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.
"My boy has a chance to do it (break Babe Ruth's career home run record). He takes care of himself and nothing comes in front of baseball for Henry. Nothing. On days when he is feeling good, it's just too bad for the pitchers." - Estella Aaron (Hank Aaron's Mother)
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On April 4, 1974 , Hammerin' Hank Aaron tied the all-time home run mark set by Babe Ruth . On April 8, 1974 , Aaron beat the unbeatable record and Baseball Almanac has both box scores online for you to review.
The Los Angeles Dodgers rode the arm of Cy Young Award winner relief pitcher Mike Marshall and the bat of MVP 1B Steve Garvey to a relatively easy Division title championship. Marshal set a record by appearing in 106 games while Garvey hit .332 with 112 RBIs. The Reds were denied their third consectuive title despite playing within one win of the previous season. The San Francisco Giants took a tumble and the Braves looked like a different team posting an additional 12 wins.
The East belonged to the improving Pirates who held off the Cardinals by 1½ games. Stargell and Company were backed by improved pitching. Stargell, now 38, and coming off an injury ridled season, hit .310 with 25 HRs. Although pitcher Bob Gibson was not the power pitcher of yesteryear. Lou Brock's record setting 118 stolen bases and the hitting of outfielder Reggie Smith and catcher Ted Simmons kept them in contention. No other division team broke the .500 barrier.
The playoffs saw the Dodgers move on to the World Series three games to one. Pitcher Don Sutton was excellent in winning two of the games and pitching 17 inninings with an ERA 0.53. Garvey and SS Bill Russell supplied the offense.
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers (102-60) . With Steve Garvey locked into 1B, former 1B Bill Buckner moved to the outfield. The addition of outfielder Jimmy Wynn made a big plus for the outfield as he contributed 32 home runs and 108 RBIs. Buckner and 2B Davey Lopes combined for 90 stolen bases. In addition to Mike Marshall's fine season, Andy Messersmith won 21 games and Don Sutton 19.
#2 Cincinnati Reds (98-64) . With Johnny Bench leading the way (33 HRs, 129 RBIs) the Big Red Machine was still pounding the ball. Pitcher Jack Billingham matched his 19 wins of 1973 and Don Gullett posted 17.
#3 Atlanta Braves (88-74) . The Braves must have been rejuvenated by Hank Aaron's 715th home run on April 8 against the Reds. Aaron, now 40, cooled off to 20 home runs, but speedy outfielder Ralph Garr batted .353 to take the batting title. He also led the league in triples with 17. (HOF) Knuckleballer pitcher Phil Niekro won 20 games and newcomer Buzz Capra went 16-8.
#4 Houston Astros (82-82) . The Astros were pretty much a duplicate of 1973. It was again outfielder Cesar Cedeno's bat supplying the offense with 26 HRs and 102 RBIs. Sub-par pitching held them back.
#5 San Francisco Giants (72-90) . Quite a fall. The outfield trio of Bobby Bonds, Gary Mathews and Gary Maddox all suffered a let down. 1973 twenty-four game winner, pitcher Ron Bryant, suffered an injury filled season and dropped to 3 wins.
#6 San Diego Padres (60-102) . Two seasons in a row of 102 losses was threatening the early sixties Mets for incompetence. Even the maturing of oufielder Dave Winfield, 20 HRs,75 rbis did not help. The bullpen was hopeless.
#1 Pittsburgh Pirates (88-74) . The Pirates jumped up from a sub .500 season the previous year to barely nip the St. Louis Cardinals. As usual it was Willie Stargell leading the way, .301, 25 HRs. 90 RBIs. Fellow outfielders Richie Zisk (.310 and 100 RBIs) and Al Oliver (.321) made significant contributions. Pitcher Steve Blass was gone, but the Bucs welcomed Jerry Reuss (16-11).
#2 St. Louis Cardinals (86-75) . The Cardinals also enjoyed a bounceback season. The trio of Reggie Smith, Lou Brock and Ted Simmons kept the Redbirds in contention, but a weak pitching staff held them back. Pitcher Lynn McGothen won 16, but there was little behind him.
#3 Philadelphia Phillies (80-82) . The Phillies also improved, but still a far cry from contending. Third baseman Mike Schmidt started to put together his HOF career numbers leading the NL with 36 HRs while knocking in 116. With exception of 1B Willie Montez, .304 batting average, there was no one to back up Sshmidt. One time Cy Young winner Mel Parnel snagged 17 wins and Steve Carlton backed him up with 16 and led the league in strikeouts, 240.
#4 Montreal Expos (79-82) . Very similar to 1973. Not a lot to mention on offense or pitching. First baseman Mike Ferguson and OF Bob Baily were their best hitters. Pitcher Mike Torez won 15 games.
#5 New York Mets (71-91) . The Mets reverted back to their earlier seasons. Manager Yogi Berra must have lost some hair managing this bunch that had played in the World Series the year before. Absolutely no bright spots in the offense that could not even win when Tom Seaver (11-11) was on the mound.
#6 Chicago Cubs (66-96) . The Cubbies were playing like they did in the sixties. Their one offensive tool, 3B Bill Madlock, (.311), missed 30 games due to a knee injury. Outfielder Billy Williams was now 38 and well past his prime. They had no pitchers with a winning record.
If there were a category for longest home run hit by distance Mike Schmidt would probably be in the top five with the ball he launched on June 10, 1974. After blasting from his bat, the ball traveled more than 300 feet from home plate before hitting a speaker - a speaker that was connected to the roof of the Astrodome 117 feet above the field.
On September 25, 1974, Tommy John surgery became a household word when Dr. Frank Jobe successfully removed a tendon from Tommy John's right arm and transplanted it into his left (throwing) arm "repairing" the damage to his torn muscles. John commented later that year, "When they operated I told them to put in a (Sandy) Koufax fastball. They did, but it was Mrs. Koufax's."