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Baseball history unpacked, May 17

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Snapshots from the big picture of #Cubs and #MLB history.

Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images

... on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Bleed Cubbie Blue brings a you a Cubs-centric look at baseball’s past. Here’s a handy Cubs timeline, to help you follow along as we review select snapshots from the big picture of Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball history.

Today in baseball history:

  • 1893 - Phillies outfielder Billy Hamilton becomes the first player to have hit both a leadoff and walk-off home run in the same game when he blasts a two-run round-tripper off Al Maul, giving the team an 11-9 victory over Washington at the Philadelphia Baseball Grounds. In 74 years, Vic Power becomes the first modern player to duplicate the 27-year-old Hall of Famer’s performance, accomplishing the rare feat for the 1957 A’s with a tenth-inning walk-off round-tripper against the Orioles in a game played at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium. (1)
  • 1915 - George “Zip” Zabel comes out of the Cubs bullpen with two outs in the first and winds up with a 4-3 19-inning win over Brooklyn in the longest relief job ever. (2)
  • 1939 - In the first-ever televised baseball game, Princeton beats Columbia, 2-1, at Columbia’s Baker Field. W2XBS, an experimental station in New York City, airs the telecast. Reviewing the game the next day, the New York Times sniffs, “it is difficult to see how this sort of thing can catch the public fancy.” (1,2,3)
  • 1959 - Loudly echoing teammate Dick Stuart’s May 1st moon shot, Roberto Clemente likewise sets off a two-out, ninth-inning bomb, which, like its predecessor, leaves Pittsburgh one run short while winning admirers in the opposing clubhouse. Unaided by wind, it performs the rare, perhaps unprecedented feat of clearing the diagonal fence behind the centerfield bleachers; in so doing, it barely misses becoming the only batted ball ever to strike Wrigley Field’s distant right centerfield scoreboard, and will long be remembered in that light (along with HRs hit to the right field side by the BravesEddie Mathews and Chicago’s Bill Nicholson.) What it does become is the longest Wrigley Field HR ever witnessed by several of those present: notably, future HOFer Ernie Banks — citing the consensus amongst Cubs players and coaches that the ball “must have traveled more than 500 feet on its trip into Waveland Avenue” — and longtime Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse, who rates this well above Dave Kingman’s contrastingly wind-boosted rocket launched exactly 20 years later (see 1979 below). Moreover, Cubs skipper Bob Scheffing and batting coach Rogers Hornsby take it farther still, telling TSN that Clemente’s is the longest they’ve ever seen, period. (For the record, Hornsby was present at Sportsman’s Park on October 6, 1926 to witness two Babe Ruth blasts, estimated, respectively, at 515 and 530 feet by researcher Bill Jenkinson.) All this notwithstanding, there is one crucial caveat: not one of these witnesses can offer more than an educated guess as to this ball’s distance. It is only by virtue of George Castle’s 1998 Sammy Sosa biography, stating that Clemente’s “missile left the ballpark to the left of the Wrigley Field scoreboard, landing in a gas station across the street”, and of a December 2015 interview with the source of that assertion, Wrigley ballhawk Rich Buhrke (revealing that the ball did at least end up in that seemingly scoreboard-sheltered gas station via one quirky carom and two huge hops), that we will finally arrive at a reasonably accurate estimate: roughly 520-525 feet, making this one of the three or four longest home runs in Wrigley Field history (alongside both the aforementioned 1979 Kingman blast and one from April 14, 1976, as well as Sammy Sosa’s GPS-measured 536-footer of June 26, 2003). BCB’s Mike Bojanowski did an examination of these home runs here in 2016. (3)
  • 1971 - Tom McCraw hits perhaps the shortest home run in baseball history. The 140-foot round-tripper is the result of three Indians colliding in an attempt to catch a pop fly hit to short left-center field near second base. (1,3)
  • 1977 - The Chicago Cubs hit seven home runs in beating the San Diego Padres, 23-6, at Wrigley Field. Larry Biittner (two), Gene Clines, Steve Ontiveros, Dave Rosello, Jerry Morales and Bobby Murcer homer for the Cubs, with Biittner, Morales, and Murcer hitting consecutive shots in the 5th inning. (1,3)
  • 1979 - With the wind really blowing out at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies join in a wild ten-inning slugfest won by the Phillies, 23-22. Dave Kingman hits three home runs and collects six RBI for the Cubs while teammate Bill Buckner has a grand slam and seven RBI. Kingman’s third blast is a tape measure shot, touching down at almost the identical spot as his already legendary April 14, 1976 moon shot. Mike Schmidt belts two home runs for the Phils, including the game-winner in the 10th inning. Bob Boone, pitcher Randy Lerch, and Garry Maddox also homer for the Phillies and Steve Ontiveros and Jerry Martin do it for the Cubs. The eleven home runs between the two teams tie a major league game record. The contest includes 50 hits. In 2010, the MLB Network will name it the 20th greatest game of the previous 50 years. (1,3)

Cubs birthdays: Hal Carlson, Billy Hoeft, Porfi Altamirano, Carlos Pena. Also notable: Cool Papa Bell.

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