|PITCHERS AS HOME RUN HITTERS|
By Keith Sutton
With the American League going to the designated hitter for the pitcher in 1973, there is some basis for looking back at the celebrated days when pitchers played their part at bat as well as on the mound. The National League still had some batting drama from pitchers in 1973. Cardinals’ pitchers Bob Gibson and Rick Wise both hit grand slam homers, the second for each in their careers. And Phil hurler Ken Brett hit home runs in four consecutive games pitched, a remarkable record. Those were the only homers he hit in 1973 but it was enough to lead all other hurlers.
Most of the great batting efforts by pitchers of the past revolve around home runs. Only two hurlers ever hit three homers in a game. Most of us remember when Big Jim Tobin did it for the Boston Braves on May 13, 1942. He had to provide his own batting support to win 6-5. The other one was an oldtimer, Guy Hacker of Louisville in the old American Association in 1886. He also had three singles in seven trips, and also scored seven runs in a very high-scoring game against Baltimore. The seven runs in a game is still an all-time record and he also is the only pitcher to collect six hits in a game. His case was a little different in that he was almost a full-time player, filling in at first or in the outfield when he wasn't pitching. In fact, he had enough at bats in 1886 to qualify for and win the AA batting title with a .341 mark. He edged out teammate Pete Browning by one point, according to the Macmillan Encyclopedia.
Pitchers have connected for two homers in a game on 54 occasions. Several hurlers did it more than once, most notable among them being Was Perrell, who hit dual roundtrippers in a game on five occasions. Don Newcombe did it three times, and Red Ruffing, Law Burdette, Jack Harshman, Dick Donovan, Pedro Ramos, Tony Cloninger, and Rick Wise did it twice. At least two of these feats merit special mention.
Tony Cloninger hit two homers in a game on June 16, 1966. Only two weeks later, on July 3, he again hit two homers in a game and they were both grand slams! He also had a single and knocked in 9 runs, a record for a pitcher and one of the top performances for any player. Rick Wise also had a couple of two-homer games in the summer of 1971, but the startling thing about the first time, on June 23, was that he didn't neglect his pitching either. He tossed a no-hit, no-run game against the Reds.
Relief pitchers are not restricted from the two-home sweepstakes. Two Tiger hurlers -- Jess Doyle in 1925 and Babe Birrer in 1955 -- both pitching the last four innings came up twice and connected both times. For Birrer it was two 3-run belts, and that was probably why they called him "Babe." Another pitcher hit two homers while in "relief," but it was in relief of an outfielder. On May 8, 1906, Chief Bender went to the A's outfield to replace an injured player. Later coming to bat he hit two fourbaggers, a feat he was never able to accomplish while pitching.
Here is the list of pitchers hitting two or more home runs in a game. For several of them, those were the only fourbaggers they ever hit. To put their performance in perspective, their season and career home run totals are listed as well. Asterisks indicate that one or more of the homers were hit as a non-pitcher.
Three Home Runs in a Game
Two Home Runs in a Game