This past Sunday (August 16), San Francisco Giants’ lefthander Madison Bumgarner picked up his 14th win (against six losses) of the season, throwing a three-hit, complete-game shutout in a 5-0 win over the Washington Nationals. In the sterling effort, Bumgarner walked just one and struck out fourteen. Of even more interest to BBRT was the fact that Bumgarner also collected a home run (his fourth of the season) and an RBI double in three at bats. The round tripper was Bumgarner’s tenth in seven major league seasons – his eighth since the start of the 2014 campaign. Note: Bumgarner seems to have found his stroke in the past two seasons. In 2009-13, he hit .138, with two home runs and 16 RBI. In 2014-15, he is .258-8-22, and has even been used as a pinch hitter.)
On the same day that Bumgarner homered against the Nationals, another pitching “ace” proved his worth on the mound and in the batter’s box. The Dodgers’ Zack Greinke picked up his 13th win of 2015, throwing seven innings of six-hit, one-run ball (one walk, eight whiffs) against the Reds – and drove in the winning run (in a 2-1 game) with a home run ( his second of the season and sixth in his 12 MLB seasons) in the bottom of the fifth.
Daniel Norris – Livin’ in a Van Pays Off
Yesterday, as I was putting the final touches on this post, a new break came across my IPad. Tigers’s starting pitcher (former Blue Jays’ prospect) Daniel Norris had done two amazing things with the bat. He had damaged one of Wrigley Field’s new outfield video boards in batting practice – and he had hit a two-run home run in his first major league plate appearance. By the way, this is the same Daniel Norris who lived in a van behind a Wal-Mart in Spring Training. (To read more about Norris – and his van – in the pre-season BBRT 2015 MLB Rookie Watch List, click here.) The Tigers, by the way, beat the Cubs 15-8, but Norris left after 4 1/3 innings pitched (four hits, one walk, three earned runs and six strikeouts) with an oblique strain.
This display of punch at the plate by two ace pitchers (and a rookie) not only added further to BBRT’s often-voiced opposition to the Designated Hitter, but also got me thinking about the home run leaders among pitchers.
Here’s the list – and a little bit about the career leaders – followed by single season leaders and some special moments for pitchers as hitters. The first number in the career leader list is each pitcher’s home runs, while in the pitcher position; it does not include home runs hit as a pinch hitter or while playing another position). In parenthesis, you will find their career total HRs. BBRT Note: Primary sources for the career and single seasons lists: Baseball-Reference.com and Pitchers Dig the Long Ball (At Least When They Are Hitting), David Vincent, Spring 2012 Baseball Research Journal.
Career Home Runs by Pitchers – All Those with 30 or More
Note: Bold face indicates Hall of Fame member.
Wes Farrell 37 (38)
Bob Lemon 35 (37)
Warren Spahn 35
Red Ruffing 34 (36)
Earl Wilson 33 (35)
Farrell – a 6’ 1”, 195-pound right hander is the king of home run hitters among pitchers (while playing in the pitcher position). Farrell holds the career record at 37 and the MLB single season record for a pitcher at nine. Farrell’s MLB career spanned 15 seasons (1927-41), during which time he pitched for the Indians, Red Sox, Senators, Yankees, Dodgers and Braves. His biggest year at the plate came for the 1931 Indians, when he hit .273 with nine home runs and 30 RBI in 48 games. That same season, he went 22-12, 3.75 on the mound. For his career, Farrell went 198-128 (a .601 winning percentage), with a 4.04 ERA, winning 20 or more games six times and leading his league in complete games four times. As a hitter, he recorded a .280 average, with 38 home runs and 208 RBI. He hit nine home runs in a season once, seven in a season twice, collected 25 or more RBI in a season four times (with a high a 32 RBI with the 1935 Red Sox, when he went .347-7-32).
Wes Farrell Tidbit: In 1931, the year Farrell hit his single-season record (for a pitcher) nine home runs, he also tossed a no-hitter (beating the St. Louis Browns 9-0, walking three and fanning eight). In that game, Farrell drove in four runs with a double and a home run in four at bats.
Tied Number-two in career home runs as a pitcher is another Cleveland Indian – Hall of Fame hurler Bob Lemon, who racked up 35 career round trippers as a pitcher and two more as a pinch-hitter. Lemon was a 6-foot, 180-pounder right hander (threw right, batted left). Lemon played his entire career (1941-42; 1946-58) with Cleveland. As a pitcher, he went 207-128, with a 3.23 ERA. Lemon won 20 or more games seven times, topping the AL in victories in three seasons. His big year at the plate came in 1949, when he went .269-7-18 in 46 games. During his career, he achieved a season-high batting average of .321 (in 47 games in 1947) and 26 RBI (in 72 games in 1950). His career offensive numbers were .232-37-147 (13 seasons).
Bob Lemon Tidbit: Although he never hit a home run as a position player, Lemon originally came up to the big leagues as a utility player – and was converted to a pitcher. (He played 13 MLB games in CF, two at third base and one in right field.) Lemon was, in fact, the starting center fielder for the Indians on Opening Day in 1946 – as well as in Bob Feller’s April 30, 1946 no-hitter again the Yankees. (Makes a great trivia question – “What HOFer both threw a no-hitter and played center field in a no-hitter?”)
