One baseball axiom you can’t get around is that every spot in the lineup has to come to the plate. Sometimes in an inning a player will come up twice. On two occasions a batter was at the plate three times in a frame and recorded a hit in each appearance.
Fifty years apart, a pair of Boston Red Sox outfielders became the only players in MLB history to record three hits in one inning. Both games took place at Fenway Park.
On June 18, 1953, Gene Stephens hit two singles and a double against three different Detroit Tiger pitchers in the seventh inning.
Johnny Damon singled, doubled and tripled in the first inning against three different Florida Marlins pitchers on June 27, 2003.
The Red Sox were a good team in 1953, but were playing without Ted Williams, who was serving as a pilot in the Korean War. Taking his place for some of that season was 20-year-old Stephens, who had made his major league debut the year before when Williams first entered into the service.
The day before Stephens’ feat, the Sox clobbered Detroit, 17-1, probably leaving the Tigers in a bad mood.
Things did not get much better for the visiting team the next day.
“Here comes the new Ted Williams,” jeered the visiting team, when Stephens first came to bat, according to the next day’s Boston Daily Globe report.
“The Tigers were snarling mad yesterday,” a Globe reporter wrote in its June 20, 1953 edition.
For the first six innings, it was a tight game. Red Sox pitcher Ellis Kinder entered the game in the fifth inning, and pitched four frames, allowing only one run.
Steve Gromek was the Tigers second pitcher of the game. He recorded the last two outs of the sixth inning, and started the bottom of the seventh with the Red Sox leading 5-3; Catcher Sammy White led off with a single. Stephens followed with a single, with White going to third; Stephens stole second.
After Gromek surrendered nine runs on seven hits, he was relieved by Dick Weik, who began his outing with a wild pitch, allowing pitcher Ellis Kinder and White to move to second and third; up for the second time that inning, Stephens doubled to drive in the runners. In his next at bat off Earl Harrist, Stevens singled to drive in Kinder (who had two hits in the inning). The three outs by the Sox were made by shortstop Johnny Lipon, who struck out for the first out; George Kell, a future Hall of Famer who came in the game in the top of the sixth, flied out to left for out number two. Lipon later got a hit, but Kell skied out to left again to end the inning.
Here is the batter-by-batter description of the inning from Retrosheet.com:
RED SOX 7TH: White singled to center; Stephens singled to right [White to third]; Stephens stole second; Umphlett singled to left [White scored, Stephens scored]; Lipon struck out; Kell
doubled to left [Umphlett to third]; Goodman was walked intentionally; Piersall singled to center [Umphlett scored, Kell scored, Goodman to third]; Gernert homered [Goodman scored, Piersall scored]; Kinder singled to right; White walked [Kinder to second]; WEIK REPLACED GROMEK (PITCHING); Weik threw a wild pitch [Kinder to third, White to second]; Stephens doubled to center [Kinder scored, White scored]; Umphlett walked; Lipon singled to left [Stephens scored, Umphlett to second]; Kell flied out to left; Goodman singled [Umphlett scored, Lipon to second]; LEPCIO RAN FOR GOODMAN; HARRIST REPLACED WEIK (PITCHING); ZARILLA BATTED FOR PIERSALL; Zarilla walked [Lipon to third, Lepcio to second]; Gernert walked [Lipon scored, Lepcio to third, Zarilla to second]; Kinder singled to center [Lepcio scored, Zarilla scored, Gernert to third]; White singled to center [Gernert scored, Kinder to second]; Stephens singled to right [Kinder scored, White to third]; Umphlett singled to left [White scored, Stephens to second]; Lipon walked [Stephens to third, Umphlett to second]; Kell flied out to left; 17 R, 14 H, 0 E, 3 LOB. Tigers 3, Red Sox 22.
The 17 runs were the most scored in an inning in MLB history.
Stephens was the first “modern” day player to have three hits in an inning. Reports say that E. Pfeffrer, Tom Burns and E. Williamson of Chicago did it in 1883.
White established a record by scoring three runs in the inning (he had two hits and a walk). He, Stephens and Tom Umphlett reached base three times in the seventh inning, equalling a mark set by Pee Wee Reese of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1952. Boston established another record of sending 23 batters to the plate, breaking the record of 21 set by the ’52 Dodgers. The Red Sox went on to a 23-3 victory.
Said Boston pitcher Sid Hudson: “If I hadn’t seen it, I would have believed it could happen.”
