TODAY IN BASEBALL HISTORY-MARCH 26
1936 Two future Hall of Famers ink modest contracts with their respective teams. The Tigers sign Hank Greenberg for $20,000, and Red Ruffing comes to terms with the Yankees for $12,000.
1951 During a spring exhibition game against the University of Southern California at Bovard Field, Mickey Mantle, batting left-handed, hits a home run off Tom Lovrich, which is estimated to travel 650 feet. The 19 year-old rookie’s performance, which includes a single, triple, and another homer, is one of the highlights of the Yankees’ first-ever West Coast trip.
1957 Yankee manager Casey Stengel is arrested and is released on $50 bail after he allegedly curses at and kicks a newspaper photographer during an exhibition game in St. Petersburg.
1960 Miami becomes the new venue for the Orioles-Reds series, initially scheduled for Havana, due to political unrest in Cuba. Cincinnati, which has a farm team on the island, wanted to play the exhibition games as planned, but Baltimore’s team president Lee MacPhail feared for his players’ safety.
1974 “I said that there’d come a time when somebody would take my job away and the time came. That’s the way the ball bounces. I was the same way when I broke in with the White Sox. If I came, someone had to go. Baseball is like life; it goes on no matter what.” – LUIS APARICIO, commenting on his unconditional release by the Red Sox. The Red Sox release future Hall of Famers designated hitter Orlando Cepeda (1999) and infielder Luis Aparicio (1984). Both had contributed to the team last season with Cepeda being the best DH in the American League with his 86 RBIs, 20 home runs and a .289 average, and Aparicio batting a respectable .271 in 132 games, the best mark among shortstops in the league.
1976 The American League votes to expand to Toronto, awarding a franchise to a group consisting of Labatt’s Breweries (45%), the Imperial Trust, Ltd (45%), and CIBC (10%), who will eventually purchase the rights for the team for $7 million. At first, the decision will appear in peril when President Gerald Ford attempts to put pressure on MLB to give the expansion franchise to Washington, D.C., which has been without a major league team since the Senators moved to Arlington, Texas to become the Rangers following the 1972 season.
1977 Boston releases fan-favorite Rico Petrocelli, a future inductee to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997. The two-time All-Star infielder will call it quits, ending his 13-year career, all with Boston, having played a vital role in the team’s 1967 and 1975 American League pennants.
1984 In a spring training deal, the Phillies trade outfielders Gary Matthews and Bob Dernier along with right-handed reliever Porfi Altamirano to the Cubs for right-hander Bill Campbell and Mike Diaz, a utility player. The former Philadelphia fly chasers, who will each receive consideration for the MVP award, both play a pivotal role in Chicago’s first-place finish this season in the National League Eastern Division.
1984 Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color line, playing for the Dodgers in 1947, is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously by President Reagan. Rachel Robinson, on behalf of her late husband, accepts the award, the highest civilian honor given in the United States.
2000 The demolition Kingdome happens in less than 20 seconds, thanks to 5,800 holes filled with gelatin dynamite ignited by 21.6 miles of detonation cord. The former home of the Mariners is now a 65-foot mound of rubble.