Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds both reached tainted milestones on August 4, 2007. Rodriguez hit his 500th home run and Barry Bonds got his 755th (tying Hank Aaron).
Bonds 755th – boos, cheers, and more boos
Jeff Blair, writing for the Globe and Mail called it “Barry Bonds’s desultory slog to slugger immortality.” He wrote:
Covering Bonds in San Francisco is one thing; it’s like covering a dictator’s political rally. Think Leni Riefenstahl meets This Week In Baseball.
This week, in the Giants’ three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, it was less about the fans (who gave it good to Bonds) than about how the game’s power brokers seemed almost embarrassed to get too close to Bonds. Commissioner Bud Selig was in Los Angeles and left. He essentially says his interest will be “day-to-day” after this weekend’s series in San Diego. Frank Robinson represented the commissioner’s office on Thursday, but nobody saw him. Players union chief Donald Fehr showed up on Wednesday and flew under the radar. He was in Los Angeles, he said, on other business.
For A-Rod on the other hand, it was mostly high praise and accolades. At age 32, he was the youngest player to reach the 500 home run plateau. He was viewed as a serious, legitimate contender who could eventually out-bomb Babe Ruth, Hank Aaraon, and even the disgraced Barry Bonds.
The only nay-sayer was Jose Canseco. A week before at a radio interview in Boston, Canseco said, “he has other stuff” on the Yankees slugger, who he called a hypocrite who “was not all he appeared to be.” Canseco who by that time had already admitted to his own juicing, was slammed by most of the baseball world and was accused of slinging mud at “poor little A-Rod”.
Four months later, The Mitchell Report was released (December 13, 2007). It implicated 89 Major Leaguers as having some involvement with the use of performance enhancing drugs including Bonds, Canseco and Roger Clemens. Rodriguez was not named in the Mitchell Report, but now Canseco’s allegations about him began to seem more legitimate.
December 16, 2007 – In an interview with Katie Couric, A-Rod lies about using Steriods
Willie McCovey hit his first Major League home run on August 2, 1959.
Unlike like his teammate and San Francisco Giants slugging partner, Willie Mays, who was hitless in his first 12 major league at-bats; the other Willie (some other!), Willie McCovey, let the baseball world know from the gitgo that “The New Willie” was anything but, just another Willie.
McCovey made his Major League debut on July 30, facing Phillies Hall of Fame pitcher, Robin Roberts. The 21-year-old McCovey was so intimidated by Roberts that he went four for four, hitting two singles and two triples. On day-one he racked up eight total bases. He would go on to collect another 4,211 total bases to go along with his 521 home runs and 1.550 RBIs, before ending his career in 1980; a career that spanned four decades.
On his second day in the Majors the Giants played the Pirates, and McCovey gave pitcher Harvey Haddix a break, only managing a single in four at bats. On August 1, Giants manager Bill Rigney batted his new phenom third, between Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda. McCovey did not disappoint. He hit a first inning double off of Red Witt and scored on Cepeda’s single. It was déjà vous for Witt in the third inning, another McCovey double and another Cepeda single knocking him in. Then the Giants brought in Bennie Daniels who was able to strike out McCovey in the fourth. Daniels pitched three scoreless innings, but in the seventh McCovey touched him up for a single. Then Cepeda also singled, moving McCovey to second. At that point Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh decided to bring in Roy Face to pitch to Willie Kirkland (Yes, another Willie. The Giants had three). Kirkland singled and McCovey scored. Before the inning ended the Giants had four more runs.
McCovey didn’t homer unitl his fourth game, but in the three games leading up to it he was 8-13 (.615) and had 14 total bases, giving him a slugging average of 1.077. In the game when McCovey hit his first homer, it was his only hit in five at bats.
He played in a total of 52 games during the 1959 and wound up with an average of .354. He also hit 13 home runs, had 38 RBIs and was named National League Rookie of the Year.
McCovey never hit for average like that again, although he was National League MVP in 1969 when he hit .320, belted 45 home runs and knocked in 126 RBIs. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1986, his first year of eligibility.
July 24, 1983 – It was the top of the 9th inning. The Kansas City Royals were down to their last out, trailing the Yankees 4-3. However, U.L. Washington breathed some life into the Royals, hitting a single to left, off of Dale Murray. That brought up George Brett, hitting .352. Billy Martin decided to bring in Rich Gossage to face him. After fouling off the first pitch, Brett crushed Gossage’s next one into the right field stands, and it appeared that the Royals had taken a 5-4 lead.
Not so fast, George
Newsday reporter, Derrick Jackson wrote:
As the home run was in flight, Operation Seize the Bat had begun. Martin lighted out of the dugout and ran to home plate umpire Tim McClelland. Martin and the Yankees yelled to Cerone grab the bat. Cerone spun, looked toward the Royals dugout and his heart started sinking. The bat boy was carting it away. Cerone yelled at the bat boy, 18-year-old Merritt Riley of Levittown, N.Y. Riley returned the bat.
