By In Baseball

Homerless Streaks

OK, you know I love stuff like this — the Kansas City Royals (as of 1:41 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday) have not hit a home run all season. That’s seven games, that’s pretty rare stuff. The last team to start a season without a home run in its first seven games was the 1990 New York Yankees — that was the worst Yankees teams of the last 100 years. The Yankees streak was finally broken when Mel Hall — yeah, Mel Hall — homered off a 500-year-old Nolan Ryan in the second inning of Game 8.

Well, if the Royals can stretch their streak to eight games against Tampa Bay today, they will enter some very cherished company — only seven teams since 1950 have started the season with eight straight homerless games.

But what I found interesting and kind of shocking is that, on the whole, the seven teams weren’t too bad. In fact, a couple of them were REALLY good teams.

Most games without a homer to start a season (since 1950):

11 games: 1972 Red Sox. Man was that a crazy team and a crazy season — the Red Sox did not hit a home run the first 11 games but actually ended up finishing SECOND in the American League in home runs. They were 85-70 and lost the division title by a half-game in one of the weirdest races ever. There was a short strike in 1972 and because of scheduling quirks the Tigers played one more game than Boston. The Tigers finished 86-70, and baseball decided, OK, season over, no makeup game necessary for Boston.

Could you even IMAGINE the outrage today if something that absurd happened? Here we are in a time where they will take months to review some meaningles play in the third innings. And we’re not that far away from a time where they decided it was just better to give the Tigers the title rather than schedule a make-up game.

The Red Sox first homer of the year was Rico Petrocelli off our pal jim Kaat in a 5-2 loss.

10 games: 1966 Kansas City Athletics. The penultimate year of the Athletics stay in Kansas City — I love that word penultimate and don’t care if I used it right — that A’s team was just semi-stinky and already had good young players like Catfish Hunter and Bert Campaneris and Blue Moon Odom, who would be part of the A’s 1970s dynasty.

Pinch-hitter Larry Stahl hit the home run that broke the streak — he hit it in the ninth off former Athletics pitcher Orlando Pena in a 13-5 loss.

9 games: 1985 Houston Astros. Pretty good team that year (83-79) and a REALY good team in 1986.

An old hero of mine, Alan Ashby, broke the streak with a solo homer off Rick Mahler in a loss. That team really did not have much power — Glenn Davis led the team with 20 homers.

9 games: 1982 San Diego Padres. Another pretty good team — they finished 81-81. Ruppert Jones — who was hitting cleaning for San Diego — broke the streak with a home run off Bob Welch. That was in the middle of a San Diego 11-game winning streak, so they didn’t need homers.

9 games: 1963 Los Angeles Dodgers. How about that … a 99-win World Series team that did not hit a homer in its first nine games.

Of course that Dodgers team was a whole lot of pitching and a whole lot of speed — they were pretty famous for their lack of offensive firepower. Frank Howard, who was more or less the only guy on that team capable of hitting a home run, broke the streak with a two-run homer off Houston’s Turk Farrell. Those were the only two runs of the game — Sandy Koufax threw a two-hitter and struck out 14. It was like that a lot in 1963, especially in Los Angeles.

8 games: 1972 St. Louis Cardinals. Here, finally, we have a team that fits what you would expect of a team that could not hit a home runs. Those Cardinals were pretty bad and they had NO power. Ted Simmons led the team with 16 homers, Joe Torre was the only other Cardinal to reach double digits (he hit 11). They hit 70 home runs as a team.

Simmons broke the streak with a solo shot off Phil Niekro in Game 9. The Cardinals still got crushed 9-3.

8 games: 1967 Los Angeles Dodgers. Well this was the season after Sandy Koufax retired, and the Dodgers — even with future Hall of Famers Don Drysdale and Don Sutton in the rotation — were pretty dreadful. Obviously pitchers dominated the game then. The Dodgers hit .236 as a team and scored 519 runs. Those weren’t even league-worst totals.

