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Mudville: July 23, 2024 12:27 pm PDT

When BallNine interviewed Luis Tiant about a year ago, he went into detail about how meaningful it was for him to have his father, Luis Sr., come to Fenway Park to see him pitch on August 26, 1975.

This wasn’t just a normal summer day where a father was watching his son play ball, though. Luis Tiant left Cuba to pursue his Major League dreams in 1962 at the age of 20 and because of the political climate in Cuba and the United States, it was assumed that when Luis left, he would never see his parents again.

In the interview, Luis said, “We both enjoyed it a lot because before that, he thought he’d probably never see me again. And I felt the same way. God gave us the opportunity to see each other though, and he got to watch me pitch. [Back in Cuba] they weren’t allowed to watch games. If they saw you watching the games, they would put you in jail. This guy used to have a TV and could watch the games. He would call my mother and father and they would watch the games. Every time they showed me on TV, my mother would touch me through the TV. You have a son that you can’t see? That’s not right. Finally they came and had a great time.”

By 1975, Luis had been enjoying a magical career resurgence after serious arm and shoulder injuries hindered him from 1969-1971. Instead of fading into the sunset though, Luis reinvented himself and went 96-58 with a 3.12 ERA from 1972-76 with an ERA title, two All-Star appearances and four fantastic starts in the magical Red Sox 1975 postseason.

As magical as the Red Sox run was that season, in the grand scheme of things it was even more improbable that Luis Tiant, Jr. and Sr. shared a mound at Fenway Park, reuniting 13 years after the younger Tiant left Cuba – with the very real belief that he’d never see his parents again.

Before we move on to this week’s edition of The Stud 400, here’s a look at the last five entries as we count down the 400 greatest moments in Major League Baseball history:

250. Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey Grand Slams (2014)

249. JR Richard Suffers Stroke (1980)

248. Baseball Tonight Debuts (1990)

247. Don Mattingly Homers in eight Straight Games (1987)

246. Armando Galarraga’s Imperfect Game (2010)

And now, here’s Episode XXXII of The Stud 400, featuring artwork by Will O’Toole.



Luis Tiant, Sr. Throws Out First Pitch (1975)

In May of 1975, Massachusetts senator Edward Brooke wrote a letter to Fidel Castro asking him to grant permission to Luis Tiant, Sr. and his wife Isabel to travel to the United States to watch their son, Luis Jr. pitch for the Red Sox. The letter was delivered directly to Castro himself by South Dakota senator George McGovern and Castro granted the request. Luis Sr. and Isabel traveled to the United States on August 21, 1975 and five days later, Luis Sr. was on the mound at Fenway Park. The elder Tiant was a star lefty pitcher in the Negro Leagues for 25 years and by his son’s account, the crafty lefty was better than the corkscrewing righty. Luis Sr. never got his chance to play in the Majors because his career happened prior to integration, but the name Tiant will forever be cemented in baseball annals thanks to the accomplishments of his son. In a season of miracles in Boston, perhaps the biggest miracle of all was that Luis Tiant Jr. and Sr. got to share a mound for one incredible moment. With the younger Tiant holding his jacket and standing behind him, Tiant Sr. hurled his first attempt at a first pitch that was not up to his standards. After requesting a second chance, Tiant Sr. sent a knuckleball homeward for a strike to seal the historic moment.


White Sox Break World Series Drought (2005)

When it comes to World Series droughts, usually the Red Sox and Cubs are the teams that draw the most attention. The Curse of the Bambino and The Curse of the Billy Goat play a large role in giving those teams their futile place in pop culture. In 2004, the Red Sox snapped their 86-year drought in grand fashion and the White Sox actually one-upped them the following season. The Pale Hose paced the American League with 99 wins and were barely tested in the postseason, ripping through three series to capture their first World Series since 1917, a span of 88 years. The White Sox went 11-1 in the postseason, dropping only the first game of the ALDS against the Angels by one run. After that loss, they won four straight against the Angels followed by a four-game sweep of the Astros in the World Series.


