By In Stuff

Fat Pat at Bat

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In honor of J.D. Martinez’s four-homer game on Monday, I’ll post a couple of relates pieces … starting with this one on one of the most unlikely men to have had hit four home runs in a game.

On July 19, 1948, first game of a doubleheader, the craziest thing happened: A guy named Pat Seerey hit four home runs in a game. Well, no one really called him Pat Seerey. They called him “Fat Pat.” They called him “Mr. Five-by-Five.” They called him “The People’s Choice.” The papers called him “rotund outfielder” and “the flabby Oklahoman” — the second of those unquestionably the worst name ever for a Western movie.

Seerey is listed for posterity at 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds which ain’t bad, but in his day they had Seerey an inch or two shorter than that and 25 to 30 pounds heavier. Height and weight aside, Pat Seerey was what passed for a strikeout machine in the 1940s. He never got 500 plate appearances in a season and yet he led the league in strikeouts four times. In 1944, he struck out 99 times in 342 at-bats.

This isn’t to say that Pat Seerey lacked talent: He had prodigious power. That’s why Cleveland manager Lou Boudreau kept sending Seerey to the plate in spite of all those whiffs. When Seerey got hold of one, the ball went a long way. One July day in 1945, at Yankee Stadium, he hit three home runs and a triple. It seems that Boudreau did not particularly like Seerey, but he still brought in three all-time greats — Hank Greenberg, Tris Speaker AND Rogers Hornsby — to serve as personal batting instructors. It didn’t take.

“I’m sort of a rockhead,” Seerey said.

Cleveland finally gave up on him in 1948, ironic because that was year Seerey lost a  bunch of weight in the offseason (earning him the nickname “Flat Pat.”). They traded him to Chicago for Bob Kennedy. It was a good trade for Cleveland; Kennedy proved to be a useful enough player for five seasons while Seerey would be out of the Major Leagues within a year. But Seerey still had that historic day, July 19, 1948, at Shibe Park in Philadelphia.

First time up, against Carl Scheib, he struck out. But in the fourth inning, first pitch, he hit the ball over the left-field roof. That’s one. Next inning, he hit Scheib’s first pitch off of the roof. That’s two. One inning later, he hit another ball off the roof. That’s three.

The next inning, though, he popped out to the catcher and in the ninth inning he walked and that probably should have ended things. But his A’s had somehow come back from an 11-7 deficit (Eddie Joost’s three-run homer wa the big blow) and so the game went into extra innings.

And in the 11th, Seerey hit one deep into the left-field stands off of war-hero Lou Brissie — an amazing story for another time — to become the fifth player in Major League history to hit four homers in a game, and only the second American Leaguer after Lou Gehrig.

There are several fun details from that game. One is that George Earnshaw — who gave up three of Gehrig’s home runs — was in the press box watching. He was working for the American League at the time. Earnshaw told a great story about how, after he gave up that third home run to Gehrig (he actually gave up back-to-back homers to Ruth and Gehrig that inning), he was pulled from the game. But his manager Connie Mack would not let him go to the clubhouse. Mack insisted that Earnshaw watch closely as Roy Mahaffey faced Gehrig in the top of the seventh.

“Watch, maybe you’ll learn something,” Mack said, or something to the effect.

Gehrig promptly hit his fourth home run of the game.

“Is that what you mean, Mr. Mack?” Earnshaw said, and he headed for the showers.

One more little story: Weather King batteries had an ad in the Philadelphia program offering $300 to any ballplayer — home or visitor — who hit three home runs in a game.

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Apparently the ad USED to promise $300 for three home runs … and $500 for four home runs. But the idea of anyone hitting four homers in a game was so unlikely, that they simply took that option off the ad.

After Seerey hit his third home run, clarification was needed. Did the $500 offer still stand? This wasn’t a trivial matter; Seerey never made more than $12,000 in a season, this was real money. Apparently calls were made, Weather King representative Charlie Ziehler confirmed during the game that the $500 prize was still in place. Seerey knew what was at stake in his last at-bat. Ziehler gave Seerey the check the next day.

And a final addendum: In 1894, Boston’s Robert Lowe — sometimes called Bobby or Linc or Link — became the first player in the so-called Majors to hit four homers in a game. As one paper wrote: “Linc Lowe made a record for himself in Wednesday’s game at Boston against Cincinnati that any ball player might be proud of. In the afternoon game Linc had 4 home runs, 2 putouts and 2 assists.” It is those two assists that he undoubtedly would never forget.

In any case, Lowe was 80 when he heard that Seerey got 500 bucks for his four-homer game. He could not help but laugh. “What did I get?” he told reporters. “Why I got a nice big headline. There was some talk at the time of raising a $1,000 purse, but I never got a dime.”

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17 Responses to Fat Pat at Bat

  1. Rick Akins says:

    I absolutely love these baseball history lessons, Joe!!!!

  2. Rob Smith says:

    I’d never heard of Seerey. I looked him up on BBR. He had 5 full or semi-full seasons and 2 other seasons where he played at least 82 games. He led the league in strikeouts in four of those seasons despite never playing in more than 126 games. He was probably a victime to the stats of the day since he hit .224 lifetime. But he had a 12% walk rate which gave him a decent .321 OBP and .733 OPS. He also hit 26 HRs one year and mid teens 3 other times with never more than 485 ABs. A marginal player, for sure. But today those stats might be viewed more favorably. At least somewhat.

