This Week in Baseball History: Aug. 23 – 29

Everyone in the 80s made a hit song — even the Mets... twice!

Aug. 24, 1919 – Ray Caldwell Gets Struck by Lightning, Finishes Game


The odds of throwing a perfect game are about 1 in 46,800. It’s about 10 times harder to get struck by lightning in any given year—those odds sit at 1 in 500,000.


On Aug. 24, 1919Ray Caldwell became that special one in half a million.

Caldwell had spent the first nine years of his career with the Yankees before making a pit spot in Boston to open the 1919 season.  However, by the end of July, Caldwell had a 4.28 ERA in 88.1 IP, resulting in his release from the Red Sox. Cleveland swooped in to pick him up, and his first start was scheduled for Aug. 24.

Their opponent was the last placed Philadelphia Athletics with a 28 – 78 record. The Indians, on the other hand, sat eight games back in their division with a 62 – 46 record. Cleveland hoped that Caldwell could help them in their pennant push.

On paper, this seemed to be an easy matchup for Caldwell, who was a unique pitcher in his own right.

“I don’t think a guy like Ray Caldwell could exist anymore in Major League Baseball,” Randy Anderson, president of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame, told Mark Puleo with AccuWeather. “He’s a real throwback to when times were much different.”

Caldwell was one of baseball’s last spitballers who also had a proclivity for partying, something that became enhanced in Boston when he had a roommate by the name of Babe Ruth. Perhaps that would explain his poor performance and subsequent release from the team in 1919.

Cleveland player-manager Tris Speaker developed a plan to address this issue: after each start, Caldwell would get drunk and take the next day off. Then, the day after, he would run sprints and start preparing for his next start.

The first test for this plan came with his start against the Athletics. And up until the last out, it seemed to be paying off.

Caldwell carved through the Athletics, allowing just six batters to reach base on four hits, one walk, and one HBP while giving up only one run. With two outs in the ninth, and as the crowd has been lulled into a sense of calm by a relatively easy game, drama struck.

A “blinding flash that seemed to set the diamond on fire” crashed down from the overcast clouds, knocking Caldwell on his back. The bolt knocked off catcher Steve O’Neill’s mask and hat as well. Many players felt the current coursing through their metallic cleats. Ray Chapman, in running to check on Caldwell, almost collapsed as he felt his legs go numb.

“We all could feel the tingle of the electric shock running through our systems, particularly in our legs,” umpire Billy Evans said.

Much to the surprise of pretty much everyone in existence, Caldwell appeared to be okay. He rose up and realized he still had all his appendages. After the game, Caldwell noticed some burns on his chest and described the experience as, “somebody came up with a board and hit me on top of the head and knocked me down.”

Back then, pitchers were determined to complete their starts, and Caldwell wasn’t going to let some mere lightning get in his way. All the players took their positions, Joe Dugan stepped into the batter’s box, and Caldwell induced a groundout to end the game and give the Indians a 2 – 1 win.

This game proved to be a spark that Caldwell and the Indians needed in their quest for their first World Series championship. Caldwell remained unaffected by this strike and just three starts later he would pitch a no-hitter against the Yankees. Over the last month of the season, the Indians cut their division deficit in half, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Chicago White Sox. That team would ultimately lose the 1919 World Series in baseball’s biggest cheating scandal.


Aug. 28, 2003 – Eric Gangé Breaks Single-Season Consecutive Saves Record


From 2002 to 2004, Eric Gagné had a stretch as dominant as any closer had ever been.

Before then, Gagné was a struggling starter who posted a 4.61 ERA/90 ERA+ in 283 innings across three seasons. The retirement of Dodgers’ All-Star closer Jeff Shaw after 2001 opened the door for Gagné to head to the back-end of the bullpen. From the beginning of the ’02 season, Gagné was phenomenal.