Ron Fairly broke the streak with a three-run homer off St. Louis reliever Joe Hoerner. Fairly finished the season with 10 home runs, behind Sweet Lou Johnson (11) and fourth-outfielder Al “The Bull” Ferrara (16).

So what’s there to learn here? Nothing really. Of the seven teams to start with eight homerless games, one won the World Series, one was a fluke away from a shot at a division title, two teams were right around break-even and three were fairly bad but not historically bad. Some of these teams carried their home run drought throughout the season. Some did not.

In other words, it likely means absolutely nothing that the Royals have not hit a home run in their first few games. But it’s fun to keep track of anyway.

Update: Alex Gordon homered off former Royals prospect Jake Odorizzi to break the Royals streak at seven games.

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36 Responses to Homerless Streaks

  1. ksbeck76 says:

    Thanks, Joe – another fun. As a longtime Astro’s fan (thanks for the Alan Ashby memories), I should note that Glenn Davis, the Big Bopper, led the team in homeruns in 1985, and not Glenn Wilson.

  2. laceylaw says:

    Ruppert Jones was the first star for the Mariners. First All-Star representative, had good power and speed. Good seasons in 1977 and 1979, hurt in 1978. The Kingdome crowd would chant Ruuuup! Ruuup! when he came up to bat. Broke my ten year heart when the M’s traded him to the Yankees.

    • Dr. Baseball says:

      As a 12 year old playing center field in Little League baseball in New Jersey, my teammates called me Ruppert. I was sad he never made it big as a Yankee.

  3. tombando says:

    And of course, those Sawks didn’t even break .500 til July 12th. That was a team w/ a stretch drive.

    ’74 Team, on the other hand..

  4. Brian says:

    Didn’t the Royals have a homerless streak last year that was written about on this site? I felt a bit of deja vu while reading this, but I’m not sure if there’s a reason

  5. Brian says:

    I love that word penultimate and don’t care if I used it right

    “So do I. And I’m glad this is finally my time to shine.” – Penultimate Warrior

  6. Craig from Az says:

    “Ron Fairly broke the streak with a three-run homer off St. Louis reliever Joe Hoerner. Fairly finished the season with 10 home runs, behind Sweet Lou Johnson (11) and fourth-outfielder Al “The Bull” Ferrara (16).”

    Somebody who didn’t even start the majority of their games (I’m assuming the 4th OFer started less than half the games, but that could be wrong) led the team in HRs? Wonder if that has ever happened before (in the live ball era, at least)

    • Ferrera actually played more games than Lou Johnson, 122 games to be exact. But, and this is for the Koufax haters, the Dodgers are coming off being in the World Series 3 of the prior 5 years, plus a 102 win 2nd place finish another year (no playoffs for 2nd in those days). Then Koufax retires and the Dodgers become an 8th place team. They then moved into a very dark period that didn’t end until they reloaded into the Garvey, Cey, Lopes, Russell, Sutton era….Sutton being the only carry over from the Koufax era. Hmmmm, maybe that Koufax guy WAS pretty good…. And having a guy dominate every fourth game and win 25 games may have, just may have, been the difference between a bad team and a World Series team.

      • Pat says:

        Who are these Koufax haters you speak of? Way to beat the hell out of that straw man.

        • Maybe “hater” is somewhat strong, but if you’ve been following the Top 100 discussion on this site, there are several that view Koufax’s career as unworthy of being considered Top 100 material and refer to him as a borderline HOFer. They even get into the high mound advantage and other arguments to diminish what he accomplished. I was just pointing out how valuable Koufax was in real terms….. The Dodgers with Koufax and without.

          • Patrick Bohn says:

            Because of his arm problems, Koufax’s career and his underlying ability are two different things. It is entirely possible to think Koufax was a fantastic pitcher whose overall body of work falls short of Top 100/HOF standards.

      • There is no such thin as a Koufax hater. The concept doesn’t even register.

