With the start of the 2020 season delayed for the foreseeable future, the Pinstripe Alley team decided to revive the program in a slightly different format. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!
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This Day in Yankees History (March 31)
25 Years Ago
The Yankees participated in the first baseball game ever played at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado, as the Rockies transitioned to their new home from Mile High Stadium. A crowd of 47,536 fans attended the historic exhibition game, rooting the home team to a 4-1 victory over the Bombers.
Though this game is a landmark in baseball history don’t expect to find many familiar names in the box score — it was played by replacement players due to the strike. The labor standoff ended just two days later, and the Rockies went on to play their first regular season contest at Coors Field on April 26th, against baseball’s other New York team, the Mets.
22 Years Ago
Mark McGwire took his first step toward dethroning Yankees legend Roger Maris as the single-season home run king. McGwire walloped a grand slam — the first Cardinal to do so on Opening Day — off Ramon Martinez in the fifth inning of the Cardinals’ 6-0 shutout of the Dodgers at Busch Stadium. McGwire went on to swat 70 home runs that year, and Maris’ family was on hand to see the herculean first baseman hit number 62 to surpass his record.
Though Barry Bonds’ home run exploits would soon eclipse McGwire’s, and the home run binges of that era would be overshadowed by the specter of PEDs, McGwire’s Opening Day blast was the inciting event that set off one of the most exciting summers of baseball in memory.
16 Years Ago
39-year-old righty Kevin Brown became the second pitcher in MLB history to beat all 30 major league teams, as the Yankees defeated the Devil Rays 12-1 in Tokyo, Japan. The achievement was a rare highlight during Brown’s disappointing two-season tenure in New York, which reached its nadir in September of 2004 when he punched a dugout wall in frustration and broke his non-throwing hand.
The first pitcher to triumph over all 30 MLB teams was Al Leiter, who accomplished the feat in 2003 while pitching for the Mets. As fate would have it, the veteran hurler would become teammates with Brown on the Yankees in 2005, the final season in the big leagues for them both.
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Happy 40th to Chien-Ming Wang, who coincidentally enough also joined Kevin Brown and Al Leiter as part of the 2005 Yankees staff. Wang enjoyed a breakout season in 2006, winning 19 games and finishing second in the American League Cy Young vote. He won 19 games again for the Yankees in 2007, but the next year a partially torn tendon in his right foot — suffered while running the bases in interleague play against everyone’s favorite villain, the Houston Astros — cut his season short.
While he struggled with injury for the rest of his career, Wang is still a favorite among the Yankees faithful for those two great seasons, and his valiant effort to overcome injury has been chronicled in a documentary titled Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story. Happy birthday, Chien-Ming Wang!
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We thank Baseball-Reference, Nationalpastime.com, and FanGraphs for providing background information for these posts.