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Pinch Hitter

Baseball rules were amended in 1891, to allow substitute batters for other than emergency conditions. This officially sanctioned the role of pinch hitters. Before that, substitute hitters were used only or primarily because of an injury to a regular player. Research by several SABR members has uncovered a number of earlier pinch-hitting efforts, some successful. This has been a difficult task because pinch hitters were not usually included in the box scores unless they later played in the field. Scrutinizing game accounts, sometimes in several newspapers, was the necessary approach.In researching the National Association of 1871-75, Boston’s Bob Richardson identified a pinch-hitting appearance at Philadelphia on September 22, 1874. Levi Meyerle of Chicago, while scoring in the second inning, was hit full force in the right arm by a ball thrown by third baseman Ezra Sutton. When it was his turn to bat again in the seven-run inning, he was not able to perform. The game was delayed twenty minutes so that infrequent player Fred Treacey could put on his uniform. He proceeded to belt a two-run single which became the margin of victory and then played the remainder of the game in the outfield. The irony of this early pinch-hit performance was that Meyerle was the National Association batting leader that season with a .403 mark and Treacey, who delivered the clutch hit, batted .192.

Baseball historian Al Kermisch has made a painstaking review of game accounts of the 1876-90 period and has documented several pinch-hitting appearances. He identifies the first probable first National League pinch hitter as Bobby Clack of Cincinnati in a game at St. Louis May 13, 1876. Redlegs’ catcher Dave Pearson was injured in the first inning. He shifted to short but could not continue. Clack batted for him in the second inning and struck out. He finished the game in right field.

A year later, on August 28, 1877, a strange lineup shuffle took place in a game between Louisville and Boston which is difficult to classify and even to describe. In the third inning, Juice Latham, the large Louisville first baseman, had his ankle stepped on by Boston baserunner Jim O’Rourke. Latham had to leave the game and was replaced at first by Al Nichols. When the latter was scheduled to bat the next inning, Latham, still lame, said he was well enough to swing the bat. With George Hall running for him, Latham drove out a single. Hall, who weighed 100 pounds less than Latham, then stole second. Center fielder Bill Crowley, who had fanned prior to Latham’s hit, took Hall’s place on the basepaths because it was the latter’s turn to bat. Crowley scored on Hall’s hit. At the beginning of the fourth inning, Nichols went back to first base. Was Latham, who batted for his replacement, the first National League “pinch hitter” to collect a hit? This is an example of how liberties were taken with the rules under the restricted rosters of that early period.

An indisputable pinch hit was achieved in the July 4, 1885, morning game at Detroit. Joe Hornung of Boston entered the game in the first inning after Ezra Sutton, the first batter in the game, was hit with his own foul ball and had to withdraw. Hornung promptly singled and later went to the outfield (where, during the 1880s, he was recognized as one of the great fielders).

In 1889 two more pinch hits were batted. In the opening game of the season at Pittsburgh on April 24, Al Maul batted for the injured Billy Sunday in the sixth inning against the Phillies and scratched a single along the base line in left. In Philadelphia on July 27, Kid Gleason batted in the second inning for pitcher Dan Casey, who had been hit hard by Boston in the first. He singled to left and then blanked the Beaneaters the rest of the game to earn a 5-4 victory.

The first player to pinch hit successfully after the 1891 rule went into effect probably was probably Jack Stivetts of St. Louis on June 5 of that year. Batting for hurler Willie McGill in the sixth inning against Baltimore, he blasted a triple and scored on Dummy Hoy’s single. Stivetts then went in to pitch and St. Louis won the game 8-6. He probably was also the first pinch hitter to collect an extra-base hit and would build on this long ball ability in later years.

Charlie Reilly of Philadelphia and Jack Doyle of Cleveland came through with pinch singles in the first part of 1892, and pitcher Frank Killen of Washington produced a pinch RBI double on July 19. A more dramatic clutch hit was achieved on May 14 with Brooklyn playing at Boston. The Boston Journal described the circumstances as follows:

Boston could do nothing in the ninth. Ward [Brooklyn manager John M. Ward] meant business in his turn at bat and instead of sending Collins [the left fielder] to bat he substituted Tom Daly. Hardly had the spectators recognized the newcomer when he lifted one of Clarkson’s slow balls over the left field fence and the game was tied.

That description is quoted to confirm that Hub Collins, who was not feeling well, was replaced at bat in the ninth rather than in the field one-half inning earlier. There was a tragic footnote to this first pinch home run as it was soon learned that Collins had typhoid fever. He never returned to the lineup and died a week later.

