Scooter Gennett had three homers in 2017. Then he hit four in one game. It’s funny because he’s a typically light-hitting second baseman. It’s also funny because his name is Scooter. If his name were “Boom Jackson” or “Large Arms Von Trapp,” it would be less funny. The randomness is my favorite part, though. Scooter Gennett? Scooter Gennett?
Yes, Scooter Gennett. And now it’s a name that baseball fans will drop in casual conversation in 2057.
What we have here, then, is a baseball twofer. These are my very favorite baseball occurrences, as they seem to cut to the soul of the sport. The requirements for a baseball twofer are simple:
- A performance that shows off baseball skill ...
- ... under a random, quirky set of conditions that will never be replicated
Does Gennett qualify? We know the first one is true. The second one is a little dicier because he’s received five at-bats in a game before, and he will again. While the randomness of him being the player to accomplish this instead of, say, Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge is amazing, it isn’t exactly the freakiest baseball occurrence for an established major leaguer to hit a ball hard four times in the same game.
Does it make the pantheon, though? I suppose I need to construct a pantheon, first. Here are my five favorite individual baseball performances that combined skill with a quirky pile of weird baseball, and we’ll see if Gennett can squeak in.
5. Brent Mayne gets the win at Coors Field
As you’ll see with a couple of these games, I’m cheating and using games I’ve written about extensively. Mayne’s unlikely relief performance has long been a fascination of mine. It’s still one of my favorite baseball stories of all-time.
Mayne was a 32-year-old catcher who had never pitched in his life. Not in little league. Not in college. He was in the game because of a minor skirmish that led to a Rockies pitcher getting unexpectedly ejected. He had to face the Braves, including Andruw Jones and Chipper Jones, in extra innings. And he had to do it in Coors Field in 2000, which might have been the toughest place to pitch in baseball history.
The starting pitcher for the game, for example, was Masato Yoshii. His 5.86 ERA for the season was good for an ERA+ of 99. Completely average once you accounted for park effects.
"I didn't want to balk," (Mayne) said. "I was thinking what is the balk (rule)? Can I go into the glove and take the ball out of my glove? That was probably the most nerve-wracking thing.
He won the game.
John Rocker got the loss.
I’m not even sure how there are four games ahead of this one, really.
4. Bob Brenly’s four-error, two-homer game
This one makes it because I was there. Sure, I was 9 years old and watched the whole thing with a finger up my nose, but that’s not much different from my current routine.
Brenly made four errors in the fourth inning. He was put at third base, where he didn’t belong, and he screwed up. Repeatedly. Four runs scored. Fans booed. His manager, Roger Craig, left him in because ... well, screw you and stay in there, I guess.
In a sport where the all-time worst fielders can still make 90 percent of the plays, it’s hard to fathom four errors in one inning. It’s hard to dig a hole deep enough into the earth.
In the fifth inning, Brenly homered.
In the seventh inning, he hit a two-run single to tie the game.
In the ninth inning, he hit a walk-off home run.
Redemption is never that instant, that perfect. Ruben Rivera didn’t hit a walk-off homer after committing the worst baserunning of all time. Fred Merkle didn’t come back from his boner and goad someone else into an even worse boner.
But Brenly got his chance, and he took advantage of it perfectly.
3. Andy Hawkins no-hits the White Sox, loses by four runs
Well, say, I wrote about this, too. When Scooter Gennett hits four home runs in a game, it apparently makes me want to write the equivalent of a clip show. If he does it again, I’ll come up with something more original. That’s my solemn promise to you.
But I’m still fascinated with this game, which featured errors and wind and sun and demons. It’s perfect that Jim Leyritz is the left fielder — apparently, I’m obsessed with catchers out of water — but it’s perfect that Jesse Barfield, one of the finest defensive right fielders ever, is screwing up at the same time.
This was something of a low point for the Yankees. They were a proud franchise with a history that most professional sports teams couldn’t touch. Heck, they have a greater history than any pro team, for my money, but in 1990, they were a joke. They were going to break the franchise record for losses, and then they were going to lose 91 games the next year.