      • sourcreamus says:

        According to Baseball Reference Koufax had a WAR of 10.3 in 1966 and his replacement, Bill Singer, had a WAR of 3.5. So the difference his retirement made to the team was around 7 games. If the 1967 Dodgers had won 7 more games they would have been fifth or sixth instead of eighth. The 1967 Dodgers were last in the league in hits, home runs, and batting average and first in strikeouts. It was more than just Koufax.

        • Except Koufax pitched 100 more innings than Singer, started 9 more games, and “won” (I know) 15 more games. Also, WAR is a measurement that isn’t precisely this is how many games he won for his team. I’m trying not to be too simplistic while calling your analysis too simplistic. But, it’s not a huge stretch to say that the 1966 version of Koufax may have been worth more than 7 games. Maybe even 10-15. Yeah, Dodger hitting was very bad, so at most, Another great Koufax year gets the Dodgers into 3rd or 4th place. Still, they weren’t the same team without Koufax at the top of the rotation.

  7. Jaunty Rockefeller says:

    And…boom goes the dynamite. Alex Gordon dinged a donger in the bottom of the 5th.

  8. Coop says:

    Alex Gordon! Always the person you most suspect.

  9. sansho1 says:

    “So what’s there to learn here? Nothing really.”

    I beg to differ, sir! I hope Jake Odorizzi reads this blog post, because it’s clear he’s just embarked on a tremendously long major league career.

    HR drought victims, by age of final ML pitch thrown:

    Niekro, 48
    Ryan, 46
    Kaat, 44
    Pena, 41
    Hoerner, 40
    Mahler, 38
    Welch, 37
    Farrell, 35

    • Will3pin says:

      There is *always* lots to learn here!

      Seeing Jim Kaat and Bert Campaneris both mentioned at the top of this piece made me recall how Campy homered in his very first major league at-bat off of Kaat. I decided to look up Campaneris at Baseball Reference. Bert Campaneris actually hit 22 Home Runs in 1972! Geez, Reggie only hit 23 that year. Repeat: Bert Campaneris hit 22 HRs in 1972!

      In the 4 years prior, Bert’s HR totals: 5, 3, 4, 2.
      In the 4 years after, Bert’s HR totals: 5, 8, 4, 2.

      He never hit more than 8 any other year in his career. Wow.

      Re: The ’72 AL Pennant Race. I was living in Detroit at the time and don’t recall any 1/2 game controversy. Maybe because Boston and Detroit ended the season playing each other that season and it was deemed sufficient to have that season ending series decide the title? It was a good payback for the Tigers to edge the Sox after ’67.

      Woody Fryman was the hero that year. Late season pickup that sent us unexpectedly over the top and into the playoffs with the A’s where Bert Campaneris (him again) hucked his bat at Lerin Lagrow and got tossed for the series.

      Anyway my learning here is that I discovered that book on that Tigers season came out a few years ago entitled: “The 1972 Detroit Tigers: Billy Martin and the Half-Game Champs”. Just ordered it from Amazon.

      • otistaylor89 says:

        Living in Boston in 1972 (still do) and the 1/2 game played bigger here, but not as big as you would expect. What was really played up was the the losing 3 straight and Luis Aparicio falling down coming around 3rd in the 2nd to last game that would have made made it a closer game – the irony that Luis was a great base runner during his prime.
        The “Head for an Ankle” bat throwing was the most memorable thing that happen during the playoffs and then Reggie tears his hamstring stealing home in Game 5 and is out for the WS.
        What was the best thing about the 1972 ALCS, one of the more unrated series in history? They played the games during the daytime! We actually were able to come home from school and watch Campy throw the bat and Reggie rolling around in pain and it wasn’t 10:30 at night!

