Sixty years ago today (9/15/50)

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 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.

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  1. Michael said...

    And to think, he probably lost 100 home runs to the war. He averaged 33 per year in the six years surrounding his three years away from the game. A great, under-appreciated player.

  2. Michael Caragliano said...

    Mize’s teams only won one of the six games in which he hit three homers. It says something about the star-crossed timing of Mize’s career. He arrived in St. Louis between their Gashouse Gang and World War II powerhouses, and reached the Giants as that franchise went into decline. Then, as if rewarding his lack of timing, he came to the Yankees in time for their run of five straight titles.

    An underrated player, no question. You’re right about Mize’s total looking paltry today; when I started following baseball in the early ‘80s, there were only about 65 players with 300 homers, so his 359 looked pretty lofty. The one eccentricity I remember hearing about him is that he used to drive his Cadillac from his home in Georgia to Cooperstown every summer.

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