20th anniversary: Angels bus crash

Twenty years ago was a nasty day for the California Angels. They didn’t suffer any tough loss at the ballpark. In fact, they didn’t even have a game that day. That said, I’m sure they’d much rather have suffered a horrible loss on the field than the horrible event that took place off the field.

On the morning May 21, 1992, the Angels were on their way to the airport. They’d lost a night game the day before against the Yankees, and today they were to fly to Baltimore for a series slated to begin on May 22.

So they got a night’s sleep in the hotel and the team bus took them down the New Jersey turnpike. The bus didn’t get there, though. Instead, it crashed and crashed badly, overturning on the turnpike.

The good news was that no one died. But when “no one died” is the good news, you know there must some serious bad news. And there was. In all, a dozen people were injured. The severity of injuries varied. Second baseman Bobby Rose had to go on the 15-day DL with a sprained ankle, but didn’t need any serious medical treatment.

Several team members had to fly back to California for medical treatment. These men included first baseman Alvin Dark (bruised kidneys), bullpen catcher Rick Turner (deep cut), trainer Ned Bergert (bruised kidneys), and traveling secretary Frank Sims (broken rib).

But one man unquestionably had it the worst of all, manager Buck Rodgers. He damaged a knee and rib cage, and most of all had a badly broken elbow, which was broken in multiple places. The doctor who examined Rodgers said he looked like a post-fall Humpty Dumpty.

Rodgers would have to miss much of the season. He was confined to a wheelchair for a time due to his knee, and between that and his elbow, he didn’t return for over three months.

In his absence, coach John Wathan ran the club for Rodgers. In his first night, Wathan refused to dress in the manager’s office, opting to stay with the other coaches. It was just too soon and the cause for the change too traumatic.

The Angels, who had lost three straight just before the accident, took a while to recover. They lost 15 of their first 18 after the accident, and they never really bounced back. Rodgers did return to the dugout on Aug. 28, but the season was a lost cause by then.

The Angels were probably doomed in the pennant race anyway. They were .500 the year before and would lose 90-plus the next year. They had a nice pitching staff anchored by Mark Langston, Chuck Finley, and Bert Blyleven, but the offense was a disaster. But no team should have a bus crash happen to them.

It was a horrible thing that happened to the Angels, and it happened 20 years ago today.

Aside from that, many other items have their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better items in bold if you prefer to just skim the lists below.


1,000 days since Zack Greinke sets a Royals franchise record by fanning 15 batters in one game. He throws only eight innings.

2,000 days since Milwaukee signs free agent Craig Counsell, who will end his career with the Brewers.

5,000 days since the Cubs top the Brewers, 15-12, as part of the wildest series ever in the history of Wrigley Field. Sammy Sosa hits his 60th homer of 1998 in this game.

6,000 days since Atlanta trades Kent Mercker to Baltimore for Joe Borowski and a minor leaguer.

7,000 days since a spring training boating accident kills Steve Olin and Tim Crews. Teammate Bob Ojeda survives but is badly injured.

9,000 days since Darnell Coles of the Pirates hits three home runs in one game.

10,000 days since Houston drafts Mel Stottlemyre Jr. while the Cardinals gets his brother, Todd. Houston will sign their guy, but St. Louis won’t. Also, the Angels draft Chuck Finley and the Dodgers draft John Wetteland. Both players will be signed.

15,000 days since Curt Flood goes AWOL on the Senators, for whom he played 13 games. This ends Flood’s career.

15,000 days since Hank Aaron knocks out his 600th career home run.

20,000 days since Mickey Mantle’s career batting average peaks at .317241 (1,058/3,335) after a fourth-inning ground-rule double off Connie Johnson.


1859 Fred Dunlap, great 19th-century second baseman, is born.

1891 Jim Whitney, star pitcher of 1880, dies at age 33.

1892 Pud Galvin, baseball’s first 300-game winner, loses a tough one. He holds the opposing Cubs hitless until the eighth and surrenders only two safties all game, but that’s all it takes as Chicago triumphs, 1-0, for its 13th consecutive win.

