LINEDRIVER'S April 15th Baseball History Picks
APRIL 15, 1967 … Eighteen-year-old Reds’ starting pitcher Gary Nolan makes his major league debut and strikes out Houston’s Sonny Jackson, Jim Landis, and Jimmy Wynn in the first-inning at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field. Reds’ right-fielder Tommy Harper opens the bottom of the first-inning with a HR off Chris Zachary. Reds’ third-baseman Deron Johnson contributes to the day’s offense with a pair of solo homers. Veteran reliever Ted Abernathy picks up his third save of the season after replacing a tired Nolan in the eighth-inning. Cincinnati 7, Houston 3.
Longtime Crosley Field goers are making the needed adjustment in accepting longtime Braves’ third baseman Eddie Mathews as a Houston Astros’ first baseman. The 35-year-old Mathews, playing in just his fifth game as an Astro, slugged 493 HR’s in 15 seasons while anchoring the Braves hot corner from 1952-1966. Mathews and Henry Aaron blasted a total of 863 HR’s as teammates from 1954-1966, surpassing the old teammate record of 859 set by a couple of guys named Ruth and Gehrig.
---Other April 15 Baseball History Picks---
APRIL 15, 1918 … Twenty-two-year-old Red Sox’ lefty pitcher Babe Ruth, the winner of 65 regular season games over the past three seasons, throws a four-hitter against the Philadelphia A’s on Opening Day in Boston’s Fenway Park. This is Ruth’s third consecutive Opening Day victory. Boston 7, Philadelphia 1.
APRIL 15, 1969 … The Reds and Giants battle for 12 innings before the Reds win, 11–10. The game is tied at 5–5 at the end of eight innings. Each team scores three in the 9th and two runs in the 10th. Johnny Bench’s bases-loaded single off Gaylord Perry ends it in the twelfth-inning.
APRIL 15, 1988 … Onetime Reds’ star shortstop and now utility infielder Dave Concepcion is ejected from the dugout during the ten-inning 4-2 win over the Astros. Concepcion is ejected for blowing kisses at umpire Dave Pallone. Concepcion and Pallone have been involved in a running feud.
APRIL 15, 1993 … The Detroit Tigers defeat the Oakland A’s, 3-2, allowing manager Sparky Anderson to pick up his 2,000th career victory. Only six managers in MLB history have won more games.
APRIL 15, 2000 … The Orioles defeat the Twins, 6-4, as Cal Ripken, Jr. gets the 3,000th hit of his career. Ripken goes 3-for-5 in becoming the 24th player to reach the milestone, and the 7th to get 3,000 hits and 400 home runs.
---More about Eddie Mathews---
Mathews was heavily scouted while in high school. He signed with the Boston Braves on his high school graduation night in 1949. He and his father decided that the quickest way to the majors would be to sign with Boston. Their plan was for Eddie come up through the minors quickly and in time to replace Bob Elliot, the Braves aging third baseman. The plan came to fruition and Mathews kept the starting third base job with the Braves for fifteen years.
Mathews was born a natural athlete with a remarkable physique, a rifle arm, tremendous power and bat speed that was marveled at by opponents. He pounded out 190 homers in his first five seasons, 1952-1956. He led the NL in homers in 1953 and 1959. He hit 40 or more homers in a season four times and 30 or more homers six times.
The left-handed hitting Mathews combined with right-handed hitting teammate Hank Aaron to terrorize National League pitchers for many years as an awesome back-to-back offensive punch. The two players belted a total of 863 home runs while playing as teammates from 1954-1966.
Mathews was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1978. His 512 homeruns ties him with Ernie Banks on the all-time list. His 486 homers as a third baseman were a record until broken by Mike Schmidt.
Ty Cobb, not known to hype the modern day ballplayer, was impressed with Mathews. “I’ve only known three or four perfect swings in my time. This lad has one of them,“ said Cobb.