You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we’ll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.
ON THIS DATE IN 2005, Craig Biggio was hit by a pitch for the 268th time.
That broke the modern (since 1900) record set by Don Baylor, who, when asked which one hurt the most, replied, “None of them.” Biggio would finish with 285, and he once told me, “I’m sure I’ve taken more Advil than any man alive.” So we will celebrate a painful way to get on base.
Hughie Jennings (1891-1903) is the all-time leader in HBP with 287; he was the single-season record holder with 51 in 1896. Ron Hunt is the modern leader with 50 HBP in 1971. Minnie Minoso led his league in HBP a record 10 times. The Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo has led the NL in HBP three times, and his 145 career HBPs are more than halfway to Biggio.
“Jason Kendall and I had a side bet one year to see who could get hit the most,” former infielder F.P. Santangelo said. “We bet a case of beer. I’d see him on the field before a game and say, ‘I’m at 17.’ And he’d say, ‘I’m at 18.’ I think I still owe him a case of beer.”
The HBP is clearly not for everyone. Mark Lemke holds the major league record for most plate appearances (3,664) without ever being hit by a pitch. Sandy Alomar Sr. holds the record for most appearances in a season (739 in 1971) without being hit by a pitch. Tony Gwynn was hit 24 times in his career. Mickey Mantle was hit 13 times. Garrett Anderson went 5½ years without being hit by a pitch. John Kruk was hit by a pitch twice in his career, spanning 4,603 plate appearances. I called him in his hotel room after he was hit by a pitch (by the Pirates’ Randy Tomlin) the first time, which came in his eighth MLB season.
“Is this all you have to do with your life, to bother me about getting hit by a pitch?” he asked. I have spoken to hitters for 41 years. Most can’t remember specific at-bats, even their biggest at-bats, but every one of them can remember the worst time they were hit by a pitch. For today, we won’t even discuss the worst beanings of all time. They are too scary.
“Danys Baez hit me with 97 [mph] in the ribs in 2002,” Torii Hunter said. “I lost my breath. I was gasping for air. I just picked up the ball and threw it back at him. It hurt so much, I was seeing red. I couldn’t think straight anymore.”
Mark Reynolds said: “The ribs are the worst. It’s like getting hit with an uppercut but without boxing gloves on. When you see a guy bending over at home plate, he is making sure everything is still there.”
Shelly Duncan was hit in the back by Matt Lindstrom at 100 mph. “The pain eventually went away,” he said, “but when someone touched me on the place where I was hit, it would hurt for a couple of weeks. The bruise starts out black and blue, it looks like the eclipse of the sun, the area around the mark that’s left by a ball. Then it gets really blue. It is pretty neat-looking.”
Adam Jones said: “That blue is just beautiful. It’s awesome what blood can do.”
Nick Swisher said: “I got hit in the back of the elbow by Jered Weaver. My fingers were locked in a fist for five minutes.”
Aaron Boone said: “Jamey Wright broke my thumb with a pitch in September. I stayed in the game, but for the next 24 hours, the pain was unbearable. The next season, I got off to a really bad start because I couldn’t grip the bat. I couldn’t take a swing in the on-deck circle without pain. My thumb still hurt from September.”
Will Rhymes was hit in the left forearm by Franklin Morales in 2012. “As soon as it hit me, I knew I broke my arm,” he said. “When I got to first, I was angry because I knew my season was over. Then I started getting nauseous. I passed out. While I was out, I had a dream. I can’t remember about what. When I came to, I was looking at the ceiling of [Tropicana Field].” Adam LaRoche was hit in the knee by a 90-plus mph cutter by Josh Johnson. “The ball hit me so hard, it bounced halfway back to the pitcher’s mound,” LaRoche said. “I went straight to the ground. When I got back up, I had to take a knee. I was just trying not to throw up.”
Kevin Brown hit Santangelo, breaking his kneecap, but Santangelo played for two months with it. Five years ago, he told me, “My knee still hurts today … all the time. He hit me in 1997.”
Other baseball notes for June 29
In 1950, the Yankees called up Whitey Ford, who would become the greatest starting pitcher in the history of the team. He won 236 games with a 2.75 ERA and a .690 winning percentage.
In 1977, Willie Stargell hit his 400th home run. His nickname was “Pops.” He was a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest teammates ever.
In 1990, Dave Stewart and Fernando Valenzuela threw no-hitters.
In 2000, the Yankees hit three sacrifice flies in one inning. How? Jose Vizcaino reached base on an error by Tigers left fielder Bobby Higginson, but since the fly ball was deep enough to have scored the runner from third, Vizcaino was accurately credited with a sacrifice fly.