Ten-year anniversary: Lopes, Henderson, and baseball’s unwritten rules

Ten years ago today, baseball witnessed an interesting debate of those unwritten rules of how the game is played.

It was the top of seventh inning of a Padres-Brewers game in Milwaukee. With the Padres comfortably ahead 11-5, future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson came to the plate and singled in a run, giving San Diego a seven-run margin.

Then the fun began. You have Henderson on first base and no one on second. What do you think might happen here? Hey, it doesn’t matter that he’s 42 years old. He stole 31 bases the year before and would swipe another 25 this year.

Henderson did what Henderson did: He read the pitcher and made a nice jump when he thought he could beat the throw. As it happens, there was no throw. Henderson made it into second uncontested on a play ruled defensive indifference.

Well, Milwaukee catcher Raul Casanova may have been indifferent, but his manager Davey Lopes was anything but. Lopes charged out to the field to harangue Henderson for daring to steal with a seven-run lead late in the game. Lopes thought it was bush league and threatened to drill Henderson next time he came to the plate.

Turns out Lopes never got the chance. The Padres pulled Henderson from the game right after that, and that was the last Padres-Brewers game of the year. The next year, Henderson was with the Red Sox and Lopes lost his job after a 3-12 start to 2002.

That said, Lopes was so riled up by Henderson’s play that he repeated his threat to drill Henderson to the press after the game, snorting that he wasn’t surprised Henderson left the game right after the threat.

This set off a little kerfuffle online and on sports radio over the game’s unwritten rules. This came two months after the Padres found themselves in a similar dispute, when their catcher, Ben Davis, bunted for an eighth-inning single to end what had been a Curt Schilling no-hitter. Arizona manager Bob Brenly cried that a bunt during a no-hitter wasn’t in accord with those unwritten rules, though almost everyone else—including Schilling—said it was a legitimate play, especially given that Arizona held only a 2-0 lead at the time. Schilling gave up a few more hits later anyway.

As for Lopes, his criticism was that much more striking because he was long regarded as an expert base stealer. As a player, Lopes stole 557 bases versus only 114 caught steals. (Fun fact: Lopes was briefly Henderson’s teammate on the 1984 A’s.) Since losing his managerial job. Lopes has caught on as a first base coach, known for his excellent advice to players on how to read the pitcher and when to steal.

There’s one final coda to this story. During the uproar caused by Lopes’ threat to Henderson, someone went through the numbers and looked at Lopes’ own playing career. It turns out that Lopes had stolen a handful of bases when his team had as big a lead as Henderson’s Padres had.

That’s the modern age—you can’t get away with anything. There’s always someone to check.

Other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim:


3,000 days since Rafael Palmeiro bashes his 500th home run, seemingly locking up his case for Cooperstown.

4,000 days since Lou Piniella loses his 1,000th game as manager (1,088-1,000 record).

7,000 days since Matt Stairs makes his big league debut.

7,000 days since Tim Raines steals his 700th base.

15,000 days since the Cardinals use three pinch hitters in one inning against the Expos, and they all strike out.

15,000 days since Roberto Clemente, who had homered twice in the previous day’s game, homers twice in the first game of a doubleheader.

25,000 days since the armed forces draft Joe DiMaggio.

50,000 days since the birth of Hall of Fame second baseman Nap Lajoie.


1889 Matt Kilroy, baseball’s all-time single-season strikeout record holder (seriously, look it up), throws a shortened game no-hitter (seven innings).

1890 The Cleveland Spiders NL team purchases the contract of a pitcher from Canton, Ohio in the Tri-State League; a young hurler called Cy Young.

1893 Harry Stovey, one of the best sluggers of his generation, born.

1903 Cy Young loses a game that isn’t quite a pitchers’ duel: New York 15, Boston 14.

1904 Hall of Fame skipper Ned Hanlon manages his 2,000th game. He’s 1,111-847 for his career. Yes, baseball did have lots of ties back then.