Who Says Pitchers Can’t Hit – This Guy Started as a Pitcher
The winningest left-hander in MLB history (363 victories), Spahn is tied for the second most home runs as a pitcher with 35. The six-foot, 172-pound southpaw pitched in the major leagues for 21 seasons (1941, 1946-65) primarily for the Braves (for the Mets and Giants in his final season). Spahn won twenty or more games 13 times, leading the NL in wins eight times, strikeouts four times and ERA three times. He finished his career at 363-245, 3.09. As a hitter, he batted .194, with 35 home runs and 189 RBI. His best year at the plate was 1958 when – at the age of 37 – he hit .333, with two homers and 15 RBI in 42 games. He also led the NL that season with 22 pitching victories, as his Braves made a second consecutive trip to the World Series. Still Spahn never hit more than four home runs in a season and his spot near the of the career home run list is as much due to his longevity as hit batting prowess.
Warren Spahn Tidbit: Spahn, as a pitcher, hit at least one home run in a record (for pitchers) 17 consecutive seasons.
Like most of the hurlers on this list, Ruffing enjoyed a long MLB career – 22 seasons (1924-37) with the Red Sox, Yankees and White Sox. Although he never topped four home runs in a season, his total of 34 as a pitcher earns a spot on the leader list. As a pitcher, the 6’ 1”, 205-pound righty won 273 games (225 losses) with a 3.80 career ERA. He logged four consecutive 20-win seasons with the Yankees (totaling 82 wins and 33 losses) from 1936-39. Ruffing hit for average as well as a little power. He was a .269 career hitter (topping .300 eight times), with those 36 home runs and 273 RBI.
Red Ruffing Tidbit: Ruffing was a post-season master, going 7-2, 2.68 in ten World Series starts (all with the Yankees) – tossing eight complete games in the process.
Earl Wilson pitched in 11 MLB seasons (Red Sox, Tigers, Padres), hitting 33 home runs from the pitcher’s position. On the mound, the 6’3”, 216-pound right hander won 121 games (versus 109 losses), with a 3.69 ERA. His best season was for the Tiger in 1967, when he went 22-11, 3.27 – leading the AL in wins in his only twenty-victory campaign. At the plate, his best campaign was 1966, when he pitched for Boston and Detroit and hit .240, with seven home runs and 22 RBI.
Earl Wilson Tidbit: On June 278, 1962, Wilson – starting for the Red Sox at home – no-hit the Angels 2-0. He was the first black pitcher to complete a no-hitter in the American League. Wilson also hit a home run in that game and is one of only four pitchers to hit a home run while pitching a no-hitter. (The others are Wes Farrell, Jim Tobin and Rick Wise).
A few other pitchers’ long ball moments.
Single Season Home Run Records by Pitcher – All with seven or more
Wes Farrell, Indians 9 1931
Jack Stivetts, Browns 7 1890
Wes Farrell, Indians 7 1933
Bob Lemon, Indians 7 1949
Don Newcombe, Dodgers 7 1955
Don Drysdale, Dodgers 7 1958, 1965
Earl Wilson, Red Sox/Tigers 7 1968
Mike Hampton, Rockies 7 2001
Pitcher with Two Grand Slams in a Single Game
Braves’ RHP Tony Cloninger started the Independence Day fireworks early in 1966. On July 3 of that season, facing the Giants in San Francisco, Cloninger went the distance, holding the Giants to three runs for his ninth win of the year. More significantly, he also went three-for-five, hit TWO Grand Slam homers and drove in nine runs (still the single-game record for a pitcher). (The Braves won 17-3.) Cloninger not only became the first- still only – pitcher to hit two grand slams in a game, he was also the first National League player to hit two grand slams in a game. Cloninger had a 12-year MB career, going 113-97, 4.07 on the mound (24-11 in 1965) and .192-11-67 at the plate – hitting five of his career 11 home runs in that 1966 season.
A No-Hitter and Two Home Runs
On June 23, 1971, the Phillies’ Rick Wise took the mound against the Reds in Cincinnati – and he had the right stuff, shutting down the Cincy 4-0, throwing a no-hitter (one walk, three strikeouts) for his eighth win of the season. He also had the right stuff at the plate – hitting a pair of homers and driving in three runs. He’s still the only MLB pitcher to hit two round trippers while tossing a no-hit game. In that 1971 season, Wise went 17-14, 2.88 on the mound (arguably his best season ever) and .237-6-15 at the plate. He spent 18 season in the big leagues, going 188-181, 3.69 and .195-15-66. And, he was, of course, spectacular on June 23, 1971.
Three HRs in a Game – By the Pitcher
On May 13, 1942, the Boston Braves (then managed by Casey Stengel) took on the Chicago Cubs in Boston – with the Braves starting pitcher Jim Tobin taking the mound. The Braves won 6-5, with Tobin fashioning a complete game – five hits, three walks, three earned runs. More important historically, Tobin came to the plate four times and lashed three home runs (driving in four). Tobin is the only pitcher since 1900 to tally three long balls in a game. (Guy Hecker is credited with three HRs in August 15, 1886 game for the Louisville Colonels of the then major league American Association. Hecker started 48 games on the mound that season – and also played first base or outfield in another 39.) Tobin played in nine big league seasons (Pirates, Braves, Tigers) and put up a 105-112, 3.44 pitching line. At the plate, he went .230-17-102. In that 1942 season, he hit a career high six homers – three on May 13. (He also lead NL pitchers in losses with 21 and complete games with 28, as Boston finished 30 games under .500.)
Ken Brett’s Streak
In June of 1973, Phillies’ pitcher Ken Brett hit a home run in four consecutive pitching starts (his only hit in each game and his only home runs of the season). Brett won all four games – giving up 11 earned runs in 34 1/3 innings and tossing three complete games. Brett’s MLB career lasted 14 seasons and his mound record was 85-85, 3.93. At the plate, the brother of x time batting champion George Brett, went .262-10-44. The four r
What does all of this add up to? More of “Why I hate the DH.”