Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hitting a Grand Slam on Your Birthday

Cubs prospect Kyle Schwarber turned 22 on Thursday and celebrated by hitting a grand slam in his first plate appearance of spring training.

Let's take a look at the 20 players that have hit a grand slam on their birthday in real games since 1914:

Date Batter Team Age Pitcher Team Runners Result Notes
8/11/2010 Colby Rasmus Cardinals 24 Bronson Arroyo Reds Jon Jay, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday W 6-1
6/12/2008 Hideki Matsui Yankees 34 Joe Blanton Athletics Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez W 4-1
5/25/2008 Jason Kubel Twins 26 Francisco Cruceta Tigers Carlos Gomez, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau W 6-1 GW in T8
6/6/2006 Derrek Lee Cubs 31 Matt Capps Pirates Angel Pagan, Juan Pierre, Ryan Theriot W 7-2 GW in B8
6/3/2006 Travis Hafner Indians 29 Brendan Donnelly Angels Grady Sizemore, Jason Michaels, Jhonny Peralta W 14-2
6/25/2005 Aramis Ramirez Cubs 27 Jose Contreras White Sox Corey Patterson, Neifi Perez, Jeromy Burnitz W 6-2
7/22/2004 Mike Sweeney Royals 31 Gary Knotts Tigers John Buck, David DeJesus, Angel Berroa W 13-7
7/27/2002 Alex Rodriguez Rangers 27 Billy Koch Athletics Gabe Kapler, Frank Catalanotto, Herbert Perry W 10-6 Walk-Off in B10
7/23/2002 Nomar Garciaparra Red Sox 29 Brandon Backe Devil Rays Doug Mirabelli, Johnny Damon, Lou Merloni W 22-4
8/18/1998 Bobby Higginson Tigers 28 Greg McCarthy Mariners Gabe Alvarez, Deivi Cruz, Brian Hunter W 7-6
6/12/1996 Damon Buford Rangers 26 Kevin Wickander Brewers Dave Valle, Warren Newson, Kevin Elster W 13-6
9/22/1995 Vince Coleman Mariners 34 Todd Van Poppel Athletics Mike Blowers, Luis Sojo, Dan Wilson W 10-7
9/9/1993 Todd Zeile Cardinals 28 Terry Bross Giants Rene Arocha, Geronimo Pena, Ozzie Smith W 9-4
4/19/1986 R.J. Reynolds Pirates 27 Scott Sanderson Cubs Bill Almon, Rafael Belliard, Rick Reuschel W 14-8
7/4/1979 Wayne Nordhagen White Sox 31 Rick Waits Indians Alan Bannister, Claudell Washington, Lamar Johnson W 16-4
8/9/1974 Ted Simmons Cardinals 25 Geoff Zahn Dodgers Lou Brock, Ted Sizemore, Joe Torre W 5-3
9/5/1966 Bill Mazeroski Pirates 30 Phil Niekro Braves Gene Alley, Roberto Clemente, Donn Clendenon W 13-5
8/9/1961 Julian Javier Cardinals 25 Joe Gibbon Pirates Curt Flood, Jimmie Schaffer, Don Taussig W 4-0
6/11/1958 Frank Thomas Pirates 29 Ray Crone Giants Bob Skinner, Dick Groat, R C Stevens W 14-6
7/16/1920 Shoeless Joe Jackson White Sox 33 Eric Erickson Senators Nemo Leibold, Eddie Collins, Buck Weaver W 8-5 ITTP GW T9

I used the Baseball-Reference Play Index to find the 55 players that had a home run and at least four runs batted in on their birthday. Clicking the number in the plate appearances column shows a pop-up window with play-by-play data, quickly whittling down the list. For games without B-R or Retrosheet PBP, line scores without four runs in an inning eliminated a player, while newspapers helped knock out two other entries before confirming our final birthday slam.

The youngest player on the list is the most recent one, with Colby Rasmus doing it on his 24th birthday. There's a tie for the oldest, with Vince Coleman (a Dave Niehaus grand salami in Seattle) and Hideki Matsui, hitting ones on their 34th birthday.

Alex Rodriguez has the only walk-off, but despite it coming in the top of the inning, I think Shoeless Joe Jackson has him beat with a come-from-behind, inside-the-park game-winner. From the Chicago Tribune:
"...needing one run to tie, they got the bases filled and then Gen. Joe poled a tremendous drive to the flag pole in deep center for a home run, driving in three mates ahead of him and clinching victory by a score of 8 to 5."
The game story even detailed the start of the ninth-inning rally, allowing me to include Leibold, Collins and Weaver in the runners column. It also notes that in the first game of the doubleheader, Red Faber outdueled Walter Johnson and snapped Sam Rice's 29-game hitting streak. The Tribune's archive is awesome. I don't even know how far it goes back and has pretty much every day's paper. Great for anyone doing just about any kind of research.

It's been more than four seasons since anyone has joined this list, will anyone do it in 2015? It looks like our first chance is with Alexi Amarista (born April 6, 1989) on Opening Day! OK, so he's hit 15 career homers with exactly five each in the last three seasons. Maybe Adrian Beltre on April 7 is a better bet...

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