Boston signed Stephens before the 1951 season. He made his debut with the Red Sox on April 16, 1952, filling in for Williams. After Williams returned, Stephens was the fourth or even fifth outfielder. The most at-bats in a season he had for the Sox was 304; his highest average was 274; the most home runs he hit was nine.
Stephens managed 53 at-bats in 1952 and 256 in 1953. Williams, who probably kept Stephens in the minors, managed only 10 at bats (with four hits) before entering the Korean War; he returned in 1953 to play in 37 games, and in 110 at-bats he hit .407.
Gene Stephens #38 of the Boston Red Sox swings at the pitch during an MLB Spring Training game against the Los Angeles Dodgers circa March, 1958 in Vero Beach, Florida. (Photo by Hy Peskin/Getty Images)
On June 27, 2003, the Florida Marlins (who would go on to win the World Series that year) made an inter-league start at Boston.
In the top of the first, the Marlins scored a run off Boston starter Byun Young Kim when leadoff hitter Juan Pierre bunted for a hit, went to second on a ground out by second baseman Luis Castillo and scored on single by catcher Ivan Rodriguez.
In the bottom of the first, the Sox faced starter Carl Pavano. Batting leadoff, Damon doubled. Pavano surrendered six consecutive hits to six batters and left trailing 6-0. His replacement, Michael Tejera, also did not retire a batter.
Boston scored 10 runs before making their first out of the inning, a new record. In his second at bat, shortstop Nomar Garciaparra popped out to Rodriguez for the initial out. In his second at-bat in the inning, Damon tripled.
In Damon’s third trip to the plate the bases were loaded with two outs. “I was thinking about getting another hit and not making the last out of the inning,” Damon said recently. He singled, driving in a run, but third baseman Bill Mueller was thrown out at the plate by then rookie left fielder Miguel Cabrera.
“I was very happy I got the third hit, but I couldn’t celebrate too long because we had a guy thrown out at home plate,” said Damon. “If that didn’t happen, then Todd Walker may have had the chance to get three hits in one inning as well.”
Did teammates in the dugout between innings tell Damon how historic his three hits were?
“Nobody was telling me the historical significance of it, we were just enjoying a fun and long inning. Some things you don’t talk about, such as the game is going fast and then it comes to a complete halt or the weather is perfect and then it starts pouring,” said Damon.
“Of course the media questioned me, we are the Boston Red Sox where there’s more media in the clubhouse than personnel,” he said.
Damon didn’t think to keep any items he used for posterity’s sake, noting, “Everything happens so fast, and the third hit was probably tossed into the stands since there was an out at home plate, and I’m sure I probably broke the bat and gave it to someone”.
Damon came to bat four more times, got two more hits, and finished with three RBIs; he struck out once. Boston went on to win 25-8.
He finished the year batting .273 with 12 home runs, 67 RBI’s, 103 runs scored, 30 stolen bases and had an OBP of .345.
What are the odds someone – maybe another Red Sox outfielder? – will have three hits in an inning in 2053?
Trea Turner was having his worst season in 2023. On August 4, he was batting only .235 (his lifetime batting average at the start of the season was .302). The recipient of a huge off-season contract, Phillies fans were waiting for Turner to return to form…and waited, and waited. They were getting restless and started to boo.
A producer with a Philadelphia sports radio station suggested fans give Turner a standing ovation to let him know they were behind him. During the August 4 contest against the Kansas City Royals, Turner received a standing ovation in all four of his at-bats. They stood, cheered, and Turner became the hottest hitter in baseball (he finished 2023 batting .266) culminating on August 19, when he became the 59th player in MLB history to hit two home runs in an inning, his shots coming off the Washington Nationals Cory Abbott in the eighth inning, helping the Phils to a 12-3 win.
There was one other two-homer inning this past season, when Boston’s Masataka Yoshida hit a home run and grand slam in the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 23; Boston won 12-5.
Charley Jones, of the Boston Red Stockings is credited with being the first major league player to home twice in one frame, which he did in the eighth inning on June 10, 1880 against the Buffalo Bisons.
Ten years later, another Boston player, Bobby Lowe, playing for the renamed Boston Beaneaters, slugged two home runs in the third inning on May 30, 1894. A month later, Jake Stenzel of the Pittsburgh Pirates hit two home runs in the third inning of a game played on June 6, 1894.
No batter slugged two home runs in one inning for another 28 years, when outfielder Kenny Williams of the St. Louis Browns hit two home runs in the sixth inning on Aug. 7, 1922 against the Washington Senators.
