Earlier this month, the RADIO.COM Sports team examined what we deemed to be the 10 most unbreakable records in MLB history. The list featured everyone from Barry Bonds to Cy Young, encompassing some of the most iconic players in the history of the sport.
This list isn’t going to be quite of that ilk.
While Bonds’ 73 home runs in 2001 were deemed to be the second-most unbreakable record in MLB history, it’s also one of the most well known accomplishments among baseball fans, and even those who just casually follow the sport. This countdown set out to find some of the most obscure records or feats in the history of Major League Baseball. Let’s take a look at what turned up:
Fernando Tatis Sr. – Two Grand Slams in One Inning
Tatis Sr. wasn’t the player that his son is now for the San Diego Padres, but on April 23, 1999, he accomplished something that no other player in MLB history has ever done - he hit two grand slams in one inning.
The first home run was a titanic blast off of Los Angeles Dodgers’ righty Chan Ho Park that a young Joe Buck noted went over the bullpen at Dodger Stadium. Later that same inning, Tatis came up again with the bases loaded, and hit the ball over the left-center field wall.
Perhaps the most incredible part about this feat is that both home runs came against Park. It’s not often that a pitcher gives up a grand slam, loads up the bases again and is allowed to stay in the game to face the same hitter for a second time with the bases jacked in the same inning. Davey Johnson, the Dodgers’ skipper, had Park take one for the team in a lost game in April of 1999, and it ended with Park, who hung around for 17 years in the majors, finding himself on the wrong side of history. - Tim Kelly
Bill Mueller – One Grand Slam From Each Side of the Plate in the Same Game
On July 29, 2003, Boston Red Sox third baseman Bill Mueller became the answer to a trivia question.
In the top of the third inning, Mueller clubbed a home run to right field off of Texas Rangers’ righty R.A. Dickey, one that actually isn’t specifically relevant to the feat he would accomplish at The Ballpark in Arlington that day.
Four innings later, Mueller came up from the right side of the plate and crushed his second home run of the day, this one a grand slam off of lefty Aaron Fultz. The historical part came an inning later, when Mueller came up with the bases loaded and slugged a second grand slam, this time from the left side of the plate.
All in all, Mueller went 3-5 with three home runs and nine RBIs in a 14-7 Red Sox win. Not only did this performance help Mueller to win the 2003 American League batting title, but it made him the first - and to this point, only - player in MLB history to hit a grand slam from both sides of the plate in the same game. - Tim Kelly
Joel Youngblood – Multiple Hits for Two Teams in One Day
In our list of the most unbreakable NFL records, we recognized the bizarre feat accomplished by Emmanuel Sanders in the 2019-20 season. Sanders recorded a reception in 17 regular season games. Any NFL fan’s ears immediately perks up at the sound of this… how on earth did a guy play in 17 regular season games? Sanders was traded from the Broncos to the 49ers at a point in the season when Denver had not yet reached its bye week, but San Francisco had already moved past theirs. Thus, Sanders played that elusive 17th game.
Similarly, Youngblood was traded in the middle of the 1982 season from the Mets to the Expos. But while Sanders wasn’t afforded the opportunity of playing in, say, a 1:00 pm game and an 8:20 pm game on the same day, Youngblood got that opportunity.
The outfielder certainly took advantage. On August 4, 1982, Youngblood went 1-2 with a two-run base knock off of future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins, helping the Mets to a 7-4 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley. It was but hours later that Youngblood found himself not in Chicago, but in Philadelphia, wearing not a Mets uniform, but an Expos one. Montreal had acquired Youngblood in return for Tom Gorman.
Youngblood came to the plate in the seventh inning as a pinch hitter -- against another Hall of Famer, in Steve Carlton -- and delivered with a two-out single.
It was quite a day in the otherwise unspectacular MLB career of Youngblood, who was selected to an All-Star roster in the strike-shortened 1981 season after posting a .359 batting average and a .960 OPS before the break. - Jordan Cohn
Johnny Vander Meer – Two Consecutive No-Hitters
You don’t see names like Johnny Vander Meer throughout sports outside of baseball. There’s something about the lore of so many baseball obscurities and frivolities that just sticks with baseball fans and trivia lovers alike.
