20th anniversary: David Wells hung out to dry

Twenty years ago today, David Wells was hung out to dry. He endured one of the worst starts of any pitcher ever. By the time it was over, he’d posted the worst Game Score by any baseball pitcher in 30 years. It still is easily the worst start in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays.

On Aug. 20, 1992, Wells was the starting pitcher for Toronto on the road against the Brewers. He actually got off to a good start on the day, fanning the leadoff batter and retiring the side in order in the first inning, but it was all downhill from there.

The second inning didn’t get off to too bad a start. He retired two of the first three batters, surrendering a double to the other one. Getting five of the first six batters out is a nice way to start a game. He’d retire just seven of the next 23, though, which is rather far from nice.

With two outs, Wells walked Milwaukee’s Kevin Seitzer on five pitchers. Then he hit B.J. Surhoff with a pitch to load the bases. Infielder Scott Fletcher then swatted a double to score the first pair. However, it also ended the inning, as Toronto nailed Surhoff at the plate when he tried to score from first. Wells needed every break he was going to get.

Still, when Wells began the bottom of the third, he was only down 2-1. Eh, not for long. After a leadoff flyout, the Brewers made him look foolish with two walks, a double, a triple, and three stolen bases. Two of the swipes came on a double steal. With a runner on third and still just one out, Wells regained enough of his composure to induce a pair of grounders to strand the would-be Brewer run just 90 feet from home. But three more had scored, and it was 5-1.

The fourth inning began with a single and a pair of doubles to give Milwaukee a 7-2 lead. So far, you could understand Toronto’s willingness to ride Wells. The first two innings weren’t that bad, but he’d been lit up a bit in the second, even more in the third, and was getting crushed here again in the fourth. But there was no action in Toronto’s bullpen.

Mind you, the bullpen was well enough rested. Though it had been pressed heavily into service the day before, throwing a total of five innings, three of them were by Mike Timlin. And in the previous four days, the bullpen had hurled a total of four innings, so the guys should’ve been ready.

I’ve one theory on what was going on. Wells always had a reputation as a pain in the butt as a pitcher, and today Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston was teaching him a lesson. Wells was suffering? Fine, let him suffer. They weren’t going to win today’s game anyway, so let him die a bit. I can’t confirm that’s what happened, but it would explain Gaston’s otherwise inexplicable handling of his staff this day.

Anyhow, Wells lasted for the rest of the fourth, allowing just one more run. Trailing 8-2, Wells came back out for the fifth inning. Please realize the score, if anything, underestimates how hard Wells was getting hit. One runner had been thrown out at the plate, and most of Milwaukee’s hits were for extra bases.

Anyhow, the fifth began with a leadoff home run by John Jaha. Then a double. Then an out. Then Well’s second hit batsman of the day. Then a walk to load the bases. Finally a double to drive in a pair.

Then it finally was time for Wells to take a walk. Both inherited runners would come around to score, giving Wells a total of 13 runs allowed, all earned, on three stolen bases, two hit batsmen, four walks, two singles, seven doubles, a triple, and a home run. His Game Score was –14.

No one had scored that low since Galen Cisco also had a –14 in July, 1962. No one had done worse since Chubby Dean had a –20 in 1940. Incredibly, since 1992 we’ve had two games do worse than Wells. Both came in 1998 when Scott Sanders and Mike Oquist posted Game Scores of –15 and –21, respectively.

Wells would have an ERA of 5.40 in 1992, but if you remove this game, his ERA drops down to 4.59. Yeah, that’s a bad day. And it happened 20 years ago today.

Aside from that, many other events have their anniversary or “day-versary” today. They are listed below with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim over things.


3,000 days since Tampa selects Jose Bautista off waivers from Baltimore.

3,000 days since 45-year-old Julio Franco becomes the oldest person ever to hit a grand slam.

3,000 days since Yadier Molina makes his big league debut.

5,000 days since Kevin Brown signs baseball’s first nine-figure contract: seven years with the Dodgers at $15 million a year for a total value of $105,000,000.

7,000 days since the big league debut of Jeromy Burnitz.

30,000 days since Carl Reynolds of the White Sox homers in the first, second, and third innings of the day’s game. He never hits No. 4, though. Two of his shots are inside-the-park homers.

30,000 days since Hall of Fame skipper Bucky Harris manages his 1,000th game. His record is 529-461.


