In an electrifying performance on May 4, 1981, Yankee reliever Ron Davis struck out the last eight Angels batters in a row in a 4-2 win. In so doing, he tied Nolan Ryan‘s (accomplished twice) AL record for consecutive strike outs.
The most memorable two factors from a 4-1 win Yankee win over Brian Matusz and the Orioles in the stadium on May 4 were yet another dominant first-half outing by A.J. Burnett and big offensive contributions from unlikely bottom-of-the-order hitters. Burnett struck out eight while allowing five hits and no earned runs into the eighth, Francisco Cervelli had three hits and scored twice, and Ramiro Pena drove in two runs. Derek Jeter‘s double on Matusz’s first pitch in the first moved him ahead of Don Mattingly into third place on the all-time Yankees doubles list.
“Better days are coming” could have been the cry emanating from new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx on May 4, 2009, and the words would have been true, though who knows how many Yankee fans would have agreed? The Bombers dropped the first of four straight close games to Division rivals Boston and Tampa Bay, losing to John Lester and the Red Sox, 6-4. Mike Lowell and Jason Bay homered for Boston. Johnny Damon went yard for the home team, but perhaps the best news for Yankee fans in light of how the season would unfold is that Mark Teixeira homered twice.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Yankees reversed one move they had made the day before when they optioned righty reliever Anthony Claggett to AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre on May 4, 2009. A move that would bear much fruit, however, was that they recalled righthander Alfredo Aceves from Scranton-Wilkes Barre.
The player moves the Yankees made on May 4, 2008, sadly went a long way toward summing up their season. First, they optioned highly regarded rookie righty starter Ian Kennedy to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, replacing him by purchasing the contract of what would be proven to be the mediocre righty Darrell Rasner from AAA. In a further blow, the team transferred what had been a very effective righty reliever Brian Bruney from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list following his serious foot injury.
However, Darrell Rasner began his season by giving fans false hope in an 8-2 win in his start over Seattle on May 4 as well. Adrian Beltre reached Rasner for a two-run home run in the first, but the Mariners would get just two more hits through the sixth. Back-to-back Melky Cabrera and Robbie Cano home runs would crown a six-run home-team third-inning stampede off Seattle starter Carlos Silva. YES broadcaster Michael Kay had moved the games-left counter from 67 to 66 the night before, and the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team moved it to 65 during this win.
The Yankees beat retired YES broadcaster and longtime veteran pitcher Jim Kaat and the Twins 3-2 on this day in 1963. The Yanks’ runs came on singleton homers, one by Mickey Mantle, and two by Elston Howard.
On March 4, 1933, the Yankees’ Lefty Gomez threw no-hit ball at Detroit for eight innings, then surrendered a homer, double, wild pitch, and fielder’s choice before finishing up with a 5-2, two-hit win. Hall of Famer Charlie Gehringer started the two-run uprising with a fence clearer.
Responding to injuries old and new, the Yankees transferred righthander Michael Pineda from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list on May 4, 2012, and placed future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera on the 15-day list with a right knee injury. The team then optioned righty D.J. Mitchell to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; called up center fielder Dewayne Wise from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; and recalled reliever Cody Eppley from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
It may have been a May 4, 2008, 15-11 loss to Seattle that finally pushed most Yankee fans off any Kei Igawa bandwagon for good. Handed a 5-0 first-inning lead off six hits and a walk, the Japanese southpaw gave it back and more, allowing eight runs into the fifth inning. Johnny Damon‘s three hits and rbi’s, Bobby Abreu‘s three safeties, and three rbi’s from Alex Rodriguez were wasted. Raul Ibanez had four hits for the Mariners, and second baseman Jose Lopez knocked in four.
The Yanks lost a 2-1 duel to Sonny Siebert and the Indians on May 4, 1966, in Yankee Stadium, but Cleveland came out the big loser. An ugly collision between shortstop Larry Brown and left fielder Leon Wagner resulted in a factured skull, cheekbone, and nose for Brown, while Wagner sustained a broken nose and a slight concussion.
In the finale of a three-game sweep in Minnesota, the Yanks rode a Mickey Mantle home run to a 5-2 win on May 4, 1961. With the blast, The Mick extended his hitting streak to 16 games.
Barry Zito surrendered just three singles and a double to the Yanks in the Stadium on this day in 2003, and blanked them 2-0 on a first-inning home run by Scott Hatteberg and a Miguel Tejada rbi single. Roger Clemens was the hard-luck loser despite holding the A’s to four hits through seven.
In one of the few times the Yanks beat Babe Ruth when he faced them on the mound, they used six sacrifice bunts and two sac flies to edge the Red Sox 5-4 on May 4, 1918.
Yankee legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig switched positions in a game at the Stadium vs. the Red Sox on this day in 1931 to spare the Babe’s lame leg. But despite the five hits between them, Boston prevailed, 7-3. Gehrig made an error in this, the last game he ever played in the outfield.
On May 4, 1975, Houston Astro Bob Watson (who would be a Yankee player, then GM for the 1996 World Championship team later in his career, and most recently Yankee tormentor in the mlb discipline office) scored what has been calculated to be major league baseball’s one-millionth run of all time, as he was driven home on a Milt May base hit. The Reds’ Dave Concepcion hit a homer at around the same time, but it was judged that Watson scored from second before Davey made it around the bases. The first run has been credited to Wes Fisler of the Philadelphia Nationals on April 22, 1876.