In spite of those five successful pinch hits in the first six weeks of the 1892 season, there was very limited use of substitute batsmen in that period. In fact, in the middle of the 1892 season, roster sizes would be reduced from 15 to 13. With a roster that small, most of the extra players had to be pitchers.

Consequently, those pitchers who could also fill in as outfielders were the most available and most used in the early years. The first player to collect two pinch hits in a season was Kid Gleason in 1894. He was then a hurler with St. Louis and Baltimore. Jack Stivetts of Boston was the second player to hit a pinch homer, on June 28, 1894, and he hit his second pinch triple on August 15, 1895. We will include a separate section later in this chapter on the contributions of pitchers as pinch hitters.

Catchers also made an early contribution to pinch hitting. They were very vulnerable to injury in those days and it was always necessary to have available a second backstop. One or the other then could be used as a substitute batter. Jack Clements, best known as the lefthanded catcher of the Phillies, hit baseball’s third pinch home run on May 5, 1896. However, he did poorly off the bench after that, collecting only 1 hit in 12 at bats in 1898. Duke Farrell of New York and Washington had much better success, going 10-4, 14-8, and 10-5 in 1896-97-98, and winding up with a 59-23 (.389) career mark in 1904.

In spite of Farrell’s good record, there were still some low spots in pinch hitting after 1900. In 1904, for example, which was the first year of the 154-game schedule in this century, the AL leader in pinch hits had only two for the season. There were seven tied with that number, and you had to give the nod to catcher Jim McGuire, who was 2 for 2. The Deacon didn’t do particularly well as a substitute batter until he became forty years old. From 1904 through 1908 he was 9-6. While managing Boston in 1907, he inserted himself as a pinch hitter against Detroit on July 27. He made quite a hit with Boston fans by slamming a home run in the ninth to tie the game at 2-2. It was only the second pinch homer hit in the American League. More significantly, McGuire, at age 43 years and 8 months, was the oldest ever to hit a pinch homer. Carlton Fisk of the White Sox came close when he connected July 2, 1991, at age 43 and 6 months.

There was a significant change in the level of pinch hitter activity in 1908, when the St. Louis Browns acquired a big pitcher-first baseman named Dode Criss. He did not pitch very well and his fielding was of the same caliber, but he did bat .341 that first year as a substitute. He set new records for pinch-hit at bats with 41 and hits with 12, and he led the AL in both categories for the next three years as well. Since he pinch-hit in about 70 percent of his major league games, he logically could be described as the first professional pinch hitter.

The regular use of Criss as a substitute batter opened the doors for several other “have bat, will travel” types. They included Moose McCormick, Ted Easterly, Ham Hyatt, Doc Miller, and Bill Rumler. McCormick of the Giants wasn’t really the pioneer pinch hitter of this era as later described by New York writers. Most of the stories on this subject stated that John McGraw popularized pinch hitting by his use of McCormick. McCormick did not make much impression until 1912, when he collected 11 hits in 30 at bats. Criss, who played on a second-division team, had left the majors by that time. McCormick played on pennant winners and gained additional publicity when he pinch-hit in the 1912 and 1913 World Series. In seven appearances, he hit two singles and a sacrifice fly, and knocked in one run. More about World Series pinch hitters later.

Ted Easterly was a catcher who came up with Cleveland in 1909. In 1912 he set a new mark for hits when he collected 13 in 30 at bats (.433). He also established career records with 152 at bats and 45 hits by 1915. That was good for a pinch-hit average of .296, outstanding for the Dead Ball Era.

Doc Miller, a Canadian-born outfielder, did practically no pinch hitting in his first two years with the Boston Braves in 1910-11, but when he was traded to the Phillies in 1912, he was called on frequently. In fact, in 1913 he set new marks for at bats with 56 and hits with 20 (.357). In 1917, catcher Bill Rumler of the Browns, one of the few righthanded pinch-hit specialists in this era, upped the at bats to 71 and slapped out 16 hits along the way. The seventh-place Browns, still trying to get their act together, used a record 14 different pinch batters and averaged at least one appearance per game for the 154-game schedule.

Ham Hyatt, a well-built outfielder-first baseman and a recognized hitter in the minors, made his mark in the majors as a power hitter in the pinch. He broke in with the Pirates in 1909 and his 9 pinch hits that year included 3 triples. This was a season record, since tied, and he also shares the career mark with 5. In 1913 he became the first to hit three pinch homers in a season and he was the first to hit four in a career. He also was the first to reach the 50 level in hits. He closed out his major league career with the Yankees in 1918 with 57 hits in 240 at bats.

