Gaylord Perry with the Tacoma Giants in 1961 (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
On July 20, 1969, pitcher Gaylord Perry hit is his first major league home run. In his 22-year career Perry would amass a batting average of .131 with 141 hits, including 17 doubles, 6 home runs, and 47 RBI. As a Hall of Fame pitcher, however, he’d finish his career with a 3.11 ERA, allowing 399 home runs with a win-loss percentage of .542.
One of the myth’s surrounding Perry is the tale that his manager with the Giants once said, “a man will land on the moon before Gaylord Perry hits a home run.” According to MLB.com’s Cut 4, the story goes as follows:
One day during the ’64 season, [San Francisco Giants Manager Alvin] Dark and San Francisco Examiner reporter Harry Jupiter looked on as Perry smacked some home runs during batting practice. Jupiter told Dark that Perry looked pretty good with a bat in his hands and remarked that the pitcher might even hit a home run one of these days. Dark’s response set in motion one of the weirdest coincidences in baseball history: “Mark my words,” he said, “a man will land on the moon before Gaylord Perry hits a home run.”
And if you don’t believe that, here’s Perry telling the story himself:
Happy Stat-urday! Happy Moon Landing Day!
Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon. What was the baseball world doing on that day and how did they mark the historic event? According to SABR member, J.G. Preston, while much of the nation was at home watching the moon landing on TV, about 200,000 baseball fans attended baseball games, many with portable radios in hand. At 4:17 pm Eastern, the Eagle touched down on the moon. This is what happened at several stadiums around the same time:
- Anaheim (v. Oakland): With the A’s Rick Monday at bat, the game was halted in the 2nd inning and the words “We have landed on the moon” were displayed on the scoreboard.
- Atlanta (v. San Diego): The game was stopped in the 7th inning so a “silent prayer” could be said by the crowd and then the organist played “God Bless America.”
- Boston (v. Baltimore): The 7th inning had just ended and an announcement was made over the PA system; the crowd cheered for nearly a minute and the organist played “something dramatic to fit the occasion.”
- Chicago (v. Kansas City): Walt Williams had just singled for the White Sox in the 7th inning when the exploding scoreboard, which had been synched to salute the exact moment of the moon landing, did its thing. An announcement was made that the astronauts had landed on the moon and the players in the White Sox dugout bowed their heads in prayer.
- Cleveland (v. Detroit): The first game of a double header had just ended, so the players listened to the broadcast in the clubhouse between games.
- Montreal (v. Mets): Additional time was taken between the two games of a double header so the live broadcast of the landing could be played over the PA system.
- New York (v. Washington): With Washington’s Jack Aker at bat in the 8th inning, an announcement was made that the astronauts had landed safely; the crowd cheered, the message “They’re on the moon” appeared on the scoreboard, and “America the Beautiful” was played over the PA system. (See video below.)
- Philadelphia (v. Cubs): At the end of the first half of the 3rd inning in game 2 of a double header, the PA announcer informed the crowd that the U.S. had landed a man on the moon. The players lined up on the baselines, there was a moment of silence, and then “God Bless America” was played over the loudspeakers.
- San Francisco (v. Los Angeles): With the bases loaded in the first inning, there was an announcement about the landing over the PA system, a moment of silence, and the crowd cheered.
- Seattle (v. Minnesota): During the pregame ceremonies, an announcement was made of the landing; the fans cheered and sang “America the Beautiful.”
Here’s how the event unfolded at Yankee Stadium:
This clip is taken from a documentary, presumably “In the Shadow of the Moon,” though cited as “Shadows on the Moon,” in the clip above.
Members of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes taking in the solar eclipse in 2017. Photo courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
As the baseball world prepares to celebrate NASA and the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, lets take a look at the other ways baseball has partnered with NASA and the scientific community. In 2017, NASA used the total solar eclipse as a teachable moment in minor league ballparks, but it wasn’t the only time they used baseball to give us a science lesson.
NASA has also given lessons on the Aerodynamics of Baseball and Forces on a Baseball. A few years ago they even superimposed the Apollo 11 landing site onto a baseball diamond (and other images) to help us understand just how big the moon is:
Of course, NASA scientists aren’t the only ones taking in a ballgame. Check out the video below from Chevron’s STEM Zone:
In fact, more baseball teams are teaming up with schools and organizations to teach kids about STEM, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles, and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Bowie Baysox, the double-A affiliate of the Orioles, hosts a STEM education day every year and with cool STEM activities. And – back to those NASA scientists – the Boston Red Sox hosted a STEM Education Day at Fenway Park last year for over 4,000 students. The event featured NASA exhibits and demonstrations as well as presentations by NASA scientists.
And, let’s not forget the fact that the current Assistant GM for the Baltimore Orioles used to work for NASA. Coincidence? I think not.