1896 Louisville pitcher Mike McDermott pitches a two-hitter in a 2-0, complete-game shutout. In the other 56 innings he pitches this year, he allows 85 hits.

1901 Giants owner Andrew Freeman accuses umpire Billy Nash of incompetence and bars him from the Polo Grounds.

1901 Christy Mathewson allows a run, ending a 39-inning scoreless streak. The run is unearned.

1902 Hall of Fame center fielder Earl Averill is born.

1904 Red Sox shortstop Bill O’Neill commits six errors in a 13-inning game. He muffed three balls in the first inning alone.

1904 200-game winner Jack Powell allows not one, not two, but three inside-the-park home runs in one game versus the White Sox. Frank Isbell, Frank Owen, and Fielder Jones hit them.

1907 NL President Harry Pulliam dismisses a protest by Pirate manager Fred Clarke about Giant catcher Roger Bresnahan wearing shin guards.

1911 Connie Mack wins his 1,000th game as manager. He’s the sixth manger in the club, joining Harry Wright, Cap Anson, Frank Selee, Ned Hanlon, and Fred Clarke.

1912 AL President Ban Johnson fines each Tiger between $50 and $100 for their one-day strike on behalf of the suspended Ty Cobb. The suspension remains in place.

1919 Giants trade Jim Thorpe, arguably the greatest athlete of all time, to the Braves.

1920 Hughie Jennings manages his 2,000th game in the majors, all with the Tigers.

1923 Formal transfer of T.L. Huston’s interest in Yankee ownership to Jake Ruppert completed for $1.5 million. Ruppert becomes famous as New York’s owner in their first glory stretch.

1925 Mickey Cochrane hits three home runs in one game. He gets three homers total in his other 133 games on the year.

1926 Earl Sheely, White Sox, hits three double and a homer in today’s game. Combined with a trio of doubles in his last three at-bats the previous game, that’s a record seven consecutive at-bats resulting in extra base hits.

1927 Pie Traynor, who hit only 58 home runs in his career, launches his third one in four days.

1930 Babe Ruth hits three home runs in one game. It’s the first time he’s done it in the regular season, but third time overall, as he twice did it in the World Series. He’s the first player to do this three times in all. In his final at-bat of the game, the left-handed Ruth tries to bat righty to gain a platoon advantage over relief pitcher Jack Quinn. After two strikes, he goes back to batting left-handed but fans anyway.

1930 In the same game Ruth homered three times, Max Bishop of the opposing Philadelphia A’s walks five times. It’s the second time in his career he’s done that, something no one else can claim.

1932 Tony Lazzeri has a nice doubleheader, going 6-for-7 with a home run, two doubles, and a triple. One of those hits is his 1,000th career base knock.

1934 Giants starting pitcher Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons struck in the back by a fungo bat while warming up. He’s injured and will miss several starts.

1935 Senators purchase durable starting pitcher Bobo Newsom from the Browns for $40,000.

1936 The Cubs trade Chuck Klein back to the Phillies for Curt Davis and Ethan Allen

1938 Spud Chandler doesn’t need any teammates, as he combines pitching a complete-game shutout with hitting a home run in New York’s 1-0 win over the White Sox.

1938 Silver King, great 1880s phenom pitcher, dies.

1940 For the second straight day, Jimmie Foxx swats a grand slam.

1941 Bob Feller has his worst day at the plate: 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.

1942 Ted Williams launches his 100th home run.

1943 It’s the fastest night game in AL history: CWS 1, WAS 0 in only 89 minutes.

1943 Hal Newhouser endures his longest outing: 13 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 10 K.

1948 New York Giant Les Layton hits a pinch-hit home run in his first big league at-bat.

1949 Jackie Robinson drives in a career-high six runs despite hitting no home runs. Most guys have at least one homer in their best RBI game. He was 3-for-5 with two doubles and a stolen base. In related news, Robinson’s teammate Pee Wee Reese scores a personal-best five runs in a game.

