Baseball and the 4th of July: Celebrations and Happenings

by James Campbell

July 4th, Independence Day, Celebrating Being Free, Being American

And what is more American then baseball? It has faltered a bit in popularity in recent years, but for over 100 years it was ubiquitous with America. In fact, the famous idiom states, “As American as baseball and apple pie”   Many great instances of baseball lore have occurred on our nation’s semi formal birthday, the earliest account was an 1873 double-header, in which the Resolutes of Elizabeth, NJ upset the mighty Red Stockings in the am game, only to be demolished 32-3 in the night game.   -In 1912, Tiger pitcher George Mullins celebrates the nation’s birthday, and his own, by throwing a no-hitter against the St. Louis Browns. In addition to his excellent pitching, the 32-year old also collected three hits and drove in two runs during the 7-0 victory.   -In 1925, in a battle of southpaws at Yankee Stadium, Herb Pennock and Lefty Grove of the A’s hook up in a 15 inning pitchers’ duel which the Bronx Bombers won, 1-0. Penncock retired the first 18 batters and the last 21 batters he faced.   -In 1938, the Phillies moved into Shibe Park by splitting a twin bill with the Boston Bees (Braves) losing the first game, 10-5, and winning the nightcap, 10-2. Problems with Baker Bowl made it necessary for the Phils to share the Athletics’ home field at 21st Street and Lehigh Avenue.   -In 1969, at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium, Bob Oliver becomes the first player in Royals history to hit a grand slam. The center fielder’s eighth-inning blast came off Jim Bouton of the Pilots in an eventual 13-2 KC victory.   -In 1980, Nolan Ryan fans Ceasar Geronimo to record his 3000th career strikeout. He was the 4th pitcher to reach that milestone. In 1974, the Reds’ outfielder was also Bob Gibson’s 3000th victim. At least Ceasar has something in the record books!   -In 1983, Dave Righetti no-hits the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, 4-0.  He is the first Yankee to throw a no-hitter since Don Larsen’s 1956 Perfect game.   -In 1984, Yankee hurler Phil Niekro strikes out Ranger Larry Parrish to become the ninth major league player to reach the 3,000 strikeout milestone. Seems strikeout milestones are a 4th of July tradition.   -In 1998, the Diamondbacks win their first game ever.   But with the holiday, many novelty events took place, such as 1879, when 2 women’s teams, the New York Blue Stockings and the Philadelphia Red Stockings with the Blue Stockings winning 36-24 in a loosely played game that was cut short when the unruly crowd got out of control.   -In 1900, approximately one thousand people in the crowd of 10,000 fans attending the game at West Side grounds celebrated Independence Day by firing pistols into the air.   In 1911, Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida become the first Cuban natives to appear in a major league game as they both make their debut for the Reds. Appearing as pinch hitters in the eight inning, Almeida strikes out and Marsans singles in the 8-3 loss to the Cubs at Chicago’s West Side Grounds. In Detroit, Ed Walsh of the White Sox stops Ty Cobb’s 40 game hitting streak.   -In 1982, celebrating Independence Day at Mile High Stadium in Denver, 65,666 fans watch an American Association contest and enjoy a giant fireworks display after game. The gathering is the largest crowd in minor league history.   -In 2001, the Brewers’ new home, Miller Park, continues to be jinxed as a parachutist breaks his ankle when he misses the opening in the retractable roof and lands on a beam several hundred feet off the ground. Another member of the Sky Knights Sports Parachute Club missed the stadium completely. Not to be outdone, the fifty people stranded on the Ferris wheel ride at Comerica Park for two hours during the Royal-Tiger game are rescued by firefighters and emergency crews using a cherry picker and a fire truck ladder. The inconvenienced fans will receive tickets to another game, free dinner and team autographs from the Tigers.   As with any day in baseball, it also had its share of oddities.   -In 1884, IF Tom O’Brien of the defunct Union Association gets 5 hits, including a ball which disappears into a dirt heap and cannot be dug out in time to prevent O’Brien from circling the bases.   – In 1896, Washington and Philadelphia split a wild doubleheader. Washington wins the opener 13-8, while Philadelphia overcomes a 14-5 deficit to win the nightcap 15-14. The 2 teams combine for a ML record 73 hits for the twin bill. The record was tied on July 6, 1929.   -In 1905, the stereotypical hard-drinking baseball bum, Bugs Raymond was considered a better pitcher when lacking in sobriety, and unfortunately his managers took advantage of this; all except John McGraw who made a serious effort to save the man. Despite Raymond’s 2.03 ERA in 1908, the spitballer lost a league-high 25 games for the Cardinals. He was 18-12 for the Giants in 1909, his most effective season. Finally axed in 1911, he died shortly thereafter of a blow to the head in a barroom brawl. Before that happened, Bugs pitched a doubleheader in a Charleston, SC (South Atlantic league) game and tossed a no-hitter in BOTH games.   -In 1908, with two outs and an 0-2 count in the ninth inning, Giant pitcher George ‘Hooks’ Wiltse loses his perfect game when he hits opposing pitcher, George McQuillan, with a pitch. Ump Charles Rigler calls the pitch earlier a ball, to the dismay of Hooks and the fans, who thought it a strike… Wiltse still keeps his no-hitter intact as the Giants win 1-0 in the tenth. Art Devlin scores the winner in the 10th after singling off McQuillan and coming around on two errors. New York wins the nightcap more easily, 9–3.   -In 1932, Bill Dickey punches and breaks Carl Reynolds’s jaw after the Senator outfielder collides with him on a close play at home plate. The American League suspends the Yankee catcher for 30 days and fines him $1,000 for his one-punch fight.   -In 1934, When Dodgers manager Casey Stengel comes out to the mound to remove P Boom Boom Beck from the game in Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl, the frustrated Beck turns and fires the ball at the tin wall in RF. Dodgers OF Hack Wilson, not paying attention to the happenings, hears the ball, hurries to retrieve it, and fires a strike to 2B to prevent the imaginary runner from advancing.   -In 1935, due to his ‘wandering’ ball, Iola hurler Harold ‘Lefty’ Liell, a 5′ 6 1/2″, 155-pounder with pigeon-toed feet, is called up for a tryout with the Kansas City Blues. The K.C. manager Dutch Zwilling is impressed with the youngster’s performance, but advises the Greeley, Kansas lad to get more experience and suggests he play in the Ban Johnson League.   Photo of Harold ‘Lefty’ Liell   -In 1964, Kansas City’s Manny Jimenez, who didn’t homer in 1963, connects for three in a 6-6 tie with the Orioles. Game is stopped by a special Baltimore curfew to permit a fireworks show to take place.   -In 1985, in a marathon game that borders on the surreal, the Mets endure two rain delays and 6:10 of playing time to beat the Braves 16–13 in 19 innings on Fireworks Night in Atlanta. The Mets had taken a 10–8 lead in the top of the 13th inning, only to watch the Braves tie it up. The Mets score again in the 18th, but relief hurler Rick Camp (a .060 hitter who was batting because Atlanta had no more position players available to pinch-hit) ties the score with his first ML home run on a 2-out 2-strike pitch in the bottom of the inning. No pitcher ever homered that late in a game before. Finally the Mets erupt for five runs in the 19th off Camp and Atlanta can respond only with 2. Keith Hernandez hits for the cycle for the Mets, and the game ends at 3:55 A.M. on July 5th, the latest finish in ML history. At 4:01 A.M. the post-game fireworks display begins, causing local residents to think the city is under attack.   -Just recently in 2008, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki needs 16 stitches to close up a gash in his right palm caused by a maple bat when the he pounds it into the ground in frustration and it shatters. These types of bats are under scrutiny of a major league investigation because of their tendency to shatter when the hard wood break instead of just cracking like the bats made from softer ash.   One of my favorites, as every time I hear something insane come from Tim McCarver’s mouth I think of 1976 when Tim passes teammate Garry Maddox on the bases and he loses his grand slam. Great going color analyst.   But of all the occurrences on our wonderful holiday, none emphasized how much it symbolized the hope, the determination and the drive of those Americans that founded our country than 1939.   Picture Yankee stadium and it’s Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day. ’The Iron Horse’s’ uniform number 4 will be the FIRST EVER to be retired. After emcee Sid Mercer informs the sell-out crowd the man of the hour is too moved to speak, Gehrig changes his mind when Skipper Joe McCarthy encourages him, and delivers the keynote address in baseball history…   “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.   Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.   When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift — that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies — that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body — it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that’s the finest I know.   So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.”   Happy birthday my fellow Americans, stay safe, don’t drink and drive and just remember that like Lou Gehrig, with baseball in our life …we are indeed the ‘luckiest people on the face of the earth’.

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