to be accepted as one of the guys. We also see drama surrounding the All-Star Game, the trade deadline, the relationships between Ginny and her agent and between Ginny and catcher Mike Lawson, relationships between other players and with their families, and conflicts arising due to Ginny’s brother, Will, trying to capitalize on his sister’s fame.
Once I started watching this series, I was instantly hooked. I rarely binge-watch anything, but I blew through every episode of Pitch in about two days. The show does a tremendous job of drawing viewers into the stories surrounding each of the characters, and it throws in enough baseball to give satisfaction to baseball fans. My only complaint about this show is that it did not get renewed for a second season, leaving so many questions hanging unanswered and the story unfinished.
A couple years ago, I posted about Dock Ellis’s no-hitter, thrown while high on LSD on June 12, 1970 against the Padres. Last night I found this video from No Mas depicting the story in cartoon form. Artist James Blagden used the original audio from an interview Ellis recorded with radio producers Donnell Alexander and Neille Ilel in 2008 to create this short, animated film. It’s quite amusing (and full of flashing colors, so be forewarned). Enjoy!
Here’s a fun first pitch — this Cirque du Soleil performer threw out the first pitch at a Padres game in 2011. This would be an interesting way to throw off the hitter’s timing. Or, in my case, I’d be so busy watching the guy’s acrobatics that I’d forget about the ball entirely.
I’ve had a few posts lately talking about switch pitchers, which is, without a doubt, a difficult skill to develop. But what about pitching with one’s feet? That’s exactly what Tom Willis did on Monday, when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at AT&T Park.
Born without arms, Willis has learned to function by relying on his feet. And, as we can see, he’s learned to do quite a bit that way. Not only did his toss make it to the catcher on the fly, it also appears to be a strike.
As it turns out, this wasn’t Tom Willis’s first go at this kind of thing. On May 27, 2008, he had the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Padres game. Looks like he’s been putting in some work on his location since then.
Yesterday, we lost one of the game’s greatest hitters, and a huge part of my earliest introduction to baseball. Tony Gwynn was a career San Diego Padre, a 15-time All Star, and was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 alongside Cal Ripken, Jr. He passed away yesterday after a long battle with salivary gland cancer.
The San Diego Padres occupy the next spot in our lineup of “Talkin’ Baseball” songs. On a personal note, while I root for the Royals today, my older brother pulls for the Padres, and so talk of Tony Gwynn, Fred McGriff, and Gary Sheffield permeate memories of my earliest introduction to Major League Baseball. Backyard baseball meant emulating Gwynn’s swing in an effort to knock the ball over the fence. Ah, nostalgia.
To see all “Talkin’ Baseball” videos, click here.