Few sports cherish their histories as much as baseball. Avid fans of America’s pastime are seemingly born with some knowledge of the game’s extensive history, which is an undeniable testament to the popularity of baseball over the last century and a half. As Major League Baseball prepares for yet another exciting postseason, here are some unique moments in the history of America’s pastime.
– Jackie Robinson breaks the color barrier (1947): Jackie Robinson forever changed the landscape of American professional sports when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15. In so doing, Robinson broke the color barrier, becoming the first African American to play in an MLB game. The end of racial segregation within professional baseball was a moment so significant that MLB continues to celebrate it and honor Robinson every April 15.
– Babe Ruth is sold to the New York Yankees (1920): In a trade that some baseball fans insist resonated into the 21st century, cash-poor Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000. Now remembered largely for his prowess as a home run-hitting slugger, Ruth also was a dominant pitcher during his days with the Red Sox, winning 20 games in both 1916 and 1917. The sale of Ruth is still considered the worst trade in professional baseball history and might have contributed to Boston’s lengthy World Series title drought, which lasted from 1918 until 2004.
– Joe Dimaggio’s streak begins (1941): Though the game would end in a 13-1 defeat for Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio and his teammates, a first-inning, run-scoring single by DiMaggio on May 15 marked the beginning of one of the greatest accomplishments in MLB history. That single was DiMaggio’s first hit in what would become a 56-game hitting streak. It was a record at the time and remains so today.
– Tommy John goes under the knife (1974): Though it didn’t happen on the field, in hindsight, Tommy John’s then-revolutionary surgery would be one of the game’s more impactful events, forever changing the game of baseball. John, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974, was 13-3 when he was forced to leave a game against the Montreal Expos with an apparent elbow injury. Doctors soon discovered John had a torn ulnar collateral ligament, a potentially devastating outcome for John, as the injury had effectively ended the careers of countless pitchers before him. However, John ultimately gave the go-ahead to Dr. Frank Jobe to perform a revolutionary operation on his arm. Though his recovery was long and slow, John eventually found his way back onto the mound, pitching into the late 1980s and ending his career with 288 wins. “Tommy John Surgery” is routinely performed today, and pitchers typically are back on the mound within 12 to 15 months of their surgeries.
– The Cubs win the World Series (2016): Attempting to capture their first World Series title since 1908, the Chicago Cubs didn’t make it easy on themselves. Or their fans. In winning the deciding seventh game 8-7 in 10 innings, the Cubs became just the sixth team in MLB history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit to win a best-of-seven World Series. The game 7 victory ended the longest championship drought in North American professional sports history.