May 24, 1935 – MLB’s First Night Game
Once upon a time, there was no such thing as a night game.
Baseball teams experimented with this concept for over half a century, but it was nothing more than a novelty used to drum up attendance figures for struggling independent/minor league teams.
The first ever “night game” happened on Sept. 2, 1880, when two company teams played between three separate 100-foot tall light towers that, combined, shined as bright as 90,000 candles. However, players and fans alike struggled to follow the baseball due to the inconsistent lighting. After many errors and nine innings, the game ended in a 16-16 tie.
A few similar endeavors took place over the next couple decades, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the art of night baseball became perfected.
J.L. Wilkinson, owner of the Kansas City Monarchs, pioneered a portable lighting setup that accompanied his team on barnstorming tours.
Muehlebach Field, Kansas City, 1930 – Kansas City Monarchs owner J.L. Wilkinson ingenious plan for night baseball helped saved the dying Negro League club and set the way for night baseball across the land. He reportedly invested $50,000-100,000 on the portable lighting system pic.twitter.com/XbeuDxVd8E
— Old-Time Baseball Photos (@OTBaseballPhoto) February 1, 2021
On May 2, 1930, the first ever night time game under a permanent setup took place in the minor leagues between the Des Moines Demons and Wichita Aviators.
#OTD May 2, 1930
The first professional baseball game played at night — under permanent lights — was played in Des Moines.
The Des Moines Demons scored 11 in the first and defeated the Wichita Aviators 13-6.
It is immediately predicted night baseball will be a success. #MiLB pic.twitter.com/ZfHxUbCHSA
— sailor (@sailor643) May 2, 2020
Despite the success of night time baseball in the minors and Negro Leagues, many major leaguers believed that it could never happen in the MLB. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis even told Reds general manager Larry MacPhail, “not in my lifetime or yours will you ever see a baseball game played at night in the majors.”
MacPhail took that personally. The Reds were struggling financially, and MacPhail eventually changed Landis’ mind and received permission to host seven night games during the 1935 season.
The first instance of this experiment happened on May 24, when Cincinnati hosted the Phillies in front of 20,422 fans. Their previous game had just 2,000 fans in attendance. To add to the spectacle at hand, President Franklin Roosevelt symbolically turned on the lights from Washington, D.C.
May 24, 1935: The Reds host the Phillies in the first night game in MLB history in front of 20,422 fans at Crosley Field. President Franklin D. Roosevelt "turns on" the lights from Washington at 8:30 p.m. before Cincinnati goes on to defeat Philadelphia 2-1. #RedsVault pic.twitter.com/ppIKb5CpoM
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) May 25, 2020
Reds broadcaster Red Barber remarked, “as soon as I saw the lights come on, I knew they were here to stay.”
Without any of the issues that plagued the first night game in 1880, this contest proved to be an extremely exciting pitchers’ duel. Phillies starter Joe Bowman let up just two runs over seven innings, but Reds starter Paul Derringer pitched a one-run, complete game to earn a win.
Vintage Photo of the Day: @MLB
May 24th, 1935: The first ever night game at Crosley Field between the @Phillies and @Reds. #Phillies #Reds #MLB #RingTheBell #BornToBaseball pic.twitter.com/NtYAOfsJDL
— Chris Larson (@SportsTechie17) May 28, 2019
After seeing the success of MacPhail’s experiment, almost every MLB team immediately embraced night games.
Everyone except the Cubs. They finally changed their mind on Aug. 8, 1988, almost 108 years after the very first baseball night game. Seems like the Cubs can never escape the number 108.
May 26, 1959 – Harvey Haddix’s 12 Perfect Innings
What do you think is the best pitching performance ever?
If you said Kerry Wood’s 20 strikeout game, I’d say you are probably right. However, there is one game that is often forgotten about because the pitcher lost. But what he did has never been done before or since.
This is the story of when 12 perfect innings was not enough.
Harvey Haddix debuted with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1952, and he broke out the very next year with a 3.06 ERA/139 ERA+ over 253 IP in the first of three consecutive All-Star seasons. Between ’56 and ’59, Haddix took a lap around central America, moving from St. Louis to Philadelphia to Cincinnati to Pittsburgh.
In ’58, the Pirates had one of the better lineups in all of baseball (97 wRC+ was fifth best of 16 teams). But in ’59, that offense regressed significantly (70 wRC+ was fifth worst). As a result, Pittsburgh often relied on their two best starters, Haddix and Vern Law, to lead the team to victory.
But as we witness now with Jacob deGrom, you can’t win a game even if you are perfect on the mound. You still need at least one run. Literally, just one run … c’mon, Mets.
Harvey Haddix schools a young Nolan Ryan at Shea Stadium. #MetsRewind pic.twitter.com/B8xkIY3AzN
— @MetsRewind (@metsrewind) June 14, 2017
Haddix learned that in excruciating fashion on May 26, 1959 when the Pirates visited an absolutely killer Milwaukee Braves lineup. The heart of the Braves’ order featured Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron and Joe Adcock — two Hall of Fame sluggers and a perennial four-WAR hitter. In fact, this Braves offense had won the NL Pennant the previous two seasons, including a World Series title in ’57.
