In honor of yesterday's Opening Day, some baseball birthday scenarios.
1869: Hughie Jennings is born in Pennsylvania. Jennings will be a Hall of Fame shortstop for the old, dominant 1890s National League Baltimore Orioles. He will also set the season and career records for being hit by a pitch. Jennings later managed the Ty Cobb-era Detroit Tigers from 1907-1920, wining three straight pennants right off the bat but never winning a World Series (or another pennant). He had a penchant for fracturing his skull, first doing so as a law student at Cornell when he dived into an empty swimming pool, later after driving a car off a bridge into the Lehigh River. He was famous for raising one knee up and yelling "Ee-yah!" while in the third-base coaches' box during games. He had a law practice during the off-season (he never finished law school but passed the bar in Maryland – it was a simpler time).
1907: Luke "Aches and Pains" Appling is born. Luke will hit .388, highest average ever for a 20th-century shortstop, in 1936; he was pretty much the sole bright spot for Chicago White Sox fans between the 1919 Black Sox scandal and the 1959 pennant. He also had the lowest fielding average of any post-1910 player – he made a lot of errors. He was famous for fouling off pitches until he got one he liked. Allegedly fouled off countless balls into the stands after management told him they would not give him balls to autograph anymore; they supposedly relented after one epic at-bat cost them ten baseballs. But the coolest thing by far about Luke Appling is that in 1982, at the age of 75, Luke hit a home run in an Old-Timer's Game off of Warren Spahn.
1924: Bobby Avila is born in Veracruz, Mexico. Bobby was the first major Latin baseball star in the major leagues. Afterwards, Bobby (better known as "Beto" in Mexico) was elected mayor of Veracruz. He won the batting title over Ted Williams in 1954 while playing for the 111-43 Cleveland Indians. (Ironically, Ted Williams should have been the "first major Latin baseball star in the major leagues" – his mother was from Mexico. But back in those days people kept those facts on the down-low.)
1937: Dick "The Monster" Radatz" is born in Detroit, MI. He will grow up to be 6'6" and pitch for the Red Sox and Mickey Mantle will give him the nickname because he can't hit him. Nice thing to put on your tombstone.
1938: Al Weis is born in Hempstead, Long Island. Little Al will toil for the White Sox as a utility infielder from 1962-67, with little result other than a leg broken by a sliding Frank Robinson. In 1968 he is shipped to the lowly Mets along with Tommy Agee, and things look even worse for a while – he lets a ground ball go between his legs in the 24th inning of a game against the Astros, losing the game for the Mets. But he will get his revenge on Frank Robinson in 1969, when this career .218 hitter will win two games for his hometown Mets against Robinson's (not Hughie Jennings') Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, one with a game-2-winning single, another with a game-5-tying home run. He never really does anything ever again; he never has to, after winning the 1969 Babe Ruth award for best post-season performance by a player.
1945: Don Sutton and Reggie Smith are born, respectively in Shreveport, LA and Clio, AL. Legions of unfortunately dressed and coiffed 1970s boys will attempt to emulate Reggie's batting stance (holding bat as far up and out away from you as possible) and, far worse, Don's perm-like hairstyle. It was a bad era for fashion. In 1978 Sutton will get into a brawl with Steve Garvey over comments that Smith was a better player than Garvey. We can now say definitively that this was all about born-on-same-day solidarity. (Also about Steve Garvey being a self-absorbed overrated jerk. Okay, I'm a Cub fan and he ruined the 1984 season for me with his home run in the playoffs. What a weasel.)