The Boston Red Sox is a historic franchise that is filled with Hall of Famers and world champions. So when Mookie Betts did something involving the long ball that not even David Ortiz has done concerning the long ball, it raised many eyebrows. Brandon Magee takes a walk down memory lane to discuss the Boston Red Sox three home run club, and their most recent member.
On Tuesday, May 31, in Baltimore, Mookie Betts joined a select group of Boston Red Sox who have knocked three balls out of the park in one game. The group includes all-time greats, Red Sox legends, and a few players that have been lost in the mists of time. Today we celebrate Betts’s ascension to this band of ballplayers by looking back at the others who have accomplished the deed.
While the city of Boston had been previously graced by three home run games in the National League four times – Bobby Lowe with the Beaneaters in 1894, Les Bell with the Braves in 1928, Hal Lee with the Braves in 1934, and some guy named Babe Ruth in 1935 – the Red Sox did not have a player accomplish the feat until July 4, 1939.
On that day, 22-year-old Jim Tabor led the Red Sox in routing the Philadelphia A’s 18-12 in the second game of an Independence Day doubleheader at Shibe Park. The third baseman hit his first of the game in the third inning off George Caster, knocking in Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, and Lou Finney. In the sixth inning, Tabor again came up with the sacks full – this time Foxx, Williams, and Joe Cronin – and once more knocked the ball out of the park, this time off of Lynn Nelson, his second grand slam of the day. Tabor would bat again in the eighth inning, and would crush another homer off of Nelson to complete the three home run feat.
However, that wasn’t Tabor’s third homer of the day. In the first game, another rout by the Red Sox (17-7), Tabor hit a home run in the top of the eighth. Tabor would lead off the inning with a bomb off Chubby Dean, knocking in the final run of the game. On the day, Jim Tabor went 6-for-9 with a double, a walk, four home runs, and 14 runs driven in. Tabor would end the season with 14 home runs for the year and would hit 104 in his nine-season MLB career.
The Splendid Splinter
Ted Williams is the only Red Sox player to accomplish the feat three times. The first time was on July 14, 1946, when Williams drove in eight runs in an 11-10 victory over the Cleveland Indians in the first game of a double dip at Fenway. Williams hit his first of the day against starter Steve Gromek, a grand slam, that put the Red Sox within one run of the Indians. In the fifth inning, Williams once again put the Red Sox within a run with a solo shot against Don Black. He saved his final bit of heroics for the eighth inning. Down 10-8 with two outs and two on, Williams knocked his third ball out of the park – against Joe Berry – and gave the Red Sox the lead which they would not relinquish. Unlike Tabor, Williams was not able to get a fourth on the day, settling for a double and two walks in four plate appearances in the second game.
It would take Williams another eleven years to accomplish the feat again, but he would make 1957 a year to remember by hitting a trio twice. On May 8 at Comiskey Park, Williams would drive in all four runs in a 4-1 victory, hitting three home runs against White Sox starter Bob Keegan – a solo shot in the first inning, another in the third, and a two-run bomb to end the Red Sox scoring in the eighth.
One month later, on June 13, Williams would accomplish the feat once more against the Indians at Cleveland Stadium in a 9-3 win. Williams first of that day came in the third inning, a three-run homer, that put the Sox ahead to stay, 4-1. Williams would hit a solo shot in the fifth inning before scoring the final run of the game with his third bomb of the game leading off the ninth. Teddy Ballgame would finish the 1957 season with 38 home runs and would pick up his fourth runner-up finish in the AL MVP race, to go along with his two wins of 1946 and 1949. Williams hit 521 home runs in his Hall of Fame career.
For Hall of Famer Jim Rice, August 29 will always be a special day. His two three-dinger days both happened on that day seven seasons apart, in 1977 and in 1983.
His heroics in the 1977 game against the Oakland A’s at Fenway could not put Boston in the victory column, as they lost 8-7. Jim Ed’s first homer was a solo effort off Joe Coleman, leading off the bottom of the second to put the Sox ahead 1-0. The very next inning, Rice hit another solo bomb off of Coleman, giving Boston a 3-1 lead. In the bottom of the 6th, Rice knocked in Carl Yastrzemski with a shot off Pablo Torrealba. Rice had a chance for a fourth home run in a tie game in the eighth inning, but struck out against Doug Bair. Rice would end the 1977 season with a league leading 39 home runs and finished fourth in the AL MVP race.
His heroics in the second game of a doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays at Exhibition Stadium in 1983 did lead the Sox to an 8-7 victory. Rice would score Wade Boggs with his first home run of the night in the first inning off Jays’ starter Jim Acker, putting the Sox up 2-0. In the sixth inning, Rice would once again hit a two-run home run against Acker, once again scoring Boggs, putting the Red Sox back within a run. In the ninth inning, with the Sox down by a run, Rice would once again come up with Boggs on base, and would once again knock the ball out of the park, this time against Randy Moffitt. Like Williams in 1946, Rice had a double in four appearance in the first game of the doubleheader, a 5-1 defeat. Rice lead the American League in home runs in 1983, again with 39, and finished fourth in the MVP race. For his career, Rice knocked 382 balls out of the ballparks of the American League.
