Three Shots of Rye

This article was written by Bob McConnell

This article was published in the 1980 Baseball Research Journal


Tommy Burns, one of the lesser lights of Cap Anson’s rampaging Chicago White Stockings, set a major league record for extra-base hits in one inning when he smashed two doubles against the left field fence and one home run over the same fence.  This batting spree took place in the seventh inning of a game at Detroit on September 6, 1883.  This fancy bit of fireworks was accomplished with the pitchers hurling from a distance of 50 feet.

That remains the big-league long ball record to his day.  Gene Stephens, a Boston Red Sox rookie, set the modem major league record of three hits in one inning when he slapped out three singles in the seventh inning of a game, also against Detroit, on June 18, 1953.

However, the most explosive inning by any slugger in Organized Baseball was conducted by southpaw swinging Gene “Half Pint” Rye, a stocky 5’6″, 165-pound fire plug from Waco of the Texas League.  He drove three shots over the fences of Katy Park in Waco during the big eighth inning of a night game on August 6, 1930.  Waco scored 18 runs in that inning to swamp Beaumont 22 to 4.

With Jerry Mallett pitching for Beaumont, Rye led off the eighth inning and gave an indication of things to come when he drove one over the right-field fence with the ball curving foul by a couple of feet.  He then hit one fair over the left-field fence.  Half Pint came up for the second time in the inning with two men on base.  Walter Newman was now pitching for Beaumont.  Rye blasted a pitch over the right-field fence.  The bases were loaded when Rye came up for the third time in the inning.  Poor Walt Newman was still pitching.  Mr. Rye proceeded to blast another one over the right-field fence.

When the dust had cleared, Rye had set four Organized Baseball records for one inning: most total bases (12), most extra bases (9), most runs batted in (8), and most home runs (3).  Only the 8 RBI mark has been matched during the following 50 years.  Ken Myers of Las Vegas hit two grand slam home runs in one inning in a Sunset League game during the 1947 season.

Rye had a single earlier in the game to give him four hits in six at bats for the evening.  He had no hand in his team’s scoring other than during that one big inning.  Tony Piet and Charley Stuvengen also hit homers for Waco during the big eighth inning.

The redoubtable Rye, whose real name was Eugene Rudolph Mercanteffi, garnered 26 home runs and 92 runs batted in for the year.  Thus, an incredible 12% of his home run output and 9% of his RBI output were produced in one inning!

Rye was rewarded for his bat bonanza by being purchased by the Boston Red Sox for the following year.  However, he was injured early in the spring.  He was limited to 17 games with a .179 batting average and no homers.  He was shipped down to Galveston during the season and never made it back to the majors.  His minor league career ended when he was released by Davenport of the Western League in November 1936.

 

*Based on material left by the late Howard Lavelle.

 

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