A Unique Walk-Off
I attended a SABR meeting of the Connie Mack Chapter in June of this year. It was held at Waterfront Park in Trenton, New Jersey. This is home to the Trenton Thunder, the ‘AA’ affiliate for the New York Yankees. That day one of the presentations was about players that had hit over twenty triples and homeruns in the same season. This has only been accomplished seven times in the history of the game. This was first accomplished by Frank “Wildfire” Schultz in 1911 and more recently by both Jimmy Rollins and Curtis Granderson in 2007.
Someone in the audience remarked that it was surprising that no one who played at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field ever accomplished this feat given its deep dimensions.
That last comment got me to thinking; the triple is considered one of the most exciting plays in baseball by sport’s enthusiasts. So, an “inside the park” homerun was even more exciting if not rarer.
While Ty Cobb holds the record for the most inside the park homers in a career with 64, he never hit one as odd as the one that occurred at Forbes Field on July 25, 1956. That day the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates squared off in a National League contest. It was first described to me by an old friend, Nellie King.
It seems that day Elroy Face entered the game to protect a Pirates lead but failed. This was a rare result for the team’s bullpen ace. Pittsburgh was trailing 8-5 in the top of the ninth inning. There were two men on and two outs when Bobby Bragan, the Pirates’ skipper, decided to bring in Nellie King. After taking his warm-up pitches Nellie delivered a curve ball to Eddie Miksis, who promptly hit a bouncer to shortstop Dick Groat. Groat tossed it over to first to end the inning.
Then in the bottom of the inning, Cubs’ manager Stan Hack brought in Jim Brosnan to relieve Turk Lown who had loaded the bases with no outs. Roberto Clemente stood waiting at the plate.
Brosnan took his obligatory warm-ups and delivered his first pitch to Clemente who jumped on it, sending it off of the light tower to the right of the scoreboard in left field. His clout cleared the bases with the tying run crossing the plate. When Bragan attempted to stop him at third, the young outfielder missed the sign and slid home just ahead of the throw for the winning run!
This became the first “walk-off,” inside the park grand slam in the history of the game. To this day it remains as the only one to occur in a game.
As if this feat was not rare or unusual enough, it was compounded by another oddity. Nellie King and Jim Brosnan threw only one pitch in the game. This might be the first time a winning and losing pitcher have ever done that!