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Baseball history unpacked, April 18

Factoids and other stuff we looked up for your possible enjoyment and amusement

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Baseball History unpacked. I and my ever-filled iced mocha invite you to read our last episode, or any previous installments, which are available in this handy story-stream. Enjoy immoderately.

Please remember that these articles are for infotainment purposes only and are not intended to be the last word on anything.

Today in baseball history:

  • 1899 - John McGraw, 26, makes his debut as a major league manager, when his Orioles beat the Giants, a team he will later manage for 30 years, 5-3. ‘Mugsy’, who will be elected into the Hall of Fame in 1937, will finish his 33-year managerial career with a 2763-1948 (.586) record, en route to winning ten pennants and capturing three World Championships. (1)

John McGraw was perhaps the National League’s most influential figure in the Deadball Era. From 1902 to 1932 he led the New York Giants to 10 National League pennants, three World Series championships, and 21 first- or second-place finishes in 29 full seasons at their helm. His 2,784 managerial victories are second only to Connie Mack’s 3,731, but in 1927 Mack himself proclaimed, “There has been only one manager – and his name is McGraw.”

The pugnacious McGraw’s impact on the game, moreover, was even greater than his record suggests. As a player he helped develop “inside baseball,” which put a premium on strategy and guile, and later managed the way he’d played, seeking out every advantage for his Giants. Known as Mugsy (a nickname he detested) and Little Napoleon (for his dictatorial methods), McGraw administered harsh tongue-lashings to his players and frequently fought with umpires; he was ejected from 118 contests during his career, far more than any other manager. “McGraw eats gunpowder every morning for breakfast and washes it down with warm blood,” said Giants coach Arlie Latham. — Don Jensen, SABR.

Player stats.

Managerial stats.

  • 1923 - In front of over 72,000 fans, Yankee Stadium opens with Babe Ruth hitting the park’s first home run, a two-run homer off Red Sox hurler Howard Ehmke, which helps beat Boston, 4-1. The new $2.5 million ballpark is the first to feature three decks. (1)

A tour in words and pictures. An attendee’s account. More words and pictures.

  • 1925 - At his Waldorf-Astoria apartment, Dodgers’ owner Charles H. Ebbets dies of a heart attack at the age of 65. Later in the day, his team opens the home season in Brooklyn losing to the Giants at Ebbets Field, 7-0. (1)
  • 1925 - In a game that sees Rogers Hornsby score five runs, the Cardinals rout the Cubs, 20-5. Redbirds third baseman Les Bell leads the Wrigley Field 22-hit attack, compiling 12 total bases with a pair of home runs along with two two doubles. (1)

Box score.

  • 1945 - In his major league debut, one-armed outfielder Pete Gray got one hit in four at-bats in the St. Louis Browns’ 7-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers. (2)
  • 1946 - At Roosevelt Stadium in a game against the Jersey Giants, Montreal Royals’ on-deck batter George Shuba congratulates Jackie Robinson with a handshake after his teammate hits his first professional home run. The gesture will become known as ‘A Handshake for the Century’, because it will be the first time that a white player publicly acknowledges the accomplishment of a black teammate. (1)
Photo courtesy of Mike Shuba
  • 1950 - Vin Scully calls the first game of his illustrious 67-year career with the Dodgers, detailing Brooklyn’s 9-1 defeat to the Phillies on Opening Day at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park. (1)

In his words.

  • 1956 - Ed Rommel becomes the first major league umpire to wear glasses during a game when he mans third base during the Yankees’ 9-5 victory over Washington at Griffith Stadium. The bespectacled arbitrator, known as the father of the modern knuckleball, played 13 seasons with Philadelphia, compiling an impressive record of 171-119 with the A’s from 1920 to 1932. (1)

Eddie Rommel and the oddest pitching line ever.

  • 1987 - Mike Schmidt hits his 500th career home run, a three-run shot off Pittsburgh’s Don Robinson in the top of the ninth inning, to give the Phillies an 8-6 win. Schmidt is the 15th major league player to reach 500 home runs. (2)

Thanks for reading.