1950 Joe DiMaggio clubs his 13th and final grand slam.

1952 Minor league phenom Ron Neccai, who fanned 27 in a no-hitter just eight days earlier, fans 24 today.

1952 Brooklyn has record-setting 15 runs in first inning versus Reds en route to a 19-1 win. It could’ve been even worse: only two Brooklyn outs came at the plate in the first, the other was a caught stealing. Cincinnati starter Ewell Blackwell gets the first guy out, but then the next 19 batters in a row reach base. According to the 1980s book, The Baseball Hall of Shame, after leaving the game, Blackwell showered, changed, left the park, and went to the bar—and saw the first inning was still going on. By the time it ended, the guy who relieved Blackwell made it to the bar, as well. That’s a pretty bad inning.

1953 Red Sox catcher Del Wilber hits pinch-hit home run in third straight pinch-hit opportunity.

1955 The White Sox sign amateur free agent Norm Cash. They’ll later trade him away in the 1959-60 offseason, in which they also dump Don Mincher, Johnny Callison, Earl Battey, and John Romano, all of whom will become All-Stars.

1956 The White Sox trade George Kell to the Orioles in a six-player trade.

1957 Jim Bunning has his longest career outing: 13 IP, 10 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 11 K, but it results in a no-decision as his Tigers prevail, 2-1, over the Orioles in 16 innings.

1957 Boston writers reaffirm their decision to ban women from the press box.

1957 Yankee outfielder Hank Bauer is arraigned for his involvement in the Copacabana Incident, a brawl in which he and several other Yankees were involved. Bauer will later be cleared and threatens to sue Edward Jones, a man pressing charges against him.

1957 Jim Bunning has the longest outing of his career: 13 IP, 10 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, and 11 K, for a personal best WPA of 0.965. He gets a no-decision as his Tigers teammates top Baltimore in 16 innings, 2-1.

1959 MLB owners opt against expansion. This position won’t last much longer.

1960 Kent Hrbek, Twins slugger, is born

1961 Joe Torre knocks out the first home run of his career.

1962 The Yankees release veteran pitcher Robin Roberts, who the Orioles sign later the same day. He never actually pitched for the Yankees, but he was theirs from Oct., 1961 until this day.

1963 Reds pitcher Jim Maloney fans eight straight from the first through fourth innings and ends the day with 16 whiffs in a 2-0 win. He doesn’t get the complete game, though, pitching 8.1 innings.

1966 Harmon Killebrew hits his 300th home run.

1966 Robert Clemente fans four times in one game, the only time he ever does that. He’s 1-for-6. LA 5, PIT 4 (12).

1967 Whitey Ford pitches in his last game.

1968 Billy Williams plays in his 695th straight game, setting a record for outfielders.

1968 The A’s cumulative all-time franchise record bottoms out at 763 games under .500 (4,730-5,493). Only the Phillies and Browns/Orioles have ever been lower.

1969 Reggie Jackson hits an inside-the-park home run, the third of four in his career.

1970 Cardinals’ Steve Carlton fans 16 Phillies, but St. Louis loses 4-3.

1970 Yankee Mel Stottlemyre walks 11 in 8.1 innings vs. the Senators, but New York wins anyway, 2-0.

1972 Montreal signs amateur free agent Larry Parrish, who will have a nice little career for himself.

1975 Reds enter today 20-20, but a win propels them on an 88-34 streak the rest of the season.

1976 When umpires refuse to cross a vendors’ picket line at Three Rivers Stadium, an amateur crew works the game.

1976 Dave Winfield hits his first career grand slam.

1977 According to WPA, Rick Sawyer has the best relief stint in Padres history: 8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K for a 0.963 WPA. Padres win 11-8 over the Expos in 21 innings. The teams combine for a record nine intentional walks.

1981 Josh Hamilton is born.

1981 It just might be the best college pitcher’s duel of all-time, as Ron Darling of Yale meets Frank Viola of St. John’s. St. John’s wins, 1-0, in 12 innings after Darling throws a no-hitter through the first 11 frames, with 16 strikeouts. In the 12th, a single, a reached on error, and several stolen bases provide the difference.

1985 The Orioles release longtime role player John Lowenstein.

1985 Montreal release longtime rotation stalwart Steve Rogers, ending his career.

1985 Ryne Sandberg plays an inning at shortstop. It’ll be the last time he takes the field at any place other than second base.

