A Flurry of RBIs

 

Lights Out: Boog Powell’s 11-RBI Day

The turning point in Boog Powell’s career came on December 9, 1965. That was the day when the Baltimore Orioles acquired Frank Robinson from the Cincinnati Reds.

Boog Powell drove in 11 runs in a double header with the Kansas City Athletics in 1966.

Boog Powell drove in 11 runs in a double header with the Kansas City Athletics in 1966.

The 1965 season had been a disappointment for Powell. After hitting 39 home runs and driving in 99 runs at age 22 in 1964, Powell’s home run output slipped to 17 in 1965. His 72 RBIs were his lowest run production since his rookie season.

In 1965, Powel had been the lone power threat in the Orioles line-up that had ever produced as many as 30 home runs in a season. (Curt Blefary led the team in 1965 with 22 home runs.) But that would change in 1966. The presence of Robinson’s right-handed bat meant Powel was likely to get more respect and more fastballs. He did, and he delivered.

He started slowly in 1966. He batted .171 in April and had raised his average only to .232 by the end of May. But Powell caught fire in June, when he batted .384 with 8 home runs and 31 RBIs in 32 games. He was just getting started.

Coming into a double header with the Kansas City Athletics on July 6, 1966, Powell had raised his season’s batting average to .296 with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs. The Orioles took the first game of the twin-bill by a score of 11-0. Powell was one for four but had four runs batted in on a bases-loaded double in the third inning and a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

In the second game, Powell drove in the first run with a double in the third inning, and scored on Frank Robinson’s RBI single. That lead lasted only until the fourth inning, when Kansas City’s Larry Stahl tied the game with a two-run double.

When Powell came up to bat again in the fifth inning, he found the bases loaded … and cleared them with his seventeenth home run of the season. In the seventh inning, he lined out to right fielder Mike Hershberger.

The Athletics rallied for six runs in the eighth inning to take an 8-6 lead. The A’s bullpen ace, Jack Aker, pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Powell came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and Luis Aparicio at first base. He launched his second home run of the game to tie the game at 8-8 and send it into extra innings.

Stahl’s second double of the game in the eleventh inning put the Athletics back on top 9-8. Aker came out to pitch the bottom of the eleventh, his fourth inning of work. (That’s what bullpen aces were expected to do in the 1960s.) Paul Blair and Vic Roznovsky grounded out, and Blefary came on to pinch hit for Orioles pitcher John Miller. Blefary singled to center field, bringing Aparicio to bat with Powell in the on-deck circle.

Powel never got his chance for more heroics, as Aparicio hit a grounder back to Aker to end the game. Powell finished with three hits in five at-bats, a double and two home runs, with three runs scored and seven runs batted in. For the double header, he was four for nine with 11 RBIs.

He was on his way to a season that would legitimize him as a premier power hitter, and put a World Series ring on his finger.

Lights Out!

 

 

 

Excerpt from Lights Out! Unforgettable Performances from Baseball’s Real Golden Age.

 

 

Southpaw Assembly Line

 

Lights Out: Whitey Ford Drives Home Eighth June Victory

When: June 30, 1961

Where:  Yankee Stadium, New York, New York

Game Time: 1:56

Attendance: 28,019

For the first 11 years of his Hall of Fame career, Whitey Ford was the most consistent winning pitcher in baseball.

The Yankee ace remains the only pitcher in American League history to win 8 games in June.

The Yankee ace remains the only pitcher in American League history to win 8 games in June.

Playing for the New York Yankees (the only team he played for), Ford compiled a 133-59 record from 1950 to 1960 – a winning percentage of .693. He led the American League in victories once (with 18 in 1955) and posted the lowest ERA in the major leagues in 1956 (2.47) and 1958 (2.01). For those 11 seasons, his combined ERA was a dazzling 2.70.

The one thing Ford did not do was win 20 games in a season, which he finally accomplished in 1961 when his 25-4 record earned him the Cy Young Award.

The month of June in 1961 was particularly productive for Ford. He entered the month with a record of 6-2. Starting June 2, and pitching every fourth day thereafter, Ford mowed down 7 straight opponents to raise his record to 13-2. In none of those starts did he pitch less than 7 innings.

