The Grand Slam Story

This article was written by John C. Tattersall

This article was published in the 1975 Baseball Research Journal


In this piece, John C. Tattersall talks about grand slams and their history before 1975.On Saturday, the tenth of September in 1881 at Albany, New York, the Troy and Worcester teams of the National League played a championship game. In the early days of League baseball, especially late in the season, it was considered good promotion to play a game on neutral ground for the publicity value and in hopes of attracting a better crowd. It was a home game for neighboring Troy and since the Trojan faithful had not done too well in flocking to the Troy grounds that season it was thought a Saturday game might draw a few more fans if the game were played in the nearby New York capital city.

In the ninth inning, with Worcester leading 7-4, Roger Corinor, a 24-year-old giant from Waterbury, Conn., strode to the plate and found three teammates occupying the three bases — a full house of Trojans. Buck Ewing had reached first with a single, went to second on another single by Frank Hankinson and when Tim O’Keefe, famous as a pitcher but playing right field that afternoon, walked, the bases were full. The Worcester pitcher was John Lee Richmond, a 24-year-old left-handed hurler who had gained fame the previous summer by pitching the first perfect game, beating Cleveland, 1-0 at Worcester on June 12, 1880.

The equally left-handed batting Connor proceeded to make history when he batted a home run and Troy scored four runs on the play, winning the game, 8-7 for Holyoke’s Smiling Mickey Welch. So what’s so historic about that, say you — it’s being done every day. Ah, but it wasn’t being done every day way back then. In fact, from the time the National League played its first game on April 22, 1876, until that September day five years later, there had not been any grand slam homer decorating the batting records of a National League player. Connor, who would bat a total of 138 homers before retiring in 1897, thus made history by batting the first grand slam in the records. Not until Babe Ruth hit #139 on July 18, 1921, would Connor’s life-time total be eclipsed. But that’s another home run story.

As so often happens with spectacular events, after five years and more elapsed before the first grand slam was batted, only 19 days elapsed before the feat was repeated. This time it was a Worcester player who batted baseball’s second grand slam. Harry Stovey hit a round-trip blow in the first inning of a game with Chicago at Worcester on September 29. Stovey, who gained fame as one of the great base stealers of his era, but whose home run prowess has, been ignored by baseball’s historians, was the fourth batter in the game to face Chicago’s ace right-hander Larry Corcoran. Lou “Buttercup” Dickerson, Pete Hotaling, and John Richmond, the hurler who gave up Connor’s slam earlier in the month, had managed to fill the bases as the first three men up, and Stovey’s drive promptly gave Worcester four quick runs.

During the next season, `1882, Charles Foley of the Buffalo Nationals batted two grand slams, the first to accomplish that feat. Foley, born in Milltown, Ireland, 26 years earlier, batted his slams on May 19 and 25. He would bat only six home runs during his five-year major league career!

Over the next 30 years, a dozen or more players were able to equal the Foley display of power, but none could come up with three slams in one season. Two players had even batted grand slams in two consecutive games – Jimmy Bannon with the Boston Reds on August 6 and 7, 1894, and Jimmy Sheckard with the Brooklyn Superbas on September 23 and 24, 1901.

In 1911, Frank “Wildfire” Schulte was one of the Chicago Nationals’ star outfielders. Then 29 years old, the left-handed hitter had been with the Cubs some seven seasons and in 1910 had batted 10 homers in an era when reaching double figures was quite unusual. But in 1911, Wildfire really went haywire — he batted no less than 22 home runs and he made four of them with the bases full. His new seasonal record for grand slams would stand until 1955 when another Chicago star, Ernie Banks, hit five grand slams. Strangely enough, this 1911 mark was Schulte’s complete major league grand slam activity, although he wound up his career with 94 fourbaggers, a very respectable total in the pre-Ruthian era.

