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This Day in Yankees History: Cheaters gonna cheat

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Graig Nettles gets clever, and Mark McGwire mashes his 61st.

MLB Steroid List Photo by Albert Dickson/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

Welcome to the relaunched This Day in Yankees History. Even with the start of the 2020 season, the Pinstripe Alley team has decided to continue the revived program in its new 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 (September 7)

65 Years Ago

Holding the A’s to a single hit for his second start in a row, Whitey Ford becomes just the fifth major-league pitcher to throw one-hitters in back-to-back starts. However, in between starts, Ford did something none of his peers did, recording a four-out save in an 8-3 win over the Senators. Since Ford, only three other pitchers have recorded one-hitters in consecutive starts. The most recent pitcher to achieve this feat was an age-37 R.A. Dickey in 2012, during his lone Cy Young Award-winning season. Highlighting Ford’s consistent supremacy from the bump, Dickey’s 2012 ERA of 2.73 just barely eclipsed Ford’s career mark of 2.75 over his 16-year, Hall of Fame career. Further, Ford’s career ERA+ of 133 is 11th all time amongst pitchers that started for at least 15 seasons in the big leagues.

46 Years Ago

In his second of eleven years with the Yankees, Graig Nettles breaks his bat against the Tigers one at bat after homering, revealing six rubber superballs inside the barrel. After the incident, Nettles said, “That was the first time I used it. Some Yankees fan in Chicago gave it to me and said it would bring me good luck. There’s no brand name on it or anything. Maybe the guy made it himself. It had been in the bat rack, and I picked it up by mistake, because it looked like the bat I had been using the last few days.” Though Nettles was called out after being caught red-handed, his solo shot stood, providing the difference-making run in the 1-0 Yankees win.

22 Years Ago

Mark McGwire hits his 61st of 70 home runs, tying Roger Maris’s 61 in ’61 (on his dad’s 61st birthday). Though he and Sammy Sosa would record five total seasons that eclipsed Maris’s mark between 1998 and 2001, Barry Bonds set the all-time mark, which still holds, with 73 in 2001. Steroids or not, McGwire’s ’98 season remains one of the greatest offensive individual onslaughts in baseball history—his 1.222 OPS is the 16th highest single season number of all-time, and that year’s .753 slugging percentage is baseball’s tenth greatest ever. Further, McGwire’s 583 career homers still stands as the 11th greatest total ever. Though he’ll likely never see his visage enshrined in Cooperstown due to his admitted steroid usage, it’s impossible to tell the story of the Major Leagues without acknowledging McGwire and Sosa’s turbocharged long-ball dominance of the late 1990s.

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Former Yankees born on September 7th have combined for a career total of 73 plate appearances with the team. Turn of the millennium journeyman, Darren Bragg, recorded just four plate appearances with the club in 2001 after he was picked up on waivers following his release by the Mets. Though the Yankees fell to the Diamondbacks in the World Series that season, Bragg failed to record an at bat in that entire postseason. William Paul “Bill” Holden, born in 1889, played on the Yankees’ inaugural season, following their name change from the New York Highlanders. He was picked up by the club in September of 1913, remaining a Yankee till July of 1914, when he was traded, along with $5,000, for the Baltimore Orioles’ Birdie Cree. Cree played every game in his Major League career with the Yankees—the Orioles remained in the International League until 1954—and still holds the franchise’s eighth highest total for steals in a season (48).

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