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Baseball history unpacked, May 1 7

A thrice-weekly digest, replete with #Cubs, #MLB, and #MiLB content, gathered from reputable sources. Eleven home runs in one game, Clemente’s tape-measure shot, and other stories.

Photo by: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Bleed Cubbie Blue is pleased to present a light-hearted, Cubs-centric look at baseball’s colorful past, with plenty of the lore and various narratives to follow as they unfold over the course of time. Here’s a handy Cubs timeline, to help you follow along.

Today in baseball history:

  • 1903 - Cool Papa Bell is born in Starkville, Mississippi. Bell will enjoy a successful career in the Negro Leagues from 1922 to 1946. An outfielder with blazing speed and the first Mexican League Triple Crown winner, Bell will be selected to the Hall of Fame in 1974. (2)
  • 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. (1,3)
  • 1939 - The first baseball game ever televised - Princeton against Columbia at Baker Field - is watched by a handful of viewers via W2XBS in New York City. Bill Stern announces the ten-inning victory of visiting Princeton, 2 - 1. Reviewing the game the next day, the New York Times reports: “it is difficult to see how this sort of thing can catch the public fancy.” (1,2)
  • 1959 - Loudly echoing teammate Dick Stuart’s May 1st moon shot, Roberto Clemente likewise sets off a two-out, 9th-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 homers hit to the right field side by the BravesEddie Mathews and Chicago’s Bill Nicholson.) What it does become is the longest Wrigley Field homer ever witnessed by several of those present, notably, future Hall of Famer 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. Moreover, Cubs skipper Bob Scheffing and batting coach Rogers Hornsby take it farther still, telling The Sporting News that Clemente’s is the longest they’ve ever seen, period. 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 the ballpark’s 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). (2)
  • 1963 - Don Nottebart of the Houston Colt .45s pitches the first no-hitter in franchise history, leading Houston past the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, 4-1. (2)
  • 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. (2)
  • 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. (1,2)
  • 1998 - David Wells pitches the 13th perfect game in modern major league history as the Yankees beat the Twins 4-0. Wells, whose perfecto is the first by a Yankee since Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series, also sets an A.L. record by retiring 37 batters in a row, dating back to his start May 12 against the Royals. Twins shortstop Pat Meares flies out to Paul O’Neill in right field to complete the perfect afternoon at Yankee Stadium. (2)
  • 2011 - Harmon Killebrew, one of the great sluggers of the 1960s with 573 career home runs, passes away from cancer at 74 in Scottsdale, AZ. The gentle and universally-liked “Killer”, who spent the bulk of his career with the Minnesota Twins, was the 1969 AL MVP and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984. (2)
  • 2012 - Yan Gomes becomes the first Brazilian player in Major League history when he is inserted in the Blue Jays’ starting line-up at 3B in today’s game against the Yankees, taking over for Brett Lawrie who is beginning a four-game suspension. Gomes goes 2 for 3, but it is homers by Jose Bautista and J.P. Arencibia which lead the Jays to a 4-1 win.
  • 2019 - Kris Bryant hits three homers in consecutive innings — the seventh, eighth and ninth — to lead the Cubs to a 14-6 win over the Nationals. He is just the 12th player to pull off the rare feat, and the second to do so in those particular innings. He goes 4 for 6 and drives in five runs in the game. (2)

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

Today in history:

  • 218 - 7th recorded perihelion passage of Halley’s Comet.
  • 1620 - 1st merry-go-round seen at a fair in Philippapolis, Turkey.
  • 1673 - Louis Joliet & Jacques Marquette begin exploring Mississippi River.
  • 1902 - Greek archaeologist Valerios Stais discovers the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient mechanical analog computer.

Common sources:


Some of these items spread from site to site without being verified. That is exactly why we ask for reputable sources if you have differences with a posted factoid, so that we can address that to the originators and provide clarity if not ‘truth’. Nothing is posted here without at least one instance of corroboration (this also includes the history bullets). Thanks for reading, and thanks also for your cooperation.