Hyatt’s successor as career pinch-hit leader was even more sturdy in appearance. In fact, at 5-10 and 230 pounds, he was fat. Bob (Fatty) Fothergill also had fun poked at him by Catholic teammates because of his last name. There was no kidding around, however, when the Detroit outfielder was at bat as he compiled a career batting average (1923-33) of .326. In the pinch he was at an even .300, based on 76 hits in 253 at bats.

In 1933, while Fothergill was still an active player, he suffered the embarrassment of being passed on the pinch-hit list by a National Leaguer, and a pitcher at that. It was Charles “Red” Lucas, a dumpy-looking righthander who pitched for the second-division Cincinnati Reds. But on the mound he was a master craftsman with offspeed pitches and pinpoint control, and at the plate he swung with confidence from the left side. In the five years from 1929 to 1933, he averaged 13 pinch hits a season. Traded to Pittsburgh, he was used less as a pinch batter but went on to push the pinch-hit record seemingly out of reach by 1937, at which time he had 114 career pinch hits.

Lucas’s hit record lasted almost thirty years; in fact, no one came close in the next quarter century. Sam Leslie, Bill Terry’s backup first baseman with the Giants, had a big season in 1932, when he banged out 22 hits in 72 trips. Both were new season marks, but Leslie wound up in 1938 with only 59 career hits. The colorful and unpredictable Frenchy Bordagaray had one of the great pinch-hit seasons with the Cardinals in 1938, when he produced 20 hits in 43 at bats for a lofty .452 mark. However, when he finished his career with the Dodgers in 1945 he had accumulated only 54 pinch hits.

Pinch hitting expanded in general after World War II, a process enhanced in part by Casey Stengel’s success at platooning players. Peanuts Lowrey of the Cardinals had two of the best back-to-back seasons when he had 14 hits in 28 at bats (.500) in 1952, and 21 hits in 59 at bats the next season. This righthanded batter closed out in 1955 with 62 career hits. Switch hitters also began to be used more in the pinch. Dave Philley of the Phillies was a primary example. In 1958 he had 18 hits in 44 at bats (.409), and this included eight in a row at the end the season. In 1961 with the Orioles, he established a new pinch-hit record with 24 in 72 at bats. When he retired the next year, he had 93 career pinch-hits, the closest to Lucas’s 114. Red Schoendienst was another good switch hitter of this period. In 1962, he almost duplicated Philley’s great 1961 season with 22 hits in 72 at bats.

Another leading pinch hitter of the post-World War II period was Elmer Valo, a native of Czechoslovakia. Actually he was the leading “pinch walker.” He summed up his role in terms of “There are times when all a pinch hitter has to do is to get a pass. In that sort of situation, the trick is to walk and forget your temptation to go for a long hit.” In 1960 with the Senators and Yankees, he was on base 33 times with 18 walks, 14 hits, and 1 hit-by-pitch. Over his career, he received a record 91 walks while collecting 90 pinch hits. Research on this anomaly reveals that Harry McCurdy of the 1933 Phillies had 16 walks to go with 15 hits, and Dom Dallessandro of the 1946 Cubs had 15 walks and only 6 pinch hits. Dom’s diminutive stature (5 feet, 6 inches) might have been a contributing factor. More recently, Merv Rettenmund of the 1977 Padres had 16 walks and 21 hits in 86 appearances. No pinch hitter has been on base more often.

The major assault on Lucas’s long-standing pinch-hit record of 114 came in the mid-1960s. Catcher Smoky Burgess and outfielder Jerry Lynch both reached the century level in 1965, and Smoky had enough momentum from a 20-hit season to pass Lucas with his last hit of the year. Lynch finished his career in 1966 with 116 hits-only two beyond Lucas. Since all of his career was spent in the NL, he at least held that record. Burgess, on the other hand, didn’t look back. Essentially a full-time pinch hitter with the White Sox, he had 21 hits in 1966 and 8 in 1967, and wound up his career with 145.

Just as Lucas’s pinch-hit total seemed secure at 114?and it was for 28 years-so did Smoky’s grand total of 145. However, the man to break his record was already hitting well for the Pirates. It was Manny Mota of the Dominican Republic, one of the growing number of Latin Americans entering the major leagues. Unlike most other players, who did their pinch hitting in their later years, Mota was a substitute batter some 20-30 times a season in the first part of his long career, slacked off somewhat in the middle, and pushed for a record in the later years. He pinch-hit in every one of his 20 seasons, passing Burgess’ mark in 1979 and winding up with a round 150 in 1980. It looked like Greg Gross might challenge his career mark, but the latter was released after the 1989 season with 143 hits in a record 588 at bats. Ironically, not one of Gross’s 143 hits went for a home run. On the other hand, not one of Burgess’ 145 hits went for a triple.

