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This Day in Yankees History: Paul O’Neill gets his 2,000th hit

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The fiery right fielder reached the milestone in his final MLB season.

World Series GM7 X

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 (May 2)

90 Years Ago

The record for consecutive games played, then held by Yankees shortstop Everett Scott, survived another challenger, as Cleveland shortstop Joe Sewell sat out against the Red Sox with a fever of 102 degrees. Sewell’s streak ended at 1,103 games, 204 shy of Scott’s 1,307 games.

Exactly nine years later, after shattering Scott’s record by playing 2,130 consecutive games, Lou Gehrig told Yankees manager Joe McCarthy he was benching himself “for the good of the team.” Gehrig wouldn’t play another game — his early slump that season was the first noticeable sign of the ALS that would tragically claim his life at age 37.

Gehrig’s record would stand for 56 years, until Cal Ripken Jr. surpassed the mark in September of 1995, with Gehrig’s former teammate Joe DiMaggio looking on.

22 Years Ago

Darryl Strawberry launched a pinch-hit grand slam in the top of the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals. The two-out blast, which put the Yankees up 12-6, was the first of two pinch-hit ninth-inning grand slams Strawberry hit that season.

The second came on August 4th in the back end of a doubleheader against the Athletics, when he drove a 2-2 pitch over the center field wall of the Coliseum, knotting the game at five. The Yankees would go on to score five more runs in the inning en route to sweeping the twin bill.

19 Years Ago

Paul O’Neill, winner of four World Series with the Yankees and one of the team’s present-day broadcasters, knocked his 2,000th major league hit. O’Neill singled in the ninth inning off Minnesota Twins closer LaTroy Hawkins. While he would come around to score on a Tino Martinez groundout, the Yankees’ comeback would ultimately fall short, with the Twins winning 4-2.

O’Neill’s single made him the 215th player to register 2,000 hits. He eventually amassed a total of 2,105 by the end of 2001, the 17th and final season of his major league career. 1,426 of those hits came with the Yankees, placing him 23rd on their all-time list, just behind four-time Gold Glove second baseman Bobby Richardson.

The anniversary of the right fielder’s milestone is also a good occasion to celebrate the greatest defensive play in the history of baseball, which he executed while a member of the Cincinnati Reds in 1989:

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Birthdays

Happy 72nd birthday to former Yankees righty Larry Gowell. Though Gowell, a September call-up in the 1972 season, pitched in just two games for the Bombers, his brief tenure became part of baseball history.

On October 4th, Gowell made his only career start. Despite acquitting himself well on the mound — he surrendered a lone run in five innings — Gowell took the loss as the Yankees went down 1-0 to Milwaukee.

But he made his mark at the plate. In his sole career at-bat, Gowell led off the bottom of the third at Yankee Stadium, and smacked a 3-2 fastball for a double off Jim Lonborg. The two-bagger was the last regular-season hit by an American League pitcher before the introduction of the designated hitter.

The baseball Gowell hit is now stored in Cooperstown in the Hall of Fame, as it marks the end of an era for AL pitchers.

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We thank Baseball-Reference, Nationalpastime.com, and FanGraphs for providing background information for these posts.