When Ford faced the Washington Senators on June 30, he had an opportunity to do what no major league pitcher had ever done: win 8 games during the month of June. Ford squared off against the Senators’ best starter, Dick Donovan, who had a 3-7 record despite the fact that his ERA entering the game was only 2.99. The Senators scored first. The second Washington batter, shortstop Billy Klaus, tripled and scored on a throwing error by Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek. That unearned run was the only one Ford would allow, but it looked like it might be enough to derail Ford’s winning streak as Donovan shut out the Yankees through the fifth inning.

Dick Donovan took the loss, lowering his record to 3-8. At season’s end, Donovan would post the American League’s lowest ERA at 2.40.

Dick Donovan took the loss, lowering his record to 3-8. At season’s end, Donovan would post the American League’s lowest ERA at 2.40.

The Yankees got all the runs they and Ford would need in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson singled and then stole second, advancing to third base on Kubek’s sacrifice fly.  A ground-rule double by Roger Maris scored Richardson, and then an inside-the-park home run by Mickey Mantle put the Yankees ahead 3-1. A 2-run single by Maris in the eighth inning increased the Yankees’ lead to 5-1, and Ford retired the Senators in order in the ninth to complete his eighth victory in the month of June.

Ford went on to win six more consecutive decisions before losing 2-1 to the Chicago White Sox on August 15.

 

Lights Out!

 

 

 

Excerpt from Lights Out! Unforgettable Performances from Baseball’s Real Golden Age

 

Rock Around The Clock

 

Lights Out: Rocky Colavito Goes 7-10 in a 22-Inning Game

When: June 24, 1962

Where:  Tiger Stadium, Detroit, Michigan

Game Time: 7:00

Attendance: 35,368

It started out like any other Yankees-Tigers match-up on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But after Tigers starter Frank Lary threw the first pitch to Yankee shortstop Tom Tresh, little did either team – or the 35,000 Tigers fans in attendance – know that the outcome was seven hours away.

Tigers outfielder Rocky Colavito collected 7 hits in a 22-inning game with the New York Yankees.

Tigers outfielder Rocky Colavito collected 7 hits in a 22-inning game with the New York Yankees.

Or that Detroit Tigers outfielder Rocky Colavito would put on an unforgettable hitting display in 22 innings of baseball.

Lary had a reputation for being a “Yankee killer.” A 23-game winner in 1961, the Tigers ace struggled against the Yankee bats on this day, allowing 7 runs in the first 2 innings, all earned, including the three-run homer Lary surrendered to Yankee third baseman Clete Boyer. The Tigers scored 3 runs of their own in the bottom of the third off Yankees starter Bob Turley with a three-run homer off the bat of right fielder Purnal Goldy (it would be one-third of his career total).

The Tigers added three more runs in the bottom of the third off Jim Coates with an RBI single by shortstop Chico Fernandez and a two-run double by catcher Mike Roarke. The Tigers tied the game at 7 in the bottom of the sixth. Colavito singled off Bill Stafford to score Bill Bruton. And that’s the way it stayed until inning 22.

In all that day (and into the evening), Colavito would hit five more singles, plus a triple, going 7-10 with a walk through 22 innings. Known primarily for his power (45 home runs and 140 RBIs in 1961), Colavito could also hit for contact. He collected 1,730 hits during his 14-year career.Jim_Bouton_1963_2

Colavito’s performance went for naught in the win column. The slugfest of the first six innings turned into a relief pitching duel, as both teams were shut out for 15 consecutive innings. In the top of the twenty-second inning, Jack Reed’s two-run homer off Phil Regan finally broke the scoreless streak. In the bottom half of that frame, Jim Bouton retired the first two Tigers before Colavito collected his sixth single of the game. But Bouton got Norm Cash to fly out to John Blanchard in left field to end the game. Colavito was stranded at first, one of 22 Tigers left on base in the course of that marathon loss.

 

 

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The Game that Proved Nothing’s Sacred

 

Lights Out: Roger Maris Hits 61st Home Run

When: October 1, 1961

Where:  Yankee Stadium, New York, New York

Game Time: 1:57

Attendance: 23,154

 

The last home run of the 1961 regular season changed baseball forever.

It was the fourth inning of a scoreless game, the season’s last game. Boston’s starter, Tracy Stallard, was pitching brilliantly, allowing only a Tony Kubek single over the first three innings.

Babe and Beyond With one swing, Roger Maris went where no other baseball player had gone before – beyond the 60-home run barrier.

Babe and Beyond
With one swing, Roger Maris went where no other baseball player had gone before – beyond the 60-home run barrier.