1907 Mordecai Brown allows an outside-the-park home run to Brooklyn’s Bob Hall. It’s the only ball to clear the fence against Brown from July 18, 1905 to May 24, 1909.

1908 John McFarland of the Helena team in the Arkansas State League loses his perfect game by the most bizarre way possible. After retiring the first 26 batters, No. 27 refuses to bat, so the umpire forfeits the game. But since McFarland didn’t face 27 batters, it’s not officially considered a perfect game.

1908 Rube Waddell of the St. Louis Browns faces his old team, the Philadelphia A’s, and strikes out 16 batters.

1911 Cy Young allows two inside the park home runs in one game.

1911 Smokey Joe Wood allows a no-hitter while fanning 12. This is nearly his second straight no-hitter. In his previous start he didn’t allow any hits until the ninth inning.

1913 Orval Overall, a pretty good pitcher for the Tinker-Evers-Chance Cubs who possessed quite possibly my mom’s favorite name in all baseball history, plays his last game.

1915 Never mind that he’s 41 years old, Honus Wagner legs out an inside the park grand slam.

1919 Babe Ruth ties an AL record by bashing his ninth homer of the month.

1919 The Red Sox trade controversial starter Carl Mays to the Yankees for two players and $40,000. AL President Ban Johnson tries to ban the Mays trade. He doesn’t actually have the authority to overrule the trade, so he tells the umpires to not let Mays take the field for the Yankees. The team will take Johnson to court over this, and win.

1921 The state rests in the Black Sox trial in Chicago, and the defense begins to make its case.

1922 Jake Daubert collects his 2,000th hit.

1925 Hall of Fame skipper Miller Huggins wins his 1,000th game (1,000-883).

1928 Johnny Hosapp of the Indians ties a baseball record by collecting two hits in one inning twice in the same game. He does it in the first and second innings, in which the Indians score eight and nine runs respectively.

1929 Hall of Fame shortstop Rabbit Maranville, not normally known for his bat, makes the 2,000-hit-club in style, going 5-for-5. The fifth hit is No. 2,000.

1931 Wes Ferrell of the Indians defeats Washington 6-0 as the Senators leave 15 runners on base.

1934 Chuck Dressen manages his first big league game. He’ll manage on and off for the next 30 years before dying.

1934 Flint Rhem of the Braves nearly tosses a no-hitter. The only hit allowed is a lazily fielded bunt single to third base.

1946 Bob Lemon bashes the first of his 37 homers, among the most by any pitcher. Lemon nails it off his future long-time teammate, Early Wynn

1951 Jimmy Dykes loses his 1,000th game as manager (936-1,000).

1951 Greg Minton, a hard man to hit a home run against, born.

1951 Joe DiMaggio enjoys the last of his 35 multi-home run games.

1951 Willie Mays steals his first base.

1952 Luke Sewell, the only manager to deliver a pennant to the St. Louis Browns, manages his last game.

1952 WPA’s favorite Mickey Mantle home run: 0.737 WPA. It’s a grand slam with two outs in the top of the ninth and New York trailing 7-6 to the White Sox.

1953 Ken Burns, filmmaker who made the Baseball documentary for PBS, born.

1956 Brooklyn purchases Dale Mitchell from the Indians. He’s famous as the 27th out in the Don Larsen perfect game.

1958 Ted Williams hits his 17th and final grand slam. In belting it, Williams passes Ruth for second most slams ever (though he has since been passed himself by multiple players).

1961 The Phillies begin their infamous 23-game losing streak.

1962 Burt Shotton, former Phillies and Dodgers manager, dies.

1963 Joe Horlen of the White Sox is two outs from a no-hitter, but then allows a single and a home run and loses 2-1 to Washington.

1963 Robin Roberts walks the first batter of the game. This is the only time he does it in any of his final 215 career starts.

