40th anniversary: Near no-hitter in debut

40 years ago today, a pitcher mad a damn impressive debut. For a few innings, people could be forgiven for thinking the next great hurler was making his debut. That did not turn out to be the case, but it was a memorable start.

The pitcher was Bill Slayback, and he was a 24-year-old the Tigers had just called up from the minor leagues. The Tigers were in first place in the AL East, they wanted Slayback to take the place in the starting rotation of Joe Niekro, who was having some health issues with his arm.

On June 26, 1972, starting against the Yankees, Slayback got off to a nice start, striking out leadoff hitter Horace Clarke, and retiring the side 1-2-3 in the first. In the second inning, Slayback walked Ron White to begin the frame, but then quickly recovered.

And after that, Slayback was off. He retired the last three batters he faced in the second. And three more in the third. And again in the fourth. And the fifth. And the sixth.

He retired 15 in a row, and 18 of the first 19 batters he faced. Oh, and it was a no-hitter. Yeah, that’s a nice way to start a big league career.

Leading off the seventh, Slayback walked Bernie Allen to end his streak of retired batters, but the no-hitter was still going on. Then Slayback once again retired everyone else. Through seven innings the no-hitter was still going on. This was looking like one of the greatest debuts in history.

And that’s when it ended. Leading off the eighth, Johnny Callison singled off Slayback to end the no-hitter. Then, Thurman Munson singled him to second. Suddenly, the Yankees had a rally going. Then came a double play and a K, and the no-hitter was gone, but the shutout survived.

In the ninth, he lost that on a walk, single, double, and RBI ground out. The no-hitter was gone, the shutout was gone, and now Slayback was gone. Team manager Billy Martin yanked Slayback with a 4-2 lead and two outs to go.

The Tigers held on to win, 4-3. As for Slayback, that day was the highlight of his career. He went 6-9 over three years work in the big leagues. But for one day, he looked like he could something really special.

Aside from that, many other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versaries” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.


2,000 days since the Orioles sign free agent Aubrey Huff.

4,000 days since a Negro Leagues Tribute Day in the majors. The Mets and Blue Jays play a game wearing uniforms from the New York Cubans and Chatham All-Stars. Elsewhere, the Pirates wear Homestead Grays jerseys and the Royals wear Kansas City Monarchs threads.

4,000 days since baseball umpires file a grievance against MLB in protest of the Questec cameras in the ballparks.

7,000 days since Tim Wakefield pitches 10 innings for the Pirates, the last time they’ve had anyone go longer than nine innings. He walks ten and throws 172 pitches. Even back in those days, 172 pitches drew some attention.

8,000 days since Dave Stewart becomes the last big league pitcher to record more than 30 outs in one game. He tosses 11 innings in a complete game shutout 1-0 win for the A’s over the Mariners. Opposing him, Seattle’s Erik Hanson throws 10 scoreless innings in arguably the best pitchers duel of the decade.

8,000 days since Red Schoendienst manages his last big league game. He had been called into service as interim skipper a few weeks earlier when Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog resigned. By the next game, Joe Torre will be the St. Louis field general.

8,000 days since Mel Rojas makes his big league debut.

20,000 days since Minnie Minoso becomes the first White Sox batter to club 100 homers for the franchise. The Sox are the last pre-expansion team to have that happen. The next-to-last team did it 17 years previously.

20,000 days since Al Kaline steals three bases in one game, the only time this happens.

20,000 days since Harmon Killebrew hits the first of seven pinch-hit home runs in his career.

20,000 days since Hank Aaron hits the first of nine career walk-off home runs.

25,000 days since the Cubs sign Roy Smalley as an amateur free agent.

30,000 days since the Tigers and Yankees outfielders combine for just two putouts, an AL record never equaled.

30,000 days since Hall of Famer Sam Rice hits his 21st and final career inside-the-park home run. He has only 34 homers in his career, but 21 stay inside the park.


1874 Topsy Hartsel, OBP-machine leadoff hitter, is born.

1889 200 game winner Jack Stivetts makes his big league debut.

1893 St. Louis trades star infielder Jack Glasscock to the Pirates.

1903 Babe Herman, slugger who couldn’t run or field, is born.

1903 Ed Delahanty goes on a drinking spree. He’ll be dead in about a week.

1903 Pirates player-manager Fred Clarke attacked in the Giants locker room by New York catcher Frank Bowerman. Clarke manages to play in that day’s game anyway.

1912 The Senators gets Hippo Vaughn from the New York Yankees (then called the Highlanders).

1913 Washington catcher Eddie Ainsmith steals second, third, and home in one inning against the A’s.

1915 Pete Alexander tosses a one-hitter in a 4-0 win over the Dodgers. Zack Wheat singles against him in the eighth inning.