George Steinbrenner was suspended from running the team because he paid a detective $40,000 to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield. Don Mattingly was hurt, and his career went downhill, even though he was just 29. Deion Sanders was hitting .158 for some reason.
And they lost a game 4-0 without allowing a hit. That was the 1990 Yankees. They never recovered except for all the times they did.
2. Babe Ruth/Ernie Shore’s perfect game
Technically, it’s not a perfect game, just like the last example wasn’t a real no-hitter, but it’s still one of the best individual performances under extraordinary circumstances in baseball history.
It’s not a perfect game because there was a baserunner. A walk. And after that walk, Babe Ruth punched the umpire in the face.
“You run me out and I will come in and bust you on the nose,” Ruth threatened.
“Get out of there right now,” said Brick.
Then in rushed Ruth. Chester Thomas tried to prevent him from reaching Owens, who had not removed his mask, but Babe started swinging both hands. The left missed the arbiter, but the right struck him behind the left ear.
Manager Barry and several policemen had to drag Ruth off the field.
The whole recap is worth reading just for the awesome 1917 style. The following words are used:
- Uncle Cyrus
- Carolina professor
- Chain Lightning Johnson
- The Bluffton Kid
- “back to his own cliff for a bang from Morgan”
But we’re ahead of ourselves. The real story is that Ernie Shore, typically a starter and a pretty good one, came in unexpectedly and retired the next 27 batters. While it would have been temporally impossible for him to quote Clerks throughout the whole game, he probably did. And he thrived in a way that most pitchers will never thrive.
The Red Sox and Senators were playing the first game of a doubleheader, too. Both games were finished in 3:40, which was shorter than the White Sox/Tigers game from last Sunday, in case you were wondering.
1. Bengie Molina hits for the cycle
Here it is. My favorite combination of baseball skill and baseball absurdity. There is nothing better or more pure than this.
Bengie Molina ran like Yadier Molina was hanging from his ankles and begging him not to run. He was, quite possibly, the slowest baseball player I have ever seen. Perhaps the slowest baseball player I will ever see. And that’s when he was in his prime. In this game, he was 35 years old. In catcher years, that’s closer to 45 when it comes to legging out triples.
On July 16, 2010, in his ninth game with his new team, the Texas Rangers, Molina hit a single in the second inning. In his next at-bat, he hit a double. In the top of the fifth inning, he hit a grand slam. All he needed was a triple for the cycle.
All I need is physical ability to make the majors.
It sounded so simple, but Molina had hit three triples in his previous 4,450 plate appearances. Two of them came at AT&T Park, a triples haven that extends to 420 feet in right center. There was absolutely no way, statistically, for Molina to hit a triple exactly when he needed one.
The odds. I can’t fathom the odds of that happening.
But the skill! Hitting baseballs that hard against three different major-league pitchers is impressive.
The odds, though.
But the skill!
That back-and-forth is what makes baseball beautiful. The odds and the skill, the unlikely and the likely. And on Tuesday night, Scooter Gennett scooted out of obscurity, hitting four homers in a game, even though it wouldn’t have been a major surprise if he didn’t hit another four home runs in his career.
I’m not sure if it makes the pantheon, though. He had 15 homers last year, after all, and having a legendary game isn’t quirky enough on its own. The only way he moves from “Simply one of the best games in baseball history” to “In the pantheon of quirky baseball twofers” is with his name, which isn’t that unusual. Maybe if he named himself after a Muppet Baby to avoid discipline from a cop, he’d make it.
Gennett found himself at a police station as a young child because he was giving his mother problems with wearing his seat belt. She took her son in to scare him into wearing it, and left with a surprising twist.
In an attempt to avoid trouble with the law, the mischievous young Gennett gave officers a fake first name. “I told the cops Scooter Gennett because that was my favorite Muppet Babies character. I kind of just used it as an alias, I thought I would get in trouble if I told them my real name.”
I ... I need to sit down for a bit.