The record of four grand slams in one season was not equaled in the American League until the immortal Babe came by in 1919 and, in his first year as a full-time outfielder for the Red Sox, also batted four grand slams on his way to a new home run mark of 29. Although his home run totals went up dramatically after that, those with the bases loaded were not so easily attained as in 1919. Several other players hit four in a season – Lou Gehrig in 1934, Rudy York in 1938, Vince DiMaggio in 1945, Tommy Henrich 1948, Ralph Kiner l949, Sid Gordon 1950, Al Rosen 1951, and Ray Boone 1953. Then Banks hit five in 1955, and Jim Gentile set the record in the American with five in 1961. Gentile was able to bat two of them in a single game, on May 9, 1961, a feat performed only six times in the American and once in the National.

The first two-a-game performer was that wonderful Yankee of yesteryear, “poosh-am-up” Tony Lazzeri who, even though he was batting eighth in. the order, picked on the poor old Athletics of 1936 to hit duplicate drives with the bases jammed at Shibe Park on Sunday, May 24. The A’s were hosting the Yanks in a weekend pair of doubleheaders, and the Yankees feasted with 13 homers in the four games. The Lazzeri slams served to ice the cake as they came in the Sunday second game. They also helped give Tony. 11 RBI’s, which is still the American League record.

Jim Tabor, playing third for the Red Sox, duplicated the Lazzeri feat in the second game of a July 4th holiday twinbill, also at Shibe Park, in 1939. Another Red Hose slugger, Rudy York, hoisted a pair of slams on July 27, 1946. Then after Gentile, came Jim Northrup in 1968 and Frank Robinson when he was with the Orioles in 1970. The only time two slams were hit by a player in the National League, the feat was performed by a pitcher — believe it or not. Tony Cloninger of the Atlanta Braves startled the baseball world with two jackpot wallops at San Francisco on July 3, 1966. Needless to say, Tony won his game 17-3.

No club ever hit more than two grand slams in one game. However, two times it was accomplished in the same inning. In the first inning of the Minnesota game with Cleveland on July 18, 1962, Bob Allison and Harmon Killebrew both delivered with the bases loaded. This feat was duplicated July 30, 1969, when Denis Menke and Jim Wynn of Houston both unloaded in the 9th inning against the New York Mets.

The individual club record, for most grand slams in one season is held by the Detroit Tigers who batted a total of 10 in 1938 — York 4, Greenberg 2, Laabs 2, Fox 1, Tebbetts 1. The famous Chicago Cubs of 1929 hold the top National mark with 9 — Hornsby, Grimm, and Hack Wilson 2 each, and 1 apiece for Stephenson, McMillan, and Cuyler. Only one other club has been able to bat 9 slams in a season and the Red Sox have gained the heights twice – in 1941 and 1950.

Since 1881, the National League has never failed to bat a grand slam in each season. In 1974, there were 38 home runs hit with the bases full in the National, which brings the National total to 1427. Appropriately, the Chicago Cubs, the only NL team to play continuously since 1876, have hit the most slams in the Senior Circuit. They hit 188, including 22 before the American League joined the fun in 1901. Next in line are the New York Nationals — comprising the Giants from 1883 through 1957 and the Mets from 1962 through 1974 — who have accumulated 178 homers with the sacks crowded.

When the American League opened for business in the spring of 1901, grand slams were hit early in the initial campaign. On May 1, two White Sox players — catcher Ed McFarland and outfielder Dummy Hoy — connected in the same game. Since then grand slams have been hit every year except 1918. In that war-shortened season, no AL player connected.

In 1974, American Leaguers batted 38 grand slams, the same as in the NL. This brings the AL total to 1266 in its 74-year history. It is probably no surprise that the Yankees have the highest team total for grand slams, 194, followed by the Red Sox with 188.

Grand slams were also recorded in the old 19th century American Association (42), the Players League (6), and the Federal League (13). No home run with the bases full, was recorded in the Union Association in 1884. The result of all this statistical work on grand slams from 1876 through 1974 indicates a total of 2754 home runs with three men on base have been batted in 99 years of play. The breakdown is included in the accompanying charts.

