July 10, 1936: Phillies’ Chuck Klein hits four home runs in a game
The Philadelphia Phillies arrived in Pittsburgh after the 1936 All-Star Game on a five-game winning streak, their longest of the season to date. The streak ended when they lost the first game of their two-game series, 16-5.
When the two teams took the field under cloudy skies the next afternoon, right-hander Jim Weaver started for the Pirates. Weaver had lost his previous two starts to see his record slip to 9-7 and was hoping to change his fortunes after the break.
Unfortunately for Weaver, the Phillies had other plans, jumping on him and scoring four runs in the top of the first. Ernie Sulik and Johnny Moore led off with singles that left runners at the corners. Chuck Klein stepped to the plate and “crashed the ball into the ground floor of the [right field] extension”1 to give the Phillies a three-run lead.
Klein had returned to Philadelphia in 1936 after spending the previous two seasons in Chicago. Cubs owner Phil Wrigley traded for Klein after the slugger led the league in batting average, home runs, and RBIs in 1933. Wrigley even threw in $65,000 along with three players to obtain Klein. After Klein had spent two seasons in Chicago, Wrigley “set his eye on Phils pitcher Curt Davis this season, he coughed up $35,000 and tossed Klein back to Philadelphia in the bargain.”2 The Cubs also picked up Ethan Allen in the trade.
The Phillies were not done scoring. Weaver walked Dolph Camilli. Bill Atwood sacrificed and was safe at first on an error by second baseman Pep Young while Camilli raced to third. After Weaver struck out Lou Chiozza, Leo Norris executed a squeeze-play bunt to get Camilli across the plate when Weaver’s only throw was to first. Chile Gomez reached first on an error by shortstop Arky Vaughan but Weaver finally closed out the inning by striking out the pitcher, Claude Passeau.
Rookie Passeau’s start was just his second of the season. He had won his first, a seven-hit shutout of the Brooklyn Dodgers, just six days earlier, on July 4. Passeau looked solid through the first three innings. Lloyd Waner was the only baserunner, reaching first on an error by shortstop Norris in the first. The Pirates scored in the fourth. Passeau walked Paul Waner with one out and Gus Suhr’s two-out triple brought him home.
Klein batted again in the second and hit the ball hard again. “His line drive, another rifle shot into right field, went foul by about a foot and [Paul] Waner raced over to pull it down,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.3 After the Pirates scored in the fourth, Klein batted in the fifth and hit Weaver’s first pitch into the right-field stands for his second round-tripper of the afternoon.
Weaver made it through the fifth but Mace Brown replaced him in the sixth after Weaver was pulled for pinch-hitter Red Lucas in the bottom of the fifth. In the sixth, Pirates catcher Al Todd had to be replaced “when a foul tip from Passeau’s bludgeon caught him on the right hand and cracked a finger.”4 Tom Padden replaced Todd behind the plate.
The Pirates closed ground in the home sixth. Woody Jensen and Lloyd Waner led off with singles. Paul Waner’s single scored Jensen and sent Lloyd Waner to third. Arky Vaughan’s fly to center brought Lloyd Waner home. Suhr then hit the fourth Pirates single of the frame to score Paul Waner. Passeau got the next two batters out but the Pirates had narrowed the Phillies lead to one run, at 5-4.
Klein came to bat for the fourth time in the seventh. Again he sent the ball sailing into the right-field stands. It was his third home run of the game, and it gave the Phillies a 6-4 lead.
Passeau, “braving blistering heat, toiled for eight and two-thirds innings.”5 He allowed eight hits and six runs during that stretch while walking two and striking out two. Needing just one more out, he walked pinch-hitter Cookie Lavagetto. Then Padden reached on an error by Norris on his grounder up the middle. Fred Schulte, batting for the pitcher, singled to center. Lavagetto raced home and Padden ended up on third.
Bucky Walters replaced Passeau and walked Jensen to load the bases. Walters still couldn’t find the strike zone and also walked Lloyd Waner, sending Padden across the plate with the tying run. “Wilson was frantic on the bench, the whole Philly club was on the steps of the dugout as Paul Waner came to bat. A base hit would ruin Klein’s three-homer achievement, so far as a team victory. Walters toiled and toiled on the Pirate slugger”6 until the frame came to an end when Waner bounced out to the second baseman who flipped it to first for an easy out and sent the game into extra innings.
Bill Swift took over pitching duties for the Pirates in the 10th. The first batter was Klein. “Everyone in the park had been wishing for just such a situation in the ninth when it looked like Klein’s best effort would be three.”7 Rain began to fall as Klein stepped to the plate. Klein took Swift’s first pitch and banged it over the right-field wall, the longest ball he hit all afternoon.
The home run put Klein in the record books. He joined three other players who had hit four home runs in a game (although the other three players hit their clouts in a nine-inning game). Bobby Lowe accomplished the feat first in 1894 for the Boston Beaneaters. Ed Delahanty, also playing for the Phillies, repeated the feat two years later. Lou Gehrig joined the club in 1932 when he sent four over the wall in a Yankee romp over the Philadelphia Athletics.8 Klein finished the game with 16 total bases and six RBIs, tying Ty Cobb and Gehrig for the most in a game.9
But the game was not over. Swift continued to struggle. He surrendered a double to Camilli and Atwood bunted himself into a single that sent Camilli to third. Camilli scored when Chiozza popped up. Vaughan, running deep into center, caught the ball with his back to the plate. He turned and tried to throw out Camilli but his throw was not accurate and Vaughan was charged with an error. Wilson, who was running for Atwood, reached third on the play. Norris singled to score Wilson and give the Phillies a three-run lead. Swift finally retired the Phillies when he got Gomez to ground into a double play.
The Phillies now needed three outs to cap Klein’s big day and earn the win. Walters walked to the mound amid shouts of encouragement from the Phillies bench. Immediately he got himself in trouble. Vaughan singled and Suhr walked. When Bill Brubaker hit into an easy double play, many on the Phillies bench looked more relaxed.
But Lavagetto then sent a Texas Leaguer to left. Moore “came running like a wild man — ran as far as he could — stretched his gloved hand as far as he could toward his knees — and plop — in went the ball” to end the game.10
Klein’s big day finally ended in a 9-6 victory for the seventh-place Phillies. The four home runs raised Klein’s season total to 14 and he would finish with 25. Of Klein’s feat, the Inquirer said, “[a] playwright, able to read what was in Klein’s mind as he stood out there in the tenth, seeing two Pirates on base and victory endangered, would have been able to pen a masterpiece.”11
- Related link: Click here to view SABR’s comprehensive list of all 4-HR games in pro baseball history
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, I also used the Baseball-Reference.com, Baseball-Almanac.com, and Retrosheet.org websites for box-score, player, team, and season pages, pitching and batting game logs, and other pertinent material.
1 Edward Balinger, “Four Base Blows Give Phillies Win in Ten Innings,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 11, 1936: 14.
2 Leslie Avery (United Press), “Klein Steps Into Spotlight With Four Homers,” Olean (New York) Times Herald, July 11, 1936: 32.
3 “Klein Hits 4 Homers — Phils Win 9-6,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 11, 1936: 13.
5 Philadelphia Inquirer.
6 Philadelphia Inquirer.
7 Philadelphia Inquirer.
8 Through the 2019 season, number of players with four home runs in a game was 18.
9 As of 2020 the record for total bases in a game is 19, set by Shawn Green of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who had four home runs, a single, and a double in a game on May 23, 2002.
10 Philadelphia Inquirer.
11 Philadelphia Inquirer.
Philadelphia Phillies 9
Pittsburgh Pirates 6
Box Score + PBP:
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