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This Week in Baseball History: Oct. 4-10

Imagine what a healthy Mickey Mantle could have done ...

Oct. 5, 1888 – Pud Galvin: 1st 300 Game Winner

 

On June 4, 2009, Randy Johnson became the 24th and most recent 300 game winner. Will there ever be another one?

Just three active starters have more than 200 wins, but they are all nearing the end of their careers: Justin Verlander (226), Zack Greinke (219) and Jon Lester (200). Perhaps the best chance to actually reach 300 belongs to Max Scherzer, who only has 190 wins at age 36, but he is coming fresh off a Cy Young-caliber season. If Scherzer goes the path of Johnson and pitches until he is 45, he needs to average 12.2 wins a year.

Probable? I don’t think so. Possible? Definitely.

But let us travel back to a time when no 300 game winners existed. The year is 1888. The best hitter was Roger Connor (7.4 fWAR), aka baseball’s “Home Run King” before Babe Ruth came along. Silver King (A++ baseball name) was the best pitcher (11.1 fWAR in 585.2 IP).

And JamesPud” Galvin was inching in on a milestone with little fanfare: 300 wins.

Galvin threw a lot of innings in his 20s. Over a six-year span (1879-1884), he threw 3,263.2 innings to be exact. That’s more than Greinke has thrown in his entire major-league career (3,216.2 innings in the regular season + postseason). During that same period, Galvin earned 205 wins, including back-to-back 46-win seasons in ’83/’84. Oh, he also pitched a pair of no-hitters.

Being a workhorse back in the late-1800s/early-1900s allowed you to accumulate some ridiculous counting stats. Just ask Cy Young and his 315 losses.

This meant that in just 10 seasons, Galvin was able to reach the 300-win plateau in an unceremonious game on Oct. 5, 1888.

Galvin’s Pittsburgh Alleghenys triumphed over the Washington Nationals by a score of 5-1, thanks to eight errors by the Nats. Nobody mentioned Galvin’s accomplishment in contemporary newspaper reports. It took decades for fans and writers to appreciate that Galvin founded one of baseball’s most lauded clubs.

In fact, Brian Martin, author of Pud Galvin: Baseball’s First 300-Game Winner, said, “Galvin himself was likely unaware of the significance of that particular win, and he may have gone to his grave without ever knowing it.”

Why didn’t Galvin’s historical achievement command a lot of attention at the time? First, baseball was a relatively new sport at that time, and fans didn’t quite yet care about milestones. Secondly, statistical record keeping lacked uniformity and varied depending on your source.

Even as of today different websites will cite different dates for Galvin’s 300th win. Galvin earned his first four wins in 1875 in the National Association, which MLB and the Hall of Fame do not recognize as a “major league.” They agree that Galvin’s 300th occurred on Oct. 5. On the other hand, sources like SABR and Baseball-Reference do incorporate the National Association into their official statistics and say that Galvin’s 300th came on Sept. 4.

Nonetheless, in retrospect Galvin’s has earned proper recognition for his accomplishments in the early formative years of the sport. Oh, he also gained notoriety for doing another thing: baseball’s first PED user. In 1889, Galvin injected a concoction of testosterone from animal testicles.

No, thank you, that’s not for me. I’ll just stick to good ole’ fashioned steroids!

 

Oct. 5, 1951 – Mickey Mantle’s Knee Injury

 

Mickey Mantle is an inner-circle hitter among baseball’s elite. His career 112.3 fWAR and 110.2 bWAR rank 14th and 21st all-time, respectively.

If Mantle didn’t injure his knee on Oct. 5, 1951, he would’ve been even better.

That year, Mantle was a 19-year-old rookie with enticing raw talent. As seen on his scouting report from 1950, Mantle’s speed stood out. His home-to-first time was rumored to be 3.1 seconds. The 2021 leader in home-to-first time is Byron Buxton … with 4.0 seconds.

But that was just one asset of Mantle’s extremely well-rounded game. He could hit for a high average alongside massive power (e.g. .353 with 52 HR in 1956). He also had an amazing eye as he average 117 walks to 115 strikeouts per 162 games. Oh yeah, he was also the best switch hitter in history.

Mantle was as true of a five-tool player as they come.

On April 17, 1951The New York Times called Mantle an “Infant Prodigy” who was hailed as “another Ty Cobb.” At just 19 years old, Mantle was already seen as the successor to baseball’s biggest star at the time, Joe DiMaggio, who was in his final season.

Those two stars shared the outfield as they guided the Yankees to the 1951 World Series to face the New York Giants. In Game 1, the Giants earned a clean 5-1 victory as Dave Koslo neutralized the Yankees’ bats.

But in Game 2, the leadoff hitter Mantle responded in a huge way in his first at-bat: a successful bunt.

It’s easy to bunt when you have supernatural speed. Mantle came around to score on a Gil McDougald single to give the Yanks a 1 – 0 lead.

Later on in the fifth inning, the Yankees had a 2-0 lead as the Giants sent Willie Mays up to the plate. Mays launched a deep fly ball to right-center. Before the game, manager Casey Stengel told Mantle, the right fielder, “take everything you can get to right field,” as DiMaggio, the center fielder, had lost his speed.