He began the year with an almost flawless April, posting a line of 13 IP, 5 H, 1 ER (0.69 ERA), 2 BB, 17 K, and 9 saves. Gagné kept up this excellent pace for the rest of the year, becoming the seventh closer ever (alongside John Smoltz that same year) with a 50-save season. Gagné finished ’02 with 52 saves, a 1.97 ERA/193 ERA+ and 0.862 WHIP in 82.1 IP. His K/9 and K:BB exploded from 7.7 and 2.83 in ’02 to 12.5 and 7.13 in ’03. This enormous jump allowed Gagné to finish fourth in Cy Young voting.

Also, beginning on Aug. 28, 2002, Gagné got the first save in what would become a record-breaking 84-game consecutive-saves streak.


Oddly enough, Gagné really loved Aug. 28. Exactly one year later, Gagné set another consecutive-save record.

You see, in 2003, Gagné was even better. He was so good, he was flat-out perfect. He did not blow a save for the entire year.

In April ’03, Gagné did not allow a run in 14.1 innings. He did struggle a bit in May (4.97 ERA in 12.2 innings), but he still didn’t blow a save.

After the first game of July, Gagné had a 2.20 ERA in 41 innings. He was still perfect in save situations. Yet from July 4 and on, he was somehow better than perfect.

During that home stretch of the ’03 season, Gagné had a microscopic 0.22 ERA in 41.1 innings with 66 K to 10 BB and 16 H. The only player to score a run off Gagné was Vladimir Guerrero Sr., who hit a ninth-inning solo shot in a tie game on Aug. 20. The Dodgers later won that game with this 1oth-inning bomb from Adrián Beltré.


About a week later on Aug. 28, Gagné made history again. The Dodgers faced off against the Astros and their “Killer Bs” lineup of Biggio, Bagwell, and Berkman. Yet when Gagné came in for a four-out save in a 6 – 3 game, he retired the Astros with absolute ease for his 44th consecutive save on the season.

That broke the record for consecutive saves to begin a year, set in 1998 by Tom “Flash” Gordon.

At the end of the year, Gagné had 55 saves (t-2nd most ever), 1.20 ERA/337 ERA+, 0.692 WHIP, and a monstrous 15 K/9. That strikeout rate was the best ever by any reliever up to that point.

Since Gagné finished the season without blowing a save, he earned the NL Cy Young with 28 out of 32 first-place votes. He is still the last reliever to have won the Cy Young.

If you want to relive just how dominant Gagné’s stuff was, look no further than this epic at-bat between him and Barry Bonds:


Late-August, 1986 – Mets Release “Let’s Go Mets!”


The 1980s was an interesting decade. The Berlin Wall fell. IBM released their first personal computer. And the 1985 Chicago Bears released a chart-topping hit in “The Super Bowl Shuffle.”


Even though this single was made after their first and only loss of the regular season, karma refused to curse the Bears as they went on to win the Super Bowl.

This spawned an odd trend where multiple sports teams tried making their own catchy hit song to propel them to superstardom.

In 1986, the Dodgers made “The Baseball Boogie.” The previous year, they had made it to the NLCS and lost, so hopefully this single would lead them to the World Series.


That Dodgers team finished second-to-last in the NL West.

But the Mets felt they were different in 1986. By the All-Star break, they sat 13.5 games up in the NL East, and they never really slowed down.

Perhaps it’s because they released not just one, but two songs that year.

First, there is “Get Metsmerized!” which is… well, just listen.


Thankfully, the Mets decided to shift away from the disco-rap trend that was popular at the time and went with a more rock sound on their next attempted hit where none of the players sang. Let me introduce to you the late-August release of, “Let’s Go Mets!”


Somehow, the sports gods smiled favorably upon the Mets and didn’t punish this amazingly confident team for their shenanigans.

Just like the ’85 Bears, the ’86 Mets became champions and musical stars.


Photo By /Icon Sportswire | Feature Graphic Designed by James Peterson (Follow @jhp_design714 on Instagram & Twitter)

Alex Kleinman

Journalist who loves the Yankees and the Bears. One gives me strength, the other leads me to existential dread. When I'm not obsessing over baseball, you can find me at a concert, hiking in a National Park or chasing my dog, Frankie, who has probably stolen one of my socks.

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