There also follows a listing of the 19 players who have hit 10 or more grand slams in their careers. This includes Henry Louis Gehrig, the all-time leader, with an amazing total of 23, and the new NL leader, Henry Louis Aaron, with 16. The table reflects the number hit in their home park, on the road, the number as a pinch hitter, as the first batter to face a relief pitcher, and the number of games won with a grand slam.

The rundown by major league clubs follows:

 

1876-

1901-

1921-

1941-

1961-

 

National

1900

1920

1940

1960

1974

Total

             

Chicago

22

16

50

57

42

188

New York

17

16

53

63

29

178

Philadelphia

18

9

45

53

35

160

Pittsburgh

8

16

27

54

38

144

St. Louis

6

12

34

52

37

141

Cincinnati

13

10

20

57

39

139

       

(41-57)

   

Brooklyn

9

9

30

62

110

       

(41-52)

   

Boston

22

18

27

20

87

       

(58-60)

   

San Francisco

     

7

54

61

       

(53-60)

   

Milwaukee

     

29

22

51

       

(58-60)

   

Los Angeles

     

7

21

28

         

(62-74)

 

San Diego

       

14

14

Washington

12

       

12

Cleveland

12

       

12

Baltimore

7

       

7

Buffalo

3

       

3

Indianapolis

3

       

3

Detroit

2

       

2

Troy

1

       

1

Worcester

1

       

1

Kansas City

1

       

1

Totals

162

106

286

461

410

1427

 

1901-

1921-

1941-

1961-

 

American

1920

1940

1960

1974

Total

New York

13

85

63

33

194

Boston

12

36

82

58

188

Detroit

14

52

52

43

161

Cleveland

9

29

62

39

139

Chicago

10

24

34

43

111

       

(61-71)

 

Washington

9

24

31

27

91

     

(41-54)

   

Philadelphia

14

39

34

 

87

     

(41-53)

   

St. Louis

5

35

28

 

68

 

(01-02)

 

(54-60)

   

Baltimore

2

17

41

60

     

(55-60)

   

Kansas City

19

25

44

Minnesota

49

49

California

24

24

Oakland

 

23

23

 

(1)

   

(70-74)

 

Milwaukee

0

19

19

       

(72-74)

 

Texas

     

5

5

       

(69)

 

Seattle

3

3

Totals

88

324

422

432

1266

American Association

1882-91

 

Players League

1890

St. Louis

10

 

New York

2

Brooklyn

4

 

Boston

1

Louisville

4

 

Philadelphia

1

Columbus

4

 

Pittsburgh

1

Boston

4

 

Cleveland

1

Philadelphia

3

   

6

Cincinnati

3

     

Rochester

3

 

Federal League

1914-15

Pittsburgh

2

 

Brooklyn

3

Syracuse

2

 

Baltimore

3

New York

1

 

Kansas City

3

Cleveland

1

 

Chicago

2

Washington

1

 

Pittsburgh

1

 

42

 

Indianapolis

1

       

13

Career Leaders in Grand Slam Homers

 

Total

At

On

Pinch

1st Batter

Won

 

Slams

Home

Road

Slam

Facing RP

Game

             

Gehrig

23

12

11

0

0

3

             

Foxx

17

10

7

2

0

1

             

T. Williams

17

7

10

0

1

5

             

Ruth

16

7

9

0

1

5

             

H.Aaron

16

6

10

0

5

5

             

McCovey

15

10

5

2

3

1

             

Hodges

14

9

5

0

0

2

             

J. DiMaggio

13

6

7

0

0

4

             

Kiner

13

9

4

0

0

2

             

Hornsby

12

10

2

1

0

4

             

York

12

7

5

1

0

3

             

Banks

12

8

4

0

2

2

             

Greenberg

11

5

6

0

1

1

             

Killebrew

11

7

4

1

2

0

             

Simmons

10

6

4

1

1

0

             

Stephens

10

7

3

0

0

4

             

Adcock

10

4

6

0

0

1

             

Wertz

10

4

6

2

1

0

             

Sievers

10

5

5

2

1

0

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