1916 Fielder Jones, skipper for the 1906 world champion White Sox, manages his 1,000th game. His record is 551-420 thus far.

1916 The Indians number their uniforms on an experimental basis. It’s the first time any team has worn numbers on their uniforms. However, Cleveland’s numbers are on the sleeve and difficult to see, so this experiment fails.

1916 The NYPD arrest three fans in the Polo Grounds for petty larceny when they insist on keeping balls hit into the stands.

1923 The Brooklyn Dodgers sign amateur free agent Moe Berg, the smartest man ever to play big league ball.

1925 George Kelly smashes his 100th career home run. He also gets No. 101 in the game – which is a walk-off blast. He’s the 21st member of the 100 home run club.

1930 Herb Pennock has the worst Game Score by a starting pitcher who gets the win in the 1930s: 8. His line: 7.1 IP, 16 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 1 BB, and 3 K

1935 Pirates center fielder Lloyd Waner records 18 putouts in a doubleheader. That’s still the record.

1938 Carl Hubbell notches his 200th win. He’s 200-107 on his career so far. He’ll be 53-47 for the rest of the way.

1938 Al Simmons hits the last of his 10 grand slams. It’s off Bobo Newsom, who will pitch another 2,560 innings without allowing another one.

1941 Joe DiMaggio’s streak nearly ends at 37 games. He’s the fourth batter due up in the bottom of the eighth with the Yankees leading. With one on and one out, Tom Henrich bunts to avoid an inning-ending (and streak-ending) double play. Given this chance, DiMaggio gets a hit to extend his streak to 38 games.

1943 Joe McCarthy loses his 1,000th game as manager. His record is 1,650-1,000.

1943 Beginning today, a 32 foot high and 15 foot wide marine stands by the left field wall at Forbes Field. It’ll last the rest of WWII.

1944 The Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers play in a three-way exhibition game to raise bonds for the war. The Dodgers score 4, the Yankees 1, and the Giants 0.

1947 Johnny Sain, the hardest to whiff pitcher in history – and one of the hardest to fan batters of any position ever – strikes out for the first time in over 170 plate appearances. I told you he was one of the hardest to fan batters ever.

1949 Pat Mullin of the Tigers hits three home runs in one game.

1953 For the second day in a row, Larry Doby bashes two home runs in one game.

1956 Jackie Robinson enjoys his eighth and final multi-home run game.

1956 The Braves finally lose a game under new manager Fred Haney. They won their first 11 under him.

1957 Baltimore signs amateur free agent Milt Pappas.

1958 Hector Lopez of the Kansas City A’s hits three home runs in one game.

1960 Ron Santo makes his big league debut, and has a great time of it. He goes 3-for-7 with five RBI in a Cubs doubleheader sweep of the Pirates.

1961 Minor league player Don DiChiara of the New York-Pennsylvania League gets homers in four consecutive at bats.

1962 Earl Wilson throws a no-hitter, guiding Boston to a 2-0 win over the Angles.

1963 Tim Harkness enjoys the best WPA game ever by a Mets hitter: 1.107 WPA. He’s 4-for-7 with a double and homer in the Mets 8-6 win over the Cubs.

1963 Jud Wilson, Negro League Hall of Famer, dies.

1964 The Twins purchase reliever Al Worthington from the Reds.

1966 The AL and NL announce they’ll move to a two-division format in 1969.

1966 Ron Santo takes a fastball to his face, fracturing his cheek. He’ll miss a week. In the same game, the Mets’ Ron Hunt and the Cubs’ Adolfo Phillips are also hit.

1966 Sandy Koufax matches an NL record by fanning seven in a row.

1968 Pete Rose gets his 1,000th career hit.

1968 Don Drysdale wins his 200th game, giving him a record of 200-154. It’s his 15th straight Quality Start. He’s 9-3 with 7 CG, 121.1 IP, 81 H, 16 R, 11 ER, 27 BB, and 83 for a 0.82 ERA in this span. This is just about it for him, though. Barely in his 30s, Drysdale’s arm is about to fall off. He’ll be 9-12 in the rest of his career.

1968 Bob Gibson tosses his fifth consecutive shutout. He’s allowed 21 hits and five walks while fanning 35 in these 45 innings.

1970 Frank Robinson swats two grand slams in one game. He’ll never do that again.

1971 The Angels suspend outfielder Alex Johnson “for failure to give his best efforts to the winning of games.” This will be later overturned, as the troubled outfielder will be ruled emotionally incapacitated.

