Call it a case of amusing serendipity.
I’ve been doing a little research lately on inside-the-park home runs. Why, yes, it is related to the current novel-in-development. So if you like hints and gradual reveals, you can put that on your list.
Anyway, after spending a chunk of Friday learning that, for example, the number of inside-the-park home runs has been declining since the twenties, it was delightful just in time to turn on the Blue Jays/Indians game just in time to see this.
For those of you who refuse to give in to MLB’s annoying insistence on using Flash video, the Akron Beacon Journal’s Ryan Lewis describes it: “Behind 2-1 with an out in the bottom of the ninth inning against Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna, one of the better closers in the league, Jose Ramirez slammed a solo home run to right field to tie it 2-2. To turn up the excitement to 11, Tyler Naquin followed by hitting a ball off the top of the wall in right field. It got away from Blue Jays right fielder Michael Saunders and was fielded by center fielder Melvin Upton, who slipped. It allowed Naquin, sans helmet, to make the turn home and slide head-first for a wild walk-off, inside-the-park home run.”
Despite their declining frequency, inside-the-park home runs aren’t what I’d call rare. Baseball-Reference.com says there are, on average, twenty per season. Walk-off inside-the-park home runs are rather rarer, though. As best I can tell, Tyler’s feat on Friday was the first one since Angel Pagan did it for the Giants in May of 2013–and before that, you have to go back to 2004 (Rey Sanchez of the then-Devil Rays).
Since Ramirez and Naquin went back-to-back, I found myself wondering if there has ever been a case of back-to-back inside-the-park home runs. It turns out it has. Twice, in fact.
The first was June 23, 1946. Marv Rickert and Eddie Waitkus pulled it off for the Cubs against the Giants. The second occasion was August 27, 1977 with the Rangers playing the Yankees. The heroes then were Toby Harrah and Bump Wills. Seems like we’re about due for it to happen again.
Amusing coincidences: both times a team has gone back-to-back inside the park, it was the visiting team in a game played in New York. So if you want to catch the third occurrence, you might want to tune into the Phillies/Mets game on Friday. Hey, this is baseball: you never know…
A final thought: Most of the decline in inside-the-park home runs can be attributed to the shrinkage of ballparks, making it easier to hit one out and harder for a ball to bounce out of the reach of the fielders. But I have to wonder how many have been lost to showboating. How many times have you seen a batter stand at the plate watching his shot–perhaps even flipping his bat–and then have to scramble to salvage a double? It might not be a huge number, but every time I see a batter trotting slowly toward first, I want to scream at him to run, at least until the ball actually clears the fence. Given the speed of many sluggers, it might not be the difference between a double and a home run, but there’s a lot to be said for a triple.