September 19, 1940: Luke Appling of the White Sox was batting against Red Ruffing of the Yankees with two men on base. Appling fouled off the first pitch. Then he fouled off the second, third, and fourth pitches before taking pitch #5 for a ball. Then he fouled off the next six pitches before taking the 12th pitch for a ball, making the count two balls and two strikes. Ruffing was getting ruffled. He threw another pitch. Appling fouled it off…as he did 13 more times before finally getting a walk on the 28th pitch to load the bases. The next batter hit a grand slam. “Ruffing cussed me all the way to the plate,” said Appling.
To motivate pitcher Roy Oswalt for Game 6 of the 2005 National League playoffs, Astros owner Drayton McLane promised the Mississippi native what he’d always wanted—a bulldozer—if he won. Oswalt beat the Cardinals 5–1. Afterward, he was presented with a $200,000 Caterpillar D6N XL (with a big red bow on top). Oswalt, who’d signed a $73 million contract a few months earlier, said he’d use it to “make a little extra money in the off-season.”
“I’ve been telling (second-baseman Alexi) Casilla all year, ‘Quit lobbing it. Throw the ball!’” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire while having his ear stitched up in the locker room during a September 2010 game. What happened? In pregame warm-ups, Casilla threw the ball to first and accidentally beaned his skipper in the head. “Best throw he’s made all year,” said Gardenhire.
The fastest nine-inning game in pro baseball history took place in 1916 in North Carolina between the minor league Asheville Tourists and the visiting Winston-Salem Twins. Every batter swung at the first pitch, and nobody tried very hard to score runs. Final score: 2–1, Twins. Elapsed time: 31 minutes. Why so fast? The Twins only had an hour to catch the last train home.
In 2011 Mariners pitcher Doug Fister was pitching to the Padres’ Cameron Maybin in the fifth inning. But the scoreboard operator goofed; he typed in “3 balls, 2 strikes” when it was really only 2 and 2, and then the ump goofed, trusting the scoreboard. After he got another ball and “walked,” Maybin scored the game’s only run and the Mariners lost. Seattle skipper Eric Wedge later promised to keep a better eye on the count…but a week later the M’s gave up another three-ball walk, this time in a loss to the L.A. Angels.
In July 2010, the Marlins’ Chris Coghlan (the 2009 Rookie of the Year) celebrated teammate Wes Helm’s game-winning hit by hitting him in the face with a pie. But Coghlan tripped and landed hard on his knee and tore his meniscus. He missed the rest of the season.
The first game ever played at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium was Opening Day 1966. Starting for the Braves: pitcher Tony Cloninger and catcher Joe Torre. The final game played at Fulton was Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, 30 years later. The Braves lost to the Yankees, who were managed by Joe Torre. His bullpen coach was Tony Cloninger.
Baseball’s oddest curse: In 1985 fans of Japan’s Hanshin Tigers celebrated a championship by throwing a plastic statue of Colonel Sanders from a nearby KFC restaurant into the Dotonbori River. Hanshin hasn’t won another championship since. Fans blame it on the angry spirit of the Colonel, and tried several times to excavate the statue from the murky river. Portions were finally found in 2009, but the left hand is still missing. The curse continues.