Our countdown to the moon landing anniversary continues with this photo of the Houston Astros grounds crew (circa 1965), which was tweeted out a few years ago by @AstrosDaily:
The photo reminds us the links between the Houston Astros and the space program and how sport and community are closely intertwined. The Astros and their former stadium, the Astrodome, were named in honor of NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, which had opened its doors in Houston in 1963 (it was renamed Johnson Space Center in 1973). At the Astrodome, Earthmen tended to the astroturf, Spacettes helped you find your seats, and the Astros played baseball.
Check out more cool pics from the Houston Chronicle, Houston History Magazine, Uni Watch, and Getty Images.
The Houston Astrodome in 1965 looking a little extraterrestrial (photo courtesy of Wikipedia).
In 2016, the Washington Nationals’ Presidents donned “space helmets” and moon walked to the finish line of their 4th inning race in honor of a visit by a NASA astronaut.
Just back from spending 141 days on the International Space Station, astronaut Kjell Lindgren visited Nats Park on April 26, 2016. He threw out the first pitch, watched the Presidents’ race from the finish line, and posed for photos with dignitaries, including the Nationals’ mascot, Screech.
Given the team’s proximity to the U.S. Capitol and NASA Headquarters, the Washington Nationals often host politicians, government officials, and the occasional astronaut. But rarely do the Presidents wear tin foil space helmets!
NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren shakes hands with Blake Treinen, Relief Pitcher for the Washington Nationals after Lindgren threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Washington Nationals versus Philadelphia Phillies game at Nationals Park in Washington, DC on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Lindgren spent 141 days aboard the International Space Station from July 2015 to December 2015 as part of Expeditions 44 and 45, and conducted two spacewalks during that time. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren is interviewed before he throws out the ceremonial first pitch at the Washington Nationals versus Philadelphia Phillies game at Nationals Park in Washington, DC on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Lindgren spent 141 days aboard the International Space Station from July 2015 to December 2015 as part of Expeditions 44 and 45, and conducted two spacewalks during that time. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren poses for a photo with the Washington Nationals mascot before throwing the ceremonial first pitch at the Nationals versus Philadelphia Phillies game at Nationals Park in Washington, DC on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Lindgren spent 141 days aboard the International Space Station from July 2015 to December 2015 as part of Expeditions 44 and 45, and conducted two spacewalks during that time. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren throws out the ceremonial first pitch before the Washington Nationals take on the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park in Washington, DC on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Lindgren spent 141 days aboard the International Space Station from July 2015 to December 2015 as part of Expeditions 44 and 45, and conducted two spacewalks during that time. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
Kjell Lindgren at Nationals Park, 2016. (All photos courtesy of NASA.)
The Angels honored Tyler Skaggs on Friday night – a night that included everything: from the team all wearing #45, to Skaggs’ mom throwing out the first pitch, to Mike Trout hitting a home run in the first inning, to Taylor Cole and Felix Peña combing to throw a no hitter:
As MLB tweeted, it was unbelievable.
Vida Blue pitching for the Oakland A’s, July 1973 (photo courtesy of the National Archives via Wikipedia)
Next Saturday marks a big anniversary. Well, make that two – because July 20th is the 50th anniversary of Vida Blue’s Major League debut, when he pitched 5 1/3 innings for the Oakland A’s giving up 6 hits and 5 runs (3 earned). The following day, the New York Times barely mentioned Blue’s inauspicious first outing in its summary of the Angels and A’s doubleheader: “In the first game Aurelio Rodriguez and Jim Spencer greeted the major league debut of southpaw picture, Vida Blue, with Homers.” [“A’s Top Angels, 9-6 after 7-3 Defeat: Jackson Clouts 37th Homer – Bando Also Connects,” The New York Times, July 21, 1969, p. 44]
Of course, the less than memorable event may have been overshadowed by news of the Apollo 11 moon landing on the same day, which got more space in the sport section than did Blue:
Baseball paid tribute to America’s astronauts yesterday by halting play at three ball parks when the lunar module, Eagle, touched down on the moon. In Philadelphia, the second game of a double-header between the Phillies and the Chicago Cubs was stopped for five minutes in the third inning and players from both teams lined up along the foul lines. There was a moment of silent prayer for continued success of the mission and a recording was played of Kate Smith singing “God Bless America.” The lunar landing was also observed at Montreal’s Jarry Park, where the Expos played the New York Mets, and at Atlanta Stadium, where the Braves played the San Diego Padres.” [“Three Baseball Parks Salute the Touchdown,” New York Times, July 21, 1960, p. 43.]
According to the Society of American Baseball Research, Blue started three more games for the A’s in 1969 and then spent the rest of the season in the bullpen. The following season he started for the triple-Iowa Oaks before being called up to the A’s in September. Blue would go on to pitch in the majors for an additional 15 years until his retirement in 1986. Over his MLB career, he pitched in 502 games, starting 473 times. He won 209 games, lost 161, and saved 2. His career ERA was 3.27.