Today in Sports History: August 25th

8/25/1894 - Schriver catches ball from monument

Since its construction forty years earlier, many baseball players had wondered if it was possible to catch a ball from the top of the Washington Monument -- the largest obelisk in the world. Buck Ewing, Charley Snyder, and Paul Hines had failed, but Chicago Colts manager Cap Anson believed it could be done. In an effort to prove their captain right, several Colts players visited the monument to put it to the test.

With catcher Popper Bill Schriver standing on the ground, 504 feet from the top of the monument, Clark Griffith launched a ball from a window near the monument's apex. It took only a few seconds for the ball to come streaming at the ground; Schriver decided to let the ball drop so he could see how fast it was coming in. The ball hit the earth and left a small dent before bouncing away, much as a regularly hit baseball would.

Believing that it would not be fatal for him to try it, Schriver signaled for another toss. Griffith dropped another baseball, which bolted to the ground in a manner of seconds. This time, Pop Schriver caught the ball -- proving Anson right and becoming the first person to ever do it. He then played later that day and batted 2-3 in a 9-4 loss to the Washington Senators.

Over the next twenty years, two additional players -- Billy Sullivan and Gabby Street -- also managed to hold on to a toss from the top of the building. (Incidently, both players accomplished it right around the time of the year that Schriver did it).

8/25/1985 - Gooden youngest to win 20

The New York Mets defeat the San Diego Padres 9-3, making Mets starting pitcher Dwight Gooden the youngest pitcher to ever win 20 games in a season. At 20 years and nine months old, the second-year Met was a full month younger than Bob Feller, who won 24 games for the Cleveland Indians in 1939. The win was also his fourteenth in a row.

Gooden finished the season with a 24-4 record, a 1.53 ERA, 16 complete games, and 268 strikeouts in 276-and-two-thirds innings -- all of which led the National League. He won the Cy Young Award that year, just one season after winning the Rookie of the Year Award, and joined Herb Score as the only pitchers to strikeout 200 batters in their first two seasons. He was already being touted as one of the greatest pitchers of all time and was a sure-fire Hall of Famer just on talent alone.

Sadly, Gooden never lived up to his expectations. 1985 was the final year he won 20 games, although he did follow that up with six solid seasons. After that, his career became a bona fide trainwreck, as he struggled to overcome addictions to both alcohol and cocaine. He retired with a record of 194-112, and as one of the biggest what-ifs in baseball history.

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