Wednesday, June 10, 2020

From 1888 Baseball To Home Run Hitting Pitchers To 1990s Princeton Basketball

TigerBlog's story yesterday about ’ol Ulysses Mercur and the game he pitched against Columbia in 1888 drew an interesting comment.

Ulysses went nine innings in that game, if you missed it yesterday, allowing 10 runs on six hits while striking out. He also homered in the 10-6 victory. Time of game: two hours.

The comment mentioned another game where a pitcher also homered. This was from a little more recently, though nearly 50 years now, back to June 23, 1971, when Rick Wise threw a no-hitter and hit two home runs for the Philadelphia Phillies in a 4-0 win over Cincinnati.

Wise remains the only pitcher ever to hit two home runs in a game where he threw a no-hitter. TigerBlog has tried to find a reliable list of home-run hitting pitchers, but he's not confident that he found one.

He does know that Tony Cloninger once hit two grand slams in a game that he pitched for the Braves. He also had an RBI single, giving him nine RBIs in one game - as the pitcher.

It seems that the career leader in home runs by a pitcher is Wes Ferrell, who hit 37 as a pitcher (and one as a pinch-hitter) in his 15-year career with six teams (his career record was 193-128). The active leader in career home runs by a pitcher appears to be Madison Bumgarner, with 19.

When you think of pitchers as home run hitters, the first person you think of - or at least TigerBlog thought of - was Babe Ruth. Most people think of him as an outfielder for the New York Yankees, but he also had a career record of 94-46 with a 2.28 ERA as a pitcher with Boston when he first came up.

He wasn't much of a strikeout pitcher, with 488 career K's in 1,220 innings. Still, 94-46 is pretty good, and he had seasons with 23 and 24 wins in 1916 and 1917. Ruth won 89 of those games with the Red Sox between 1914-19 and then was 5-0 with the Yankees the rest of his career.

Ruth hit 59 of his 714 career home runs with the Red Sox. TB saw one stat that said only 14 of those came as a pitcher, and he hit 29 for the Red Sox in 1919, which then was the Major League record, in his only season there as an outfielder. Still, in that same year, he did go 9-5 and pitch 133 innings.

If Babe Ruth, by the way, had spent his career as a pitcher and had kept up at the basic pace he was at in Boston, he would have probably reached 300 career wins. He also would never have approached anything close to the legendary status he did, largely because he was the first player who was known for his ability to hit long home runs more than anything else.

In fact, have you ever heard of Roger Connor? No you haven't. It's okay to admit that.

It was Connor, though, who held the Major League record for career home runs before Babe Ruth. Connor hit how many? Yes, he hit 128 before he stopped playing in 1897 - and his record stood for 23 years before the Babe smashed it.

When the subject turns to Princeton baseball and home-run hitting pitchers, the first person TB thinks of is Mike Ford, the current New York Yankee who hit 12 home runs in 143 at-bats last year in his first Major League season.

Ford is the only player to win the Ivy League Player of the Year Award and Pitcher of the Year Award. He hit in the games he pitched, and his coach, Scott Bradley, is relatively certain that he homered a few times in games that he pitched.

Meanwhile, back at Rick Wise, TigerBlog looked up the box score from that game in 1971, and one thing really stood out to him - the number of future Major League managers who played in that game.

From the Phillies you had Larry Bowa and John Vukovich (who has the lowest career batting average of any player with at least 500 at-bats at .161). From the Reds you had three: Tony Perez, Pete Rose and Hal McRae.

That Reds lineup, by the way, was not an easy one to no-hit, with Rose, George Foster, Lee May, Johnny Bench, Perez, McRae, Tommy Helms and Dave Concepcion.

The fact that so many future managers were in the same game reminded TB, of course, of Princeton men's basketball in the 1990s.

The team that Princeton started against California in the 1997 NCAA tournament had three future Division I head coaches on the floor: current Tiger head coach Mitch Henderson, current Cornell head coach Brian Earl and former Princeton and Fairfield head coach (and current Air Force associate head coach) Sydney Johnson.

For that matter, the last coaching staff that Princeton under Pete Carril had a staff of three future Division I head coaches - Bill Carmody, Joe Scott and John Thompson III. The staff under Carmody included another future college head coach - Howard Levy.

Anyway, TB went from a baseball game in 1888 to Princeton men's basketball in the 1990s. It doesn't make for an easy headline, and he's not thrilled with what he came up with, but hey, where else can you get stuff like this?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On July 20, 1965 Yankee starter Mel Stottlemyre hit an inside-the-park grand slam in a 6-3 win over the Red Sox. He threw a complete game, allowing two earned runs.