If that wasn’t enough, the Braves were doing their best Astros impression. One Milwaukee pitcher, Bob Buhl, later revealed that every hitter except Aaron had been stealing Haddix’s signs the entire time. The Braves bullpen used binoculars to see what was coming and then used a towel to communicate to the hitter if it was a fastball or breaking ball.
Even though almost every hitter knew what to expect, they couldn’t do anything productive. To stack the odds against Haddix even more, he was sick and had a foggy head the entire game. Despite everything working against Haddix, he delivered one of the most dominant performances that any pitcher had ever done.
Pirates outfielder Bill Mazeroski described this as “the easiest game [he] ever played in.”
In merely 78 pitches, Haddix cruised through the entire Braves lineup three times. Eight batters flew out to the outfield and eight were retired. The rest hit balls that never left the infield. After nine innings, Haddix was still perfect.
The problem was, the Pirates could not hit with RISP. And unfortunately for Haddix, their three best hitters had sat out the game. In the first nine innings, the Pirates recorded eight singles and no walks off Braves starter Lew Burdette. The result? Zero runs.
Into extra innings both starters went. The 10th came and went … and then the 11th … and then the 12th … and Haddix was still perfect. But Burdette had been nails, too. Throughout the entire game, a Pirates batter went further than first base just twice.
The top of the 13th was the same story for Pittsburgh: one hit, no runs. Enter the bottom half of the inning with Haddix facing Félix Mantilla. On the fourth pitch of the AB, Mantilla grounded a ball to third baseman Don Hoak, who proceeded to spike the ball in the dirt on his throw to first for an error. Just like that, Haddix’s perfect game was over.
Mathews bunted Mantilla over to second, and then Haddix intentionally walked Aaron. The next batter, Adcock, took a 1-0 slider over the right-center fence to end the game and give Haddix the loss.
Since Adcock and Aaron had accidentally crossed each other on the bases, just one run was charged to Haddix to give a final score of 1-0.
56 years ago, @Pirates starter Harvey Haddix threw 12 perfect innings … and lost: http://t.co/mGfVhLoOMN pic.twitter.com/QmeqqhdEU4
— Cut4 (@Cut4) May 26, 2015
Haddix’s final line: 12.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R (0 ER), 1 BB and 8 K.
Burdette, the winning pitcher (13 IP, 12 H, 0 R, 0 BB and 2 K), said Haddix “deserved to win.” Adcock, who hit the walk-off “double,” added “you can say that again.”
Even Mazeroski, who is famous for his Game 7 World Series walk-off homer in 1960, likes to describe this as the most memorable game he ever played in.
May 26, 1993 – José Canseco’s Home Run Header
Most people may question José Canseco’s integrity, but you can’t question the fact that he is headstrong.
Need proof? Look no further than what happened on May 26, 1993.
Leading into the ’93 season, Canseco was one of baseball’s premier power hitters. From his debut in ’85 to ’92, Canseco’s 138 wRC+ was the 14th best in all of baseball. In ’93, Canseco stumbled out of the gate, hitting just .200/.254/.345 over the first 14 games. But over the next month, Canseco reverted to his All Star-caliber performance. From April 24 through May 25, Canseco hit .333/.385/.598.
On May 26, Canseco’s Rangers — which featured a star-studded lineup of Iván Rodríguez, Rafael Palmeiro and Juan González —visited the Indians at Cleveland Stadium. While the Rangers were tied for second place in the AL West, the Indians were dead last in the East. As a result, just 14,305 fans turned out to witness one of baseball’s most legendary blunders.
The Rangers took a commanding 3-0 lead in the first thanks to a pair of homers from Julio Franco and Palmeiro, but the Indians got one run on the board off Texas ace Kenny Rogers in the third.
Still holding a 3-1 lead in the fourth, Rogers faced DH Carlos Martínez, who worked a 2-1 count. The fourth pitch of the AB, Martínez slapped to right field. And, well, you just have to watch what happened.
It’s one thing to push over the fence while trying to rob a home run. But here, this 360-foot pop-out was well short of seats. It’s actually quite impressive to have that clean of a header during a live baseball game.
Canseco himself never forgot about it.
23 years ago today I bounced a homer off my head .
— Jose Canseco (@JoseCanseco) May 26, 2016
That one moment encapsulated the entirety of the ’93 season for Canseco and the Rangers. They ultimately would lose this game 7-6 … by just one run. The Rangers couldn’t squeak into the playoffs, finishing in second place in their division.
As for Canseco? Well, that dinger must’ve knocked a screw loose.
From that game on, Canseco hit just .153/.203/.271 across 64 PAs before his season ended abruptly in June. Why did that happen?
Just three days after the ball hit his noggin, Canseco asked his manager, Kevin Kennedy, if he could pitch in what looked to be a blowout loss against the Red Sox. Kennedy obliged, making Canseco the first position player to pitch in Rangers history.