Kubek struck out to open the fourth inning. The next batter was Roger Maris, who would win his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award after the 1961 season. Maris turned on a Stallard fastball and rocketed it into the seats in right field. That made it 1-0 Yankees.

The game would end that way, with Stallard giving up only one run on five hits over seven innings in taking his seventh loss in nine decisions. Three Yankees pitchers – Bill Stafford, Hal Reniff and Luis Arroyo – shared in the shutout, with Stafford the winner (14-9) and Arroyo setting a single-season record for saves (29).

But the game belonged to Maris, and to the ghost of Babe Ruth that the Yankees right-fielder had chased feverishly for the past two months. For the first time in more than 40 years, the record for the most home runs in a season did not belong to the game’s most popular icon.

Now Serving Number 60 … and 61 The pitchers who served up the last 2 Roger Maris home runs of the 1961 season: Jack Fisher (left) of the Baltimore Orioles, and Tracy Stallard of the Boston Red Sox.

Now Serving Number 60 … and 61
The pitchers who served up the last 2 Roger Maris home runs of the 1961 season: Jack Fisher (left) of the Baltimore Orioles, and Tracy Stallard of the Boston Red Sox.

The impossible had been accomplished, even with the help of an asterisk. (Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick had ruled earlier that, unless Maris eclipsed Ruth’s home run mark in 154 games – the length of Ruth’s season – any home run record achieved in 1961’s 162-game season would be a record with the stain of an asterisk.) Asterisk or not, Maris had done what few believed would ever be done.

The most sacred record of baseball’s most hallowed “golden era” had been blasted by a modern-day usurper in pinstripes.

Now no baseball record would be safe. What the giants of baseball’s past had done could be bested after all.

Maris proved it. And soon even more of baseball’s most-honored records were destined to fall.

Lights Out!

 

 

Excerpt from Lights Out! Unforgettable Performances from Baseball’s Real Golden Age

Hiller’s Scoreless Back-to-Back

 

Lights Out: John Hiller

When: August 25, 1967

Where:  Municipal Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

Game Time: 2:11

Attendance: 12,010

At the close of August in 1967, four teams were still battling for the American League pennant. The Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers were all within 1.5 games of each other at the top of the league standings.

John Hiller pitched shutouts in his first two major league starts.

John Hiller pitched shutouts in his first two major league starts.

While the Twins and White Sox had been perennial contenders in the mid 1960s, it was a stratosphere that the Red Sox and Tigers had not been accustomed to in recent history. Boston’s run was fueled by the bat of Carl Yastrzemski and the pitching of Jim Lonborg. Detroit’s run was driven by pitching (especially the outstanding season-long performance of Earl Wilson) and power.

But the Tigers also unveiled a new – and unexpected pitching weapon – in August in the form of left-hander John Hiller.

Hiller had been in the Tigers’ farm system since 1963. Originally a starter, the Tigers tried to groom him as a reliever, with limited success initially. He was a sub-.500 pitcher in the minors, though he started fast in 1967, going 5-1 for the Tigers’ AAA club at Toledo and was called up to Detroit at the end of June.

Hiller was used strictly in relief by the Tigers, picking up a win against the New York Yankees on July 23. He had three saves in August, and a 2.45 ERA through August 12. He made his first start on August 20, pitching the second game of a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians. Hiller tossed a four-hit shutout.

Five days later, Hiller made his second career start in Kansas City against the Athletics. The Tigers took the early lead on a first-inning solo home run by Dick McAuliffe. Catcher Bill Freehan added another bases-empty home run in the second for a 2-0 Tigers lead. Meanwhile, Hiller did what he had “always” done as a major league starter: put up zeros. He retired the A’s in order in the first and allowed a pair of harmless singles in the second, striking out A’s catcher Phil Roof to end that threat. He retired the side in order in the third and then scattered four hits over the next three innings. He retired the last nine Kansas City batters he faced to complete his second shutout in two career starts.

Four days later Hiller would win his fourth game, a 2-1 victory over the California Angels. It would be the last game he would win that season. While he would be an occasional starter in his 15-season career with Detroit, Hiller would emerge in the 1970s as one of the league’s best closers, setting an American League record for saves in 1973 and for relief victories in 1974.

