Newly Discovered RBI Records

This article was written by Seymour Siwoff

This article was published in the 1980 Baseball Research Journal


Runs batted in, now one of the most important measures of batting performance, were slow to be recognized by the major leagues. There were no official RBI records until 1920, and they were not carried in many box scores until ten years after that. It is not surprising then that a record such as “Most Consecutive Games, One or More Runs Batted In,” would be hard to pin down and might vary based on the latest research.

At one time Lou Gehrig was credited with an American League record of ten consecutive RBI games, which he achieved twice in 1931 and once in 1934. Then further research shoed that Babe Ruth and Al Simmons each had 1 1-game streaks in 1931. Then it was found that Red Sox playing manager Joe Cronin knocked in runs in 12 straight games in 1939 and that his star outfielder, Ted Williams, also had a 12-game string in 1942. In the National League, Mel Ott for many years was carried as the leader with an 11-game streak made in 1929, but two years ago it was discovered that Paul Waner had achieved a 12-game run in 1927.

The Elias Sports Bureau felt that it was time that this evolving run production drama be brought to a climactic conclusion. We decided to research all the official records of runs batted in since they achieved that status in 1920 to see what “great slugger” had achieved the longest string of RBI games. It took considerable checking and rechecking but we finally came up with a 13-game record-holder in the American League and a surprising 17-game streaker in the National League.

They were two Chicago players of modest reputation – Taft Wright of the 1941 White Sox, and Oscar Ray Grimes of the 1922 Cubs. They were good hitters, with lifetime records well over .300, but they didn’t have very long careers and were not regarded as Particularly good run producers. Nevertheless, they did have legitimate streaks which are of interest also because of some unusual aspects.

First the 13-game streak of Taft Wright in 1941.

The hefty White Sox outfielder was in his third season and playing his first full game of 1941 when the string was launched modestly on May 4 with an RBI single in four trips against Philadelphia. The streak became even more “modest” in the third, fourth and fifth games when Wright failed to hit in each contest, yet was credited with an RBI each day. On May 7 he hit a sacrifice fly; on May 10 11e was walked twice, once with the bases loaded; and on May 11 a run scored on his infield out. After driving in two runs with two hits on May 13, he had another hitless day on May 14 but drove in a run with an infield out. He knocked in four runs with a homer and a single on May 15 and then had two more hitless games where he moved one runner home with a sacrifice fly and another with a force out. He made up for the hitless days with four hits on May 18, producing four runs. After two more run-producing games, the 13-game streak came to a close in Philadelphia on May 21.

The remarkable achievement was magnified in that in six games he knocked in runs without any hits. In that way he edged out the great AL sluggers like Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons, and Ted Williams of an important run production record. Wright ended the 1941 season with 97 RBIs, the most on the White Sox team, and the best of his nine-year career.

The NL record was established by Ray Grimes, who made it to the majors with the Red Sox in 1920. That was also the debut year of his twin brother Roy. Roy lasted only one year, but Ray went on to the Cubs where he played first base and had a very good season in 1922, hitting .354. That was the year of his streak, which started in the second game of a twinbill with Pittsburgh on June 27. The next day he had lumbago and did not play. He returned to the lineup on June 30 and had at least one RBI through the July 8 twinbill. Ironically, he played only one inning of the second game, but connected for an RBI single before leaving the game with a wrenched back.

The injury was serious and he did not return to first base until July 18 when he celebrated with a homer, double and two singles to lead the Cubs to a 6-3 victory over the Phils. On July 21 he doubled in the only run of the game to give Grover Alexander a 1-0 thriller over Dutch Ruether of the Dodgers. Grimes continued to hit well, driving out extra-base hits in six straight games. Finally, on July 25, in a game against Boston he failed to produce a run. His big chance came in the fourth inning with two teammates on base, but Grimes was walked to load the bases.

His spectacular 17-game RBI streak was not noted at the time, probably because he was absent from the lineup on two occasions, once for nine days. However, the RBI streak, like a consecutive game hitting streak, is based on the games the individual plays and not necessarily those that the team plays.

 

Ray Grimes, Cubs, 1922

Date

AB

R

H

RBI

Comment

June 27(2)

5

1

1

1

 

June 30

4

1

2

1

Missed June 28 game

July 1

4

0

2

3

Double

July 2

4

0

1

1

Double

July 3

4

0

1

 

 

July 4(1)

4

0

1

1

 

July 4 (2)

3

2

2

1

 

July 5

4

2

1

1

Double

July 7

4

2

2

2

Double, triple

July 8 (1)

3

2

2

1

 

July 8 (2)

1

0

1

1

Played one inning

July 18

4

1

4

2

Homer, double

July 19

5

0

1

1

Double

July 20

5

2

2

3

Homer

July 21

4

0

1

1

Double for 1-0 win

July 22

5

1

3

4

Double, triple

July 23

3

1

1

2

Homer

 

Taft Wright, White Sox, 1941

Date

AB

R

H

RBI

Comment

May 4

4

1

1

1

First start of 1941

May 5

5

0

2

1

Double

May 7

4

0

0

1

Sacrifice fly

May 10

2

0

0

1

Walk with bases full

May 11

3

0

0

1

Infield out

May 13

4

0

2

2

 

May 14

5

0

0

1

Infield out

May 15

5

2

2

4

Homer

May 16

4

0

0

1

Sacrifice fly

May 17

5

1

0

1

Forceout

May 18

5

2

4

4

Double

May 19

4

2

2

2

Triple

May 20

2

1

1

1

Double

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