Pinch Home Runs

Home runs, the most dramatic and productive of pinch hits, have played an important role ever since the first pinch home run was hit by Tom Daly on May 14, 1892. National League pinch hitters had slammed ten homers by the time the AL entered the majors in 1901, and had hit six more by the time Germany Schaefer of Detroit hit the Junior Circuit’s first on June 25, 1906, in Chicago. Doc White, who had hit a pinch homer for the Phillies in 1902, was on the mound for the White Sox and leading 2-1 in the ninth. With a Tiger on base, Schaefer hit a long drive which skipped around in the outfield long enough for both to circle the bases for a 3-2 win.

In 1910, Beals Becker of the Giants was the first to hit 2 pinch homers in a season, one coming with the bases loaded. Ham Hyatt was the first to hit 3 with Pittsburgh in 1913. Cliff Cravath of Philadelphia hit 2 that season, the second off Christy Mathewson on July 4. The NL exploded for 11 pinch four-baggers in all. Cravath again showed up the Giants on April 20, 1920, when, as manager of the Phillies, he inserted himself as a pinch batter in a scoreless game and hit a 3-run game-winner. It was his last in the majors and his sixth in the pinch, a record that lasted until an old Phillies teammate, Cy Williams, connected for his seventh on April 16, 1928. That round-tripper also came against the Giants, when a young and not-so-fat Freddie Fitzsimmons served up a knuckleball with two on base. Williams hit 3 pinch home runs that season and 2 in 1929, to close out his career with 11. That mark was expected to last for years and did.

Johnny Frederick of Brooklyn had a good crack at it, but his six-year career was too short. He concentrated most of his pinch-hit prowess in the 1932 season, when he collected 9 pinch hits in 29 at bats. However, a spectacular 6 of those hits went the distance. When Ford Sawyer, an early authority on pinch hitting, had this story published in The Sporting News in October 1932, the bold headline read: FREDERICK’S SIX PINCH-HIT HOME RUNS EPOCHAL ACHIEVEMENT OF MAJOR HISTORY. That might have sounded a bit exaggerated, but the standing record after forty years of pinch hitting was only 3 pinch homers. And even now, more than sixty years later, no one else has hit more than five. Frederick, who went “downtown” off such notable hurlers as Burleigh Grimes, Carl Hubbell, Lon Warneke, and Pat Malone, also hit 2 pinch doubles, giving him 29 total bases in 29 pinch at bats for a 1.000 slugging mark. His short career ended with 8 pinch-hit homers.

Red Sox manager Joe Cronin had an exceptionally productive year in 1943, when he batted .429 (43-18), hit 4 doubles and 5 homers, and batted in a record 25 runs, since tied. Six of the RBI came in a June 17 twin-bill, when he blasted a 3-run homer in each game. Ironically those 5 pinch homers became his career total as well. Hal Breeden of Montreal was the only other to duplicate this doubleheader feat. He apparently was not affected by superstition because his twin blasts came on Friday the thirteenth of July, 1973, and resulted in a split with Atlanta.

Cy Williams’ record of 11 career pinch homers remained on the books for 31 years until George Crowe swept it away with a four-homer flourish in 1960 that raised his total to 14. Jerry Lynch then took over, not with four in a season, but one each season for 1963-64-65-66. His total of 18 was passed by Cliff Johnson, who was primarily a designated hitter, in 1985. Johnson’s record of 20 pinch homers in 277 at bats gives him a frequency factor of 1 per 13.9 at bats. Among players with ten or more pinch homers, only Joe Adcock’s 12.8 (153-12) and Cy Williams’ 12.9 (142-11) rank ahead of him.

What about that ultimate dream hit, the pinch grand slam? It happens anywhere from two to seven times a year now but was very rare in the early days. More than 200 pinch slams have been hit, all in this century. Ironically, the first was hit by a pitcher, Mike O’Neill of the Cardinals, in a victora over the Boston NL team on June 3, 1902. Mike’s brother Jack, one of four O’Neills who played in the majors, caught this game and also rode home on Mike’s blast, which was inside the park in Boston. The second pinch slam occurred just two months later, hit by catcher Pat Moral of Boston, but then it was eight years before Beals Becker connected for the Giants. The first AL pinch slam did not take place until September 24, 1916, when Marty Kavanagh, a utility infielder for Cleveland, hit a hard liner off Hub Leonard of the Red Sox. The ball rolled through a hole in the fence and everyone scored.