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A Four-Lap Day for Say Hey

 

Lights Out: Willie Mays

When: April 30, 1961

Where:  County Stadium, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Game Time: 2:40

Attendance: 13,114

 

Willie Mays opened the 1960s as the best all-around player in the National League … and probably in all of major league baseball.

The 8 RBIs that Willie Mays collected in this game led to his season total of 123, third best in the National League.

The 8 RBIs that Willie Mays collected in this game led to his season total of 123, third best in the National League.

He ended the decade as the National League’s second most prolific home run hitter (behind Hank Aaron). He was the league’s all-time home run leader by the end of the decade and the first NL player to reach 600 homes runs (1969). During the 1960s, Mays hit 350 home runs and averaged 100 RBIs per season. Three times during that decade he led the National League in homers, with his career-best of 52 coming in 1965.

Mays hit 40 home runs in 1961, finishing second that year to teammate Orlando Cepeda’s 46. Ten percent of Mays’ season total actually came in a single game against the Milwaukee Braves. He ripped four home runs (with eight RBIs) as the Giants blasted the Braves 14-4. In total, the Giants hit eight home runs that evening, including solo shots by Cepeda and Felipe Alou, as well as a pair of bases-empty home runs off the bat of shortstop Jose Pagan.

Facing Braves starter Lew Burdette with two outs in the top of the first inning, Mays took a Burdette fast ball to deep center field to give the Giants a 1-0 lead. He was just getting started. In the top of the third inning, again against Burdette, Mays stroked a two-run homer to left-center field. After flying out to center field in the fifth inning, Mays hit a three-run shot to left field in the sixth inning, this time against Seth Morehead. In his last at-bat in the eighth inning, Mays hit his fourth home run of the game, a two-run drive to center off Don McMahon.

The eight RBIs that Mays collected in that game led to his season total of 123, third best in the National League behind Cepeda (142) and Cincinnati’s Frank Robinson (124), the league’s MVP that year. The next year, Mays would drive in a career-high 141 runs, but still finish only second to Tommy Davis (153) of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

What may be most “amazin’” about Willie Mays’ career is the fact that he never led the league in RBIs, though finishing sixth in career RBIs when he retired in 1973 (and he still ranks ninth all-time in that category today).

 

 

Excerpted from Lights Out! Unforgettable Performances from Baseball’s Real Golden Age

21 and Done

 

Lights Out: Tom Cheney Whiffs 21 O’s

When: September 12, 1962

Where:  Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland

Game Time:  3:59

Attendance: 4,098

Tom Cheney won only 19 games in eight big league seasons. But for one night he became the most celebrated pitcher in baseball, and the most proficient strikeout artist of all time.

Tom Cheney holds the major league record with 21 strikeouts in a single game. Cheney went the distance, beating the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 in 16 innings. He had 13 strikeouts after 9 innings.

Tom Cheney holds the major league record with 21 strikeouts in a single game. Cheney went the distance, beating the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 in 16 innings. He had 13 strikeouts after 9 innings.

Cheney rode his fastball to the major leagues after signing with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1952. He twice won as many as 14 games pitching in the Cardinals’ minor league system. Like so many over-powering pitchers, he had strikeout stuff but control was a problem. He spent time in the big leagues with the Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates before being traded to the Washington Senators in 1961.

By June of the 1962 season, Cheney had worked his way into the Senators’ starting rotation. By the end of August, pitching for the league’s worst team, Cheney had posted a decent 3.34 ERA but had only a 5-8 record.

His first start in September came against the Los Angeles Angels. Cheney didn’t figure in the decision, though he went 10 innings and struck out 10 batters while allowing only two runs. The Senators won the game 3-2 in the eleventh inning.

Over the next week, he made one start and two relief appearances, with no decisions. Then, on three days’ rest, he started against the Baltimore Orioles.

Bud Zipfel's solo home run in the 16th inning gave the Senators – and Tom Cheney – the victory.

Bud Zipfel’s solo home run in the 16th inning gave the Senators – and Tom Cheney – the victory.

The Senators scored one run in the top of the first inning, and Cheney retired the Orioles in the bottom of the inning without allowing a run, or recording a strikeout. His first strikeout of the game came in the second inning, then three in the third, one in the fourth, and three more in the fifth inning. The Orioles tied the game on a Charlie Lau RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Cheney had 13 strikeouts through nine innings with the score tied 1-1. He struck out two in the tenth and two more in the eleventh. But the Senators failed to score in both innings. Cheney wasn’t about to come out. Was he thinking about the game against the Angels 11 days earlier when he came out an inning too soon?

