HOUSTON: Former Houston Astro Nolan Ryan throws out first pitch at Minute Maid Park on May 18, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Games of Note: It's August 12, 1974, and Nolan Ryan strikes out 19 Boston Red Sox batters to break the American League record for strikeouts in a game. The performance, one that pushed him past Bob Feller's 18-punch out record set all the way back in 1938, also ties the major-league record, to that point held by Steve Carlton and Tom Seaver, who performed the feat in 1969 and 1970, respectively. Ryan has struck out 32 batters in his last two games, in and of itself a tie of a major-league record.
Coincidentally, the first pitcher to break Ryan's record would be a Red Sox hurler and fellow Texan, Roger Clemens, just 12 years later.
On this day in 1988, the Red Sox win their 23rd consecutive home game, breaking an American League record that has stood since 1931, when the Philadelphia Athletics reeled off 22 straight. That A's team, managed by Hall of Famer Connie Mack, finished 107-45 for a .704 winning percentage that put him them 13-1/2 games up on the second-place Yankees. The St. Louis Cardinals would defeat the A's in seven games, in a rematch of the 1930 World Series, keeping Philly from taking their third title in a row.
Transactions: Boston purchased two different pitchers from minor leagues (before they were known as minor leagues are today) on this date in both 1939 and 1940. The first of these was left-hander Bill Butland, purchased from the American Association. Butland pitched for Boston in four different seasons, but amassed just 150 innings in the process. When you look at his numbers through the lens of today's game, you'd likely be shocked that he managed a 100 ERA+ in that time, but remember that, in his last year in the game, the league-average K/BB was only an even one if you rounded up. Butland's career 1.1 mark isn't so bad in that kind of context.
The second hurler was Bill Fleming, purchased from Hollywood of the PCL. He would toss 87 innings with Boston over two years, with an ERA+ of 99, courtesy of a K/BB in the neighborhood of average. He spent four years with the Cubs after his time in Boston was up when they sold him west, as well as two years in the military, before his major-league career came to a close.
Birthdays: Former Red Sox pitcher Matt Clement turns 38 today. Clement was signed to a three-year deal for around $25 million after the 2004 season, but lasted just two years in the majors with the Sox. He was just average in 2005, but 2006 was awful, with Clement making just a dozen starts and posting a 6.61 ERA. He would miss all of the 2007 season, then attempted a comeback with the Cardinals and then the Blue Jays, but never made it back to the majors.
The combination of shoulder trouble, as well as getting hit in the head with a liner, contributed to the end to what had been a promising career. Before Boston had signed him as a free agent, Clement had just rattled off three years with the Cubs that combined for a 112 ERA+, 31 starts and 196 innings per year.
It's also former Red Sox farmhand and current Baltimore Oriole Lew Ford's 36th birthday. The Red Sox dealt Ford to the Twins in 2000, one year after he was drafted, in exchange for Hector Carrasco. Ford spent five years with Minnesota, then left for Japan and independent league ball, coming back to the states to sign with Cincinnati. He went back to the indy scene in 2011, but the Orioles signed him for 2012. After posting a 939 OPS in Triple-A, Ford was summoned to the majors, his first time back in five years. He's hit just .160/.192/.240 in eight games since, so for now, the happy ending portion of this tale lies in his getting back in the first place.
Death Days: Former St. Louis Cardinal and Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter died on this day in 2002, at the age of 86. Slaughter is known by Red Sox fans for his part in the 1946 World Series, Slaughter's first season back in the majors after three years of military service. In a play known as "Slaughter's mad dash", he scored from first on a softly hit ball to left-center in the eighth inning of Game Seven of the World Series. Left fielder Ted Williams and center fielder Leon Culberson failed to cut the ball off in the gap soon enough, and Johnny Pesky's late throw (following a throw described as "looping" from the arm of the notoriously poor defender, Cumberson -- that's how the Baseball Reference Bullpen describes him, anyway) failed to get Slaughter at the plate, giving the Cardinals the fourth and last run they would need to secure the championship. This was something of a Billy Buckner moment for the Red Sox defense before there was a Billy Buckner moment, but time heals these sorts of things. Winning the World Series twice in the last decade also helpful.