Two playing managers looked good by inserting themselves in the box and belting the ball. Rogers Hornsby hit a pinch slam for his Cubs in the eleventh inning against the Braves on September 13, 1931. Phil Cavarretta also hit one for the Cubs shortly after taking over the helm on July 29, 1951. His came off Robin Roberts when the latter was a leading hurler. Pitcher Early Wynn hit one for Washington on September 15, 1946. He was the only player to experience both the ecstasy and the agony as he also served one up to Bob Cerv on May 28, 1961.

Jimmie Foxx/A> was the first player to experience the emotional impact of hitting two pinch grand slams. The first was for the Athletics on September 21, 1931. His memory had faded by the time he hit the next one, which was for the Phillies on May 18, 1945, his last season. Ron Northey was the first to hit the jackpot three times-for the Cardinals in 1947 and 1948, and with the Cubs in 1950. Later Rich Reese did it three times for the Twins and Willie McCovey connected twice for the San Francisco Giants and once for the Padres. Chuck Klein is believed to have been the only player to hit two pinch-hit triples with the bases loaded. He delivered for the Phillies on May 8, 1939, and September 14, 1940.

Pitchers as Pinch Hitters

Pitcher Don Robinson’s pinch home run for the Giants on June 19, 1990, the first hit by a hurler in nineteen years, serves as a reminder that special mention should be made of their contribution as substitute batters. They were among the first used in 1891, when pinch hitters were officially allowed. Bob Caruthers and Jack Stivetts made their initial efforts that season. On June 28, 1894, when Stivetts was with Boston, he went to the plate for Kid Nichols in the ninth with Boston trailing St. Louis 10-7. The Boston Strong Boy belted a home run with two on to tie the game. He then went in to pitch, and the Beantowners won in the tenth, 11-10. He hit two more before closing out his career in 1899.

Pitchers used most frequently as pinch hitters at the turn of the century were Jim Callahan, Win Mercer, Mike O’Neill, Jesse Tannehill, Al Orth, Frank Kitson, and George Mullin. There was one game on July 17, 1901, when Vic Willis was hurling for the Boston NL team, where two other Beantown hurlers were called off the bench to pinch hit in the ninth. Kid Nichols hit a triple and Bill Dinneen scored him with a single.

A memorable highlight for pinch-hitting pitchers came on June 10-11, 1915, when Ray Caldwell of the Yankees hit pinch homers in consecutive games against the White Sox. The second was a three-run shot against Red Faber. This was the first time this feat was achieved by any pinch batter and was not duplicated for twenty-eight years.

Over the years, several hurlers led all substitute batsmen in season pinch-hit average. Examples included Frank Lange in 1911, who had 8 hits in 19 trips; Clarence Mitchell, 6 for 18 in 1920; Jack Bentley, 10 for 20 in 1923; George Uhle, 11 for 26 in 1924; Ervin Brame, 10 for 21 in 1930; Red Ruffing, 8 for 18 in 1935; and Chubby Dean, 10 for 26 in 1939.

The major pinch-hitting role of Red Lucas has already been discussed. However, there was another red-headed hurler over in the AL who made his contribution. Red Ruffing was not as active as Red Lucas, but he had a longer career. He banged out 58 hits as a substitute swinger. Teammates he batted for included Joe Sewell, Bill Dickey, and Tommy Henrich. Red faced Lefty Grove 15 times and hit him safely 5 times. He got his last pinch hit on August 8, 1947, when he was 43 years old. It was an RBI single off Hal Newhouser, then at the top of his form. Ruffing was proud of his pinch-hitting prowess; in fact, he wanted to be paid a little extra for that work and held out for a while in the spring of 1937.

Ranking after Lucas and Ruffing in pitcher pinch hits were George Uhle with 44, Ray Caldwell 36, Dutch Ruether 34, Wes Ferrell 31, and Chubby Dean and Bob Lemon with 30. Gary Peters was the hurler hitting the most pinch home runs with 4, followed by Lynn Nelson with 3. Peters had only 16 career pinch hits to his credit, but he made them count. His first homer, on July 19, 1964, came in the thirteenth inning and gave the White Sox a 3-2 win over Kansas City. His fourth pinch homer came on September 4, 1971, and was the last one until Don Robinson’s recent clout.