1986 Matt Wieters, Orioles catcher, is born.

1987 Indians slugger Cory Snyder swats three home runs in one game.

1988 The Red Sox retire Bobby Doerr’s number.

1989 Ken Griffey Jr.’s first inside-the-park homer is career homer No. 6.

1990 Barry Bonds bats leadoff for the last time.

1993 Dale Murphy plays in his final game.

1993 Umpire Jim McKean ejects Toronto mascot B. J. Birdie for making gestures the ump finds offensive.

1993 Rickey Henderson has a career-best five RBI when he goes 2-for-4 with a triple and home run in Oakland’s 12-11 win over Chicago.

1995 Mark McGwire’s personal-best hitting streak maxes at 18 games. He’s 23-for-69 with six doubles and nine home runs.

1996 Larry Walker gets a double, triple, and two home runs but never does get a single to complete the cycle.

1996 Ken Griffey Jr. hits his 200th home run.

1996 There is a 4.8-magnitude earthquake in third inning of a Giants-Expos game. The game proceeds, as it’s just a mild quake, and the Giants win 8-5.

1996 Terry Mulholland, veteran relief pitcher, hits a 407-foot home run. He began the day with the third-worst batting average among anyone with at least 400 at-bats.

1997 Roger Clemens wins his 200th game: 200-111 for his career.

1997 Reliever Keith Foulke makes his big league debut.

1998 Jim Edmonds gets his 100th home run.

1998 Herbert Aaron, father of Hank Aaron, dies at age 89.

1999 The Cubs trade Kyle Lohse to Twins for Rick Aguilera in four-player trade.

2000 For the second consecutive game, Rickey Henderson bashes a leadoff home run.

2000 Giants starting pitcher Russ Ortiz becomes first pitcher since Bob Friend in 1954 to get the win despite allowing 10 earned runs.

2000 Major league teams combine for six grand slams on this day, a record.

2001 Barry Bonds clubs his eighth homer in five games, tying a record.

2002 Randy Johnson fans his 3,500th batter.

2002 Tampa pitcher Joe Kennedy tosses a complete game, ending a 194-game stretch without one for Tampa.

2003 Geoff Jenkins hits three home runs in a game for the second time.

2004 Alex Rodriguez plays his first game in Texas as a Yankee and, predictably, gets booed.

2005 As New York’s Dae-Sung Koo faces Randy Johnson, in the Mets dugout, Mike Piazza tells his teammate David Wright that he’ll give $1 million to charity if Koo gets a hit. Koo doubles. Piazza sticks up to his word, creating a 20-year plan of $50,000 per year to give to charity.

2005 The Giants unveil a statue of former ace starting pitcher Juan Marichal.

2007 The all-time bottoming out of the Colorado Rockies’ cumulative franchise record occurs on this day: 164 games under .500 (1,043-1,207). (They tie the 164-games-under mark on June 3, 2009.)

2009 Troy Percival appears in his final game.

2010 Pitcher Brad Penny tears his lat while hitting a grand slam in third inning versus St. Louis. He’ll be out for the year.

2010 Astros star pitcher Roy Oswalt says he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause.

2010 Edwin Encarnacion of Toronto hits three home runs in one game.

2011 Los Angeles police make an arrest in the case of the Giants fan beaten so badly after a Dodgers game that he was left with severe brain damage.

2011 It’s announced that Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter has brain tumors. He has less than a year to live.

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Kevin McDougall
11 years ago

Angels 1st baseman Alvin Dark? Highly doubtful. Only 1 Alvin Dark is listed as having played MLB. And he was born in 1922. I imagine you meant Alvin Davis.

Chris Waters
11 years ago

Yes, it had to be Alvin Davis, of course, but Chris is doing an incredible job here, and we all have to be not only thankful but most forgiving of minor errors.
Good job, Chris!

Chris Jaffe
11 years ago

Wow – yeah.  That’s a doozy of a mistake.  It should be Alvin DAVIS.

Sorry about that.

Kevin McDougall
11 years ago

Hey Chris W – I didn’t give Chris a hard time, I simply corrected the mistake for accuracy sake…