You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we’ll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.
ON THIS DATE IN 1979, Adrian Beltre was born.
Beltre’s eyes, that famous stare, made him look mean and unapproachable to strangers. The truth is, he was one of the most enjoyable players to be around. Those eyes were actually so warm and soft, and that smile could light a scoreboard. He is a future Hall of Famer — only Brooks Robinson played more games at third base, no third baseman had more assists, and George Brett and Wade Boggs are the only other primary third basemen to finish with 3,000 hits. But Beltre’s legacy will be the fun with which he played.
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“I’ve never seen anyone enjoy the game more,” Rangers Hall of Fame broadcaster Eric Nadel said.
Beltre was a big brother to Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus. On routine popups to the left side of the infield, they would routinely mess around about who was going to catch it.
“I’d call it,” Beltre said, “and he’d come over and get right next to me — sometimes he’d bump into me. I’d be screaming, ‘I got it, get away from me, get away from me, little man!”’
Before the start of every game, after the ball came to him on the around-the-horn, Beltre would do a ritualistic toe tap of the third-base bag, just to signify that another game was starting and how lucky he was to be playing that position for another day in the big leagues.
Beltre never wore a cup at third base even after he missed time one season with bruised testicles.
“How can you not wear a cup?” I once asked him.
He showed me his hands and said, “That’s what these are for.”
Other baseball notes from April 7
In 1969, Ted Williams made his managerial debut. One day in spring training, two Senators coaches were arguing about the correct way to execute a rundown play. They asked Williams to settle the argument. He listened for a couple of minutes, then abruptly called off the drill, saying, “F— it, let’s hit!”’
In 1873, John McGraw was born. He was a tough little player and one of the best managers in the game’s history. He owned a pet margay, a small leopard from South America. He occasionally brought it with him to the ballpark.
In 1977, catcher Ben Petrick was born. He had one of the strangest batting lines in baseball history: 3-0-0-4. He is the only player ever to drive in four runs in a game without getting a hit. “I thought I had a bad game,” he said. “Then I looked at the box score and thought, ‘Hey, I had a pretty good game.”’
In 2012, Jamie Moyer, then 49, returned to pitch after Tommy John surgery. He won 269 games in his career without throwing hard. Once, on a ride home from the ballpark, one of his young sons asked his dad if he could throw one pitch 90 mph, just for him. “Son, that’s not how I pitch,” Moyer said. His son looked at the speedometer and said, “Dad, you’re driving the car faster than you throw a baseball.”