Effects of the Designated-Hitter Rule

The introduction of the designated hitter in the AL in 1973 not only sharply reduced hitting by pitchers, but disrupted a fairly balanced pinch-hitter competition between the two leagues since 1901. Over that period, the level of activity was about the same in each circuit, as were the pinch-hit batting averages. The NL did show surprising superiority in pinch homers, even in the AL power era of 1920-40. Apparently those sluggers like Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx/A>, and Greenberg were hitting all those home runs as regular players. For whatever the reason, NL pinch batters hit 1,123 home runs from 1901 through 1972, and their AL counterparts hit 991.

A review of pinch-hit stats in the two leagues in the four years (1969-72) prior to the DH, and the four years after its introductory season (1974-77), show that AL pinch-hitter activity was cut almost in half. The reason, of course, is that the clubs’ best substitute batters were already in the batting order. In prior years, most pinch batters entered the game to bat for the pitcher, but that role was usurped by the DH. It is true that s etimes when opposing pitchers are changed, a new DH may be inserted, and the first time he bats he is a pinch hitter. But that hasn’t changed the sharply reduced use of pinch batters in the AL. This disparity continued through 1991. In the latter year, for example, the fourteen-team AL had 1,954 pinch-hit at bats and 474 hits (.243) while the twelve-team NL had 2,901 at bats and 627 hits (.216). The AL is making up the difference with more home runs per hit, belting 44 to 50 for the NL. In 1985 the AL actually surpassed the NL in pinch homers, 47 to 41.

One Season Pinch-Hit Analysis

The ultimate success of a pinch batter is measured by his ability to knock in the winning run in a close game. This should make him a hero in the eyes of his manager, at least until the next game. The late John Tattersall, who was an authority on pinch hitting as well as home runs, analyzed the 1962 season to determine how many games were won by pinch hitters who came through in the clutch. He found there were 33 such dramatic victories during the year, 17 in the AL and 16 in the NL. All but 5 would be one-run victories, but 12 would be come-from-behind triumphs. Ten of the 33 would be wins in extra innings. Pinch singles won 17 games, doubles 2, and homers 12. A sacrifice fly and a bases-loaded walk won 2 other contests. A brief discussion of some of these games might flavor the analysis.

Jim Lemon of the Minnesota Twins was the first to wear the halo on April 25, 1962, when he was sent in to hit in the ninth against Baltimore with the score tied 1-1. He homered with a man on for a 3-1 victory.

At the Polo Grounds on May 5, Cal Koonce of the Cubs walked Mets pinch batter Hobie Landrith in the thirteenth with the bases full. Landrith got the 6-5 game-winning RBI.

Three games were won by 1-0 scores. On June 6, a sacrifice fly by Tom Burgess of the Angels with the bases full in the ninth drove in the only run against the White Sox. At Baltimore on June 26, Charlie Lau, who would later teach players how to hit, demonstrated with a pinch single off Johnny Buzhardt of the White Sox in the ninth to give the Orioles the 1-0 win. At Cleveland on Independence Day, Gene Green burned Hank Aguirre of the Tigers with a single in the tenth to give Jim Perry a 1-0 squeaker.

Canada’s Pete Ward had an auspicious debut with Baltimore on September 21. With the Orioles trailing the Twins 2-1 in the seventh, he drove in two Birds with a sharp single off Camilo Pascual to win the game 3-2.

On August 11, Don Drysdale of the Dodgers had the Giants beaten 4-2 in the sixth when Willie McCovey belted a 3-run homer for a 5-4 win. McCovey would hit 12 of his career homers off Drysdale. The bases were loaded with Cardinals on September 9 when Carl Sawatski swatted a homer in the ninth for a 5-3 come-from-behind triumph over the Reds.

The New York Mets won only 40 games and lost 120 in 1962, but Marv Throneberry won the nickname of “Marvelous Marv” with his energetic exploits. He delivered a 2-run homer on July 7, and a 3-run homer on August 21, each time in the ninth inning, to win come-from-behind games from the Cardinals and Pirates. In the AL, Vic Wertz of the Tigers also won 2 games with pinch blows. On May 1, he hit a tenth-inning single which drove in 2 runs to beat the Athletics 3-2. His July 6 contribution was a ninth-inning homer off Hoyt Wilhelm to beat Baltimore 5-4.