Roger Clemens throws a bat at Mike Piazza (2000)

It’s one of the more bizarre moments of the new millennium and the fact that it involves two of the game’s icons who had larger-than-life personalities and egos magnified the situation even further. Although the bat-throwing incident was probably the most visible conflict between the two, this is an entire timeline worth exploring. On June 6, 1999, Piazza and Clemens faced each other for the first time and Piazza took him deep at Yankee Stadium. Later that year on July 9, Piazza faced Clemens for the second time and hit another home run against him. The following June, the two squared off again and would you believe Piazza hit a third straight home run off Clemens? That gave Piazza a line of 3-3 with three home runs over the fiercely competitive Clemens. So what did Clemens do the next time he faced Big Mike?

Beaned him squarely in the head.

The next time the two would face off would be the 2000 World Series. With two outs in the top of the first of Game 2, Piazza walked to the plate to face Clemens and a 1-1 inside fastball splintered Piazza’s bat, sending the barrel rolling towards Clemens. Clemens picked up the bat and fired it in Piazza’s direction. Clemens could be seen mouthing, “I thought it was the ball,” which, of course, was complete bullshit. Benches emptied, but there were no ejections or punches thrown. Piazza later homered off Jeff Nelson that game. Clemens famously had to face the Mets at Shea Stadium in 2002 and Mets starter Shawn Estes threw behind him, but failed to hit him. Estes would homer off Clemens that game though, as would Piazza for the fourth time in his career.


MLB Umpire Walkout (1999)

In today’s society, we have a saying that goes, “F around and find out.” In the cut-throat world of high-level labor negotiations, sometimes that’s pretty easy to accomplish. Take, for example, the 1999 MLB umpire mass resignation. As a bargaining tactic during a labor dispute, 57 of the 68 full-time MLB umpires resigned their positions in an attempt to force negotiations. Major League Baseball accepted the resignation of 22 of those umpires and when the umpires tried to rescind them, it ultimately led to a conflict that resulted in the decertification of the Major League Umpires Union. After a lengthy court battle, the 22 accepted resignations stood, but there were various outcomes for the umpires involved. Of the 22, ten retired with financial compensation, eight were rehired in 2002 and three were rehired in 2005. Among the group of umpires were many big names. Joe West, Gary Darling and Larry Vanover were among the group rehired in 2002. Tom Hallion and Bob Davidson were rehired in 2005, as was Ed Hickox who is still working today. Among the group that retired after the conflict were Frank Pulli, Eric Gregg, Terry Tata and Ken Kaiser. What a mess.


Marlins win first World Series (1997)

One of the great curiosities in baseball is that the Miami Marlins have never won a National League East Division title but have won two World Series. Try explaining that to the ghost of Ted Williams’ head and see the look you’ll get. The Marlins franchise began play in 1993 and finished in 6th place in their division. Each subsequent year they moved up one spot in the final standings and finished second behind the Braves by nine games in 1997. The Wild Card system was in its third year, and the 92-win Marlins easily gained entrance into the playoff party. They actually had the second-most wins in the National League in ’97, so their playoff run wasn’t a total shock.

When Edgar Renteria’s soft liner sneaked past Charles Nagy and into the outfield to deliver Craig Counsell in the bottom of the 11th in Game 7, the Marlins became the fastest expansion team to win a World Series, doing so in their fifth season. They did so in knocking off the 101-win Braves in the NLCS – and the Indians, who had an absolutely stacked roster. The 1998 home run chase is often cited as the summer that saved baseball after the 1994 work stoppage disillusioned most fans, and rightly so. But having a big underdog win a classic seven-game World Series, tying Game 7 in the bottom of the ninth and winning in the 11th certainly didn’t hurt in jump starting the good feelings.


Stay tuned for the next episode of The Stud 400 when we visit with two 80’s pitching legends who gained hitless redemption, check in with The Dugout Wizard—80s kids will remember—and get emotional with an iconic announcer during a dark time in America’s history.

Rocco is a baseball writer with too much time on his hands who lives in the dusty corners of Baseball Reference. He was one half of the battery for the 1986 Belleville Recreation Farm League Champion Indians. He likes early 20th century baseball nicknames, pullover polyester jerseys and Old Hoss Radbourn. He works as a College Athletics Director and his second book was released in April of 2021.

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