40th anniversary: Billy Martin picks batting order out of hat

Forty years ago today, Billy Martin tried one of his more interesting maneuvers to shake his team up, and it worked pretty damn well.

On Aug. 13, 1972, Martin had a problem. He was in his first season managing the Tigers and trying his damnedest to keep the club in a pennant race. Less than two weeks ago, Detroit had been in first place in the AL East, 2.5 games ahead of anyone else.

Since then, the Tigers had hit the skids, dropping 10 of 14, including four in a row to fall a game behind the defending AL champion Orioles. The culprit for Detroit’s fall was its offense. They’d scored one run or fewer in eight of their last 14 games, including all of the last four.

With the last-place Indians in town of a doubleheader, Martin wanted to right the ship. He sought to shake things up and, hopefully, make things fun for his players to loosen them up.

So he came up with a novel brainstorm. Instead of going with the typical batting order, he’d try something different. Well, so far there’s nothing novel in that at all. Changing the batting order for a slumping team is as routine as it gets.

Aye, but Martin didn’t just make some small changes to the order; he completely blew up the process of picking the batting order. You see, Martin thought it would get everyone’s attention if he picked the batting order out of a hat.

Oh, the pitcher would still bat last—Martin wasn’t going that crazy. But the other eight would be determined by random luck of the draw.

And so it came to be that star slugger Norm Cash batted leadoff. It was the second and final time in his career he did that. Taking Cash’s usual place in the cleanup slot was shortstop Ed Brinkman, who would hit .203 with six homers on the year. Well, if that’s how the hat sorted them out, then that’s what the Tigers would do.

Maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe not, but the Tigers won that game with their odd lineup, 3-2. Sure, three runs isn’t much of an offensive barrage, but please note that the opposing pitcher was Gaylord Perry, who would win a Cy Young Award that season for his outstanding pitching.

Oh, and some of the unlikely placed Tigers hitters played a key role. Cash laced a pair of hits in his leadoff role. But the big hero was the most unlikely one of all, Brinkman. In the sixth inning, he doubled home the tying run and minutes later scored the winning run.

This win proved to be a big help for Detroit, as they ended the season with a slim half-game lead. In other words, if Brinkman’s double had been buried at the bottom of the order and not been able to lead to any runs, Detroit would’ve lost this game— nd lost the division title, too.

Clearly, that hat deserved MVH honors—Most Valuable Hat.

Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold.


3,000 days since Albert Pujols has five plate appearances in one game without an official at-bat. He walks four times and hits a sacrifice fly.

3,000 days since Detroit Tigers first baseman Carlos Pena gets six hits in one game.

3,000 days since Raul Mondesi plays in his final game.

3,000 days since Alexis Rios makes his big league debut.

4,000 days since Atlanta purchases ageless wonder Julio Franco from the Mexican League.

8,000 days since Brent Mayne plays in his first baseball game.

15,000 days since Charles Johnson, All-Star catcher, is born.

30,000 days since the debut of two infielders who had good careers for themselves: Pinky Higgins and Billy Werber.


1871 Fielder Jones, greater fielder whose birth name really is Fielder, is born.

1887 300-game winner John Clarkson hits two home runs in one game. It’s the second time in his career he’s done that.

1892 Pink Hawley makes his big league debut. Hawley is a fine pitcher who will end his career with a bad win-loss record thanks to rotten run support.

1897 After seven years in the big leagues, Clark Griffith finally pitches his first shutout. Legend has it that the star pitcher considers them bad luck.

1900 A mechanical pitching machine designed by a professor from Princeton University pitches two innings in a Memphis-Nashville minor league game. The robot fans two while allowing three hits.

1901 Kid Nichols out duels fellow 300-game winner Christy Mathewson, 3-0 in 10 innings. They’ll face off again the next day in the second game of a doubleheader. That game ends up in a 5-5 tie after 11 innings.

1902 With a teammate on third base, A’s star Harry Davis steals second in attempt to draw the throw. When it doesn’t work, he then steals first. That does confuse the catcher enough to draw a throw, and when the first baseman throws it back to the catcher in an unsuccessful attempt to nail the lead runner, Davis scurries back to second base.

1902 Honus Wagner, for the second time in his career, steals second, third, and home in one inning.

1906 After 187 straight complete games, Cubs pitcher Jack Taylor is knocked out in the third inning.

1908 20,000 fans attend Cy Young Day in Boston, as he is given a Loving Cup and faces an All-Star lineup containing Hal Chase, Willie Keeler, Harry Davis, George Mullin, and Happy Jack Chesbro.