Simple enough? Not quite. Cerone had a lapse of his own, took a look at the bat and surrendered it to Riley again. “I forgot what I was supposed to check the bat for,” Cerone said. “The only thing I remembered at first was that everybody told me it was an illegal bat. Since I couldn’t remember that it was supposed to be pine tar, I checked for cork in the bat. Since there was no cork, I flipped the bat back down.”
But the Yankees kept screaming at Cerone and McClelland. McClelland retrieved the bat. Martin stated his case to the umpires. The Royals started screaming at Riley for giving up the bat. Then all sides grew quiet as the umpires, McClelland, Drew Coble, Nick Bremigan and crew chief Joe Brinkman fondled the bat.
“I was laughing at the umpires when they were deciding what to do,” said Brett, who admitted that umpires had mentioned to him on other occasions to clean the tar on his bat. “Judge Joseph A. Wapner (of the television show The People’s Court) wouldn’t have called it back.”
Without a ruler to measure 18 inches, the umpiring crew decided to lay the bat across the top of the plate, which is 17 inches wide. “The pine tar clearly extended more than another inch,” McClelland said. Now came the matter of what to do with Brett. Rule 1.10 (b) said only that the bat shall be removed from the game. But there is also Rule 6.06 that states that if a bat has anything foreign on or in it, or is altered, the player would be called out and ejected.
Of course the Royals appealed,
and AL President Lee MacPhail ruled in their favor. The home run stood, but Brett was still ejected from the game.
So on August 18, the two teams were back in Yankee Stadium to complete some unfinished business. It was still the bottom of the 9th, the Royals still had two outs, but now they led 5-4. George Frazier, pitching for the Yankees, struck out Hal McRae. Then the Royals took the field, with Dan Quisenberry on the mound. Don Mattingly flew out to center, Roy Smalley flew out to left, and Oscar Gambled grounded out to 2nd. The whole thing took 9 minutes and 41 seconds, not including the 25 days that elapsed from the time of The Pine Tar Incident.
Johnny Bench broke the record held by Yogi Berra for the most home runs by a catcher. He hit his 314th round-tripper on July 15, 1980.
Bench was elected to the Hall of Fame after an illustrious career with the Cincinnati Reds. He was a key member of The Big Red Machine, the nickname given to Reds during the years in which they dominated baseball, 1970-1976. In that seven year span, the Reds won four National League pennants and two World Series. No National League has been able to win back-to-back World Series since the Cincinnati did it in 1975-1976.
Johnny Bench was National League Rookie of the Year in 1968. He was also NL MVP in 1970 (.293, 45, 148) and in 1972 (.270, 40, 125). He made the NL All Star Team 14 times (every season between 1968 and 1980.)
1976 was an off year for Bench. He only managed to hit 16 home runs and contributed a mere 74 RBIs. However he was solid in the NL championship, as the Reds swept the Phillies. He hit .333 in that series. In Cincinnati’s four game World Series sweep of the Yankees, Bench was on fire. He was 8-15 (.533), with a double, a triple, two homers and six RBIs.
As if that weren’t enough, he won ten consecutive Gold Glove awards, from 1968 to 1977.
Bench’s record for the most home runs by a catcher was eventually eclipsed by both Mike Piazza and Carlton Fisk, but between the two of them, they have no World Series rings and only a single Gold Glove. (Fisk in 1972). So we’ll leave it up to you to decide who was the greatest catcher of all time. (Don’t forget Yogi with his 313 homers and 11 World Series rings!)
The American League won the 1941 All-Star on a Ted Williams home run in the bottom of the 9th inning.
The game was played in Detroit at Briggs Stadium. Going into the bottom of the 8th inning the American League trailed 5-2 when Joe DiMaggio doubled off of Claude Passeau and scored on an his brother Dom’s rbi single.
Eddie Smith held the National League scoreless in the top of the 9th. Down by two in the bottom of the 9th, Passeau was back on the mount to close the game out for the Nationals. Frankie Hayes led off and was out on a pop fly to 2nd. Then Ken Keltner came in to pinch hit for Smith and reached on an infield hit to short. Keltner moved to 2nd on Joe Gordon’s single to right. Cecil Travis walked to load the bases. Joe DiMaggio hit what should have been a game-ending double play ball to the National League’s second baseman, Billy Herman; but Herman’s throw to first base was wide, and DiMaggio was able to reach as Travis was forced out at 2nd. Meanwhile Gordon went to third and Keltner scored. Then Williams came to bat with two outs and runners at the corners. He hit a homer into the right field stands and the American League All Stars walked off with a 7-5 win.
Williams went into the All-Star break batting .405. After a July 19 doubleheader his average fell to .393, but by July 25 he was back up to .400. For the rest of the season he stayed above .400 and his final average was .406. Since 1941, no Major League player has batted .400 for an entire season, although Williams did come close in 1957, when at the age of 39 he hit .388.