This feat was accomplished only four times in 40 years. Then hitting two homers in one inning started happening more often; perhaps the chances of doing it increased with the introduction of a livelier ball in 1920.
Hack Wilson, then with the New York Giants, did it on July 1, 1925. A year later, his teammate, Hank Leiber, belted two home runs in the second inning on Aug. 24, 1935.
The following year, rookie sensation Joe DiMaggio did it for the New York Yankees on June 24, 1936 in the fifth inning.
Lewis R. (Hack) Wilson of the New York Giants swinging a bat in 1924. (Photo by Sporting News and Rogers Photo Archive)
There was a 13-year gap when it happened next, as Philadelphia Phillies catcher Andy Seminick hit a pair of home runs in the eighth inning on June 2, 1949. A month later, Sid Gordon of the New York Giants followed suit when he did it in the second inning of game two on July 31, 1949, making him and Seminick the first pair of hitters to hit two home runs in one inning in the same year.
Only two players accomplished this feat in the 1950s: Detroit’s Al Kaline in 1956 and the Washington Senators’ Jim Lemon in 1959; Lemon was also the first player to hit a grand slam as one of his two round-trippers in the same inning.
In the next decade, again only two players hit a pair of home runs in the same frame; Joe Pepitone of the New York Yankees in 1962 and Rick Reichardt of the California Angels in 1966.
In the 1970s, things began to change: Willie McCovey of the San Francisco Giants did it twice, in 1973 and 1977. John Boccabella of the Montreal Expos, Lee May of the Houston Astros, Cliff Johnson of the New York Yankees and Andre Dawson of the Expos belted two homers in one inning.
Dawson did it again with Montreal on September 24, 1985. Only three other players have twice hit two home runs in the same inning: Jeff King, Alex Rodriguez and Edward Encarnacion.
The 1980s saw Ray Knight of the Cincinnati Reds, Von Hayes of the Phillies and Dale Murphy of the Atlanta Braves do it. Hayes was the first player to accomplish two home runs in the first inning of a game batting leadoff. On June 11, 1985 against the New York Mets, Hayes homered in his first at-bat, then hit a grand slam in his next.
Since 1990, many of the game’s greatest players have joined this club: Carlos Baerga, Joe Carter, Jeff Bagwell, Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield, Mark McGwire, Nomar Garciaparra, Jim Edmonds, Alex Rodriguez and Adrian Beltre have done it.
On April 23, 1999, St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Fernando Tatis, Sr., had the good fortune to come to bat with the bases loaded twice in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers; each time he hit a grand slam off starter Chan Ho Park.
In the top of the third inning, with the Dodgers leading 2-0, Darren Bragg singled; Edgar Renteria was hit by a pitch and Mark McGwire singled. Then Tatis Sr. hit his first salami. With two outs, pitcher Jose Jimenez was on third, and Bragg and Renteria were again on base. Even though he had given up seven runs (five earned) in the inning, Park was still in the game.
“He got two strikes on me right away. Boom!” said Tatis Sr., The count went 3-2. and “he hung a slider.” which Tatis deposited into the stands. “It just happened,” he said.
Park was relieved by Carlos Perez, who got the final out of the inning. Park was charged with 11 runs, of which six were earned. Tatis’ two slams gave him a record for most RBIs in an inning. The Cardinals went on to win 12-5.
“It was one of the greatest moments of my life in my life, great memory,” Tatis Sr. told MLB broadcaster Harold Reynolds in an interview conducted via Skype. “My teammates that day, they enjoyed it with me.”
Since 2000, 27 players have homered twice in one frame.
On May 2, 2002, Brett Boone and Mike Cameron of the Seattle Mariners, batting first and second, became the first teammates batting consecutively to hit two home runs in the same inning, doing it against the Chicago White Sox.
Cleveland’s Baerga, Mark Bellhorn of the Chicago Cubs and Kendrys Morales of the California Angels are the only switch hitters to homer from both sides of the plate in one inning.
On April 8, 1993, Baerga was the first player in history to hit one home run from both sides of the plate in the same inning. His home runs were off New York Yankees pitchers Steve Howe and Steve Farr in the 7th inning.
On August 29, 2002, Bellhorn became the first National League player to hit home runs batting left and right in the same inning against Milwaukee. Bellhorn hit his home runs in the fourth inning off Andrew Larraine and Jose Cabrera.
Morales homered twice in the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers on July 30, 2012 – with his homers coming off Roy Oswalt and Robbie Ross. The Angels won 15-8.