Cheney recorded no strikeouts in the twelfth and thirteenth innings, and then got two more in the fourteenth. After 14 innings and 19 strikeouts, he was still trying to win a 1-1 game.

Dick Williams was Tom Cheney’s 21st strikeout victim.

Dick Williams was Tom Cheney’s 21st strikeout victim.

After getting his twentieth strikeout in the fifteenth inning, Cheney watched Senators first baseman Bud Zipfel hit a solo home run off Dick Hall to give the Senators a 2-1 lead. Cheney went out for the bottom of the sixteenth inning. He got Boog Powell to ground out for the first out, then gave up a single to Dave Nicholson. Jackie Brandt flied out to center field for the second out. And on pitch number 228, Cheney struck out Dick Williams on a called strike. He had 21 strikeouts and a 16-inning complete game victory.

Cheney allowed 10 hits and faced 62 batters. He finished the 1962 season at 7-9 with a 3.17 ERA.

In 1963, Cheney was on his way to the best season of his career when an elbow injury ended his season … and his career not long after. After 21 starts, Cheney was 8-9 with seven complete games, four shutouts and a 2.71 ERA. He would make only seven more starts in his career.

His record of 21 strikeouts in a single game has never been matched.

 

Lights Out!Excerpt from Lights Out! Unforgettable Performances from Baseball’s Real Golden Age

A 6-RBI Game from Ernie Banks Goes for Naught

 

Lights Out: Ernie Banks

When: April 29, 1960

Where:  Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri

Game Time: 3:22

Attendance: 6,859

 

It was a game that defined what Ernie Banks meant to his beloved Chicago Cubs.

Everything, … and, too often in the win column, nothing.

On one of the best days of Banks’ Hall of Fame career, an outstanding individual performance went for nothing in a lopsided Cubs loss. That kind of frustration would be typical of what Banks and the Cubs would experience together throughout the 1960s. But it didn’t diminish the accomplishments of “Mr. Cub,” for that day or for his career.

Ernie Banks went 3-5 with a pair of 3-run homers, but the Cubs lost to the Cardinals anyway, 16-6.

Ernie Banks went 3-5 with a pair of three-run homers, but the Cubs lost to the Cardinals anyway, 16-6.

As the 1960 season opened, Ernie Banks was at the height of his career. The game had never seen a shortstop who could match his offensive firepower. (Though it is easy to wonder what kind of numbers Honus Wagner would have put up had the ball of his era been livelier.) And his 1959 Gold Glove – the only one of his career – made for a compelling case that Banks could have been the best all-around shortstop ever.

The Cubs came into the game in last place in the National League. Only nine games into the season, Chicago was already 6.5 games behind the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates. And this game didn’t seem to start out any better for the Cubs, as they spotted the St. Louis Cardinals a six-run lead through the third inning (including a three-run homer by Darryl Spencer).

St. Louis starting pitcher Bob Miller shut out the Cubs through six innings, scattering four hits and two walks. Then the Cubs broke through in the seventh inning. Irv Noren, pinch hitting for Art Ceccarelli, opened the inning with a walk. Cubs manager Charlie Grimm sent in Sammy Drake to run for Noren. Drake advanced to second on Tony Taylor’s single to left field. Miller retired Richie Ashburn and George Altman. Then Banks came to bat and sent a Bob Miller fast ball deep into the stands in left. One swing cut the Cardinals’ lead in half and put the Cubs back into the game.

But it wasn’t to last. In the bottom of the eighth, the Cardinals scored 10 runs on eight hits, with two hits from Cardinals first baseman Bill White (single and a home run) that drove in three of the St. Louis runs. The Cubs came to bat in the top of the ninth down 16-3.

Game over? Apparently not for Mr. Banks. Against St. Louis reliever Frank Barnes, Taylor led off the inning by singling to center field and Ashburn was safe on a Ken Boyer error. With runners at first and second, Barnes struck out Altman, and then tried to sneak a fastball past Banks. The result was the same Bob Miller had experienced in the seventh inning as Banks launched his second three-run home run to the left field seats.

The game ended in a Cardinals win, 16-6. That day, Ernie Banks went 3-5 with a pair of three-run homers. But for that day, and for most of career, all of Banks’ personal heroics could not make the Cubs winners, or even keep them close.