Today in Baseball History: Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter get demoted

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There wasn’t any one “Today in Baseball History” item that inspired me to write a lot about today, but there were several fun and interesting historical tidbits, so let’s do it grab bag style.

 

June 11, 1938: Johnny Vander Meer of the Cincinnati Reds tossed a no-hitter against the Boston Bees. The Bees were the worst-hitting team in the National League, but it was still pretty impressive, as Vander Meer gave up only four hard-hit balls, one of which was a liner hit by Vince DiMaggio that ricocheted off of Vander Meer’s glove to third baseman Lew Riggs, who threw DiMaggio out. No hitters are really cool, but I don’t note the fact simply because he tossed a no-no. I note it because four days later he tossed another no-hitter, this time against the more formidable Dodgers lineup in Brooklyn. Eighty-two years later and Vander Meer remains the only pitcher to toss back-to-back no hitters.

 

June 11, 1968: When most people think of “The Milt Pappas” trade, they are referring to the notoriously lopsided deal in which the Orioles traded the hurler to the Reds for Frank Robinson, who the Reds quite mistakenly believed was on the decline. That trade happened in December of 1965. Two and a half years later — on this date in 1968 — Pappas, along with Ted Davidson and Bob Johnson, was traded from the Reds to the Braves for Clay Carroll, Tony Cloninger, and Woody Woodward. It was a notable move in its own right. Mostly because it was not a baseball move. The Reds traded Pappas because they considered him to be an agitator.

For one thing, Pappas had been feuding with his teammates, particularly former teammate Joe Nuxhall, who had recently become a broadcaster, and who believed Pappas was a slacker because he would honestly tell his manager if he was tired late in a game or because he’d ask to be scratched from a start if he wasn’t feeling 100%. He had the reputation of a “six or seven inning pitcher” which, at the time, was a bad thing to be. Now, of course, teams WANT pitchers to be honest about how much gas they have left and rarely let pitchers go seven innings at all. Pappas, however, was considered lazy in 1968.

More troubling for the Reds front office: Pappas had been complaining that the team was violating the Collective Bargaining Agreement by not flying the players first-class. Also, a few days earlier, Pappas publicly complained when the Reds refused to  cancel a Sunday game which took place on the day of assassinated Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s funeral. Other teams did — some reluctantly — but the Reds chose not to and it stuck in Pappas’ craw. At the time he acknowledged that even saying anything meant that his “days were numbered” with the Reds. Yep. he didn’t even last another week.

 

June 11, 1988: The Yankees were facing off against Orioles’ lefty Jeff Ballard. While in both his rookie year of 1987 and in 1988 Ballard actually had a reverse split, with lefties hitting better off of him than righties, Yankees manager Billy Martin was hellbent on adding a righty bat to the lineup. Lacking other options, Martin decided to use pitcher Rick Rhoden as his designated hitter. In so doing Rhoden — who was, in fact, a pretty good hitting pitcher — became the first pitcher to ever start at the position. He made two plate appearances, grounding out in his first at bat and hitting a run-scoring sacrifice fly the second time up. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning. The Yankees won 8-6. I watched this one live as it was an NBC Game of the Week and I’m old. If my memory serves, they spent the entire first half of the game talking about the choice to use Rhoden.

 

June 11, 1990: Nolan Ryan tosses a no-hitter against the Oakland Athletics. At age 43 he becomes the oldest player to throw a no-hitter. It happens to be his sixth career no-hitter as well, and it gives him at least one in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Those no-hitters also came with three different teams: the Angels, the Astros, and the Rangers. He had one more no-hitter left in him: on May 1, 1991 he’d stifle the bats of the Toronto Blue Jays for his seventh and final no-no.

 

June 11, 1995: Mariano Rivera allows five runs on seven hits in 2.1 innings after getting the start against the Seattle Mariners. The Yankees bail him out and end up winning the game, but the Bombers front office had seen enough from the young hurler and they send him back down to Columbus. He’d be back up with the Yankees by July 4 but he’d make only six more starts as a big leaguer, the last coming on September 5, also against the Mariners, which Rivera would lose. From then on he’d only be a relief pitcher. The change will prove to be a good one.

Oh, and on the same day Rivera was sent down the Yankees sent down a young infielder who was hitting only .234 in 13 games. His name was Derek Jeter. He’d get one more cup of coffee — and only one more plate appearance — that September after rosters expanded. Things would start going better for him in 1996.

 

June 11, 2009: At a high school game in Iowa, an umpire by the name of Don Briggs throws out the entire crowd — approximately 100 fans — after they begin jeering him after he makes a controversial call in the fifth inning. Briggs first asked the home team coach to help him restore order. The coach refused, so the ump borrowed a cell phone to call the police to help with the ejections. Which seems a bit much.