Pinch Hitters in the World Series

There have been some outstanding game or single Series exploits by pinch hitters, but nothing very significant has been compiled by substitute batsmen on a “career” basis. In fact, in the long history of World Series play, no player has collected more than 3 pinch hits. Four players did that, two from the Yankees. Bobby Brown had 7 pinch hit appearances in four World Series but concentrated almost all his production in the 1947 classic. He had a single, 2 doubles, a walk, and 3 RBI. Johnny Blanchard had 10 at bats in 5 World Series between 1960 and 1964 and collected 3 singles. Nothing outstanding there. Ken O’Dea, backup catcher for the Cubs and Cardinals in 5 World Series between 1935 and 1944, never had more than one pinch hit in a Series but knocked in 4 runs.

Although Chuck Essegian hit 2 pinch homers for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1959 World Series, both were solo shots and neither won a game. Bernie Carbo of the Red Sox also hit two round-trippers for the Red Sox in the 1975 Series, one being a solo circling of the bases and the other a 3-run homer which temporarily tied the game with the Reds.

No pinch hitter dominated a World Series more than Dusty Rhodes with the New York Giants in 1954. In the Fall Classic with Cleveland, which had won a record 111 games during the season, he led the New Yorkers to a dramatic 5-2 opening-game victory on September 29 with a 3-run home run in the tenth. In the second game he singled in the tying run (and then homered after going into the lineup). Ironically, Rhodes, a .253 lifetime hitter, batted for future Hall of Famer Monte Irvin in his first two appearances. In the third game he knocked in 2 runs with a single. He didn’t even have to get off the bench as the Giants swept the fourth game and the Series. He had knocked in 6 runs with his 3 pinch hits, not only a record for one Series but for all Series.

For individual one-game dramatics, Kirk Gibson of the 1988 Dodgers probably takes the cake. In the first game of the 1988 Series against the powerful Oakland A’s on October 15, the Dodgers were down 4-3 with two down in the last of the ninth. With Mike Davis on base with a walk, Gibson, unable to play in the regular lineup because of a leg injury, was called in to bat for pitcher Alejandro Pena. On a 3-2 pitch from relief ace Dennis Eckersley, he drove the ball into the right field bleachers for a 5-4 Los Angeles victory. It was his only appearance in the Series, which was won by the Dodgers in 5 games.

More recently, 1992 postseason play saw pinch hitters heroically succeed in two crucial games. In the ninth inning of the final NLCS game on October 15, the Braves’ Francisco Cabrera hit a two-out, two-run single to give Atlanta a 3-2 come from-behind win over Pittsburgh. Then on October 18 in the second game of the World Series between the Braves and the Blue Jays, Toronto’s Ed Sprague smashed a ninth-inning, two-run homer off Atlanta’s Jeff Reardon to provide the Blue Jays with a 5-4 victory. Both Cabrera and Sprague were players of undistinguished reputation prior to entering the pantheon of pinch-hit heroes.