Canseco blew out his arm and needed Tommy John surgery.
May 28, 1998 – Barry Bonds’ Bases-Loaded IBB
When Barry Bonds was in his prime, he reached base more frequently than he got out. At his absolute best in 2004, Bonds had a .609 OBP … over 60% of the time, Bonds would have a productive plate appearance. And that’s not counting the times when he would record an out, yet move a runner over or force a pitcher to throw a lot of pitches. Simply put, every time Bonds held a bat, he would hurt you.
That thought must’ve been coursing through Diamondbacks manager Buck Showalter’s brain when he made an impossibly gutsy call.
On May 28, 1998, the Giants had a critical opportunity. After finding themselves losing 7-2 to the Diamondbacks a four-run first and three-run seventh, San Francisco came crawling back with a late-game comeback. In the bottom of the seventh, Chris Jones hit a leadoff home run. The next inning, a rally brought home two more runs to shrink the lead to 7-5. Bonds, who started the game on the bench, made a pinch-hit appearance during that inning. Gregg Olson pitched around Bonds and walked him on six pitches.
Although Arizona gave themselves a cushion with one insurance run in the top of the ninth, San Francisco roared back with another run to make it 8-6. Then, as Olson pitched his second inning of work, the Giants loaded the bases for Bonds with two outs.
Showalter wanted nothing to do with Bonds, so he did something almost unprecedented. For the first time since 1944, we witnessed a bases-loaded intentional walk.
Bonds, as he later described it, was “shocked.”
This was the fifth time it had ever happened. Josh Hamilton’s IBB in 2008 was the sixth.
What caused Showalter to make this decision?
Well, Bonds “had unbelievable numbers against Olson,” Showalter said. Olson was also exhausted, having already thrown 40+ pitches when he regularly threw around 15. The batter that followed Bonds, Brent Mayne, was just a .263/.332/.348 career hitter over 4,084 PAs… Bonds’ slugging at the time (.605) was just a bit behind Mayne’s career OPS (.680).
At first, Diamondbacks catcher Kelly Stinnett couldn’t believe it and did a triple take when he saw Showalter put four fingers up. Bonds also looked at Showalter in disbelief. Buck replied with a wink.
Ultimately, this gambit somehow paid off. Yes, the lead shrunk to just 8-7. Mayne came up to hit and really piled the pressure on by working the count full. Finally, on the eighth pitch of the AB, Mayne lined out to right to end the game and notch a win for Arizona.
Honestly, seeing how deadly Bonds was in his prime, I’m surprised he had just one bases-loaded intentional walk. After all, this is a guy whose 688 career IBBs dwarf that of second place (Albert Pujols with 313).
May 29, 2010 – Roy Halladay’s Perfect Game
Growing up a Yankees fan, there was no pitcher who terrified me more than Roy Halladay. Despite Halladay regularly eviscerating some talented Yankees lineups, he was my favorite starting pitcher to watch.
I expected the same line each and every start: eight innings pitched with one run … maybe two, if the Yankees were lucky.
When the Blue Jays traded Halladay to the Phillies, I felt relieved. Finally, I could root for him without feeling any pinstriped guilt. And hopefully Halladay would finally earn the national recognition he deserved, especially after miring away on a mediocre Toronto team for over a decade.
In 2010, Halladay absolutely shined in the limelight.
Over his first six starts, Halladay had two CGSOs. He also had one complete game where he let up just one unearned run. The NL East stood no match for the Doc. On May 29, the Marlins learned that the hard way.
That Marlins team had some pretty talented bats. Hanley Ramírez was in his third consecutive All-Star season. Dan Uggla was arguably the best second baseman in the NL. Chris Coghlan was looking to build upon his ROY award in 2009. But all of them were helpless against Doc’s cutter and sinker combo.
The first two innings played out the exact same way: two strikeouts, then a weak groundout for out three. In the third, Cameron Maybin finally hit a ball into the outfield, but it was caught by the CF.
With Halladay’s patented quickness and efficiency, he carved apart the Marlins and made them yearn for a time before 1993. It didn’t feel like he was pitching with just a one-run lead. As was usually the case with Doc in Toronto, just one run was all he needed to win.
In two hours, the game flew by. 24 Marlins had gone up, and 24 had went back down. The first batter in the ninth, Mike Lamb, managed a warning-track shot to deep center, but it was caught for out one. Next: Wes Helms. He sat there looking at an inside cutter for out two. Just Ronny Paulino stood by Halladay and history.
On a 1-2 count, Doc delivered a pitch that enshrined him in baseball immortality.
9 IP, 11 Ks and no baserunners.
2010 was just a perfect year for Halladay in general. Not only did he pitch a perfect game and win the Cy Young, but he also threw a no-hitter in his first ever postseason start.
If you want to relive all 27 outs of Halladay’s perfecto, here you go:
Photo by Icon SMI | | Feature Graphic Designed by James Peterson (Follow @jhp_design714 on Instagram & Twitter)