    • nightfly says:

      They wouldn’t care as much about the whiffs, that’s for sure. He’d carve himself out a career as a Kingman/Jaso “three true outcomes” type of player.

      • SDG says:

        I think part of the reason people cared about strikeouts even in the high-offense era of 1948 is baseball, and baseball media, was run by people who grew up in the deadball era, when runs were scarce, putting the ball in play was important and strikeouts were much worse. It took awhile for that to totally worm its way out of the culture even though Babe Ruth led the league in strikeouts a bunch of times and was still Babe Ruth. Other top tens in Ks in that era were Ralph Kiner, Mickey Mantle, Larry Doby, and Ted Williams. If people still looked at a hitter’s strikeouts and concluded he was a bad player, they weren’t paying attention.

  3. Rob Smith says:

    BTW: I loved Earnshaw’s story. Gehrig was at least in the top 5 all time. Giving up 3 HRs to a guy is never good, but Gehrig was one of the toughest outs the game has ever seen. If Connie Mack did truly try to give an example to Earnshaw (one of the league’s top pitchers btw) he should probably have picked another player. If Earnshaw couldn’t get Gehrig out, there weren’t a lot of pitchers that could.

  4. Cuban X Senators says:

    Thanks for this, Joe, more than I’d ever have known . . .

  5. Ed says:

    I was at that JD Martinez 4 HR game and I didn’t see him hit ANY of the 4. I think I was getting some food when he hit the first (I thought maybe I hadn’t even gone to my seat yet, but I sat down during the 3rd inning so it wasn’t that), and we got up to walk around the stadium a couple of minutes before he hit the second. And then we left in the 7th before he hit 3 and 4.

    • nightfly says:

      Holy cow, that’s… wow.

      Reminds me of a Tim McCarver story he told about (I believe) Alex Johnson, who was a fourth outfielder for the Cards in ’67. During the World Series, Red Schoendienst needs a pinch hitter, but can’t see Johnson. “Get me Johnson!” he yells. And Johnson pops his head out into the dugout, sheepishly wiping away condiments – he’d been snacking on a hot dog. Schoendienst sighs and sends somebody else to the plate instead.

      Johnson never got into a game during that Series as a result, and for the rest of his career, never again made the postseason. He missed his big chance because he had to have a snack.

      • Rob Smith says:

        I was an Angel season ticket holder during Alex Johnson’s stint with the Angels. He won a batting title during that tenure. Alex Johnson may have been the most miserable and lazy player ever. He had great talent as a hitter and when he wanted to, he was really, really fast. When he won the batting title, I went to the final game of the season where he beat Yaz by a fraction of a percent. His final hit was an infield hit that was essentially a routine groundball to short that he beat out. But normally, he would jog to first and take a right turn before getting to the base. He also was hated by his teammates, one of whom pulled a gun on him in a major incident that eventually led to his departure from the team. I also had experience with him during spring training where we tried to grab a ball he hit under the netting of the batting cage. We were like 10 years old and he started swearing at us angrily. The guy was a real loser. Too bad. He could have been a great player. He could really hit. So, eating a hot dog during the World Series and not paying attention to the game, is no surprise at all.

        • Dan says:

          Johnson’s Wikipedia entry is remarkable. “By the end of June, Johnson had been benched five times and fined 29 times. On June 26, Angels GM Dick Walsh suspended him without pay indefinitely for “not using his best efforts.” Johnson grieved it, was found to have an emotional disturbance, and an arbitrator held he should have been placed on the DL instead of suspended.

          • invitro says:

            “Johnson’s Wikipedia entry is remarkable” — I was just going to say this. 🙂 Well, we can see that politically troubled players existed before now. I’ve heard Alex Johnson’s name, but didn’t know anything about him until I read the Wikipedia article. What a piece of work. I wonder if he learned any of his tricks from Dick Allen… I saw they were rookies together on the Phillies in 1964.

        • EnzoHernandez11 says:

          I think it was in the Bill James Historical Abstract where James quoted a sportswriter as saying (more or less), “When Alex says mother, he’s already used up half of his vocabulary.”

      • Ed says:

        Well, here’s the backstory:

        A. I’m not much of a big baseball fan. I like reading about it and keeping track of what’s going on, but I just do not enjoy watching the sport. And, weirdly enough, I’ve never been a fan of being AT sporting events. If it’s something I’m really interested in (Panthers NFL games, UNC basketball/football, golf majors, etc.) I’d much rather watch it on TV. I would rather be at a game I don’t care about than one I do care about, so that was a bonus I guess, but I just wasn’t super interested in watching the game.

        B. I was in LA for a wedding with several friends. Only one of us is a big baseball fan (Braves fan), but going to Dodger Stadium seemed like it would be a cool experience (and it was; some great views from there if nothing else) and he wanted to go so we all went. So he was the only one really interested in the baseball, and even he didn’t care that much about the game since he had no rooting interest.

        C. Our hotel was only about 3 miles from the stadium, so we were not expecting it to take us almost an hour to actually get to the Uber drop-off point. Even though we left an hour early we weren’t actually in the stadium until after the game had started, and none of us had eaten so we wanted to grab food before sitting down. That’s also why we left early — after it took an hour to get to the stadium, we didn’t want to spend an hour getting back, especially with most of us having to get up by 4 AM or so to get to the airport for flights out.

    • Richard says:

      Those “Pace of Play” rules don’t give you a chance, do they….

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