So Mantle quickly ran over to catch the ball before DiMaggio called him off. Mantle was running full speed and tried to pull up quickly, but his cleat had been caught in a drainage ditch in the outfield. Mantle’s knee essentially imploded as he collapsed to the ground.

“Joe said that he thought I had been shot,” Mantle said in the video below.

 

Mantle was carted off the field and brought to a hospital where he underwent multiple surgeries to repair his knee. The damage was extreme. But contemporary medicine wasn’t able to accurately diagnose and fully heal Mantle’s knee. It was only with advancements in modern medicine that in 2010 one Mantle biographer, Jane Leavy, stated that Mantle had torn his meniscus, ACL and MCL.

In 2011, Adrian Peterson tore both his ACL and MCL and returned months later pain-free and better than he looked before. Mantle did not have that luxury. He would never play another game pain-free again.

Even though Mantle played the rest of his career with a partially-functioning knee, he went on to have an amazing career, slashing .298/.421/.557 with 536 home runs and even 153 stolen bases. But just imagine if Mantle had two healthy knees … imagine if he never lost his prodigal speed … imagine if he never turned to alcoholism to deal with his lifelong chronic pain.

It’s one of baseball’s greatest what-ifs.

 

Oct. 7 & 8, 1995 – Edgar Martinez’s Heroic ALDS

 

Mariners fans, what does 1995 mean to you?

Going into that season, there were rumors that the team would have to trade some star players and cut costs to deal with lost revenue from ’94 strike. Things looked bleak as late as Aug. 20, when Seattle was .500 and sat 12.5 games back of the division lead.

But a couple weeks later on Sept. 8, the Mariners decided they hated losing. They finished the year on a 17 – 5 stretch, giving them a 79 – 66 record and their first ever playoff berth.

 

Randy Johnson brought the team its first ever Cy Young award. Ken Griffey Jr.Edgar MartinezJay Buhner and Tino Martinez formed the core of this top five offense (106 wRC+).

Seattle had a lot of talent. And now they had to take it eastward to face the Yankees in the ALDS.

The first two games were quite frustrating for the Mariners.

In Game 1, they maintained a 4-4 tie going into the bottom of the seventh, but the Yankees exploded for a huge four-run rally to take a lead they’d never give up.

Game 2 was a back-and-forth, excruciating nail-biter. From the third to seventh inning, the lead changed hands four times. Eventually, the game went into extras with the score tied 4-4. Then, in the 12th inning, Griffey Jr. tried to save the day:

 

But Rubén Sierra responded with a chaotic two-out RBI double to keep the game going.

 

Finally, Jim Leyritz sent Yankees fans home happy with a 15th-inning walk-off blast.

 

The Yankees held a comfortable 2 – 0 series lead as the two teams traveled to Seattle for Game 3.

That game had a lot less drama as the Mariners comfortably out-slugged the Yankees 7-4, carried by a 3-for-4, 3-RBI performance from Tino Martinez.

Game 4 started off terribly for Seattle. Entering the bottom of the third, they trailed 5 – 0. But then Joey Cora had a leadoff single … and Griffey followed that up with another single. Up to bat came Edgar Martinez. And he sent the crowd of 57,180 fans into a frenzy.

 

But Edgar wasn’t done saving the day.

Fast-forward to the bottom of the eighth inning. The score was tied 6-6. On the mound for the Yankees was their star closer John Wetteland. But he was wild, loading the bases with no outs as Edgar stepped up to the plate. Take a guess what happened.

 

“Get out the rye bread and the mustard this time, Grandma! It is a grand salami!”

Amazing call from Dave Niehaus.

Edgar’s 3-for-4 day with 7 RBIs proved to be enough to force a Game 5 in Seattle as the Mariners won 11-8.

Just like nearly every other game of this series, the series finale was a rollercoaster.

A solo shot in the bottom of the third from Core gave Seattle a brief 1-0 lead before Paul O’Neill immediately responded with a two-run shot of his own. Buhner fought back the next half inning with an RBI single to even up the score 2-2.

A two-run double by Don Mattingly gave the Yankees another lead before a Griffey home run and subsequent bases-loaded walk to Doug Strange in the bottom of the eighth tied the score again.

Into extra innings the game went. The Cy Young-winning Johnson took over on three days rest for Seattle while Jack McDowell pitched for New York.

In the top of the 11th, a seeing-eye single from Randy Velarde put the Yankees up by one.

 

To the bottom of the inning we go.

McDowell give up back-to-back singles to Cora and Griffey, bringing Edgar up with a chance to be a hero again. The rest, is history.

 

If the 1995 Mariners saved baseball in Seattle, don’t forget that Edgar saved the 1995 Mariners. In 27 PAs, he hit .571/.667/1.000 with 6 R, 2 HR and 10 RBIs. Truly a herculean effort by arguably the best DH of all time.

 

Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire | Feature Graphic Designed by James Peterson (Follow @jhp_design714 on Instagram & Twitter)

Alex Kleinman

Journalist who loves the Yankees and the Bears. One gives me strength, the other leads me to existential dread. When I'm not obsessing over baseball, you can find me at a concert, hiking in a National Park or chasing my dog, Frankie, who has probably stolen one of my socks.

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