1964 Vean Gregg, an excellent pitcher way back in the day whose arm wasn’t strong enough to last long, dies.

1967 The Indians trade Rocky Colavito to the White Sox.

1968 Carl Yastrzemski hits three doubles in a game for the only time in his career.

1969 Willie McCovey knocks out his 300th career home run.

1969 Yankee relief pitcher Jack Aker’s string of scoreless innings ends at 33 as the A’s score against him.

1970 Ron Santo, age 30, steals two bases all season, but they both come in this game. This is the only time he steals multiple bases in one game in his career (which features exactly 35 stolen bases). The Cubs team as a whole steal six bases today. Neither of Santo’s steals, however, come as the back end of double steals.

1972 Future World Series champion manager Charlie Manuel hits his fourth and final career home run; a pinch hit shot off A’s ace Catfish Hunter.

1973 Wilbur Wood of the White Sox wins his 20th game of the year. It’s still July, people.

1974 The A’s belt four home runs in the first inning—Al Kaline, Bill Freehan, Fred Stanley and Ed Brinkman. The first three all come in a row.

1975 Willie Randolph makes his major league debut.

1977 Gaylord Perry fans four batters in the sixth inning.

1978 Keith Hernandez, just a month shy of his big league debut, belts his first grand slam. He’ll have two more in the next 51 days.

1978 At Old Timers Days, the Yankees (via Bob Shepherd) announce that Billy Martin will return as the team’s manager in 1980. This stuns the players, who were generally happy when the Yankees fired Martin less than a week earlier.

1983 Steve Garvey plays his 1,207th straight game, but injures himself and has to skip the second game of the day’s doubleheader, ending his streak.

1987 Tim Raines steals his 500th base. He’s been caught only 71 times so far.

1987 Nolan Ryan, who will lead the league in ERA this season, loses his eighth consecutive decision. His line in that stretch: 42.2 IP, 38 H, 25 R, 19 ER, 25 BB, 46 K for a 4.01 ERA and a 5.27 RA/9 IP.

1988 Julio Franco belts his 1,000th hit.

1988 Paul Molitor hits his 100th home run.

1988 Tony Gwynn has the first of two career inside the park home runs.

1988 The Red Sox trade Curt Schilling and Brady Anderson to the Orioles for Mike Boddicker. Safe to say, the Orioles got the better deal here.

1988 Cubs starting pitcher Rick Sutcliffe steals home. That’s how it’s scored anyway. He’s on third with Mitch Webster on first base, when Phillies pitcher Kevin Gross tries to pick off Webster. The official scorer states that Webster steals second and advances to third on an error by the first baseman while Sutcliffe stole home. I vaguely remember watching that play. It looked like the first baseman let the ball get away from him and all advances should have been called an error. I do remember Sutcliffe leisurely trotting home uncontested.

1989 One of the most controversial trades in White Sox history occurs: They send fan favorite and frequent All-Star Harold Baines to Texas along with Fred Manrique for infielder Scotty Fletcher and a pair of prospects no one had heard of before—Sammy Sosa and Wilson Alvarez. While fan sentiment is initially heavily against the trade, once the kids arrive in Comiskey people start the see the move’s positives.

1989 Rickey Henderson sets a personal best with five stolen bases in one game, and ties another personal best with four runs. That’s a neat trick given that he had zero hits on the day. He walked four times. In all, Henderson’s A’s steal five bases against young fireballer Randy Johnson.

1989 Vince Coleman has a bad day on the field, as umps twice call him out for interference. First he tries to slap a pick off ball into foul territory, and later he blatantly grabs a second baseman’s shirt.

1990 The Red Sox bash a dozen doubles in a 13-3 win over the Tigers.

1991 Frank Thomas reaches base due to catcher’s interference for the only time in his career.

1991 Yankees fans bombard right fielder Jose Canseco with paper cups, baseballs, a radio, and an inflatable doll.

1992 Dennis Martinez allows the only walk-off home run of his career, when Bernard Gilkey turns a 1-1 tie into a 4-1 Cardinals win over the Expos.