        • True! The last time I watched a night World Series game was when the Angels won. The penultimate Game 6 ended around 12:30. I fell asleep and had to watch the big moments on replay. I decided it wasn’t worth it. And this is from a guy who snuck a transistor radio into school to listen to day World Series games as a kid who loved baseball above all else… As did most of my friends. The games are on too late for me and way too late for my kids. Both of my kids are athletes. They play every sport except baseball. Baseball has lots of issues with the millennials …. And the late World Series games are one of those issues. Almost Everyone watches the Super Bowl, the Final Four and the College Football National Championship. My kids watch the NBA playoffs, but far fewer watch the World Series. It’s a big issue.

      • Cuban X Senators says:

        While we’re on books — Larry Stahl I only know because of “Southern League” which came out last year (& also features Campaneris).

        I was surprised I didn’t hear more discussion of it. While not a classic it was certainly worthy — featured the ’64 Birmingham A’s, the first integrated Birmingham team in that historic year in Birmingham. Penultimately, it was written by a former major leaguer. And had the unbelievable info that Bull Connor first rose to public fame doing baseball recreations to live audiences in Birmingham.

  10. Dark Side of the Mood says:

    So it took a former Royals prospect to serve up something a Royal could park. That doesn’t seem too surprising.

  11. Gordo says:

    Obviously, Campaneris was juicing in’72!

  12. Will3pin says:

    A thousand pardons if I’m dominating the rap with my comments on the 1972 Tigers team and pennant race. Isn’t ’72 the year that SS Ed Brinkman (loved him) had the famous blooper quote in a post game TV interview blurting out that “this is the greatest Effing bunch of guys I’ve ever played with”? I did a quick search and couldn’t seem to find anything about this, but I recall the incident and discussing it with friends over the years.

    1972 AL MVP Voting. Brinkman finishes 9th with a .203/.259/.279 line (0.7 WAR). Holy intangibles, Batman!

    That year in the MVP voting, Eddie bested team-mate Mickey Lolich (7.2 WAR) and was just a few votes shy of Gaylord Perry and Wilbur Wood (both 10+ WAR).

  13. Being such a young man, Joe might probably doesn’t know that the issue of the missing games was settled before the season began, so that there would be no controversy at the end.

    The issue of make-ups games cancelled due to the strike was very complex. The league decided before the season started that there was no way they could make room in the schedule for all of those games, so rather than pick and choose, none of them would be made up.

    All teams knew before the season started, so there was no controversy to be had at the end of the season.

    After all, considering that seven Red Sox games were cancelled, how would the league have chosen which one they were to make up?

  14. Brent says:

    It was a lot more egregious in 1981 when the Reds had the best record in baseball (aggregate) but didn’t get to play in the playoffs (in which about half the teams were invited or at least it seemed that way) because they lost to the Astros in one half and the Dodgers in the other half (and one of those times it was by a half game, just like the Tigers/BoSox) and in that case, the decision was made right before the strike ended.

    • otistaylor89 says:

      A lot more egregious? They only played 108 games all season (what a wasted season 1981 was) and they had two shots at getting into the playoffs, but couldn’t pull it off. The ’72 Sox played 155 games and lost out to a team who played 156. How is that a lot more egregious? The egregious part of 1981 is that they even had a playoffs/WS.

      • mark says:

        Reds fans will never stop whining about that. Funny how Cardinals fans never complain even though they had the best combined record in the NL East and also didn’t make the playoffs. This whole bogus controversy ignores the fact that the setup, which can be criticized on multiple grounds, gave the first half winners no reason to play in the second half, and they dropped an average 111 percentage points in their performance as a result. Pretending that the Reds would have had the best record if the first half teams had any motive to win is wishful thinking.

  15. 1967 was the A’s last year in KC. Reggie Jackson was on that team that moved to Oakland the next year.

  16. scott says:

    Right now it seems like Joe is thinking I should have made it 50 greatest baseball players of all time.

  17. MikeN says:

    Time to sign George Brett for another coaching stint.

  18. Brett Alan says:

    “I love that word penultimate and don’t care if I used it right.”

    Yes, you used “penultimate” correctly. “If” and “right”, I’m afraid, not so much. B^)

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