In 2001, 22 players hit three homers in a game. That’s a record, but what was particularly striking about that season — as you might remember — was that much of the power was concentrated in a few sluggers.
Up to that season, only 14 players in baseball history had multiple three-homer games in a single season — Ted Williams had done it in ‘57, Mays in ‘61, Stargell in ‘71, Kingman in ‘79, etc. It was a rare thing and there had not yet been a season when two different players had hit three homers multiple times.
Well in 2001, FOUR PLAYERS had multiple three homer games — Barry Bonds did it, Carlos Delgado did it, Jeromy Burnitz did it and, in the crescendo, Sammy Sosa became the first and still only player to hit three homers in a game THREE TIMES IN ONE SEASON.
This gets to the heart of what’s so crazy about 2019. Because this year, fifteen different players already have hit three homers in a game. The all-time record probably will go down … and based on the pace we’ve seen lately, it may go down by the time you read these words.
That’s because this week has been unprecedented:
On Tuesday, Robinson Cano hit three homers against the Padres.
On Wednesday, Paul Dejong hit three homers against the Pirates.
On Thursday, Nelson Cruz hit three homers against the White Sox.
And on Friday, Mookie Betts hit three homers against the Yankees.*
*Mookie Betts is something else. He has not yet hit more than 32 homers in a season — he’s in the Hank Aaron mold of great hitter more than home run hitter — and yet he has now had FIVE three-homer games, which is more than any Red Sox player including Ted Williams, David Ortiz, Jim Rice … or a guy they traded who you might have heard of named Babe Ruth. With one more three-homer game, he will tie Sammy Sosa and Johnny Mize for most three-homer games, and he’s 26 years old, and forever more we shall call three-homer games “Mookies.”
It should go without saying: This run of four consecutive days with three homer games has never happened before. Best I can tell, after going through the more than 600 times a player has hit three homers in a game, it has never even happened three days in a row. It has happened two days in a row many times.
And there have been numerous times that two players have hit three homers on the same day.
May 2, 2018: Mookie Betts vs. Kansas City, Edwin Encarnacion vs. Texas.
Oct. 3, 2012: Dan Johnson vs. Cleveland; Evan Longoria vs. Baltimore
Sept. 3, 2006: Albert Pujols vs. Pittsburgh; Ryan Howard vs. Atlanta
July 20, 2004: Travis Hafner vs. Angels; Albert Pujols vs. Cubs
August 10, 2002: Sammy Sosa vs. Colorado; Mike Lieberthal vs. Dodgers
Sept. 25, 2001: Jeromy Burnitz and Richie Sexson (teammates) vs. Arizona
April 25, 1997: Matt Williams vs. Milwaukee; Ken Griffey Jr. vs. Toronto
Sept. 15, 1996: Frank Thomas vs. Boston; Benito Santiago vs. Cubs
Sept. 14, 1987: Mickey Brantley vs. Cleveland; Ernie Whitt vs. Baltimore
July 26, 1970: Johnny Bench vs. St. Louis; Orlando Cepeda vs. Cubs
June 6, 1965: Johnny Callison vs. Cubs; Tom Tresh vs. White Sox
August 2, 1950: Larry Doby vs. Washington; Andy Pafko vs. Giants
July 4, 1939: Hank Lieber vs. St. Louis; Jim Tabor vs. Athletics
That last one — the first time two players hit three homers on the same day — is more famously remembered as the day of Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech.
Obviously, we don’t need to prove how unprecedented the home run barrage is right now. We know it. We know that hitters are on pace to hit 500 more home runs than they’ve ever hit in a season before. We know the Minnesota Twins just became the quickest team to hit 200 home runs in a season — they did it in their 103rd game.
You can do the math on that — 201 homers in 103 games. The Twins could be the first team to hit 300 home runs in a season. No team has ever even been CLOSE to 300 home runs in a season. The Yankees set the record last year with 267. But you don’t need to project to see how wild this is — the Twins have enough home runs RIGHT NOW to have led the league most full seasons in the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and into the 1990s.
Also more players have double digit home runs RIGHT NOW than any full season pre-1999.
But back to the Mookies. There have been six this month, which is another record — Josh Bell and Travis d’Arnaud also had three homer games in addition to the guys who did it in four consecutive games. And the thing that’s striking is that EVERYBODY is hitting Mookies. In 2001, the power was generally built around a handful of players — that’s when Bonds set the record with 73, Sammy Sosa hit 64, Luis Gonzalez hit 57, A-Rod hit 52, etc.
This year, it’s spread out. Players from 14 different teams have already had Mookies from players you would expect like Christian Yelich and Kris Bryant, to players you might not like d’Arnaud and Pedro Severino. Who will hit three homers in a game tomorrow? It could be anyone.
And, while Mookies are so much fun, I cannot help but think of the line from The Incredibles where Syndrome says, “And when I’m old and I've had my fun, I'll sell my inventions so that everyone can be superheroes. Everyone can be super. And when everyone's super ... no one will be.”