1911 Minor league pitcher Harry Hedgpeth tosses two complete-game shutouts for Petersburg over Richmond in the Virginia League. He wins 1-0 and 10-0.

1911 Longtime star pitcher Deacon Phillippe plays in his last game.

1913 The Cubs acquire star-to-be Hippo Vaughn from Kansas City in the American Association for Lew Richie.

1915 Art Nehf, pitcher, makes his big league debut.

1918 A Pirates-Dodgers game is the ultimate tie. Each team has eight runs on 13 hits over 38 at-bats, commit two errors, fan five times, walk three times, one passed ball, one hit by pitch, and 12 assists. It’s a perfectly even stat line.

1921 Braves pitcher Mule Watson has two great complete-game wins over the Phillies, 4-3 and 8-0.

1922 Yankee infielder Everett Scott hires a car to drive him to the park for $40 when the train he is on is wrecked.

1923 Pirates star Max Carey steals second, third, and home in one inning versus the Dodgers.

1924 The Red Sox commit all of one assist in a 6-0 win over the White Sox behind Howard Ehmke.

1926 It’s a big controversy in Pittsburgh. The players request that GM Fred Clarke should not be permitted to sit on the bench during games, as they feel it creates uncertainty as to who is in charge, Clarke or manager Bill McKechnie. The Pirates will release Babe Adams and Carson Bigbee and put Max Carey on waivers. Clarke will never sit on the bench again, and after the season, Pittsburgh will fire McKechnie.

1930 Thomas Jefferson Davis “Tommy” Bridges makes his big league debut in Detroit.

1930 Vinegar Bend Mizell is born.

1931 Goose Goslin hits a double, triple, and homer but misses the cycle by the single.

1931 Reds pitcher Red Lucas begins a stretch of 250 innings without being relieved. It will last 11 months. In the same game, Tony Cuccinello gets six hits for the Reds.

1932 Bill Terry hits three homers in one game. It’s the final of seven career multi-home run games.

1932 Charlie Root, the all-time winningest Cub pitcher, has his worst day at the plate, 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.

1932 Hall of Famer Red Ruffing has his best Game Score: 96. His line: 10 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, and 12 K. The Yankees win 1-0, on a Ruffing home run.

1932 Dodgers pitcher Sloppy Thurston allows six homers against the Giants but gets four hits himself at the plate in an 18-9 win.

1933 The Tigers top the White Sox, 6-5 in 17 innings, with Vic Sorrell pitching a complete game for the Detroit victory. Ted Lyons pitches nine innings in relief.

1935 Mudcat Grant is born.

1939 Jimmie Foxx reaches base for the 49th straight game, his longest such streak. He has 75 hits and 37 walks for a .498 on-base percentage in that span.

1939 For the only time in his career, Lou Boudreau steals two bases in one game.

1939 The Yankees tie an AL record for most lopsided shutout in a 21-0 win over the A’s.

1940 Joe DiMaggio ties a personal best with eight RBIs in one game.

1940 Tony Cloninger, a pitcher who once hit two grand slams in one game, is born.

1943 Luke Appling gets his 2,000th hit.

1945 Branch Rickey, Walter O’Malley, and John L. Smith purchase controlling interest in the Dodgers.

1947 Willard Brown becomes the first black man to hit a home run in the AL. It’s an inside-the-park, pinch-hit homer. When he’s done, a teammate destroys Brown’s bat in the dugout while the manager sits there silently. The pitcher is Hal Newhouser, and he never allows any other pinch-hit or inside-the-park homers in his career.

1948 51,013 attendees see Satchel Paige throw a five-hit shutout against the White Sox in Comiskey Park. Another 15,000 are turned away from the stadium.

1949 Andre Thornton is born.

1950 Ralph Kiner hits his 200th home run.

1940 Bob Feller steals a base for the only time in his career.

1950 In the International League, Rochester tops Jersey City, 3-2 in 22 innings. Both pitchers go the distance, Tom Poholsky for Rochester and Andy Tomasic for Jersey City.

1951 Leo Durocher wins his 1,000th decision as manager. His record is 1,000-803.

1951 The Dodgers have Musical Depreciation Night where they let in anyone with a musical instrument for free. A total of 2,000 fans are admitted free, including one with a piano.