1971 Doyle Alexander makes his big league debut.

1974 Derek Jeter is born.

1974 Jason Kendall is born.

1975 The Pirates release formerly great pitcher Sudden Sam McDowell.

1976 Bert Blyleven wins his second consecutive 1-0 complete game shutout. It’s the 10th of 15 career 1-0 complete game victories for him, the most by any pitcher since Walter Johnson.

1977 Jerry Remy handles 26 chances at second base in a doubleheader, the AL record.

1978 Steve Rogers wins his 69th game with the Expos, passing up Steve Renko as franchise leader. He still is the Expos/Nationals all-time win leader.

1979 The Cubs trade Bobby Murcer to the Yankees.

1979 Darrell Evans belts a walk-off, pinch-hit home run.

1982 Graig Nettles belts his 300th home run.

1982 The Appleton Foxes of the Midwest League get one hit in each game of a doubleheader, yet win both games anyway, 2-1 and 1-0, over the Wisconsin Rapids Twins.

1983 Rusty Staub ties an all-time record by getting his eighth consecutive pinch-hit. He’ll break the record with No. 9 three days later.

1984 Jason Thompson gets four homers today – two in each end of a doubleheader for the Pirates against the Cubs.

1984 Longtime Royals pitcher Paul Splittorff plays in his final game.

1985 Florida State League umpire ejects the Clearwater organist for playing “Three Blind Mice” after a disputed call.

1985 Reggie Jackson nails his 11th and final career grand slam.

1987 Paul Noce of the Cubs is caught stealing twice in one inning.

1988 Craig Biggio makes his big league debut.

1989 George Brett gets his 500th career double.

1989 Kirby Puckett hits his only regular season extra-inning home run. It’s a 10th inning walk-off shot for a 5-3 Twins win over the A’s.

1989 Big Daddy Rick Reuschel wins his ninth straight game, his best streak. His numbers in this span: 12 G, 87.1 IP, 74 H, 18 R, 14 ER, 15 BB, 43 K, and a 1.44 ERA. Wait – just 43 Ks in 87.1 IP in the late 1980s? Wow.

1990 Greg Maddux walks seven batters, the most in his career.

1991 The Angels set a record with their 13th consecutive errorless game.

1991 Mickey Tettleton hits a home run clear out of Tiger Stadium. He did it four days earlier, too.

1992 Tony Fernandez is caught stealing twice in one inning. He’ll end the year with 20 stolen bases in 40 attempts, the worst success rate by any notable base stealer since 1923.

1993 Cleveland signs amateur free agent Bartolo Colon.

1993 Roy Campanella dies at age 71.

1996 Tommy Lasorda undergoes angioplasty after suffering a mild heart attack. Bill Russell becomes the interim Dodger skipper.

1997 Tony Gwynn hits his second and final inside-the-park home run. It’s also a grand slam.

1999 Sammy Sosa smashes his 300th home run.

1999 Pirates shortstop Pat Meares enters Milwaukee’s sausage race as the bratwurst – and wins. (He’s on the DL due to hand surgery and is thus unavailable to play in today’s game).

2000 Alex Cabrera of Arizona hits a homer in his first at bat. Added bonus: It’s a pinch-hit shot.

2000 Orel Hershiser pitches in his last game.

2001 Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon walks off the field with third base itself.

2002 Todd Stottlemyre appears in his final game.

2004 Roberto Alomar gets his 500th double.

2008 Houston releases Shawn Chacon, who recently assaulted the GM.

2009 Andre Ethier hits three home runs in a game for the Dodgers.

2010 Cleveland releases Three True Outcomes guy Russell Branyan.

2010 The Giants retire No. 20 for Monte Irvin.

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11 years ago

Check out Slayback’s game logs from July that year.  July 12-9in, July 16-9in, July 20-9in. And after three consecutive complete games, each on 3 days rest, he takes over for Tom Timmerman in the first inning of a game on the 23rd – on only 2 days rest and pitches 4.1 innings that day too! 
Maybe in your 40th anniversary edition for July 23, you could mention these 31.1 innings over 12 days that Slayback pitched.  Imagine the Tigers doing this nowadays with Casey Crosby, for example. Impossible.  Imagine them doing it with Rick Porcello.  Still impossible.  Verlander?  In some Playoffs/World Series scenario – maybe.  But in the middle of July? 
I’m not a huge fan of pitch counts, but I’m sure that there exists a point where one can pitch too much/too often.  Just looking at the guy’s numbers sure makes me think this could be a time when that occurred.  More shame on Billy Martin.