Four important MLB moments that happened on Leap Day
We hope you're wearing your blue and yellow, because it's Leap Day! To celebrate, here are four moments in baseball history that only happened thanks to the bonus day we get every four years. Yes, we're assuming that all of these things happened because we as a society have decided to deal with Earth's orbit by periodically messing up our calendars.
After all, these are pretty extraordinary events and could only have happened on a truly extraordinary day.
1. Pepper Martin was born, giving rise to one of the best baseball nicknames of all time
Pepper Martin was born on Leap Day, 1904, which means he was just six years old when he made his MLB debut with the Cardinals in 1928. OK, he was actually 24, but it's more fun to retroactively make him the youngest player in baseball history. Martin is probably best known for his heroics in the 1931 World Series, in which he recorded 12 hits and drove in four of the Cardinals' runs in their 5-1 Game 5 victory over the Philly Athletics.
But the thing Martin should be best known for is his epic nickname. As in, it sounds like the title of Western epic, with music by Ennio Morricone (and not by his own terrible band). Everyone called him "The Wild Horse of the Osage," apparently because he ran like (you guessed it) a wild horse.
2. Baseball Renaissance man Al Rosen was born
Al Rosen's nickname was "Flip," so he doesn't get an Academy Award-winning soundtrack for his life. But that's not why he's on this list. Leap Day baby Rosen was the American League MVP in 1953 and National League Executive of the Year in 1987. He's the only person in MLB history to ever win both awards.
Rosen took home his first piece of hardware as an infielder for the Indians, hitting .336/.422/.613, with a league-leading 43 home runs. He won his second award when he was the president and GM of the Giants. Rosen was hired in September of '85, the same year the Giants went 62-10, finishing dead last in the NL West. In '87, they won 90 games and finished in first.
3. Hank Aaron signs a record-breaking deal
On Leap Day, 1972, Hank Aaron signed a contract with the Braves that briefly made him the highest-paid player in baseball. It was for $600,000 over three years. William Bartholomay, the team's owner at the time, told the New York Times that it was the largest contract in Braves history, and one "befitting the a superstar of Aaron's stature."
Aaron thought the contract was pretty good as well:
Aaron, later indicating that three years was the correct figure, said he figured that's how long it was going to take him to overtake Babe [Ruth's home run record].
Hammerin' Hank was close -- he broke the record two years later, on April 8, 1974. And, well, you know how that went:
4. Terrence Long was born, making one of MLB's most memorable moments possible
On Leap Day in 1976, Terrence Long was born. Twenty-five years later, he was involved in a play that we're pretty sure Yankees fans still see when they close their eyes. Yes, he was the guy who hit the foul ball that Derek Jeter flipped into the stands to catch in Game 5 of the Yankees-A's ALDS.
Long hit .269 with 69 homers over his eight-season big league career, but it's worth noting that perhaps his second most memorable contribution to MLB history came earlier in that 2001 season when a certain Mariners right fielder forcefully announced his presence stateside: