"Keep your eyes clear, and hit 'em where they ain't" - WEE WILLIE KEELER.
Having promised his fans and former teammates he'd live to see 1923, Wee Willie Keeler dies on New Year's Day of that year as a result of heart failure. The diminutive fine-hitting Hall of Fame outfielder, who played for the National League's Superbas (Dodgers), Orioles, and Giants and the Highlanders (Yankees) of the American League, is credited with the baseball axiom, "Keep your eyes clear, and hit 'em where they ain't".
The Robins announce outfielder Zack Wheat, after 18 consecutive seasons with the club, has been released. The future Hall of Famer, who led the National League in hitting in 1918 with a .335 batting average, will hit .324 in 88 games for Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's this season, finishing his career with a lifetime mark of .311.
Cienfuegos third baseman Cool Papa Bell becomes the first player to hit three home runs in a professional game in Cuba, accomplishing the feat in a 15-11 victory over Havana at the spacious Alda Park. The speedy infielder, whose quickness once made Satchel Paige quip, "he could turn off a light switch and jump into bed before the room got dark", hits the trio of homers, which are all inside-the-park round-trippers, off Oscar Levis, Cliff "Campanita" Bell, and Martin Dihigo.
In a decision which foreshadows a major blow to Detroit's farm system, Kenesaw Mountain Landis voids the last month's trade which would have sent Tiger hurler George Coffman and second baseman Benny McCoy to the A's for outfielder Wally Moses. The commissioner declares McCoy a free agent because the infielder was hidden from other teams, and in two weeks baseball's first czar will also grant free agency to another 87 of the club's farm hands due to their concealment in the minor leagues.
In an effort to support the U.S. mobilization effort, Babe Ruth spends $50,000 for defense bonds. The Yankee legend's purchase is the maximum amount allowed by law for one person.
Josh Gibson is hospitalized after suffering a mental breakdown. The power-hitting catcher, known as the 'black Babe Ruth', will be released in time for spring training with the Homestead Grays in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The ballpark at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull Avenues in Detroit is officially renamed Tiger Stadium. The facility, which opened in 1912, was originally known as Navin Field, named for team owner Frank Navin, before becoming Briggs Stadium in 1938, reflecting the expansion efforts of Walter Briggs, who increased the yard's capacity to 53,000 under his ownership by double-decking the stands in left field.
Chub Feeney begins his 16-year presidency of the National League, taking over for Warren Giles, who held the position for 18 years. The Dartmouth College graduate, the grandson of Charles Stoneham, the late owner of the Giants, once served as the team's batboy.
Lee MacPhail takes over as American League president, succeeding the retiring Joe Cronin, and will serve in this role until 1984. MacPhail will join his dad, Larry, as a member of the Hall of Fame in 1998, becoming the only father-and-son pair to be enshrined in Cooperstown.
At the age of 30, former major league reliever Danny Frisella is tragically killed in a dune-buggy accident in Arizona. The right-hander, best known for his first six seasons with the Mets, compiled a 34-40 won-loss record along with 57 saves and a 3.37 ERA during his ten-year major league tenure, which also included stints with the Braves, Cardinals, Padres, and the Brewers.
Lorinda de Roulet replaces the very unpopular M. Donald Grant as the Mets' Chairman of the Board. The daughter of team founder Joan Payson will be best remembered for "Mettle", a straw-hat clad live mule who she designated to be the club's mascot.
Civic Center Busch Memorial Stadium, which replaced Sportsman's Park as the Cardinals' home in 1966, will now be known simply as Busch Stadium. The ballpark is named for the Busch family of Anheuser-Busch, the team's owner who championed the construction of a new stadium in St. Louis.
The Dodgers begin the celebration of their 50th year in Los Angeles by participating in the 119th annual Tournament of Roses Parade. The team’s float features current and former players as well as organist Nancy Bea Hefley and Vin Scully, the club’s broadcaster since 1950.