since 2002

Baseball History - April

By Gordon Lee, Brewers Correspondent

Originally published: May 5, 2003

Baseball has been known as the National Past Time for this civilized world longer then any of you reading this have been around. The one constant year in and year out has been baseball. The game of baseball is so innocent, so pure. What makes us love it so much? Could it be the thrill that our team, no matter who they are, can possibly make it this year? Could it be that the baseball field has been graced by such premiere men as Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Henry Aaron, or Ty Cobb? For six months out of the year, every one of us baseball fans are blessed with the opportunity to watch the greats of Major League Baseball play, and live out a dream that each and every one of us have. So many greats have come and gone, so many greats are yet to come. Legends step down as unknowns step up only to become legends themselves. Everything has to come to an end, no matter what it is. Whether it be an at-bat, an inning, a game, a season, a career, or a life, we all know that there is always a next season and a next legend that we can all look forward to. Instead of focusing on entire careers, we are going to focus on the events that made the careers. On the events that changed the game forever. And for the events that changed each and every one of our lives as baseball fans.

Months, by most are viewed as months. Days of a month, by most are viewed as days of a month. Have you ever been one to wonder what happened in a certain month, on a certain day, at a certain time? As you are reading this, what happened in baseball history. At this exact time, on this exact day, many years ago, what happened? We live our lives day by day, seeing the day as only today. However, what was today, yesterday?If you don't know what I am getting at, think of this scenario. It's your birthday, you decide to look at your birth certificate and it says you were born at 1:54PM. You decide to take a look at the clock and it is 1:57PM. Wouldn't you wonder? I would think to myself. On this date, at this time, on the year of my birth, where am I? Am I in my mothers arms for the very first time, looking her right in the eyes? Where am I?

I'm not sure if you share the same thoughts that I do. I think that it never hurts to wonder. Move the scenario over to baseball. What happened at this point in time? Did a career end? Did a career just begin? Month by month, I will go over the top moments in baseball history. Whenever you read this column, just think. Where was I when this happened? What did I do on the anniversary of the day that this happened? It never hurts to wonder about these things, for some it can add comfort that you can always count on something, even if it is long, long gone.

The Color Barrier:

If anything has been tainted in baseball, it is the fact that many people were denied access to its wonderful glow. African Americans in our history were reserved for the Negro Leagues and couldn't play in the Majors because of the color of their skin, not their ability, or their character. Many African American baseball players were graced with a natural ability to play baseball but, because of racism were denied the chance to play Major League Baseball. I have thought long and hard about this. A career was denied for a benign reason. As a fan, I was denied the chance to read about many great African American ballplayers breaking records, and impacting the sport of baseball. As close as our great-grandparents, or our grandparents, our bloodlines were actually part of this racial mess. Whether they were on racism's side or they were against it, they lived through it. I would like to think that my bloodline from the beginning, were the most loving and compassionate people that didn't go on the color of your skin. Instead, I wish that they went on the content of your character. In this way, my thinking is overshadowed by reality. Racism had to show its ugly face somewhere, there is a pretty good chance that it stood in our families.

Like was said before, everything comes to an end. In the month of April, the color barrier was shattered. The first African American ballplayer would play in the big leagues for the Dodgers. The change came when the Dodgers uniform was put on by this player. However, the change started days before. On April 10th, 1947, during the sixth inning of an exhibition game against their minor league team at Ebbets Field, the Montreal Royals, Dodger President Branch Rickey issues a two sentence statement to the press that forever changed the game. The two sentences were, "The Brooklyn Dodgers, today purchased the contract of Jackie Roosevelt Robinson from the Montreal Royals. He will report immediately."

With this statement, the baseball world was stunned. The game had changed forever, the racial barrier had been shattered, and people would change. On April 15th, 1947, Jackie Robinson debuted for the Dodgers, becoming the first African American to play in the Major Leagues in the Century. Long after Jackie Robinsons death, we remember him as one of the most memorable players in history. Not just because he was great, but because he single handedly endured the hardships of being the first African American in the game as we know it. He is memorialized in every stadium across the country, his number hangs, because he did what many tried to do. He broke the color barrier, however, the color barrier outline still remained. Racism exists today. In baseball and in life. Jackie Robinson, was only the start. Over the years, African Americans have still been the subject of jokes and extremely hurtful racist lingo. Between the dates of April 10th-15th, of 1947, the game was changed forever. Thank you Jackie Robinson, I wish I was there for you.

The first of 3,000:

One player has ended his career on 3,000 hits. Not because of retirement, but because of the most monumental baseball tragedy. Robert Clemente Walker was killed in a plain crash at age 38 while flying relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims. He died as he lived, a humanitarian. The most heart-felt story, is that his son told him not to fly in that plane, on that dreadful day. He mentioned to his father that if he went on that plane, he would die. Roberto Clemente had baseball still left in him, he had love and compassion. Why was his time so early?

