Welcome to the This Day in Yankees History. With Opening Day in sight, the Pinstripe Alley team still has this series for you in a slightly different format. These daily posts will highlight several 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 (July 20)
94 Years Ago
Philadelphia Athletics outfielder and future Hall of Famer Al Simmons set the American League record for most consecutive games to start a career at 394. Bucketfoot Al won two World Series and two batting crowns with the A’s. His record would last 79 years until Hideki Matsui surpassed him in 2005. Matsui would go on to set the MLB record at 518 consecutive games to start a career before his streak was ended when he fractured his wrist on a sliding catch attempt in the top of the first against the Red Sox in 2006. The injury would cost him the majority of the 2006 season, while also putting an end to his combined 1,768 consecutive game streak between NPB and MLB.
55 Years Ago
In a Tuesday afternoon game against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium, Yankees starting pitcher Mel Stottlemyre hit an inside-the-park grand slam to center field in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Yankees righty was batting as the designated hitter would not be instituted for another eight years, and I have to imagine he had some help from the Boston outfielders. The blow proved to be decisive, as he went on to pitch a complete game in the 6-3 victory.
33 Years Ago
Playing against the Twins at the Metrodome on a Monday night, Don Mattingly tied the 81-year-old record for most putouts in a single game at 22. Donnie Baseball became the first player to achieve this feat since New York Highlanders first baseman Hal Chase did so in 1906. Yankees starter Tommy John pitched a complete game in the 7-1 victory, and had three innings where every out made was a groundout.
9 Years Ago
Hideki Matsui again makes headlines, this time playing for the Oakland Athletics. In the top of the sixth-inning of a 7-5 victory over the Tigers, Godzilla hit his 500th career home run between NPB and MLB. The 2009 World Series MVP hit 140 home runs in seven years with the Bombers, and became the youngest former player to be elected into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. He broke Hideo Nomo’s record at 43 years old in 2018.
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Happy birthday to Mike Witt, who turns 60 today. The right-handed starting pitcher played 12 years in the bigs, the majority of which were with the California Angels. His best season came in 1986, when he went 18-10 with a 2.84 ERA and 208 strikeouts in 269 innings pitched en route to third-place Cy Young and twelfth-place MVP finishes. He started 27 games for the Yankees between 1990 and 1993, going 8-9 with a 4.91 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 143 innings pitched.
Also born on this day was long-time New York Highlanders backup catcher Red Kleinow. Born in 1877, Kleinow played in New York from 1904-1910, hitting .219/.286/.279 with two home runs in 522 games.
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We thank Baseball-Reference, Nationalpastime.com, and FanGraphs for providing background information for these posts.