Season Pinch Hitting Records
At Bats Rusty Staub Mets 1983 81
Hits John Vander Wal Rockies 1995 28
Doubles Vic Davalillo Cards 1970 8
Triples Ham Hyatt Pirates 1909 3
Gene Robertson Browns 1926 3
Vic Davalillo Cards 1970 3
Homers John Frederick Dodgers 1932 6
Walks Elmer Valo Yanks-Senators 1960 18
RBI Joe Cronin Red Sox 1943 25
Jerry Lynch Reds 1961 25
Rusty Staub Mets 1983 25
High BA Bruce Boisclair Mets 1976 .571 (21-12)
Peanuts Lowrey Cards 1952 .500 (28-14)
Ed Kranepool Mets 1974 .486 (35-17)
Frenchy Bordagaray Cards 1938 .465 (43-20)
Career Pinch Hitting Records
Hits Manny Mota (1962-82) 150
At Bats Greg Gross (1973-89) 588
Doubles Smoky Burgess (1949-67) 27
Triples Ham Hyatt (1909-18) 5
Gates Brown (1963-75) 5
Homers Cliff Johnson (1972-86) 20
Walks Elmer Valo (1940-61) 91
RBI Smoky Burgess (1949-67) 142
High BA Gordon Coleman (1959-67) .333 (120-40)
Tommy Davis (1959-76) .320 (197-63)
Bob Fothergill (1922-33) .300 (253-76)
Dave Philley (1941-62) .299 (311-95)
Manny Mota (1962-82) .297 (505-150)
First Players to Collect 50 (or More) Pinch Hits
50 60 70
1915 Ham Hyatt 1932 Bob Fothergill 1933 Red Lucas
1930 Bob Fothergill 1932 Red Lucas 1933 Bob Fothergill
1931 Red Lucas 1947 Ernie Lombardi 1958 Enos Slaughter
1934 Harvey Hendrick 1954 Peanuts Lowrey 1959 George Crowe
1937 Sam Leslie 1958 Enos Slaughter 1960 Elmer Valo
1941 Red Ruffing 1958 Smoky Burgess 1960 Smoky Burgess
1941 Billy Sullivan 1959 Elmer Valo 1961 Dave Philley
1945 Frenchy Bordagaray 1959 George Crowe 1961 Jerry Lynch
1945 Debs Garms 1960 Dave Philley 1970 Tito Francona
1945 Ernie Lombardi 1961 Julio Becquer 1970 Gates Brown
1933 Red Lucas 1935 Red Lucas 1936 Red Lucas
1961 Elmer Valo 1962 Dave Philley 1965 Smoky Burgess
1961 Dave Philley 1962 Elmer Valo 1965 Jerry Lynch
1961 Smoky Burgess 1963 Jerry Lynch 1974 Gates Brown
1962 Jerry Lynch 1964 Smoky Burgess 1976 Manny Mota
1970 Tito Francona 1974 Gates Brown 1981 Mike Lum
1971 Gates Brown 1975 Manny Mota 1982 Jose Morales
1972 Dalton Jones 1979 Vic Davallilo 1982 Terry Crowley
1974 Manny Mota 1979 Ed Kranepool 1984 Steve Braun
1978 Vic Davallilo 1980 Mike Lum 1985 Rusty Staub
1937 Red Lucas 1966 Smoky Burgess 1966 Smoky Burgess
1965 Smoky Burgess 1977 Manny Mota 1978 Manny Mota
1966 Jerry Lynch 1983 Jose Morales 1988 Greg Gross
1977 Manny Mota 1987 Greg Gross
1983 Jose Morales
1985 Steve Braun
1987 Greg Gross
1967 Smoky Burgess 1980 Manny Mota
1979 Manny Mota 1989 Greg Gross


Evolution of Pinch Home Runs
Seven Eight Nine
1928 Cy Williams 1928 Cy Williams 1929 Cy Williams
1932 Johnny Frederick 1934 Johnny Frederick 1955 Bobby Hofman
1946 Ernie Lombardi 1947 Ernie Lombardi 1957 Ron Northey
1952 Bill Nicholson 1955 Bobby Hofman 1958 Gus Zernial
1953 Johnny Mize 1956 Ron Northey 1959 Smoky Burgess
1955 Bobby Hofman 1958 Gus Zernial 1959 George Crowe
1956 Ron Northey 1958 Smoky Burgess 1961 Jerry Lynch
1957 Ted Williams 1959 George Crowe 1960 Bob Cerv
1958 Gus Zernial 1960 Bob Cerv 1962 Yogi Berra
1958 Smoky Burgess 1961 Jerry Lynch 1962 Wally Post
1929 Cy Williams 1929 Cy Williams 1960 George Crowe
1959 Smoky Burgess 1960 George Crowe 1961 Bob Cerv
1959 Gus Zernial 1960 Smoky Burgess 1963 Jerry Lynch
1959 George Crowe 1961 Bob Cerv 1964 Smoky Burgess
1961 Jerry Lynch 1962 Jerry Lynch 1966 Joe Adcock
1961 Bob Cerv 1966 Joe Adcock 1972 Gates Brown
1962 Wally Post 196 Fred Whitfield 1976 Willie McCovey
1966 Joe Adcock 1971 Gates Brown 1979 Cliff Johnson
1967 Fred Whitfield 197 Willie McCovey 1983 Jose Morales
1971 Gates Brown 1978 Cliff Johnson 1988 Graig Nettles
1960 George Crowe 1960 George Crowe 1963 Jerry Lynch
1963 Jerry Lynch 1963 Jerry Lynch 1967 Smoky Burgess
1965 Smoky Burgess 1965 Smoky Burgess 1974 Gates Brown
1974 Gates Brown 1974 Gates Brown 1979 Willie McCovey
1977 Will McCovey 1978 Willie McCovey 1980 Cliff Johnson
1980 Cliff Johnson 1980 Cliff Johnson
1964 Jerry Lynch 1965 Jerry Lynch 1966 Jerry Lynch
1967 Smoky Burgess 1983 Cliff Johnson 1984 Cliff Johnson
1975 Gates Brown 1979 Willie McCovey 1981 Cliff Johnson
1985 Cliff Johnson 1986 Cliff Johnson



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