Rogers Hornsby once said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
No offense to The Rajah, but here at BallNine we don’t have time for that.
BallNine has big plans for the offseason and that includes gassing up the BallNine Time Machine and driving it all over the timeline of baseball history in search of the greatest moment the sport has ever seen. It will be a wild journey where we sort through the 400 best moments in Major League Baseball history.
It shall be called The Stud 400.
Some ground rules first. The timeline runs from the 1901 season (the first season of the American League) and goes through the 2021 season. The list includes on-field accomplishments, impactful off-field moments, baseball in pop culture and much more. Basically, these are fabrics in the baseball tapestry that anyone who loves sport would and should know about.
The biggest question surrounding the list is how to quantify and rank these moments. Sure, most people accept that Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak is a bigger moment than Ten Cent Beer Night, but how do you separate The Shot Heard ‘Round the World from Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 World Series? Hell, how do you pick between Rickey Henderson setting the all-time runs record or Rickey Henderson setting the all-time steals record.
How do you differentiate between an-on field moment like Bob Felller’s Opening Day no-hitter, a tragedy like Jose Fernandez’s passing and a pop culture moment like the publication of Ball Four?
Who had the more Studly home run? Carlton Fisk, Bill Mazeroski or Joe Carter?
The best thing about lists like this is that you really can’t say definitively. It’s all a matter of opinion.
Lists like these are largely about remembering the impactful moments that make baseball so unique among the big four sports in the country. No sport can match its history. Enjoy the ride; we’ll be visiting with people from Smoky Joe Wood to Dummy Hoy to Bo Jackson and everyone in between.
But when we get to the top of the list, go for it. Debate about it and tell us how we’re wrong. Or tell us we’re right. The truth is that it’s not the list or who is ranked where that’s most important, it’s remembering these great moments and appreciating the game’s history.
With apologies to Rogers Hornsby, stop staring out that window, get off your ass and get ready for Hot Stove season and The Stud 400 on BallNine.
OTOONS™ on BALLNINE.com
Bartolo Colon’s home run (2016)
Colon was already everyone’s favorite cult hero before he did the impossible on May 7, 2016. The beefy righty was batting .089 with 20 hits in 18 Major League seasons. Prior to joining the Mets as a 41-year-old in 2014, Colon had just one season (2002) where he had more than seven at bats. Colon’s career batting average is dangerously close to the worst ever by anyone with at least 300 plate appearances. When he connected off James Shields of the Padres for his only career home run, Colon may have become the most unlikely player to ever hit a home run in the Major Leagues.
The London Series (2019)
In Rob Manfred’s quest to grab money from all over the globe, the Red Sox and Yankees were sent to England in June of 2019 for a two-game London Series. These were the first-ever Major League Baseball games played in Europe. The good news was that a capacity crowd of close to 60,000 fans attended both games. The bad news was that the games were a mess. The Yankees won by scores of 17-13 and 12-8 with the nine-inning games taking 4:42 and 4:24, respectively. Played in the retrofitted London Stadium, the expansive foul territory, fast playing surface and questionable pitching led to 65 hits in the two games. Major League Baseball’s return to London in 2020 was squashed by Covid and there are no plans to return at this point.
Yankees Public Address Announcer Bob Sheppard retires at 96 (2007)
It’s not often that a ballpark PA announcer gains status as sports royalty, but when your career spans from Joe DiMaggio to Robinson Cano, you have earned that right. Sheppard began his career as the Yankees PA announcer in 1951, the only season DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle played together and concluded an incredible 57 years later. Yankee folklore says that Sheppard is the only member of the Pinstripe fraternity that was never criticized by George Steinbrenner. The first game he announced featured eight Hall of Famers, including Mantle, DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Yogi Berra. His final game included current or future Hall of Famers Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Ichiro Suzuki and Adrian Beltre. Sheppard passed away two days before Steinbrenner in 2010 just short of his 100th birthday.
Pie Traynor steals home in All-Star Game (1934)
To this day, only one player has been daring enough to steal home in an All-Star Game and it happened nearly nine decades ago in the second Midsummer Classic ever played. Traynor, not exactly fleet of foot even in his prime, stole home on the back end of a double steal with Mel Ott. With two outs in the fifth inning, Ott took off for second and when Bill Dickey’s throw went to second, Traynor broke for home. Traynor, who was 35 at the time, had just three stolen bases all season.
Stan Musial retires with exactly 1,815 hits on the road and at home (1963)
Baseball is full of symmetry, randomness and coincidence, but very few stats evoke those terms as the home/road splits the great Musial ended on. When he retired, Stan the Man held the National League career hits record with 3,630, evenly split between home and away. To reach this feat, Musial had to get hits in his final two career at bats. After Musial singled home Dick Groat against the Reds in the final game of the 1963 season, he was lifted for pinch runner Gary Kolb and left to a standing ovation with the random symmetry of 1,815 as the signature statistic from his incredible career.