1880 Hall of Famer Pud Galvin throws a no-hitter. It’s the last one from 45 feet.

1886 Davy Force, early baseball star, plays in his last game.

1895 Pete Schneider, one of only six men since 1900 to throw 200 innings in his age-19 season , is born.

1900 For the second consecutive time, Cy Young is unable to complete his start. That’s a first for the 11-year veteran.

1901 Pink Hawley, good pitcher plagued by bad run support in the 1890s, appears in his last game.

1903 Pittsburgh makes six errors in the first inning in a 13-6 loss to the Giants.

1908 Al Lopez, Hall of Fame manager, is born.

1912 Carl Cashion tosses a shortened game no-hitter: Washington 2, Cleveland 0 in six innings.

1913 Hall of Famer Edd Roush makes his big league debut.

1915 Cleveland trades Shoeless Joe Jackson to the White Sox for three players and $31,500.

1915 Hall of Fame shortstop Dave Bancroft hits the only walk-off homer of his career. It’s off Wilbur Cooper in the 11th inning for a 4-3 Phillies win over Pittsburgh.

1915 The Giants purchase the contact of George Kelly from a minor league team for $200. Kelly is arguably the worst player in Cooperstown.

1916 The Giants trade longtime first baseman Fred Merkle to Brooklyn.

1920 Red Faber wins his 100th decision for a 100-63 career record.

1920 Babe Ruth hits his 44th home run as a Yankee, passing up Wally Pipp as all-time franchise leader.

1920 It’s the funeral for Ray Chapman, the star Indians shortstop who died from a beaning. Tris Speaker gets into a fight with teammates beforehand because the funeral will be in a Catholic church.

1922 Two days after his third career walk-off home run, Babe Ruth gets No. 4.

1926 Cal McVey, big baseball star in the 1870s, dies.

1926 In front of the entire team, John McGraw berates Frankie Frisch. In response, Frisch buys a train ticket and leaves the team. He had been McGraw’s heir apparent and personal favorite, but now he’s through with the team.

1930 Paul Waner gets his 1,000th hit. It takes him just 711 games to do it.

1934 Judge Landis rules against Dizzy Dean in his dispute with the Cardinals. The suspension for leaving the team stands.

1934 The Reds’ all-time franchise record falls to .500 for the first time since 1882 (3,773-3,773).

1938 Lou Gehrig hits his 23rd and final grand slam.

1938 Indians catchers Frankie Pytlak and Hank Helf catch balls dropped from the Union Terminal Tower, which is 708 feet up. That’s a record.

1940 Mel Ott steals two bases in one game for the only time.

1940 Wally Moses steals home in the 10th as his A’s beat the opposing White Sox.

1941 Brooklyn selects Larry French off waivers from the Cubs.

1941 A White Sox victory pushes the career record of manager Jimmie Dykes four games over .500 (587-583), his all-time high-water mark.

1944 Graig Nettles is born.

1945 Tommy Brown, age 17 years, eight months, and 14 days, becomes the youngest man ever to homer.

1946 Bob Feller’s fast ball is clocked at 98.6 MPH, a new record. The old record was 94 MPH.

1946 The Phillies’ all-time win-loss record falls 1,000 games under .500 (4,104-5,104).

1946 The American Baseball Guild is stillborn at its attempted birth as Pirates players vote 15-3 against having it as their bargaining agent.

1948 In Cleveland, 78,382 see Satchel Paige three-hit the White Sox, 3-0, for his second straight shutout. As a team, it’s Cleveland’s fourth straight shutout.

1952 In the Pony League, Batavia and Bradford have a double no-hitter.

1957 Bob Keegan throws a no-hitter for a 6-0 White Sox win over Washington.

1958 The injury-plagued Cubs use Dale Long as their catcher, becoming the first lefty backstop of the century. The Cubs have three catchers, but one is in the hospital, one had to leave after a hit-by-pitch, and the third was ejected.

1959 Bob Cerv of the KC A’s hits three homers in one game.

1960 For the 37th and final time, Ted Williams hits more than one home run in a game.

1960 Mark Langston is born.

1960 Tom Brunansky is born.

1961 The Phillies lose their 23rd consecutive game and then in the second game of the day’s doubleheader finally win one, 7-4 over Milwaukee.

1961 It’s a great pitchers duel as Pittsburgh’s Bob Friend and Chicago’s Don Cardwell both go the distance in Chicago’s 1-0, 11-inning victory.

1961 Sandy Koufax ties his personal worst with his lowest Game Score: 20. His line: 3 IP 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, and 3 K.

