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Baseball history unpacked, April 7

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The Curt Flood Act, The Save, and other bullets

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Curt Flood
a Curt greeting
Photo by: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Fields in the stream. Fittingly, a lot of today’s nuggets are from Brewers history. Several historically important things happened, and we’ll unpack those a bit. By now, I’m sure you’re starting to see a pattern emerge. If not, hang on. The dots will get connected eventually.

Today in baseball history:

  • 1969 - Bill Singer becomes the first major league reliever to officially record a save in the Dodgers’ 3-2 win over Cincinnati in the season-opener at Crosley Field. (1)

“Starting in 1969, a relief pitcher earned a save when he entered the game with his team in the lead and held the lead for the remainder of the game, provided that he was not credited with the victory. A relief pitcher could not be credited with a save if he did not finish the game unless he was removed for a pinch hitter or a pinch runner. When one or more relief pitchers qualified for a save under the provisions of this rule, the official scorer would credit the save to the pitcher he judged to have been the most effective.” (4)

The 1974 modifications were: “He had to enter the game with either the potential tying or winning run either on base or at the plate and preserve the lead; or he had to pitch at least three or more effective innings and preserve the lead.

A pitcher could be credited with the save even if he had not finished the game, provided he had been removed either for a pinch hitter or a pinch runner. When more than one pitcher was in a position to qualify for a save, the official scorer had to judge which of them had been most effective and award the save to him.” (4)

The save was created as a statistic as a result of a lobbying effort by sportswriter Jerome Holtzman of the Chicago Sun-Times during the 1960s. He argued that traditional pitching statistics - relief wins and losses - were not adequate in capturing the work done by relief specialists and proposed the save as a way of measuring the number of times a relief pitcher was successful in one of the most critical missions that he had to accomplish - preserving a lead. The Sporting News, a weekly publication for which Holtzman also wrote, began calculating saves several seasons before the scoring rules provided an official definition. (4)

The continuous evolution of the game has determined that specialists called “closers” now finish a large percentage of their teams’ games and are counted on to preserve the lead. They’re among the most important and highly-paid players in the game.

In the event that you know all of this, never mind.

  • 1970 - The team formerly known as the Seattle Pilots plays their first home game in Milwaukee as the Brewers in front of 36,107 enthusiastic fans at County Stadium. (1)
  • 1971 - The dismissal of Curt Flood’s suit against baseball is upheld by a three-judge U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. (2)

Here’s the full text, if you want it. This was the landmark case that resulted in free agency beginning, as Flood challenged baseball’s reserve clause, which “prevented players from moving to another team unless they were traded.”

Bowie Kuhn denied Flood’s request to become a free agent in 1970, and Flood filed suit. He wasn’t the first player to challenge the clause, but he was the most prominent, and he wasn’t immediately successful. By the time baseball agreed to federal arbitration of players’ salary demandsin 1973, Flood’s career was over, and it wasn’t until 1975 that the reserve clause was thrown out by an arbitrator and true free agency began.

See also:

BBRef: Flood vs. Kuhn

The Curt Flood Act of 1998.

  • 1977 - Frank Sinatra keeps his promise to Tommy Lasorda by singing the Star-Spangled Banner on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. ‘Old Blue Eyes’ had told the team’s new skipper he would perform the National Anthem if his friend ever became the L.A. manager. (1)

Sinatra sings.

  • 1986 - Boston outfielder Dwight Evans becomes the first player to hit the first pitch of the season for a home run when he goes deep on Opening Day. (2)

Heh. This was just matched recently by Ian Happ.

Thanks for reading. Where to get my books.