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Baseball history unpacked, April 8

Opening Day, and other stories

Wrigley Field Extirior

... as always on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I bring a wildly popular Cubs-centric look at baseball’s past. Here’s a handy Cubs timeline, to help you follow along as we review select scenes from the rich tapestry of Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball history. The embedded links often point to articles that I’ve chosen as illustrative of the scenes, from The Society for American Baseball Research, reproductions of period newspapers, images, and other such material. It’s all lightly unpacked and folded neatly, just for you.

You might learn something, but mostly, it’s for fun!

Today in baseball history:

  • 1953 - Bernice Lombardi finds her husband Ernie lying on the bed after the former major league catcher slit his throat from ear to ear with a razor he found in a relative’s bathroom. The former Reds’ backstop, battling a similar bout of depression that caused his teammate Willard Hershberger to commit suicide in 1940, is given little hope to live, at the time, but he will manage to survive his horrific self-inflicted wound. (1)
  • 1963 - The Detroit Tigers claim little-known pitcher Denny McLain on waivers from the Chicago White Sox, who will regret their decision. After pitching brief stints for the Tigers in 1963 and 1964, McLain will win 108 games from 1965 through 1969. (3)
  • 1966 - At the Astrodome, the Astros and Dodgers play baseball’s first game on synthetic grass. Thanks to the Monsanto chemical company, who proposed using an experimental playing surface of nylon grass, the plan to play on an all-dirt field, necessitated by the need to paint the dome’s glass panes to reduce the glare which prevented natural grass from growing, was alleviated by the use of ‘AstroTurf.’ (1)
  • 1969 - Four expansion teams make their debuts. The Kansas City Royals, Seattle Pilots, Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres all win their inaugural games. At Shea Stadium, the Expos defeat the New York Mets, 11 - 10, to keep the Mets winless for openers. Pitcher Dan McGinn hits the Expos’ first home run as the key hit, a three-run home run by Coco Laboy, is given up by Canadian-born Mets reliever Ron Taylor. (3)

Also. Willie Smith hits a home run in the bottom of the eleventh to give the Cubs the victory over the Phillies. Full story on this historic event by Al coming up today at 8 a.m. CT!

  • 1974 - Braves outfielder Hank Aaron passes Babe Ruth as the all-time home run leader with his 715th, going deep in the fourth inning off Dodger hurler Al Downing in Atlanta’s home opener. ‘Hammerin’ Hank’ equaled the Bambino’s mark on Opening Day in Cincinnati. (1)
  • 1975 - Frank Robinson becomes the first black manager in major league history as his Indians defeat the Yankees 5-3. The Tribe’s new player-manager hits a home run in his first at-bat as the designated hitter. (1)
  • 1987 - Faced with a storm of public criticism, the Dodgers fire vice president Al Campanis for racially insensitive remarks he made on the April 6 telecast of ABC-TV’s Nightline news show. Campanis had said that ‘blacks may lack some of the necessities to be a field manager or general manager.'
  • 2003 - At Wrigley Field, a few of the 29,138 patrons at the Cubs opener boo when the Canadian national anthem, “O Canada,” is performed before the game against the Expos. The Chicago fans reaction comes as a result of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” being booed before an Islanders-Canadiens hockey game in Montreal due to some of their fans’ opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq. (1)
  • 2008 - An emotional Bill Buckner returns to Fenway Park for the first time in more than a decade to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Red Sox home opener. The beleaguered former Boston first baseman, best known for letting Mookie Wilson’s grounder roll between his legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, receives a heartfelt standing ovation from the stunned crowd as he slowly walks from left field to the pitcher’s mound. (1)
  • 2008 - At the Play Ball, Chicago! Event in the Windy City, the U.S. Postal Service unveils a stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the song, Take Me Out to the Ball Game. The favorite tune was written on a New York City train a century ago when passenger Jack Norworth, actor, singer, and songwriter, who claimed never to have seen a major league game, wrote the lyrics after seeing a sign about an upcoming contest at the Polo Grounds, home of the New York Giants.


Thanks for reading. #Cubsnews