What’s Happening in Baseball Today

The First Pitch: June 15, 2024

Baseball’s gambling crisis continues to grow—with concern over how much worse it will get. In a year that has already seen a lifetime ban on one player (Tucupita Marcano), year-long suspensions on four others and the arrest of Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter for embezzling millions from the superstar slugger to feed an illegal gambling habit, MLB now has officially sidelined umpire Pat Hoberg for alleged gambling activity—something he denies taking part in. Hoberg, remembered for having perfectly calling balls and strikes during the 2022 World Series, has actually been sidelined since Spring Training, when MLB began its investigation on him. Beyond that, no other details are provided from either party—including the length of Hoberg’s punishment.

The Yankees are the first team to reach 50 wins on the year, bashing the Red Sox, 8-1, in the first meeting between the two divisional archrivals this season. Former Red Sock Alex Verdugo, now employed by New York, launches a home run on the first pitch he sees against his former team, and ends the night with three hits, including a double and single, and knocks home four runs. Luis Gil throws five solid innings for the Yankees, improving his season record to 9-1 while lowering his ERA to 2.03.

Another first get-together on the year between two of Baseball’s other top teams clash, as the Phillies need extra innings to top the Orioles at Baltimore, 5-3, on Alec Bohm’s two-run double in the 11th. Of note for the Orioles is a single strikeout by closer Craig Kimbrel in a scoreless ninth; it’s his 1,000th career K registered in that frame, making him the first major league pitcher ever with 1,000 in any given inning.

Apparently, the Astros don’t believe that the minors fixed Jose Abreu well enough to keep him. The 37-year-old first baseman is released by Houston after a terrible start to the year, even as the Astros still owe him $30 million for a contract that expires at the end of 2025. 

A prominent slugger for the White Sox who won the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year award—and six years later, the AL MVP—Abreu was batting .099 with no homers and three RBIs through his first 22 games this season before being sent to, essentially, hitting rehab in Florida. In two weeks since returning to Houston, Abreu did finally punch out a couple of home runs but otherwise remained underwhelming, batting .167 over 42 at-bats.

Congrats, Your Box Score Line Was the Best (Hitters Edition)

4-2-3-3—Austin Riley, Atlanta
Showing off more of his 2023 self, the young third baseman mired in a year-long slump had his first multi-hit game in two weeks, finishing a triple shy of the cycle with just his fourth homer of the year to lift the equally struggling Braves to a 7-3 home win over Tampa Bay. Riley now ‘only’ needs 33 homers to match his total for last season.

Congrats, Your Box Score Line Was the Best (Pitchers Edition)

7-2-0-0-1-6—Kyle Gibson, St. Louis
The veteran right-hander took advantage of winds blowing in at Wrigley Field and enjoyed his first scoreless outing of the season, improving to 5-2 with a 3.44 ERA in the Cardinals’ 3-0 win over the Cubs. Gibson’s start was especially impressive, considering that he threw first-pitch strikes to only 12 of 24 batters.

It Was Whatever-Something Years Ago Today

1938: The Dodgers aim to make history by staging the first night game at Ebbets Field against the Reds—but Cincinnati pitcher Johnny Vander Meer steals the spotlight by becoming the first (and only) pitcher to throw a second straight no-hitter. Vander Meer achieves the feat despite walking eight batters. 

1948: The Tigers, the last of the AL holdouts on night baseball, finally stage their first contest under the lights as 54,480 watch their team defeat the A’s, 4-1. The Tigers’ nighttime move leaves only the Cubs without lights—and it will stay that way until 1988. 

1949: Eddie Waitkus, a dependable everyday first baseman for the Phillies, is summoned to the Chicago hotel room of a 19-year-old woman named Ruth Steinhagen, whom he has never met—and she shoots him. Though shot almost point blank with a bullet that ends up lodged near his spine, Waitkus’ wound is not life-threatening—and he’s back in uniform within a month. Meanwhile, Steinhagen—who was obsessed over the 29-year-old Waitkus—is sent to a mental hospital after she initially tells investigators that tension within her had been building up, and shooting Waitkus would be one way to relieve it. 

1976: Fearing that he’ll lose many of his star players to free agency at the end of the year, A’s owner Charles Finley initiates a selling spree at the trading deadline by dealing Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers to the Red Sox and Vida Blue to the Yankees—for a combined total of $3.5 million in cash. But Commissioner Bowie Kuhn extinguishes the fire sale, citing the “best interests in baseball.” Finley responds by suing his long-time adversary for $10 million—adding insult by calling Kuhn a “village idiot.” Kuhn ignores the remark, and the courts ignore Finley’s lawsuit, upholding Kuhn’s powers as commissioner. 

1976: The Houston Astrodome is the victim of a rainout for the first (and only) time as flooding conditions outside keep the Pirates and the umpiring crew from being able to reach the stadium for a game with the Astros.

You Say It’s Your Birthday

Brief 2020 sensation and current Boston first baseman Dominic Smith is 29; Texas speedster Travis Jankowski is 33; pitcher and 2017 Astros whistleblower Mike Fiers is 39; two-time NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum is 40; 256-game winner Andy Pettitte is 52; former slugger and current union head Tony Clark is 52; perennial batting champ and Hall-of-Fame third baseman Wade Boggs is 66; prototypical leadoff hitter from another era Brett Butler is 67; eight-time All-Star catcher Lance Parrish is 68; outfielder/manager Dusty Baker is 75; outfielder of 1,168 hits Ken Henderson is 78; iron man, outfielder, slugger and Hall of Famer Billy Williams is 86. Born on this date is man who took over first base for Lou Gehrig Babe Dahlgren (1912).

Shameless Link of the Day

Want to check out which MLB teams are ranked 1-to-30 during the 2010s? Find out here!

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Ed Attanasio, 1958-2023
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