This Week in History: July 2-9
On July 2, 1941, for instance, Joe DiMaggio became baseball’s most consistent hitter in a way. In front of nearly 53,000 fans at Yankee Stadium, “Joltin’ Joe’s” three-run homer off Boston’s Dick Newsome extended his hitting streak to 45 games, surpassing Wee Willie Keeler's 44-game mark in 1897 as the longest single-season streak in MLB history (and tying Keeler's 45-gamer for the longest ever).
Thirty years later, another Yankees whose number is retired by the team made history when Ron Guidry led the Bombers to a 3-2 win over Detroit – a victory that ran Guidry’s record to 13-0 and gave him the best start in franchise history.
And, in 2007, the Yankees’ 5-1 win over the Twins gave Roger Clemens his 350th victory, making him just the first man since Warren Spahn to reach that number. In a fitting twist, then-Yankees manager Joe Torre was the catcher the day Spahn won his 350th game, making Torre a participant in both men’s historic outings.
This day in history also saw Joe Niekro win his 200th game, with the 7/2/85 Astros victory making him and brother Phil just the second sibling combo to both win 200 games (behind Jim and Gaylord Perry).
July 3, 1973 saw those Perry brothers face each other for the only time in their careers, with Jim’s Tigers defeating Gaylord’s Indians.
The date also saw three 40-year-olds start in the same Major League outfield for the first time. On July 3, 2006 – Moises Alou’s 40th birthday – the Giants’ starting outfield featured Alou and a pair of 41-year-olds in Steve Finley and Barry Bonds; together, they went 4-for-11 to help San Francisco down Philly 5-3.
July 4 has seen many memorable moments, five of which (including the birth of George Steinbrenner in 1930 and Lou Gehrig’s famous “Luckiest Man” speech in 1939) are chronicled in this week’s edition of The Niner…so in order not to spoil those, we’ll instead focus on another pair of Niekro moments.
On July 4, 1967, the Niekros faced each other when Phil’s Braves defeated Joe’s Cubs 8-3, making them just the second set of siblings (this time behind Jesse and Virgil Barnes) to be the opposing pitchers in a game (and of course, as your read above, the Perrys would soon become the third).
Seventeen years later, Phil, then with the Yankees, fanned Texas’ Larry Parrish to become the ninth Major Leaguer to reach 3,000 career strikeouts.
July 5, 1947 saw the American League break the color barrier, as Larry Doby made his MLB debut in a pinch-hitting appearance for the Indians. The 22-year-old would go on to play 13 Major League seasons and amass 1,515 hits, just three less than fellow pioneer Jackie Robinson.
This date has also seen a pair of historic family home run moments; in 1935, brothers went deep in the same game for the first time as Tony and Al Cuccinello each hit a home run in a contest that saw Tony’s Dodgers beat Al’s Giants 14-4, and in 1989, Barry Bonds and father Bobby became the all-time leaders on the father-son home run list when Barry’s blast gave them 408 – one more than the combos of Gus & Buddy Bell and Yogi & Dale Berra.
And finally, July 5, 1998 saw Roger Clemens, then with Toronto, strike out Tampa Bay’s Randy Winn to notch his 3,000th career K, becoming the 11th man to hit that milestone.
July 6 is a big day for retired players, especially Yankees.
On this date in 1941, Lou Gehrig was posthumously honored with a monument in center field at Yankee Stadium, thus becoming the first man to be enshrined in “Monument Park.” Six decades later, on Old-Timers’ Day 2002, Reggie Jackson earned his way into Monument Park as well, as a plaque dedicated to the brash outfielder was unveiled in the center field shrine.
July 6, 1989 also saw Mike Schmidt become the first retired player to be elected to start the All-Star Game. Schmidt, who abruptly retired earlier in the season after hitting just .203, declined the invite.
On July 7, 1900, the aptly-named Kid Nichols became the youngest player to win 300 games when his Boston Beaneaters defeated the Cubs 11-4. Nichols would go on to notch 361 victories in his career, and more than a century later remains the youngest to reach the 300 milestone.
A pitcher who may get there someday also was on the move on this date in 2008, as CC Sabathia was traded from the Indians to the Brewers for a package of four prospects.
Rounding out the week, July 8 is a big day in All-Star history. In 1941, Ted Williams hit the first walk-off homer in the All-Star Game to lead the AL to victory, and six years later, Yankees righty Spec Shea became the first rookie to win the All-Star Game when his three inning performance helped the AL down the NL 2-1.
Also on this day 12 years ago, the Yankees and Mets played the first double-ballpark doubleheader since 1903, with the Bombers sweeping the Amazins in the two-game city tour. Both games ended with the same score, as the Yankees won both the afternoon game in the Bronx and the nightcap in Queens by a 4-2 margin, and the finale saw former Mets ace Doc Gooden get his first win at Shea Stadium since 1994.
And that’s the week that was, for the week that is.
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