On August 8th, 1974 Richard Nixon became the first President in U.S. history to resign. His decision to step down came as the House of Representatives was poised to vote on the articles of impeachment against him due to his involvement the Watergate scandal.
Patricia Hearst, the heiress to the Hearst fortune, was kidnapped by a radical terrorist group called the "Symbionese Liberation Army" resulting in one of the largest manhunts of all time. While under control of the S.L.A., she was brainwashed and forced to rob a bank while protecting her "comrades in arms." After she was found, Hearst was convicted for grand theft and served almost two years of a seven-year prison term. Finally, she was released with help from President Jimmy Carter and two decades later, President Bill Clinton granted her a full pardon.
Charles A. Lindbergh, the first man to fly across the Atlantic (from New York-to-Paris) in 1927 aboard the "Spirit of St. Louis", died of cancer of the lymphatic system. The aviation pioneer had become a recluse after retiring to the island of Kipahulu, Hawaii where he developed an active concern with conservation. Upon hearing of his death, President Ford stated the courage and daring of his historic flight would never be forgotten and that he would be remembered as one of America's all-time heroes.
"Ten-Cent Beer Night" in Cleveland backfired after drunken and disorderly fans stumbled onto the field of play causing the Indians to forfeit the game to the Texas Rangers. With a five-all score in the ninth, Tribe fans poured onto the field and surrounded outfielder Jeff Burroughs while trying to take his hat and glove for souvenirs. After players from both sides rushed to his aid, the game was called in favor of the visitors.
Principal New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was suspended for two years by the Commissioner's Office after he was convicted in federal court for making illegal contributions to the re-election campaign of President Richard Nixon.
The Oakland Athletics' Gene Tenace proved that it's not always what you do, but sometimes what you don't. Tenace tied a 1930 mark set by John Clancy of the Chicago White Sox in which the first baseman played an entire nine-innings without ever having a fielding chance.
On Thursday April 4th, Hank Aaron hit a three-run homer off of Jack Billingham as the Atlanta Braves lost to the Reds 7-6, at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium. The eleven inning game itself took a backseat to "Hammerin'" Hank, who had finally tied Babe Ruth with home run number 714. Both Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and Vice-president Gerald Ford were on hand to congratulate the slugger who had persevered over racial prejudice and death threats from several fans who did not want to see the Bambino's record fall to a black man. Four days later, back home at Fulton County Stadium, Aaron hit number 715 off Los Angeles Dodgers' lefty, Al Downing. Lost in the celebration was Aaron's tying of Willie Mays' National League record of 2,063 runs as well as his team's 7-4 victory.
The Mets lost 4-3 to the Cardinals during a "long-distance" marathon night game on September 11th. After seven hours and twenty-five innings, the outing became the longest game to a decision in Major League history. In the end, New York had batted one-hundred three times and St. Louis was not far behind with ninety-nine plate appearances. A record one-hundred seventy-five official at-bats were recorded, with a Major League record of forty-five runners left stranded. Despite the historical moment, only a thousand fans were on hand when it finally ended at 3:13 a.m.
On June 29th, Lou Brock nabbed his seven-hundredth bag at Wrigley Field as the St. Louis Cardinals crushed the hometown "Cubbies" 11-2. Brock's sixty-fifth robbery of the season put him in the company of baseball's greatest "criminals" including Ty Cobb, who stole eight-hundred ninety-two bases, Eddie Collins (seven-hundred forty-three), Max Carey (seven-hundred thirty-eight) and Honus Wagner (seven-hundred one).
Forty-eight major leaguers opted to try the new arbitration procedure that had been established to aid in the negotiation of contract differences. The first to file was Minnesota pitcher Dick Woodson, who was seeking an agreement worth $29,000. The Twins had offered $23,000 and both parties presented their arguments to a Detroit lawyer and labor arbitrator Harry H. Platt. After reviewing the monetary amounts presented, the verdict was cast in Woodson's favor.
A new organization known as the "Major League Scouting Bureau" was founded to cut expenditures across the league by centralizing scouting. Initially, membership was not mandatory (until 1984) resulting in only seventeen of twenty-four teams agreeing to pay the $118,000 fee for inclusion. All American League clubs except the White Sox and Toronto joined and only the Cubs, Expos, Pirates, Braves, Astros and the Reds represented the National League.
To prevent the sale of "counterfeit" memorabilia, a system was developed to maintain the integrity of authentic baseballs during Hank Aaron's quest for Babe Ruth's home run record. After Aaron's 710th round-tripper, all official major league balls issued were "encoded" with a special serial number and a diamond symbol that was only visible under fluorescent light.
Twenty-seven years after Jackie Robinson first entered the majors, Frank Robinson became Major League Baseball's first black manager. The thirty-nine year old player / manager signed a $175,000 contract with the Cleveland Indians making him the team's twenty-eighth skipper. Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn announced that it should have taken place much sooner and Robinson stated that his only wish was that Jackie could have been there to share in the moment.
"I used to think Al Kaline could hit .400, or (Mickey) Mantle, but Mantle missed the ball too much. Too many strikeouts. He was forever going for the long ball, even with two strikes. Not quite enough finesse. And time ran out on Kaline and (Willie) Mays." - Ted Williams in My Turn at Bat (1988)
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Did you know that on Opening Day in 1974 the New York Yankees played their home opener in Shea Stadium because Yankee Stadium was being remodeled?
It had been almost a decade since the Yanks had seriously challenged for the division title, but in 1974 they stood atop the East at the end of August. It did not hold as manager Earl Weaver's Orioles swept a 3-game series from the New Yorkers to move into first place and proceeded to win 28 of their last 34 games. Fifteen of those wins were by one run.