1993 Cincinnati’s Tom Browning is arrested for possession of marijuana.

1994 Dave Henderson plays in his last game.

1995 Cuban star Osvaldo Fernandez defects in Millington, Tenn.

1995 Steve Buechele, third baseman, plays his last game.

1996 Broken bat reveals that Chris Sabo using cork to try to help himself at the plate. (And the key point is “try” because science shows it doesn’t actually help.) Regardless, he’ll draw a seven-game suspension.

1996 The Mets trade Jeff Kent to the Indians in a four-player deal.

1996 An ailing Tommy Lasorda announces his retirement from the dugout.

1997 Chuck Finley wins his 139th game with the Angels, passing Nolan Ryan for all-time franchise leader in wins.

1997 The White Sox trade Harold Baines to the Orioles for a prospect. This time, there’s no big hue and cry.

1999 13 National League umpires officially lose their jobs over their mid-July resignations.

2000 In a break with all July 29 tradition, Harold Baines is traded to the White Sox. He goes along with Charles Johnson for Brook Fordyce and some prospects.

2000 It’s Bob Wickman Poster Night in Milwaukee. This would probably go better if they hadn’t traded him the day before. It was a good trade (they got a young Richie Sexson), but when the visiting Indians score a bunch of late runs in a 10-2 win off Milwaukee’s bullpen, fans unfurl their posters and hold them up in protest.

2002 Forty Hall of Famers sign a joint letter to Donald Fehr and Bud Selig asking them to avoid a work stoppage.

20002 The Phillies trade Scott Rolen with another player and some money to the Cardinals for Placido Polanco, Bud Smith and Mike Timlin.

2003 Andy Pettitte wins his eighth straight decision, a career-best. His numbers in that stretch: 9 GS, 64.1 IP, 64 H, 25 R, 24 ER, 13 BB, 60 K, and a 3.36 ERA. Not bad, but you’d expect better numbers in a career-best winning streak.

2003 Bill Mueller hits two grand slams in one game, and three homers overall for the Red Sox.

2003 The Yankees trade Raul Mondesi to the Diamondbacks.

2005 Kirk Rueter plays his last game.

2006 Milwaukee’s famous sausage race adds a new contestant: Chorizo, a Latino sausage. It won’t become permanent until next year, as major league baseball has a rule against introducing mascots in midseason.

2007 A record: 717,478 attend 17 major games on this day, setting a record.

2007 Reggie Sanders plays his last game.

2008 The Braves trade Mark Teixeira to the Angels for Casey Kotchmann and a minor leaguer.

2008 If you combine his Japanese numbers with his Seattle ones, Ichiro Suzuki collects his 3,000th career hit.

2009 The Nationals release Corey Patterson.

2009 The Pirates trade Freddy Sanchez to the Giants.

2009 The Indians trade Cliff Lee to the Phillies for prospects.

2010 Houston trades Roy Oswalt to the Phillies.

2010 The Orioles trade Miguel Tejada and cash to the Padres.

2010 The Orioles hire Buck Showalter as their new manager.

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12 years ago

“1974 The A’s belt four home runs in the first inning—Al Kaline, Bill Freehan, Fred Stanley and Ed Brinkman. The first three all come in a row.”

Perhaps that was Mickey Stanley?

I always enjoy these articles.

Chris J.
12 years ago

Hal – yeah.  It is should also be 1974 Tigers.

Bob Evans
12 years ago

“major league baseball has a rule against introducing mascots in midseason”

because that would lead to anarchy, of course

12 years ago

not a good day for dodger managers (shotten and lasorda) or former dodgers playing at being a manager (lopes).

Danny Wind
12 years ago

“15,000 days since the Cardinals use three pinch hitters in one inning against the Expos, and they all strike out.”

I’m not sure how rare this is, but the Astros had the same thing happen against the Cardinals in the ninth inning on Tuesday.