Prince Fielder – had as many inside-the-park home runs in his career as Rickey Henderson and Maury Wills combined.
One of the most exciting plays in baseball is the inside-the-park home run – a mad dash around the bases, often ending in a head-first slide, as outfielders scramble for the ball and infielders try to make the perfect relay to the plate. In this post, Baseball Roundtable would like to take a look at some of the interesting statistics surrounding this exciting play.
As noted in the header, Prince Fielder had as many career inside-the-park homers (two) as Rickey Henderson (one) and Maury Wills (one) combined. Henderson and Wills, however, recorded 1, 992 stolen bases to Fielder’s 18.
Here are just a few bits of inside-the-park home run trivia.
Jesse Burkett holds the record for career inside-the-park (ITP) home runs with 55. The left-handed hitting outfielder hit 75 total home runs over sixteen MLB seasons (1890-1905), with 55 of those being ITP. Note: Hall of Famer Burkett was a three-time batting champ, who topped .400 twice while with the NL Cleveland Spiders (.405 in 1895 and .410 in 1896). The AL career ITP home run record belongs to Ty Cobb (46), while the NL record goes to Tommy Leach (48).
Tom McCreery holds the record for most ITP home runs in a game with three – for the NL Louisville Colonels on July 12, 1987. McCreery hit a total of five home runs that season. In addition to McCreery, forty-five MLB players have hit two ITP home runs in a game, but only four have accomplished that feat more than once (twice each): Dan Brouthers; Jesse Burkett, Ed Delahanty and Roger Bresnahan.
Ed Delahanty, playing first base for the Philadelphia Colts (Phillies) on July 13, 1896, earned a place in the record books by blasting a record-tying four home runs in a single game. To date, only 16 players have accomplished that feat. Delahanty’s four-homer day is unique in that two of his round trippers were inside-the-parkers. He is the only one of the 16 members of the four-homer club to have ITP homers included in their one-game total. Twenty of Delahanty’s 101 MLB home runs (16-season MLB career) were of the inside-the-park variety.
Known for power (not speed), Babe Ruth had ten inside-the-park home runs and ten steals of home; while teammate Lou Gehrig has ten inside-the-park homers and 15 steals of home.
Roger Bresnahan is the only player to hit two ITP home runs in a single game in both leagues – May 30, 1902, for the AL Baltimore Orioles and June 6, 1904, for the NL New York Giants. Bresnahan hit a reported 13 ITP home runs out of 26 long balls in a 17-season (1897-1915) MLB career.
Luke Stuart of the St. Louis Browns and Johnny Lemaster of the San Francisco Giants are the only two players to hit ITP home runs in their first MLB at bats (August 8, 1921 and September 2, 1975, respectively.)
There have been plenty of inside-the-park walk-off (run-off?) home runs, and plenty of inside-the park Grand Slams, but there has been only one inside-the-park walk-off Grand Slam – and that belongs to Roberto Clemente. It came on July 25, 1956, with the Pirates’ Clemente batting against the Cubs’ Jim Brosnan in the bottom of the ninth and the Pirates trailing 8-5. There were no outs and Pittsburgh’s Hank Foiles, Bill Virdon and Dick Cole were on base. Clemente drove a ball to deep left that hit near the light standard and rolled along the warning track to center. All three runners scored and Clemente ran through the coach’s stop sign at third base, beating the relay (Solly Drake to Ernie Banks to Hobie Landrith).
Pete Milne had a brief MLB career (three seasons, 47 games, 65 plate appearances) with the Giants (1948-50). He hit only one home run in the majors, but it was a significant. It was the only pinch hit, inside-the park Grand Slam ever (April 27, 1949).
The most recent player to hit two inside-the-park homers in a single game was Minnesota Twins’ shortstop Greg Gagne (October 4, 1986). This, of course, means Gagne had as many ITP home runs in that game as Rickey Henderson and Maury Wills had in their combined careers.
Ichiro Suzuki hit the only inside-the-park home run in an All Star Game (2007).
Sam Crawford holds the single-season record for inside-the-park home runs, with 12 ITP home runs (of his NL-leading 16 dingers for the Reds in 1901. Fifty-one of Crawfords 97 career home runs stayed in the park. As you might expect, the AL record for a season (9) belongs to the Tigers’ Ty Cobb. In 1909, he led the AL with nine homers and all nine were inside-the-park. Overall, 46 of Cobb’s 117 home runs were of the ITP variety.
Ten players have hit ITP home runs in the World Series. The most recent was hit by Kansas City Royals’ SS and leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar, who hit it on the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning of the first game of the 2015 World Series.
For my Twins Fan Readers
The first Twins’ inside-the-park homer was hit by none other than Harmon Killebrew (July 4, 1961). Killebrew, by the way, recorded as many career inside-the-park home runs as teammate and speedster Rod Carew – one. Tony Oliva, Tom Brunansky and Greg Gagne share the team career lead with three each. Sam Rice holds the franchise record, with 21 ITP home runs for the old Washington Senators.
In 2016, there were 5,610 home runs hit during the MLB regular season. Of those, just nine were inside-the-park. Who had them? Byron Buxton, Twins; Stephen Drew, Nationals; Brett Lawrie, White Sox; Eduardo Nunez, Twins; Tyler Naquin, Indians; Anthony Rizzo, Cubs; Jean Segura, Diamondbacks; Dansby Swanson, Braves; Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals.
Here are the inside-the-park totals for a few of MLB’s biggers home run hitters (600+). Barry Bonds (762, three inside-the-park); Hank Aaron (755, one inside-the-park ); Babe Ruth (714, ten inside-the-park); Alex Rodriguez (696. zero inside-the-park ); Willie Mays (660, six inside-the-park); Ken Griffey, Jr. (630, three inside-the-park ); Jim Thome (612, zero inside-the-park ); Sammy Sosa (609, two inside-the-park ).
Final note: Changes in the game – smaller ballparks, bigger gloves, livelier baseballs, speedier outfielders and more – have made the inside-the-park home run an increasingly rare occurence. A Society of American Baseball Research study, in fact, found that the percentage of home runs that were of the inside-the-park variety dropped from about 35 pecent in 1901 to to less than 25 percent by 1920 to between three and four percent by the 1950s to one percent (or less) since the 1960s. So, if you happen to see an inside-the-park round tripper, savor that rare bit of excitement.
Info Sources: Baseball-reference.com; Baseball-almanac.com; Society for American Baseball Research.
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