Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Clicking does the strangest things

I came across an article online regarding Randy Wolf, the former Phillies pitcher who now works for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The pride of Pepperdine University is a decent middle-of-the-rotation guy at this point, but his most recent start (vs. Arizona) was a thing of beauty. Through seven innings he had allowed only one single, striking out ten, and had gone 2-3 with a home run.

They let him hit for himself in the top of the eighth - why not, it was 7-0 - and he smacked an RBI double, and came around to score, and Joe Torre let him keep going. I mean, again, why not? The guy was cruising. He'd retired 20 consecutive Diamondbacks. He'd struck out the side in the fifth, two more in the seventh, and had a shot at actually hitting for the cycle.

On his second pitch of the eighth, Wolf gave up a dinger, and two singles and a triple later, Torre had to come get him. His final line was 7 2/3 IP, three runs on five hits with ten strikeouts, plus a 3-4, 3 rbi day at the plate.

The article (which I can't find now) posited that Wolf's day was one of the greatest ever enjoyed by a pitcher, and while it's a fine day indeed, I can't help but think that there have been enough truly amazing days to consider this a slight step below.

That's not the Mets fan in me talking, either. To prove it, I will cite as possibly the top of the list a warm June in Cincinnati, where the visiting Phillies send Rick Wise to the mound. He threw a no-hitter that day... and hit two home runs of his own. Not many pitchers can say that they've done that, and to my knowledge no other pitcher can say that he did it TWICE - but Wise can, and what's more, he did it in the same season.

But this is where clicking comes in. Wise can also add some odd-duck trivia. Most famously, he was traded straight-up for Steve Carlton, who went on to win 27 games for the dreadful '72 Phils, with the Cy Young and the Hall of Fame and (for a very little while) the all-time strikeout title.

Wise's first-ever start in 1964 came against the Giants, and he surrendered his first major league home run in the first inning - to Willie Mays. On August 28th, 1971, they became the second team in a single year to give up two homers TO Wise; one was a grand slam to break a tie.

The Phillies lost 7 of Wise's next 8 starts following the June no-hitter... they also lost his next three starts after that August 28th game.

Wise wound up hitting 15 career homers, and one week shy of the two-year anniversary of his first grand slam, he hit another for the Cardinals against the Braves. It would be his last career homer.

But wait! There's more! The Baseball Reference guys ran a list of all the relievers who've hit homers and found two who've hit two in a game themselves. The first guy on that list, Millard "Dixie" Howell, is a very interesting guy: broke in with the Cleveland Indians in 1940, had arm troubles, went to WW2, was made a prisoner of war, but made it briefly back to the bigs at age 29. And when the game seemed to have passed him by, he popped back up at age 35 for the White Sox, presaging Jim Morris by over forty years, and he went 8-3 with a 2.93 ERA. His two-tater game came two years later. Sadly, he died very young, via heart attack at age 40, while working out for an independent league team in spring training.

By the way, be sure when you investigate these things. You have to wind up with the correct Millard "Dixie" Howell, or things could get wierd.

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