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Pair of milestones make for historic day

Pair of milestones make history

It was a day unlike any other in Major League Baseball history.

Frank Thomas became the 21st player to reach the 500 Home Run Club.

Craig Biggio got all three hits he needed -- and more -- against Colorado to reach the 3,000-hit mark in front of his home fans.

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And if those strokes weren't sweet enough on Thursday, then consider the stroke of midnight, when the Monster 2007 All-Star Game Online Ballot came to a close after fans everywhere set an MLB.com voting record. It was a day when ballots came in at a staggering pace, amid spectacular milestones, to determine the starting lineups for the 78th All-Star Game on July 10 in San Francisco.

June 28, 2007, was just one of those dates that made you shake your head and remember why you fell in love with the national pastime in the first place.

Some people in our "Bullpen" -- as we affectionately refer to our editorial hub at Major League Baseball Advanced Media's New York headquarters -- may have other words to describe it, but Thursday will go down as one of our busiest days for many reasons. And it will go down as one of the biggest in a proud sport's long history.

There never has been a day in which a 500th homer and a 3,000th hit were each stroked. Was it the biggest day in terms of historic achievement? That's impossible to say, just because of the subjective nature of gauging historical importance.

Aug. 4, 1984, was a big day. Tom Seaver -- cheered on by New Yorkers who had seen him start his career amazingly as a Met -- recorded his 300th career victory by pitching the White Sox to a 4-1 triumph over the Yankees on Phil Rizzuto Day in the Bronx. That same day, Rod Carew became the 16th player to reach 3,000 hits by blooping a single to left off Frank Viola in the third inning of the California Angels' 6-5 victory over Carew's former Twins club. It remains the only day those two milestones have happened together.

May 1, 1991, was a big day. Rickey Henderson broke Lou Brock's stolen-base record and proclaimed himself as the greatest, and then was upstaged that night as Nolan Ryan pitched the seventh and final no-hitter of his Hall of Fame career.

More than one no-hitter has been thrown on the same day twice: Ted Breitenstein and Jim Hughes on April 22, 1898, and Dave Stewart and Fernando Valenzuela on June 29, 1990. Ah, yes. Stewart's was for Oakland at SkyDome in Toronto; Valenzuela's came a few hours later out West for the Dodgers against St. Louis. Who could forget that night? But was it the biggest day in Major League history?

Looking back now, how could it get any bigger than April 15, 1947, when Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers and became the first black player in Major League history? But then how could it get any bigger than April 1974, when Hank Aaron passed The Babe, or in 1995 when Cal Ripken played in his 2,131st consecutive game, or that day of those two remarkable Game 7s in the 2004 League Championship Series, or ...

You get the picture. Every decade, going back well into the 1800s, there are competitors to the significance of June 28, 2007. Baseball does not let you casually throw out a contemporary event and call it nonpareil. There are built-in rules against that kind of stuff. Baseball is a synonym for "tradition." There is a saying that there is nothing new under the baseball sun, except the players inside the uniforms.

Some would say that Opening Day is always the biggest day in baseball. Others will remember the time in late October (or for D-backs fans, in November) and say the biggest day in baseball was the day their team won it all. Indeed, just Google the phrase "biggest day in baseball history," and there's a Red Sox fan remembering 2004. The biggest day is whatever is most important to you.

But nothing has happened quite like what happened on Thursday.

"It was a great feeling," Thomas said after taking Minnesota's Carlos Silva deep in Toronto's 8-5 loss at Minnesota. "A big smile came to my face. This was a big goal and a big dream."

What an amazing sight Biggio's milestone was. He singles to right for No. 3,000, tying the late Roberto Clemente on the all-time list and securing his Cooperstown future. Then he tries to leg it into a double, is thrown out to end the inning and sees teammate Brad Ausmus rush to him as a celebration scene begins.

Could it get any better than the part of the celebration where Biggio spots former teammate and Astros legend Jeff Bagwell in the dugout and coaxes him onto the field? They were able to share the moment together, and it was priceless. It all made for an unforgettable night for Astros fans at Minute Maid Park.

It came just as the final, furious All-Star voting was happening at MLB.com, the awesome end to one of the biggest days in Major League Baseball history. It was a big day when Ted Williams finished the 1941 season at .406. It was a big day when Roger Maris hit his 61st homer in 1961 to break Babe Ruth's record. Thumb through the pages of baseball, and you can find plenty of similar dates of historical importance.

But nothing quite like what just happened on Thursday. And the milestone madness is just going to continue all season.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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