Seventeen years prior to his untimely death, Roberto Clemente got his first base-hit of his 3,000. It was April 17th, 1955 that he singled off of Dodger pitcher Johnny Podres, in his first career at-bat. Who would have thought, that this man would only be allowed 2,999 more hits?

Bonds Away:

Barry Bonds, possibly the best player in baseball history has had a historic career. He is a controversial man, who isn't known as one of the nice guys in the game. However, he has given more to the game then a lot of people. He will be forever known for his combination of strength and speed.

On April 27th, 1996, Barry Bonds became only the fourth player ever to be in the 300/300 Club. With 300 stolen bases, he hits his 300th homerun against the Florida Marlins. He joined his father (Bobby Bonds), godfather (Willie Mays), and Andre Dawson as the only members.

On April 17th, 2001, Barry Bonds hits a Terry Adams 2-0 heater into McCovey Cove to become just the 17th player to join the coveted 500 HR Club. After he hit his 500th homerun, he was joined by two members of the elite club at home plate, Willie Mays (660) and Willie McCovey, (521) for a brief ceremony.

Other Notables:

On April 18th, 1987, Mike Schmidt became the 14th player in Major League history to join the 500 HR club, when he hits a three run shot at Three River Stadium.

On April 25th, 2001, 42 year old Rickey Henderson broke the career walk record formerly held by Babe Ruth. Henderson strides to first base for the 2,063rd time as a result of a base on balls.

The Man of the Month:

Hammerin' Hank called two cities home during his great career. As a Milwaukee Brave, Atlanta Brave, and Milwaukee Brewers, he is loved by fans all over the world. A career of being battered by racism, and death threats, he survived to play one of the most celebrated careers in baseball history. Of all of Hank Aaron's accomplishments, four were accomplished in the month of April.

On April 23rd, 1954, in his seventh Major League game, Henry Aaron hit his first homerun off of Cardinal pitcher Vic Raschi at Sportmans Park. The first of many, as we would come to know.

On April 28th, 1971, Hank hit his 600th homerun, a memorable 315ft line-drive over the left field wall, off of Gaylord Perry at Fulton County Stadium. He joined Willie Mays and Babe Ruth as the only members of the elite 600 Club.

On April 4th, 1974, In front of a crowd of 52,000 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Hank Aaron tied Babe Ruth's all-time homerun record in his first at-bat, hitting his 714th against Jack Billingham. Atlanta had considered keeping Aaron on the bench on the road so he could try to tie the record in front of the hometown fans, but Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ordered the Braves to put Hank in the lineup for at least two of the three games.

On April 8th, 1974, Hank Aaron becomes the all-time homerun king, when he hits a long fly ball over the left-center field fence at Fulton County Stadium. The historic shot came off of Al Downing of the Dodgers in the Braves Home Opener. While heading for third, Hank was confronted by two fans. With his wife and security worrying about the possibility of the death threats Hank received being carried out, the watched as the fans patted Hank on the back and ran away after shaking his hand.

Hank ended his career back in Milwaukee where he started, but Atlanta fans most definitely remember his three history making shots as a Brave. Hammerin' Hank, most definitely is the man of the month, for the month of April in baseball history.

There are many, many more events that took place in April over the years. If you would like to read more about what happened in baseball history today, and every day of the year, be sure to check out the This date in baseball history thread located in The Bullpen forum on the message board. I post what happened, each day, and will do so every day of the year. This article is to shed more light on the events of baseball history and to renew the slogan that something may be gone but, it is never forgotten. Be sure to watch out on the message board for a poll of the events for the month of May that you would like included in the next article. Remember that for every day, there was a great event that happened years before at the exact time, that you are privileged to take a breath. Be sure to check out next months article. If you have any questions/comments, be sure to e-mail me at

(unregistered) on 10/27/2004 04:35 pm
Well I think gordo did a great job and he should be a great writter some day
By Jim Meyerrieck on May 6, 2003 01:01 AM

Terrific work Gordon.... always nice to look back at the game. What makes it so great is the history behind it. Glad to see you'll be doing this every month!

I still remember the shot that Bonds hit off of Terry Adams, although I remember it primarily because I had Adams on a few fantasy teams (hehe). That was the first run that Adams would give up that season, and he went into a two month slump after it before the Dodgers moved him to the rotation (where he suddenly excelled).

By bp on May 6, 2003 09:51 AM

very cool article...great job Gordon!

By Justin on May 13, 2003 10:07 PM

It is good to look back at these moments in baseball history. I am too young to remember a majority of these events so i am glad you ar posting up so young'uns like me get to experience it for almost the first time...

By Gordon Lee on June 13, 2003 05:01 AM

Remember, I am a "youngun" as well, I will be celebrating my 17th birthday in September. Wow, the 17th of September, 17 on the 17th, pretty cool stuff ;)