Baseball fans tend to be statistics fans as well. That’s why so many of us happily embrace the term “stathead.” Who hit the most home runs? Who has the most career stolen bases? Which team has won the most World Series titles? Ask your average MLB fan any of these questions, and you’ll probably receive the correct answer quicker than a Nolan Ryan fastball. The more dedicated among us can recite all kinds of interesting figures, records, and significant dates from various eras of Major League Baseball.
For baseball enthusiasts, it’s fun to talk about those extraordinary milestones that pepper the history of the sport—not only the famous achievements that everyone knows about but those odd, little-known, obscure feats and happenings too. In that spirit, let’s do a deep dive into the past and explore some of the stranger facts, stats, and just plain odd events in the history of baseball.
Red Murray has the strange honor of being the only MLB player ever to get struck by lightning immediately after making a game-winning catch. On July 17, 1914, the contest between the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates was in the 21st(!) inning when Murray, playing outfield for the Giants, managed to end a very long night by catching a fly ball for the final out, cementing a 3-1 win for his team—but that’s not the only thing Murray caught. A moment later, he was hit by lightning and knocked unconscious. Luckily, he recovered with no serious injuries.
That isn’t even the only time lightning struck in the dead-ball era. During a 1919 contest, Cleveland Indians pitcher Ray Caldwell got knocked out by a lightning bolt in the ninth inning, regained consciousness, and insisted on completing the game. He did just that, securing the victory for the Indians. Those old-school players were tough, weren’t they?
Murray and Caldwell lived for decades after their shocking encounters with Mother Nature.
Only one player in MLB history has managed to get caught stealing four times in a single game. The San Francisco Giants' Robby Thompson did that on June 27, 1986, during a 12-inning contest against the Cincinnati Reds. Nonetheless, the Giants managed to win 7-6. It should be said that Robby's two RBIs did play a part in his team's eventual victory—but, unfortunately, the only thing people remember about that game is his repeated failure to steal second base.
“I wanted to get into the record book, but not like that," Thompson remarked after the game.
By the way, the MLB record for getting caught stealing in a standard nine-inning game is three, held by multiple players.
William Howard Taft was the first U.S. president to throw the ceremonial pitch on Opening Day. It happened on April 14, 1910, prior to the Washington Senators-Philadelphia Athletics game that marked the beginning of the MLB season. Senators manager Jimmy McAleer, spotting Taft in the crowd, impulsively asked the president (known to be an ardent baseball fan) to throw the ball onto the field.
From the stands, Taft lobbed the ball to pitcher Walter Johnson, and the crowd erupted into cheers. That kicked off a tradition that has been honored by almost every sitting American president since.
For many years, the first pitch was thrown from the stands in the Taft tradition, but, eventually, somebody had the bright idea to bring the president onto the field to do the deed.
There's no doubt that Bobby Richardson pulled off an amazing performance during the 1960 World Series. The Yankees’ second baseman racked up a grand slam, two triples, 12 RBIs, and a .367 batting average over seven games of the Fall Classic. With those numbers, you can see why he was voted the World Series MVP. The only odd thing about Richardson’s achievement is that the Yankees actually lost the Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates, four games to three. It’s still the only time that the World Series MVP was selected from the losing squad.
For batters, it’s not exactly fun to get hit by a pitch. It can even result in major injury—in fact, it’s kind of surprising that we don’t see more cases of serious harm caused by the impact of a hardball traveling at 90 mph. Can you imagine what it’s like to get hit by a pitch literally hundreds of times? Go ask Craig Biggio. The National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee holds the record of the live-ball era for getting hit 285 times.
The all-time record really belongs to Hughie Jennings, who got beaned on 287 occasions during his long career (1891-1918), but, of course, that was a very different era. Most fans don’t really consider Jennings’ total to be comparable to Biggio’s.
If you're curious, here's the video of Craig Biggio setting the hit-by-pitch record, eclipsing Don Baylor’s old career total, on June 29, 2005:
What’s the longest baseball game in major league history? There are two ways to look at this question: innings played and total time.
On May 1, 1920, the Brooklyn Robins and the Boston Braves played for 26 innings. The game ended up getting called on account of darkness, after a little under four hours of playing, with the score still tied 1-1. Braves second baseman Charlie Pick had the dismal distinction of going 0-for-11 at the plate that night, but here’s the craziest part: Both starting pitchers—the Robins’ Leon Cadore and the Braves’ Joe Oeschger—lasted the entire game. They threw a couple of hundred pitches each!
If we're talking about total time played, however, the record goes to the May 8, 1984, game between the Chicago White Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers, at Comiskey Park. That lasted eight hours and six minutes, spread across two days. They had to stop playing at 1 a.m., after 17 innings. They resumed play on May 9. The game went to the bottom of the 25th inning before Harold Baines launched a home run for a 7-6 White Sox win.
Joe Nuxhall made history on June 10, 1944, when he took the mound for the Cincinnati Reds as a relief pitcher. It wasn't a particularly legendary performance—he gave up five runs in two-thirds of an inning—but nobody on the Reds squad was playing especially well that day, as the team lost 18-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals.
What’s really notable about Nuxhall’s appearance, though, is that he was only 15 years old. To be more specific, he was 15 years, 10 months, and 11 days old, which is still an MLB record. Nuxhall’s record-setting appearance on the mound was made possible by the player shortage brought on by World War II.
Nuxhall returned to the majors in 1952 and enjoyed a pretty solid career with Cincinnati. He pitched 484 games for the Reds—still a team record for left-handers.
If you’re a fan of baseball history—and if you’ve read this far, that’s a pretty safe bet—then we invite you to check out our collection of classic MLB jerseys, which ranges from the old-school players of the 20th century to the future Hall of Famers who are breaking records today. Our vintage baseball jerseys are historically accurate and made to last. You can always come to us for the best MLB throwback jerseys available today.