Mo Vaughn’s last three home runs of the 1996 season all came against the Baltimore Orioles on September 24 at Fenway, in a 13-8 victory for Boston. His first of the day came in the first inning, blasting a solo bomb off of starter David Wells. He would come up in the third inning, with Darren Bragg on base and two runs already in, blasting another deep drive over the Monster off Wells, giving the Red Sox a 5-2 advantage. Vaughn would lead off the sixth inning with the score tied at 5, and would drive a pitch from Wells over the bullpen to place the Red Sox back into the lead. Mo Vaughn would have a chance for a fourth dinger in the eighth inning, but would line an RBI single to left field, scoring the Red Sox final run of the game. Vaughn would finish the season with 44 home runs, good for sixth in the league and his career high.
Two baseball months later, on May 30, 1997, Vaughn would attack again at Fenway in a 10-4 victory over the arch-rival New York Yankees. Vaughn’s first of the day would come against starter Ramiro Mendoza, driving a solo shot over the bullpen to put the Red Sox up 2-0. In the next inning, he would follow a three-run home run by Wil Cordero with his second solo shot of the day, this time off reliever Danny Rios, putting the Sox ahead 8-0. Vaughn would lead off the 8th inning with his third solo bomb of the day, this time victimizing Jim Mecir. Vaughn ended the season with 35 home runs in his 141 games. Mo hit 230 home runs over his eight seasons with the Red Sox, and finished his career with 328 in twelve seasons.
Garciaparra’s first triple bomb night happened on May 10, 1999 at Fenway, where the Sox shellacked the Seattle Mariners 12-4. Nomar’s historic night started early. After the first three batters (Jeff Frye, John Valentin, and Brian Daubach) all reached base against starter Brett Hinchcliffe, Nomar rudely lined a shot to right field for a grand slam, putting Boston ahead 4-1. In his second at-bat in the third inning, Garciaparra drove another Hinchliffe offering past the Pesky Pole for a two-run home run, giving the Sox a 6-2 lead. After a popout and a walk, Garciaparra had one more chance for the trifecta in the 8th inning. Just like the first inning, the bases were juiced with Frye, Valentin, and Daubach. This time Nomar drove the Eric Weaver pitch over the monster for his second grand slam of the day, joining Jim Tabor in the 3-HR, two-Grand Slam Club. Garciaparra would finish the 1999 season with 27 home runs.
Nomar’s second trifecta happened in the first game of a doubleheader on July 23, 2002 against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Down 4-1 in the third inning, Garciaparra drove a two-run shot against Tanyon Sturtze, and Manny Ramirez would tie the game up with a follow-up solo shot. Nomar would come up a second time in the inning, and would drive a Brandon Backe pitch out of the park for his second two-run bomb of the inning, putting the Sox up 10-4. The next inning, Garciaparra would come up again, this time with the bases loaded, and he would take another Backe pitch out of Fenway, his third consecutive at-bat with a home run and putting Boston up 16-4. Nomar had two more chances for a fourth home run of the day, drawing a walk in the sixth and flying out to centerfield in the eighth. The Red Sox, despite giving up the first four runs of the game, ended up with a 22-4 win. Garciaparra was unable to match Tabor with a four home-run day, going one-for-five in the second game, a 5-4 defeat. Nomar hit 24 long balls on the season, and 178 in his Boston career. In his six seasons away from Fenway, Nomar hit only 51 home runs.
The Grand Slam Clubber
Bill Mueller is not usually associated with the long ball. In his eleven big league seasons, Mueller totalled only 85 home runs and never hit more than 19 in any season. However, on July 29, 2003, Mueller made The Ballpark in Arlington his personal home run haven.
Mueller drove a homer in his first at-bat against starter R.A. Dickey in the third, giving the Sox their first run of the game. In the seventh inning, with David Ortiz, Kevin Millar, and Trot Nixon on base, Mueller blasted a shot off Aaron Fultz into the Texas night and put the Red Sox up 9-4. The next inning, Mueller would come up to the plate with Gabe Kapler, Millar, and Nixon on board, and would knock his second grand slam in as many innings off Jay Powell, giving Boston a 14-4 advantage in a game they would win 14-7. This glorious night would allow Bill to join Jim Tabor and Nomar Garciaparra in the 3-bomb, 2-Grand Slam Club.
In our next article, we go back to the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s and take a look at the players who had themselves a homer happy day.
Brandon Magee is our minor league expert; he has written about minor league travel, ranking prospects, a first round draft pick, and the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Follow Brandon on Twitter @cuzittt.