On May 4, 1953, officials at Busch Stadium in St. Louis decided to ban bottles from their park in response to the hard objects the spectators had thrown on the field on April 28 in a Browns game vs. the Yanks. The Yanks won that game 7-6 despite the abuse from fans.
Lou Gehrig hit three homers in Comiskey Park in Chicago on May 4, 1929, and joined Babe Ruth as the only players to clear the right field stands, 360 feet from home plate, but 75 feet high. The fireworks were more than just decorative, as the Bombers squeaked by in the game, 11-9.
In a statistical anomaly, two Yankee teams from entirely different eras were beaten by the embarrassing score of 15-0 on May 4. The trouncing the Highlanders took at the hands of the White Sox in 1907 set the record for largest opponents’ score in a shutout. It was still a fanchise record when the White Sox, again, tied it in 1950. Bob “Sugar” Cain held the Bombers to five hits in this latter drubbing in Yankee Stadium, though Phil Rizzuto could hold his head high, as three of the safeties were struck by him. That record has since been stretched to 22-0.
Playing right field on May 4 of his rookie (1951) season, Mickey Mantle hit his second career home run, a 450-foot blast off Duane Pillette of the St. Louis Browns. Eddie Lopat got the win as the Yanks took no prisoners in the 8-1 victory.
Although Dutch Leonard and the Red Sox shut out the Yankees 3-0 on May 4, 1916, the Yanks would whip the Sox the next three days to push the Boston boys’ record below .500 on the season.
On May 4, 2010, the Yanks moved outfielder Greg Golson onto the 40-man roster, then promoted him to the Bronx, and to make room optioned reliever Mark Melancon to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.
Briefly a free agent who played in the Yankee outfield later in his career, Toronto’s Junior Felix became the 27th American League batter to homer in his first ever at bat, and the 10th to accomplish the feat on the first pitch he saw, on May 4, 1989.
Former Yankee prospect Otto Velez had a career day playing for the Blue Jays in a doubleheader vs. the Indians on May 4, 1980. His four homers and 10 rbi’s on the day included a first-inning grand slam and a 10th-inning game-winner in the 9-8 Toronto victory in the first game, and once the Jays rolled to a 7-2 win in the second game, Velez had hit for the home run cycle, blasting one-, two-, three-, and four-run jacks.
Two more May 4 items affecting future or former Yankee players. San Diego Padre Graig Nettles hit two home runs in a 12-8 loss to the Cubs in Wrigley Field on this day in 1995. And Jim Bouton pitched the first complete game in the National League portion of his career when he bested the Cubbies 7-2 for Houston on May 4, 1970.
The most noteworthy thing about the way that the Cubs ended their 12-game home losing streak on May 4, 1994, is that they had a “good luck” goat in attendance. In light of recent events, however, they’re going to need a bigger goat.
Players Who Have Died This Day
Of two Yankees who have died on May 4, we’ll mention lefty-hitting outfielder Jim Delsing (2006) first, because it was his trade to the Browns that cleared the number 7 for Mickey Mantle. Jim hit one homer with five rbi’s in 21 games for the 1949-1950 New Yorkers, numbers that grew to 40 and 286 after nine years spent mostly with the Tigers and the Browns. Righty Bill Kunkel (1985) posted a 3-2 mark finishing his baseball days in 22 games (no starts) for the 1963 Yankees, after going 3-4 with four saves for the 1961-1962 Kansas City A’s.
Catcher Paul Richards (1986) is first up among four other May 4 deaths, not only for the 15 homers and 155 rbi’s hit mostly with the Tigers and the Giants from 1932-1935 and 1943-1946, but also due to his innovation of a bigger glove to catch knuckleballers. Lefty-hitting outfielder Pete Gillespie (1910) reached 10 fences with 351 runs driven in with the Trojans, Giants, and Gothams from 1880-1887; third sacker Bob Elliott (1966) hit 170 long balls good for 1,195 runs knocked in for the Pirates and the Braves from 1939-1953; and righty Vic Sorrell (1972) posted all of his 92-101 mark with 10 saves with the 1928-1937 Detroit Tigers.
Players Born This Day
Until recently, Joe Borowski (1971), who pitched in the Yankee bullpen in 1997 and 1998 to a 1-1 win-loss record, was the only Yankee player ever born on May 4. A September 1997 Yankee waiver selection from the roster of the Braves, Joe was released in October 1999.
Yankee utility infielder Miguel Cairo (1974) doubled the team’s representation on the birthday list when he beat out Homer Bush and made the 2004 squad coming out of Spring Training. Miguel had stroked 19 homers with 189 rbi’s and 76 stolen bases in spot duty with the Blue Jays, the Cubs, the Devil Rays, and the Cardinals since 1996 before arriving in the Bronx. He played across town with the Mets in 2005, only to return to the Bronx in ’06 and ’07. Cairo hit six home runs with 41 rbi’s and 11 stolen bases while enjoying the lion’s share of the second-base play in the Bronx in 2004; he added 30 to the rbi list in 2006, with no more homers. He has lately played with the 2008 Mariners, and is with the Phillies in 2009.
Other birthdays: Jack Tobin (1892); former manager Rene Lachemann (1945); Ken Oberkfell (1956); Rick Leach (1957); Eddie Perez (1968); Manny Aybar (1972); Ben Grieve (1976); Robinson Cancel (1976); Jason Michaels (1976); Matt Tolbert (1982); and Kevin Slowey (1984); Sam LeCure (1984); and Nick Noonan (1989).