The height of the Major League Baseball season stretches through summer each year. During this time, thousands of fans across the United States tune in or show up to cheer on their favorite MLB teams. As the nation’s favorite pastime, many iconic and memorable baseball games have occurred throughout the sport’s long history. Some of these games took place on the Fourth of July holiday, going down in MLB history as iconic memories reflecting the American spirit in baseball. Learn more about these historic Fourth of July MLB games.
July 4, 1905
On July 4, 1905, two well-known pitchers took the mound in a face-off. Rube Waddell of the Philadelphia Athletics competed fiercely against the world-famous pitcher and Hall of Famer Cy Young. The game took place at Boston Huntington Avenue Grounds, the second game in the day’s doubleheader. Not only was the showdown one for the books, but so was the ballgame. It lasted 20 long innings, with Waddell securing the 4-2 win by pitching 19 scoreless innings in a row.
July 4, 1932
In 1932, the New York Yankees played the Washington Senators. A jolly holiday ballgame turned sour during a brawl between Yankees catcher Bill Dickey and Senators outfielder Carl Reynolds. Reynolds knocked Dickey over, and Dickey punched Reynolds in the face, breaking his jaw. Reynolds was out for weeks due to the injury, while Dickey received a fine and a suspension. These antics on the field were not the fireworks the audience had hoped to see on this Fourth of July.
July 4, 1939
On July 4, 1939, just two weeks after his diagnosis with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Lou Gehrig made his final public appearance with the New York Yankees. His teammates gave him a heartfelt ceremony, and Gehrig spoke a few words. Gehrig received a standing ovation, and his jersey, No. 4, was the first to be retired in the history of MLB.
Just a few states away, Jim Tabor joined the ranks of 12 other batters to hit two grand slams in a single game successfully. Tabor hit the first one in the fourth inning and the second in the sixth inning. Tabor racked up a total of 11 RBIs after the holiday doubleheader. Consequently, 1939 was a memorable year for Fourth of July baseball.
July 4, 1972
When Tom Seaver pitched for the New York Mets, he came close to throwing a no-hitter on five separate occasions. One of these close calls occurred on July 4, 1972, against the San Diego Padres. Seaver had held batters at bay throughout eight tense innings. The crowd was anticipating Seaver to finish the game with zero hits and earn his first no-hitter.
In the ninth inning, Leron Lee knocked in a single: a ground ball up the middle that made its way to center field, preventing the New York Mets from securing an out. Hall of Famer Willie Mays fielded this single but could not throw Lee out, bringing the possibility of a no-hitter to a close.
July 4, 1976
On July 4, 1976, the Philadelphia Phillies played against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Tim McCarver, the Phillies catcher, stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded. He launched a home run over the fence, scoring four runs for his team. However, McCarver ran past his teammate, Garry Maddox, on the base path. Following the rules, an official called McCarver “out,” robbing the Phillies of the four additional runs. It wasn’t too much of a loss since the Phillies beat the Pirates 10-5.
July 4, 1977
In 1977, the Boston Red Sox set the all-time record for home runs in a single ballgame on the Fourth of July. In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Red Sox were down 6-3. Collectively, the team launched six home runs into the stands, taking back the lead. The game goes down in history as the first ballgame where a team hit eight total home runs. The record stands at 10 home runs, which the Toronto Blue Jays achieved in 1987.
July 4, 1980
Few pitchers have accomplished what Nolan Ryan did, striking out over 5,000 batters in his career. On July 4, 1980, Nolan Ryan achieved his 3,000th career strikeout. Ryan was the second in baseball history to reach 3,000 strikeouts. The unlucky batter was César Gerónimo from the Cincinnati Reds. Just four years later, to the day, Phil Niekro accomplished this same achievement, striking out Larry Parrish for his 3,000th strikeout. Only 19 pitchers in MLB history have ever reached this number.
July 4, 1985
The New York Mets took on the Atlanta Braves in a marathon baseball game on July 4, 1985. This game had multiple rain delays, both before the first pitch and in the third inning, and it also had a tie score. Fourteen different pitchers faced 155 batters during this 19-inning, six-hour game.
When the game finally ended, with the New York Mets winning 16-14, it was 4 a.m. on July 5. But the stadium had invested in fireworks, and in 1985, the audience prepared to stay for the show. At 4 a.m. on July 5, 1985, the sky lit up with a delayed firework show, cementing the historic nature of this never-ending Fourth of July game.
July 4, 1983
On July 4, 1983, New York Yankees pitcher Dave Righetti took the mound against the Boston Red Sox. Righetti made history, throwing the Yankee’s first no-hitter in franchise history. This game also marked the first time a pitcher threw a no-hitter in the historic Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.
Righetti struck out nine batters, walked four, and relied on the infield and outfield players to secure the rest of the outs. This game marked the 166th no-hit game in the modern era of baseball history. Only 316 no-hitters have occurred since 1876, making this feat a fairly rare pitching accomplishment.
July 4, 2006
Billy Wagner, known fondly as Billy the Kid, was a world-class pitcher who saved his team in the final innings of a ball game. On July 4, 2006, Billy the Kid, a New York Mets player at the time, took the mound against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wagner saved the game, bringing his total of saved games up to 300.
Wagner became the 20th pitcher in history to save 300 games, which is no easy feat. This accomplishment is one of the rarest in the game. Only 31 pitchers in MLB history have reached 300 saves, making this group an elite club of relief pitchers.
July 4, 2008
As a sport, baseball highlights the talents and accomplishments of teams and individual players at the top of their games.
In 2008, Albert Pujols played for the St. Louis Cardinals. On the Fourth of July, Pujols hit his 300th career home run off a pitch from the Chicago Cubs pitcher Bob Howry. He became the fifth-youngest player in MLB history to hit 300 dingers.
Albert Pujols has gone on to play for several more years with teams like the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers. Sports historians regard Pujols as one of the best players of all time. Most recently, Pujols entered the 23rd year of his career, back with his St. Louis home team.
July 4, 2011
The Washington Nationals achieved a walk-off win against the Chicago Cubs on July 4, 2011, thanks to Jayson Werth. While most of the game was business as usual, this game is memorable because of the strange way the Nationals secured the walk-off finish. The game had stretched into one extra inning, with a tie score of 4-4. Werth took the plate, drawing a walk to land on first base. Then, Livan Hernandez took the plate after Werth, pinch-hitting for the pitcher in the lineup. The plan was for Hernandez to execute a bunt, which he did perfectly.
Werth advanced to second base, then managed to steal third base. As the game’s final batter stood waiting for the pitcher to throw a fastball to knock Werth in on an RBI, the pitcher tossed a wild pitch that let Werth jog to home plate for the walk-off win. The casual nature of the walk-off made this Fourth of July game stand out in an environment where walk-off wins are typically dynamic nail-biters.
Major League Baseball has seen incredible players through the franchise, and fans have witnessed many iconic games, plays, and player moments, especially Fourth of July MLB games. As players continue to smash personal, team, and league records, they continue to make history in the MLB. America’s favorite pastime has yet to disappoint, whether on the Fourth of July or otherwise.
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