This Week In History

In honor of Opening Day, we present an all-baseball edition of "This Week." • On April 5, 1985, the San Diego Zoo placed a lifelong ban on Goose Gossage, on the same day that the zoo's entire giraffe population was found slaughtered and half-devoured. When asked about a possible connection, both parties refused to comment.

• On April 5, 1958, Whitey Ford won a bet with teammate Enos Slaughter by lifting a Buick Skylark over his head and holding it there for ten seconds. Making good on his bet, Slaughter cooked Ford a pot roast every day for the rest of the season.

• On April 6, 1972, Tom Seaver was kidnapped by the Soviets and replaced with a communist decoy. The decoy finished the season with a 21-12 record and pitched 14 more years, earning Seaver a place in the Hall of Fame. The real Seaver resurfaced in 1995.

• On April 7, 1960, Pittsburgh celebrated its industrial heritage by holding "Steel Day" at Forbes Field. All fans under 12 received a free ingot of pig iron, and the Pirates took the field with similar ingots tied around their necks. They lost to the Cubs 27-0.

• On April 7, 1970, Catfish Hunter made the first of several attempts to fly cross-country in a gyrocopter of his own design. Starting from Oakland, he traveled as far as Yosemite National Park before being forced to land.

• April 7, 1954, hundreds of spectators were on hand in Milwaukee to watch Warren Sphan wrestle an ostrich. The match was close, with referees ruling a draw through eight rounds, but the ostrich was cited for several illegal moves throughout and finally forfeited due to a beaking in round nine.

• On April 8, 1972, in an effort to draw fans during their first season in Texas, the Rangers orchestrated "Have a Piece of History" Night, handing out pieces of enemy fighters shot down by manager Ted Williams during his military service in WWII and Korea. All fans wondering how Williams came to possess the wrecked MiGs and Messerschmidts, how he transported them home, and why he would do such a thing, were given a free beer.

• April 9, 1983, a misprint on the schedule prompted about 4,000 fans to show up at Shea Stadium, even though there was no game. The fans decided to have a game anyway, selecting 9 people to be the Mets and 9 to be the Braves. The Braves won 5-2, dropping the Mets a game back in the NL East.

• On April 9, 1966, the Baltimore Orioles invented thermal transductive interferometry. They are believed to be the only professional baseball team ever to patent an industrial process.

• On April 11, 1905, Cardinals pitcher Reginald "Pants" Dixon put a baseball in his mouth to make a young fan laugh before the game. The ball got stuck there, and Dixon pitched six innings before the team physician was able to dislodge it. Dixon was unable to close his mouth all the way for four days afterward.