Vander Meer is the perfect example of this. No one outside of baseball has heard of Vander Meer -- at least that’s my expectation -- but everyone who has opened up some sort of baseball records book, or gone to Cooperstown, or has indulged in the mysticism of baseball’s long and interesting history knows about Johnny Vander Meer.
He was a good pitcher, making four All-Star games with the Reds and leading the league in strikeouts in three consecutive seasons from 1941 to 1943. He may have missed out on the prime of his career serving in the military during World War II, adding his name to the long list of players who missed a large portion of their careers to service.
But the reason baseball fans know Vander Meer’s name is because he threw back-to-back no hitters, just four days apart, in June of 1938. Vander Meer’s second season in the bigs had gotten off to a solid start, as he continually trimmed his ERA down throughout the month of May and began June with two consecutive complete game, one-run outings.
June 11 marked the first of his no-nos, with Vince DeMaggio’s Boston Bees failing to register a hit. June 15 was the second, an away game at Ebbets Field against the Dodgers. According to James W. Johnson of the Society of American Baseball Research, that game had been a “banner night” at Ebbets, filled with fireworks, live music, and an appearance from famous olympian Jesse Owens. But what people remember most about that night is that it officially marks the only time a pitcher has ever thrown back-to-back no hitters.
Vander Meer’s hitless streak lasted 21 and ⅔ innings before it finally came to an end. - Jordan Cohn
Harvey Haddix – Pitched a Perfect Game for 12 Innings…and Lost
If you thought Roy Halladay caught an unlucky break in Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS when he allowed just one run over eight innings and the Philadelphia Phillies still lost, allow us to introduce you to Harvey Haddix.
Even with evidence that Haddix was pitching with a bad cold and the Milwaukee Braves were stealing signs, the 33-year-old pitched 12 perfect innings for the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 26, 1959. The only problem? Despite his offense generating 12 hits off of Braves’ starter Lew Burdette in 13 innings, they didn’t score a single run. And after 12 perfect innings, Haddix allowed a double, which plated an unearned run and allowed the Braves to win in walk-off fashion.
So to recap, Haddix allowed one hit over 12.2 innings, while pitching sick and dealing with the opposing team stealing signs. And yet, he went home with a very bad taste in his mouth that evening. - Tim Kelly
J.D. Drew – Part of Two Back-to-Back-to-Back-to-Back Home Run Chains
Now this one is obscure. According to Retrosheet, there have only been nine instances of back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs in a Major League game. Four consecutive home runs from four different teammates. 36 players in MLB history have been a part of this weird, exclusive group.
Actually, 35, because one player was a part of a four-homerun chain on two separate occasions, one year apart, and on different teams. In 2006, J.D. Drew hit the second home run of the Dodgers chain in the bottom of the ninth against the Padres. Starting the chain was Jeff Kent, and after Drew were Russell Martin and Marlon Anderson. Incredibly, Anderson forced extras with the final home run of the chain, the last two of which came off Trevor Hoffman. The Padres scored in the top of the 10th, creating a scare that the Dodgers miraculous comeback effort would have been all for naught. But in the bottom of the 10th, the Dodgers came back once again, on a two-run walk off home run by Nomar Garciaparra.
The second back-to-back-to-back-to-back -- man, there must be an easier way to refer to this -- chain that Drew in the middle of came the following season. The 2007 Red Sox featured a bevy of sluggers that led the team to a World Series ring. The heart of the order feasted on the Yankees’ Chase Wright that day, as Manny Ramirez started off a ferocious third-inning rally with a two-out homer. Then came Drew, followed by Mike Lowell, and capped off by Jason Varitek.
Even weirder? Stephen Drew, J.D.’s brother, was a part of a 2010 back-to-back-to-back-to-back chain. - Jordan Cohn
Bert Campaneris – Played All Nine Positions in One Game
It was really impressive when Will Ferrell played all nine positions for numerous teams during spring training in 2015. But it was more humorous than anything, and the comedian and actor helped raise a ton of money for cancer charities throughout the day.
