The calendar has turned and as time marches forward, The Stud 400 is still looking in the rearview mirror.
This week we have two accomplishments that are so rare, only four players in the modern era of the sport have accomplished each. Justin Verlander twirled his third career no-hitter in 2019, joining three other Hall of Famers (Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller and Nolan Ryan) who have done so since 1900.
We also have George Bell, who became the first player to homer three times on Opening Day in 1988. Bell was the first to do so, and the three that followed (Tuffy Rhodes, Dmitri Young, and Matt Davidson) may not have been Hall of Famers, but they have accomplished something incredibly rare in the sport. That’s the great thing about baseball—anyone can be a hero and anyone at any time could etch their names in the baseball record book.
While Verlander and Bell experienced the highest of highs, this week’s Stud 400 also takes a look at dark moments in baseball history such as Ten Cent Beer Night and the great Spider Tack controversy of 2021. We also revisit the Orioles 21-game losing streak to start the 1988 season, which somehow is both embarrassing and uplifting at the same time.
But first, here’s look at the previous five entries as we count down the 400 greatest moments in Major League Baseball history:
375. Statcast introduced at all 30 Major League ballparks (2015)
374. Ernie Banks first shortstop to hit 40 home runs (1955)
373. Ray Caldwell struck by lightning, finishes the game anyway (1919)
372. The Cobb-Lajoie Chalmers Award controversy (1910)
371. MLB institutes the All-MLB Team (2019)
And now, here’s Episode Seven of The Stud 400, featuring artwork by Will O’Toole.
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Justin Verlander throws third no-hitter (2019)
Over the course of MLB history, approximately 225,000 games have been played, meaning about 450,000 starting pitchers have taken the mound. In those games, only 35 pitchers have thrown multiple no-hitters. Whittle that down to those who have thrown three, and that’s an even more exclusive club. Verlander became just the sixth pitcher to throw at least three no-hitters in his career when he accomplished the feat against the Blue Jays in September of 2019. He joined baseball legends Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller, Larry Corcoran and Cy Young in the three-no-no club with only Ryan, Koufax and Feller pitching all three after 1900. Verlander also became the first pitcher to throw multiple no-hitters at the same ballpark as a visitor, turning the trick in the Rogers Center in Toronto twice.
Ten Cent Beer Night (1974)
Teams have resorted to thousands of gimmicks to get fans to ballparks over the years but not many have backfired—or been as memorable—as Ten Cent Beer Night in Cleveland. Teams had done cheap beer nights before, so this was nothing new. Feverish animosity between the Rangers and Indians likely fueled the riots that accompanied this promotion as much as the cheap beer. The teams had been involved in vicious game a week earlier that featured multiple dirty plays and a bench-clearing brawl. Fans in Texas pelted the visiting Indians with debris and the Rangers won 3-0. When the Rangers showed up to Cleveland, cheap beer and bustling hatred caused one of the most chaotic scenes you’ll ever see at a ballpark.
Fans lit fireworks in the stands, a bare-breasted woman attempted to kiss Hall of Fame umpire Nestor Chylak, people smoked copious amounts of weed in the stands and a naked fan even slid into second base. This all happened before a riot happened that caused a forfeit of the game. A fan had run on the field to grab Jeff Burroughs’ hat, knocking down the outfielder in the process. Fans stormed the field as both teams put their distaste for each other aside, grabbed bats and defended themselves against the onslaught of inebriated spectators.
George Bell hits three homers on Opening Day (1988)
At his peak, George Bell was one of the most feared sluggers in the game. After winning the 1987 MVP Award, the Blue Jays moved Bell from left field to DH against his will the following Spring Training. Bell was outspoken in his anger towards the move to say the least. There was even an incident in Spring Training where Bell was the team’s starting DH, but refused to take his turn at bat, instead laying in the grass by the bullpen with his team jacket on while his name was called to the plate. The Blue Jays wouldn’t budge either and by Opening Day, Bell was still stewing. He took his anger out on the Royals, which was unfortunate for them. On the first pitch he saw from Bret Saberhagen, one of the best pitchers in the game at the time, Bell blasted a shot deep over Bo Jackson and the outfield fence for a home run. He followed with two more homers to become the first player to hit three round-trippers on Opening Day. Incidentally, Bell went 5-for-5 in the second game of the season—while playing left field.
Spider Tack (2021)
Since the dawn of time, Major League pitchers have looked for ways to apply foreign substances to balls, their fingers or both in order to gain an advantage over hitters. The most recent controversy involved the highly-adhesive Spider Tack, which increased spin rates to levels never seen before. Trevor Bauer mentioned Spider Tack in a 2020 interview with Bryant Gumbel and estimated that 70% of pitchers use some type of substance on the ball. After extensive research and putrid offensive performances to start the 2021 season, Major League Baseball instituted a crackdown on “sticky stuff” among pitchers and began a stop and frisk campaign as pitchers left the field. Pitchers complained, hitters threatened to expose pitchers they knew who used it and fans had yet another topic to divide themselves by. After the initial hubris, the Spider Tack controversy died down as the season wore on and baseball was allegedly “clean” again, until the next foreign substance comes along.
Orioles lose 21 straight games to begin season (1988)
The nature of baseball is that even the worst teams in the sport will win 1/3 of their games. The mathematics of it mean that winning and losing streaks of 20 games or more are rarities in the sport. There have only been ten such streaks since 1906. That makes what the Orioles did to start the 1988 season that much more dubious. The Orioles lost 21 straight games to start the season before beating the White Sox on April 29 for their first win of the season. Four of the losses were one-run losses, but for the most part the games were non-competitive. The crazy thing is though, Baltimore and baseball fans embraced the Orioles and when they finally won their first game, it set off a great celebration. Fans greeted the team plane after they won their first game on the road and a “Fantastic Fans Night” was held at a packed Memorial Stadium not long after. The first month of the season was a wild ride, but in the long run, it was a torturous year that ended with a record of 54-108.
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Stay tuned for next week’s edition of The Stud 400 for an epic showdown between Hall of Fame pitchers, a humbling of one of the game’s immortals and the story of a man named Dummy.