Murdered Horsehide

This article was written by Mike Holden

This article was published in the Road Trips: SABR Convention Journal Articles


This article was originally published in “Mining Towns to Major Leagues,” the 1999 SABR convention journal.

 

On August 19, 1958, the Douglas Copper Kings of the Class-C Arizona-Mexico League recorded a home run feat never before accomplished in organized baseball—the Copper Kings hit nine home runs and every player in the lineup contributed one round-tripper.

In the record-setting contest, Douglas faced the Chihuahua Dorados in Cuidad Delicias, a small town about 50 miles southeast of Chihuahua, Mexico, before a slim crowd of 614. The Copper Kings connected for single home runs in the second and third innings, two in the fourth and four in the seventh. When catcher Dick Binford came to the plate for Douglas in the eighth inning, he was the only player who had not gone deep but he smashed a homer to secure his team’s place in baseball history.

The nine home run hitters for Douglas were Don Pulford, ss; Andy Prevedello, cf; Ron Wilkins, If; Frank Van Burkleo, 1b; Luis Torres, 2b; Fred Filipelli, rf; Darrel McCall, 3b; Rich Binford, c; and Manager Bob Clear, p. Douglas won the slugfest, 22-8. In addition to the homers, the Copper Kings collected 14 other hits, with Wilkins pacing the attack with a six-for-six performance. Douglas scored in all but one inning. Blanked in the sixth frame, the Copper Kings came back to score six runs in the seventh. The game was stopped after eight innings because of darkness.

Bob Clear, who was the Copper Kings’ starting pitcher and manager in the contest, still works in pro baseball as the Anaheim Angels’ roving special assignment instructor. In an interview a couple of years ago, Clear described the 1958 event as “just one of those things that happens in baseball.” When reflecting on Douglas’ accomplishment, you would think that a homer from the pitcher’s spot in the order would be the most difficult to get. Clear did recall that he hit his home run in the middle innings and he was happy that setting the record did not rest on his shoulders late in the ball game. But Clear, who played minor league baseball for 19 years, had demonstrated some power that season by belting four home runs in 119 at-bats. Looking back, Douglas’ most unlikely home run hitter that afternoon was left fielder Ronnie Wilkins, who connected for only two round-trippers in 46 games.

The Douglas and Tucson newspapers the following day wrote that the Copper Kings’ performance set “what is believed to be a minor league record.” That claim has continued to be asserted over the next forty years and it appears no one has ever found another professional game where Douglas’ feat of “nine homers by nine different players” had ever been accomplished. While nine players hitting home runs is clearly a “once-in-a-century” oddity, the Copper Kings’ 22-run offensive barrage on August 19 was not overly surprising considering that the Arizona-Mexico League was a hitter’s league in 1958. In fact, a brief article in The Sporting News on August 27, 1958 describing Douglas’ accomplishment pointed out that “slugfests are a frequent occurrence in the Arizona-Mexico League.” The overall league batting average that season was .302 and the circuit’s most potent offensive club— the Nogales Mineros—batted .317 with 157 home runs and 924 runs scored, a average of 7.7 runs per contest.

Douglas went on to win the Arizona-Mexico League title in 1958 by two games over second-place Tucson. The Copper Kings finished with a 68-52 record. But 1958 proved to be the final year for the Arizona-Mexico League and for minor league baseball in the small mining town of Douglas, Arizona.

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