Baseball is about signature moments. Players setting records. Teams winning championships. Pennant races. The post season. And the World Series. We see and experience these moments every season.
But baseball is also about tremendous in game feats by individuals and teammates. Moments that place them in history for eternity. The baseball schedule is 162 games. Most of these are routine affairs where one team wins and the other loses.
But there are times when we get to see something special. Something that we really did not expect, but may have hoped for. And when we do it is something special, because the chances of us seeing it happen again are slim. Seeing it on television is one thing. Seeing it at the ballpark is exponentially better.
I have been going to baseball games for more than 30 years and have never seen an amazing, historical baseball feat. Not one. There are 10 of them that I think that everyone should get a chance to see. If I’m lucky, I’ll see one of them before I die.
Here are the 10 major league baseball feats that every fan should get a chance to see:
1. A perfect game:
Seeing a pitcher pitch a no-hitter would be cool, but this happens often. There have been good no-hitters, average no-hitters, bad no-hitters and combined no-hitters.
But a perfect game is just that. Perfect. A pitcher faces 27 batters and retires 27. No hits, no walks, no errors. It means that the pitcher was not only perfect, but his teammates are too.
How rare is this feat? Well it’s only been done 20 times in over 140 years of professional baseball. Twelve times in the American League and eight in the National. That’s once every seven years. And it’s only been done once in the 107 year history of the World Series. Don Larsen of the New York Yankees in 1956.
No one has ever pitched more than one. Nolan Ryan with his record seven no-hitters never threw a perfect game.
So if you have seen one at the ballpark consider yourself very, very lucky.
2. A player hit four home runs in a game:
This is even rarer than a perfect game. Hitting four home runs in a major league game has been done only 15 times. Ten times in the National League and five in the American. It has been done in a nine inning game only 12 times. Which means a four home run game happens once every ten years or so.
Even more amazing is seeing a player hit four consecutive home runs in a game. The only men who have done this are Bobby Lowe of Boston (NL) in 1894, Lou Gehrig of the Yankees in 1932, Rocky Colavito of Cleveland in 1959, Mike Schmidt of the Phillies in 1979, Mike Cameron of Seattle in 2002 and Carlos Delgado of Toronto in 2003. What makes Lowe’s feat even more incredible is that he did it during the “dead ball” era.
Who is missing from the list of four home run hitters? Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron and Barry Bonds.
3. A straight steal of home:
I know that this happens often, but it is still exciting. Heck, Ty Cobb did it 54 times. Not a double steal where with runners on first and third the runner on first steals second to draw a throw while the runner on third breaks for home. I mean a straight steal from third off of the pitcher.
I saw St. Louis Cardinal outfielder Vince Coleman do it once on television against the Mets and have wanted to see someone do it in person ever since.
Even better would be seeing someone steal second, third and home in the same inning. The last player to do this was Colorado Rockies second baseman Eric Young in 1996. Fifteen years ago. And with fewer players stealing bases these days the chances of seeing this happen are diminishing.
4. An unassisted triple play:
Here is something. There have been just as many unassisted triple plays in baseball history as four home run games. Fifteen. Eight in the American League and seven in the National. There have been just as many unassisted triple plays in World Series play as perfect games pitched. One. Cleveland second baseman Bill Wambsganss did it in 1920.
Interestingly, there have been three unassisted triple plays in the last five years. Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki did it in 2007. Cleveland Indians second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera in 2008. And Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Eric Bruntlett in 2009. The period between 2000 and 2009 saw five of the fifteen unassisted triple plays occur.
So maybe the chances of seeing a triple play are increasing. But the law of averages says that we may not see one for the next thirty years.
5. A World Series game seven pitched between two 20 game winners:
This has happened a few times also. But with the 20 game winner all but becoming a thing of the past in baseball the chances of seeing two of them dueling in a World Series game seven are slim. Add to this the extended post season where there are three rounds instead of two and this decreases the odds as well.
There is another reason why most of us won’t see a World Series game seven between two 20 game winners at the ballpark. The team has to make it to the World Series first. If you live outside of New York City than your chance of even seeing a World Series game decrease.
So if you ever get a chance to see a World Series game seven feel lucky. If two twenty game winners are the starting pitchers than thank the baseball Gods.
6. An inside the park home run:
Another “common” occurrence in major league baseball, but how many of us have seen one in person? So many things have to happen to allow a hitter to get an inside the park homer that it’s still a long shot to actually see one in person.
Better yet would be to see a player hit two inside the park home runs in a game. The last time that it happened in an American League game was in 1986 when Greg Gagne of the Minnesota Twins did it. You have to go back more than 60 years to find the last time that it happened in the National League. In 1950 Hank Thompson did it for the New York Giants.
7. A player hitting for the cycle:
Like the steal of home and inside the park homer hitting for the cycle has been done a few times too. Only two teams in the history of the game have not had a player hit for the cycle. The Florida Marlins and San Diego Padres.
But a player hitting a single, double, triple and home run in the same game is still an amazing accomplishment that all fans should get a chance to see. Especially if it is a natural cycle where the hitter gets his single, double, triple and home run in that order.
The only thing that would be better than seeing a player hit for the cycle would be if it were in a World Series. In the 107 year history of World Series play, it has never been done.
8. A 20 strikeout pitching performance:
Now this is a rarity indeed. There are three pitchers who have struck out 20 batters in a single game. Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox, Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs and Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Clemens did it twice. Johnson is the only left handed pitcher of the three.
That means in the over 140 years of pro baseball there has been a twenty strikeout game once about every fifty years. It took 117 years for a pitcher to accomplish this feat as Clemens was the first in 1986. He did it again ten years later.
The twenty strikeout performance is rarer than the perfect game and the four home run game. By miles.
So there is a good chance that we may never see one of these.
9. Back to back to back home runs:
I’ve been a part of a team that hit back to back to back home runs in a game. I’ve been on a team where our pitcher gave up back to back to back home runs. But I’ve never seen it done at a major league game. Back to back yes. Back to back to back no.
There isn’t even a listing of how many times it’s been done anywhere. If it is I can’t find it.
Anyway, it would be nice to see a team do it in a major league game.
10. A Game 7 World Series walk off home run:
Once again, you would have to be lucky enough to have your team make it to the World Series. Or be a member of the media. Even if you were at the game the chances of seeing a game seven World Series walk of home run are slimmer than anything else on this list.
In the 107 year history of the World Series this feat has only been accomplished one time by one man. In 1960, Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates did it to the New York Yankees. His home run gave the Pirates a 10-9 victory and the 1960 world’s championship.
One would think that with all of the World Series game sevens that have been played this would have happened more than once, but it hasn’t. So Mazeroski like Don Larsen with his perfect game and Bill Wambsganss with his unassisted triple play can say that he has accomplished something that no one else has.
And those who saw it can say that they witnessed something live that no one else has done before or since.
So there you have it. Ten baseball feats that all fans should get a chance to see.
I hope every baseball fan gets a chance to be lucky enough to see at least one of these events. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be sitting beside you when you do.