But, unfortunately, MLB doesn’t recognize Ferrell’s stunt in the record books. Instead, it’s Bert Campaneris who holds the distinction of playing all nine positions in a single game. A six-time All-Star and the all-time leader in stolen bases among shortstops, Campaneris led the league in a number of categories in just his second season. In 1965, Campaneris paced the Majors with 12 triples, 51 stolen bases and 9 times hit by a pitch.
But none of those records are as interesting as when he played the whole field on September 8, 1965. His Kansas City A’s, at 51-88, didn’t have much to play for, and featured their blossoming star in this spectacular stunt. He started at shortstop, then played second and third the next two innings. The outfield was his target from the fourth to the sixth inning, and he cleared those three positions from left to right. The seventh inning brought Campaneris to first base, and the final two innings put him on the mound and behind the plate, in that order.
The stunt has since been completed by other big leaguers, including the Tigers’ Andrew Romine in 2017. - Jordan Cohn
Larry Bowa – 394 Consecutive Games Without a HR (Post-1950)
Between the Minnesota Twins and Philadelphia Phillies, it took outfielder Ben Revere 1,466 major league at-bats before hitting his first big league home run. It actually took Phillies’ icon Larry Bowa even longer.
Bowa broke into the major leagues in 1970, but didn’t hit a home run in any of his first 394 major league games. In fact, Bowa led baseball with 650 at-bats in 1971, despite not hitting a single home run. It wasn’t until Aug. 1, 1972 that Bowa would hit his first career roundtripper. It came in career at-bat No. 1,572.
Bowa’s career was evaluated differently during his era than it probably would be today. In 8,418 career at-bats, Bowa only homered 15 times. However, he hit for a high average at his peak, was a basestealing threat and won two Gold Glove Awards. In today’s game, Bowa’s value would be seen as limited because of his power output. During his era, Bowa was viewed as one of the game’s best shortstops, making five All-Star teams and even finishing third in National League MVP voting in 1978. - Tim Kelly
Eddie Gaedel – Shortest Player in MLB History
Among the many stunts pulled off by Bill Veeck throughout his time as a team owner and executive, his introduction of Eddie Gaedel to the world may be his most memorable. It was when Veeck was the head of the St. Louis Browns, a dismal squad that ended the 1951 season with a 52-102 record. One way to bring in crowds, thought Veeck, was with one of the strangest occurrences baseball fans could ever see.
Gaedel stood at 3’7” and appeared in the Browns’ August 19 game against the Tigers at age 26. He came up to the plate, watched four straight balls whizz by his tiny strike zone, and took his base. He was promptly pulled from the game and never saw another glimpse of on-field action again.
My personal favorite part about the stunt? Gaedel’s jersey number was ⅛.
Stunts like these made Veeck a well-known name in the baseball community and played a large role in earning him an entrance into Cooperstown. A quick, comprehensive write-up, courtesy of SABR, can be found here for those who are interested. - Jordan Cohn
Incredible stats from another era
- The statistics from the Dead Ball Era are often disregarded when considering the all-time records throughout MLB history, but this is a perfect opportunity to give them their due diligence. Among the most interesting are:
- Old Hoss Radbourn’s 1884 season, in which he went 60-12 with 441 strikeouts and 1.38 ERA. He started 73 games and completed all 73 of those games en route to a league-leading 678.2 innings pitched. For context, the league leader in innings pitched in 2019 was Justin Verlander, with 223.0.
- Matt Kilroy’s rookie season in 1886, in which he recorded 513 strikeouts for the Baltimore Orioles.
- Billy Hamilton, whose 198 runs scored remain a record by a large margin and were scored thanks to his league-leading 100 stolen bases and 128 walks, giving him a remarkable .521 on-base percentage.
- Charlie Comiskey’s 1887 campaign in which he went 100-100-100; 139 runs, 103 runs batted in, and 117 stolen bases. Pete Browning joined him that year as the only other player in MLB history to accomplish this feat.
- Hugh Duffy’s spectacular 1894 offensive explosion, in which he raised his league-leading .363 batting average from the year before over 75 points higher. His .440 average that season remains the highest in MLB history.
- Hugh Nicol’s 1887 season, in which he recorded 138 stolen bases in just 125 games. It’s incredible how close Henderson came to breaking his record, with 130 in 1982. - Jordan Cohn