1954 The White Sox tops the Tigers, 1-0 in 16 innings. Al Aber goes the distance (15.1 innings) in the loss for a Game Score of 101. Jack Harshman gets a complete-game shutout win for a Game Score of 109.

1957 Braves pitcher Lew Burdette homers twice in one game. He’ll do it one more time in his career.

1958 Roberto Clemente records the first of 13 multi-home run games.

1958 Richie Ashburn gets his 2,000th career hit.

1959 Ernie Banks walks four times in one game. He also has a double.

1959 Frank Robinson hits the first of eight career grand slams.

1961 It’s a rare occasion when a walk-off error scores the tying and winning runs. Baltimore beats Boston, 6-5 in 11 innings, when a misplay lets two score in the bottom of the 11th. It happens on a misplayed sacrifice hit.

1961 Lew Burdette has his worst day at the plate, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, his only four-K game.

1962 In the minor leagues, shortstop Bert Campaneris takes the mound to pitch ambidextrously in relief for Daytona Beach versus Ft. Lauderdale in the Florida State League.

1963 Warren Spahn records his 2,382nd career punchout, passing Rube Waddell for the most by a left-handed pitcher.

1963 Willie Mays plays shortstop for an inning. It’s the first of two times he plays there.

1964 CBS buys 80 percent of the Yankees, effective in November.

1964 Reds manager Fred Hutchinson takes a leave of absence, as he’s going to the hospital for treatment for the cancer that’s killing him.

1964 Jay Buhner is born.

1966 Hank Aaron steals three bases in one game. He’ll do it again next year.

1966 Longtime THT warhorse Steve Treder attends his first game and sees Houston’s Dave Giusti nearly throw a perfect game against the Giants. Only a Cap Peterson single in the second inning ruins it. Houston wins, 3-0.

1966 Vernon Stouffer becomes principle owner of the Indians, buying out Gabe Paul for $8,000,000.

1968 Orlando Cepeda has perhaps the worst day of his career, going 0-for-4 with four whiffs. However, he does get an intentional walk.

1969 Johnny Bench hits the first of his 11 grand slams.

1969 Alex Fernandez, pitcher, is born.

1969 The Cubs lead the NL East by 8.5 games. They’ll finish the year eight games behind the Miracle Mets.

1969 Roy Face allows the last of his record 21 career extra-inning home runs.

1969 Jim Palmer no-hits the A’s, walking six and fanning eight in an 8-0 win for Baltimore.

1969 Roberto Clemente hits three homers in one game for the second time in his career.

1969 Willie Stargell gets his first RBI walk.

1970 For the fourth of five times in his career, Cesar Tovar gets the only hit for his team in a game to ruin what would otherwise be a no-hitter. Today, it’s a leadoff bunt single in the first inning against Washington’s Dick Bosman. Tovar’s five no-hit-ruiners is tied with Eddie Milner for the most ever by one batter.

1972 Hall of Fame executive George Weiss dies at age 78.

1974 Jarrod Washburn, pitcher, is born.

1975 The A’s release 200-game winner Jim Perry.

1976 Young Indians pitcher Dennis Eckersley fans 14, his personal best. He gets stuck with the loss, though, in a complete game, 2-1 loss against Texas.

1978 Baltimore’s grounds crew beats the Yankees. The Orioles are up 3-0 after six innings, but the Yankees score five in the top of the seventh. Then there’s a rain delay, and the crew intentionally moves as slowly as possible to cover the field with the tarp, making the field unusable. Since Baltimore can’t bat in the bottom of the seventh, the top of the seventh doesn’t count, either.

1979 Lou Brock gets his 3,000th hit.

1979 Second baseman Tommy Herr makes his major league debut.

1981 Andre Dawson hits the first of his seven career grand slams.

1981 Two men who will lead the NL in ERA at some point in the 1980s make their big league debuts today: Atlee Hammaker and Alejandro Pena.

1982 Gaylord Perry gets his 300th complete game.

1982 Joe Morgan plays an entire game at third base for the only time in his career. The shortstop in this game is Darrell Evans. That was some infield the Giants used that day.

1985 The Cubs release veteran shortstop Larry Bowa.

1986 Barry Larkin makes his big league debut.

1987 The Cubs retire No. 26 for Billy Williams.

1987 Mark McGwire hits his 39th home run, a new record for rookies. Wally Berger and Frank Robinson jointly held the old record of 38.