1962 Frank Robinson belts a walk-off grand slam for the Reds.

1963 Yogi Berra has his worst game according to WPA: -0.525 WPA. It’s just one at-bat, a pinch-hit GIDP that ends the game in a 2-1 loss to the Indians.

1964 It’s the harmonica that will cost Yogi Berra his job as Yankees skipper. After a 5-0 loss to the White Sox, Yankee bench player plays the harmonica on the team bus. He’ll be fined $200, and the Yankees will later fire Berra, saying he’d lost control the team.

1965 An Eddie Mathews homer gives him and Hank Aaron 773 as teammates, one more than Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig had for the record.

1967 Reggie Smith homers from both sides of the plate in one game for the first time in his career.

1967 Al Kaline cranks out his 300th home run.

1967 Andy Benes is born.

1967 Charles O. Finley fires manager Alvin Dark for “losing control of his players.” In 24 hours he’s rehired and refired.

1967 Vern Law plays in his final game.

1971 The now-dormant Shibe Park in Philadelphia is damaged by fire.

1973 Todd Helton is born.

1973 Tom Seaver throws 12 frames, tying his career best. He gets a no-decision, though.

1974 Davey Lopes sets a (since-broken) Dodgers record with 15 total bases in one game off three home runs, a double, and a single.

1974 A radar gun clocks a Nolan Ryan fastball at 100.9 MPH.

1974 Mickey Lolich tosses an 11-inning, complete-game shutout.

1975 Pirates skipper Danny Murtaugh notches his 1,000th win for a 1,000-860 record.

1978 Don Sutton and Steve Garvey of the Dodgers get in a clubhouse fistfight.

1980 Tom Brookens, the No. 8 hitter in Detroit’s lineup, has a game of the ages. He not only goes 5-for-5 with a triple and home run, but he also starts a triple play on defense.

1981 Brett Butler makes his big league debut.

1982 Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspends Alan Wiggins for a month for cocaine possession.

1985 The Mets sign free agent shortstop Larry Bowa.

1986 Dave Winfield hits his 300th home run.

1986 It’s one of the best pitchers, duels of the decade as San Francisco’s Mike Krukow pitches 10 innings for a complete-game, 1-0 loss to the Phillies. Against him, Don Carmen threw a one-hitter for nine innings and was perfect heading into the ninth.

1988 40-year-old Dave Concepcion steals home.

1989 The White Sox retire No. 3 for Harold Baines.

1990 Tino Martinez makes his major league debut.

1991 The Phillies haven’t had a ninth-inning win for 346 straight games, but they do it today on a Dickie Thon homer. Then they get another ninth-inning win the next day and a 10th-inning victory on Aug. 22nd.

1993 Cal Eldred lasts 10 innings for Milwaukee, the last Brewer pitcher to do so.

1995 Kirby Puckett hits his 200th career home run.

1995 Jose Mesa converts his 37th consecutive save opportunity, breaking Dennis Eckersley’s record.

1995 Von McDaniel, former teenage wonder, dies at age 56.

1995 Greg Maddux has his best start according to WPA: 0.845 WPA in a 1-0 win. It’s a two-hit shutout with nine strikeouts and no walks.

1996 Sammy Sosa breaks his hand on a hit-by-pitch. He already has 40 homers, too, and was on pace to hit 50.

1997 Sammy Sosa records his 1,000th career hit.

1997 Tom Glavine is halfway there. He wins No. 150, for a 150-83 career record.

1997 Derek Jeter has his first career multi-home run game.

1997 The Dodgers signs Eddie Murray.

1997 Rickey Henderson suffers through maybe his worst game ever, going 0-for-4 with four whiffs.

1998 Gary Sheffield hits his 200th home run.

1999 Jeff Bagwell walks six times in one games. He has eight plate appearances in a 16-inning victory over the Marlins.

2000 Kenny Lofton has a personal-best six RBIs in one game. He’s 2-for-4 with two homer and two walks.

2000 It’s Whitey Ford Day at Yankee Stadium.

2001 Ken Griffey Jr. hits an inside-the-park home run. Reds 5, Cards 4 in 11 innings.

2001 Carlos Zambrano makes his big league debut.

2002 The Reds sign free agent Jose Guillen.

2005 Jorge Posada gets his 1,000th hit.

2005 The Royals drop their 19th consecutive game.

2006 The Cubs trade Neifi Perez to the Tigers.

2008 MLB and the umpires sign an agreement to use instant replay.

2009 The Mets released rubber-armed Livan Hernandez.

2010 Roy Halladay balks, the first time he’s done that since April, 2005.

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