Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Sixty years ago today (9/15/50)Posted by Chris Jaffe
Sixty years ago today – on Sept. 15, 1950 – Johnny Mize belted three homers in one game. In doing so he set a record that still stands – for this was his sixth time hitting at least three homers in a game, an achievement no one else had ever done before, and only one person since. (Who was the mystery tie-er? See if you can guess before clicking on the answer.)
Mize holding a homer record sounds surprising, because he hit only 359 homers in his career, 73rd on the all-time list (just behind Gary Gaetti). Then again, maybe I should say “only” 359 homers, because while that may not sound like much in the modern game, when he retired he ranked sixth all-time (and only two homers behind fifth-place Joe DiMaggio).
Back then Babe Ruth was way the hell above everyone else. After a sizable drop, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott and Lou Gehrig formed the first pack – but they were still far above anyone else. It didn’t start filling in until the 1950s players started aging. Heck, Mize was still in the top 30 homer hitters until the early 1980s.
Mize never hit four homers in any game. In only two of the games did he even come to the plate after his third homer. His first chance at four-homer-dom came on Sept. 8, 1940, during his fourth three-home run game. No play-by-play for the game exists, but Mize’s home run log at Baseball-Reference.com indicates he hit his last homer in the sixth inning that day. He must’ve made a generic out in his last at bat.
His other chance at a quartet of homers came in today’s anniversary game. Mize belted his third homer in the fifth inning – and ended the day with three hits and a strikeout in four plate appearances. Mize only fanned 24 times that year, so I get the feeling he was really pressing for one more long ball in that at bat. Can’t say I blame him in the least.
Baseball-Reference's Play Index was invaluable for this piece.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.