1987 In a 13-inning win, the Cardinals outfield has zero putouts. It’s the longest game ever to lack any outfield putouts. Danny Cox and three relievers combine to allow seven balls in the outfield all game, six singles and a double.

1988 Dwight Evans has a personal best seven RBIs in one game. He’s 4-for-5 with a triple, two homers, and a walk in what’s probably his best game ever.

1988 Ramon Martinez makes his big league debut.

1991 Tim Raines hits his 100th career home run.

1991 Paul Molitor hits the first walk-off home run of his career.

1991 Former AL Rookie of the Year Ron Kittle plays his final game.

1993 Roberto Alomar gets his 1,000th hit.

1993 Frank Thomas hits his best home run ever according to WPA: 0.576. It’s a two-run shot in the bottom of the eight while down by one.

1993 Rickey Henderson, new to Toronto, pays teammate Turner Ward $25,000 for uniform No. 24. Henderson tells reporters he’s having trouble hitting with No. 14 on his back.

1995 Will Clark hits his 200th career home run.

1995 Mickey Mantle dies of liver problems.

1995 Minnesota retires No. 14 for Kent Hrbek.

1995 Cal Ripken endures his worst day ever according to WPA: -0.510 WPA.

1996 In the minor leagues, Rick Helling tosses a perfect game for Oklahoma City over Nashville.

1997 John Smoltz loses his 100th decision for a career record 125-100.

1997 Cleveland releases Julio Franco—and Milwaukee signs him that same day.

1997 San Diego trades Rickey Henderson to Anaheim.

1998 Cleveland signs free agent Cecil Fielder.

1998 Harold Baines becomes the all-time RBI leader for a designated hitter when he drives in No. 824.

2002 San Diego retires No. 19 for Tony Gwynn.

2002 Warring Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday finally complete a deal to give Wilpon full ownership within 30 days.

2003 After missing three months with a groin injury, the Mets’ Mike Piazza returns with two homers and four RBIs on, appropriately enough, Italian Night at Shea Stadium.

2003 38-year-old Rafael Palmeiro, who is nearly 39 years old, hits his second triple of the week.

2004 J.T. Snow this three homers in one game.

2004 Jeff Bagwell has maybe the worst game of his career. He’s 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.

2005 The A’s retire No. 43 for Dennis Eckersley.

2006 Minnesota’s post-Washington cumulative franchise record hits .500 (3,633-3,633). They’ve been over .500 in Minnesota ever since, though not for much longer, unless they really improve by quite a bit very quickly.

2007 Hall of Fame shortstop Phil Rizzuto dies.

2007 The Padres release David Wells.

2008 Richie Sexson plays in his last game.

2008 It’s the rise and fall of Francisley Bueno. He’s a one-game big league wonder, but his one-game career is different than others. You see, he’s ejected in it. As far as I know, he’s the only guy to be ejected in his only career game. He’s a pitcher who throws at Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs.

2008 The Astors have eight straight plate appearances without any at-bats in the sixth inning against the Giants. Here’s the sequence: walk, sacrifice fly, intentional walk, sacrifice fly (run scores), HBP, walk (run scores), HBP (run scores), HBP (run scores). Yikes. Houston wins, 6-2, with all their runs coming in that inning.

2009 The International Olympic Committee announces that baseball and softball won’t be part of the next Olympics.

2010 Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey throws a complete-game one-hitter in which the hit came from opposing pitcher Cole Hamels. At that point, no Met has ever thrown a no-hitter.

2011 Atlanta’s Dan Uggla sees his hitting streak peak at 33 games. He hits .377/.438/.762 in that span. Prior to the streak, he was hitting .173/.241/.327 on the year.

2011 Jeff Keppinger of the Giants his a solo home run. It’s the 22nd consecutive Giants home run to happen with no one on base, a new major league record.

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11 years ago

The Tigers beat out the REd Sox by half a game (same losses, tigers won an extra game)? How have I never heard this tidbit before? How was this allowed to happen? I see early season strike, but why an uneven schedule? Weird – is this a common complaint by old Red Sox fans, or was this just accepted at the time? So many questions, sorry…

Chris Jaffe
11 years ago

aweb – They just decided they wouldn’t make up the games lost early that year.  So the half-game divsion win.

9 years ago

1971 was Martin’s first year as Tigers manager. He was fired on September 2, 1973.