In the West, the A's had little trouble in winning their fourth consecutive division title. Surprisingly it was a much improved Texas Ranger team that put up the only threat. The A's kept togeher their World Championship roster. The Rangers turned around their 1973 last place finish primarily on the arm of newly acquired Fergie Jenkins from the Cubs and an MVP season from outfielder Jeff Burroughs.
The playoff went 4 games with the A's moving on to the World Series. The Orioles jumped on Catfish Hunter to take Game 1, but then their bats went silent. Ken Holtzman, Blue Moon Odom and Catfish Hunter gave up a total of only one run in taking three straight to celebrate their third consecutive trip to the World Series.
#1 Baltimore Orioles (91-71) . Not as dominant as '73, but had just enough to hold off the much improved Yanks. Boog Powell's bat remained quiet as did much of the rest of the batting order. Again it was all pitching and speed that got the job done. Mike Cuellar was superb with 22 wins. Russ Grimsley added 18 and Dave mcNally 16. Jim Palmer's sore arm brought him down to human, winning only seven games. On the base paths the three outfelders Don Baykor, Rich Coggins and Paul Blair all stole over 20 bases.
#2 New York Yankees (89-73) . Although Mel Stottlemeyr slumped to six wins, Pat Dobson and Doc Medich stepped up each posting 19 wins. Getting outfielder Lou Pinella (.305 BA) from the A's and making Ron Bloomberg (.311) the full time DH improved the offense.
#3 Boston Red Sox (84-78) . Yaz maintained his position as the Sox's leading hitter (.301) but his power, along with that of Rico Petroceli and Carlton Fisk fell-off. Luis Tiant was once again entertaining and efficent winning 22 games. The bullpen lacked a closer. Twenty-two year old outfielder Dwight Evans played sparingly.
#4 Cleveland Indians (77-85) . Although the Tribe jumped up two places, they still were just as bad. Charlie Spikes and George Hendricks were the core of a poor offense. Neither were outstanding in batting around .270 with 20 home runs. The pitching staff was much improved by adding Gaylord Perry's brother Jim who won 17 games. His big brother won 22, but there was a big drop off following the brothers.
#5 Milwaukee Brewers (76-86) . The Brewers were treading water. First baseman George Scott was again their leading hitter, however, he did not match '73. The only pitcher to win more than he lost was Billy Champion (11-4). Someday the 18-year-old rookie shortstop and future HOF Robin Yount would start to hit.
#6 Detroit Tigers (72-90) . The Tigers were heading in the wrong direction. Norm Cash was gone, Al Kaline was 39 and slipping. Pitchers Joe Coleman and John Hiller were a far cry from last season, and Mickey Lolich could not rebound back to his early success.
#1 Oakland Athletics ( 90-72) . This was no surprise. An offense that combined power with speed. Reggie Jackson 29 HRs, 93 RBIs, 3B Sal Bando 22 HRs, 103 RBIs, OF Joe Rudi 22 HRs, 99 RBIs, catcher Gene Tenace 26 HRs, 73 RBIs provided the power. Shortstop Bert Campaneris, OFs Billy North, Reggie Jackson and rookie speedster Herb Washington combined for 132 stolen bases. Wahington was an Olympic runner that was hired strictly to steal bases. The pitching trio of Catfish Hunter, Ken Holtzman, and Blue Moon Odon won 44 games. Rollie Fingers took care of closing the door with 18 saves.
#2 Texas Rangers (84-75) . The Rangers came out of nowhere. Young OF Jeff Burroughs was named AL MVP batting .302, 25 HRs and driving in 118. Little known 1B Mike Hargrove and utility player Lenny Randal hit .323 and .302 respectedly. Adding pitcher Fergie Jenkins proved to be the catapult as he tied Catfish Hunter for most AL wins with 25.
#3 Minnesota Twins (82-80) . Nothing new here. Rod Carew defended his batting crown hitting .374. Pitcher Bert Blyleven was still the staff ace and won 17 games, but he also lost 17.
#4 Chicago White Sox (80-80) . Despite a full season from hitting star 1B Dick Allen, .301 BA with a league leading 32 HRs, the offense was quite dull. The pitching improved from '73 with Jim Kaat winning 21 games and Wilbur Wood 20.
#5 Kansas City Royals ( 77-85) . More was expected from this young club folowing a much improved '73 season. Designated hitter Hal McRae came to play hitting .310 and second year 3B George Brett gave indications that he was here to stay hitting .285. Newcomer pitcher Steve Busby surprised winning 22 games as Paul Splitoroff faltered.
#6 California Angels (68-94) . The Angels continued their downward trend. Outfielder (HOF) Frank Robinson was 38 and at the end of his career. The offense sputtered but out in the bullpen Nolan Ryan was looking like the poster child of pitchers in the AL. Ryan won 22 games and led the league in strikeouts, 367.
In 1946 Bob Feller's fastball was clocked at 98.6 miles per hour (some sources claim it was 107 miles per hour) using a military measuring device. On August 20, 1974, Nolan Ryan's fastball was clocked at 100.9 miles per hour using a modern radar device during a game versus the Tigers. Ryan, who struck out nineteen batters, lost the game 1-0 to Mickey Lolich .
On September 24, 1974 , Al Kaline hit a shot down the right field line during the fourth inning versus Dave McNally of the Orioles. That double put Kaline in company with 11 other 3,000 Hit Club members! Eight days later the Tiger legend announced his retirement from the game.