It’s my belief that baseball is a game that is made up of more small moments that craft themselves into great and memorable moments than any other sport in the world.
The game’s natural movement from step A to step B enables small dramas to be inserted into contests throughout the season, and the years. This is what shapes our baseball memories, small moments, significant to us and often to the history of the game On the franchise level, the Reds grabbed the golden ring as summer kicked off with a bang when one player became the 27th Red to perform a rare batting feat…a feat that is so rare that only 23 players in the long history of the franchise have achieved it. A feat that Ted Kluszewski accomplished, Frank Robinson as well… why, Gus Bell did it twice!
Heck George Foster did it….and even Pete did it.
But ya know what?
Joe Morgan never did it. Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Perez and Adam Dunn never did it. Lee May, Wally Post: nope.
But Chris Heisey has.
Of course I’m talking about hitting 3 home runs in a game, a pretty rare feat throughout Reds history, one that seems less rare these days and one that has occurred 27 times by 23 different men since Jake Beckley did it against the Cardinals on September 26th, 1897. Back then, a homer was rare, and yet that day and Beckley’s achievement garnered no acknowledgement in The Sporting News. It was 40 years later until another Red achieved the feat, when Alex Kampouris hit 3 at the Baker Bowl in a 21-10 Reds win.
It would be another 12 years until Walker Cooper hit 3 against the Cardinals at Crosley Field, giving the Reds their third member to the small group. As the Redlegs (as they were called then) began their 75th season in 1955, the club was still only able to boast about the aforementioned three; it was still a rarity, occurring roughly every quarter-century.
Or was it?
In 1952 the Reds hit over 100 home runs as a team for only the the third time in franchise history. It would be 30 more years before the Reds would have a season with fewer than 100. This, of course, meant that the chance of one player having multi-home run games was much greater than it had been in the previous decades. This fact fully came to light in 1955 when Gus Bell and Smokey Burgess each hit 3 in a game only eight days apart.
The 1956 season was the season that the Reds kicked in the door as an offensive squad and their power-laden lineup tied the MLB HR record when they launched 221 long balls in 154 games. That season, four Reds had 3 homer games, including Bell who achieved his second 3 HR game at Wrigley early in the season. Two years later, Frank Robinson hit 3 against the Cardinals at Crosley Field.
In 4 seasons the Reds had collected seven 3 HR games. The emergence of this slugging squad was a changing of the guard in Cincinnati; the franchise had never been known for their hitting prowess. This, however, changed in the 1950’s, and it still continues till this day.
It was the 8th inning of a game in August of 1966, and Art Shamsky, a young promising outfielder on the Reds, was double-switched in for Joe Nuxhall. When he entered the game the team was down 7 to 6. In his first at-bat Shamsky hit a home run to give the Reds a 8-7 lead. That didn’t seal it, as the Pirates tied it in the 9th and went ahead in the top of the 10th. Shamsky followed Johnny Edwards in the 10th with a solo home run to tie the contest. The Pirates managed 2 runs in the 11th and with 2 outs, Edwards coaxed a walk out of Roy Face and he was quickly replaced by loogy Billy O’Dell, who promptly gave up Shamsky’s third home run of the day, locking the contest and prolonging the day’s battle. In the 13th, the Pirates retook the lead and the game ended as Art lingered near the on deck circle, becoming the only Reds player to hit 3 home runs in a game as a substitute and in a loss, losing his chance to see if he could hit 4 in a game.
In 1970, a brand new stadium sat glistening aside the river and the team was tearing up the National League and beginning to achieve the promise so many had longed for in the 1960’s. Behind the plate was perhaps the game’s best player, Johnny Bench, who is the only Red to hit a 3 home runs in a game three times.
The first time was in the 14th game at Riverfront in late July, against the Cardinals. On the mound was future hall of famer Steve Carlton. Bench hit a HR in the 1st and 2nd inning and added another in the 5th. Oddly enough, his second 3 HR game came three years later against the Phillies. The man on the mound?
Yep, Steve Carlton.
To top it off, Bench hit 3 in a game against former Cy Young winner Randy Jones in 1980, making all three of his games against men who at one time were recognized as the top pitchers in the NL. In between his 1973 accomplishment and 1980, both George Foster and Pete Rose hit 3 HR’s in a game. After that late April contest, Rose would only have 4 other home runs that season, He had 640 plate appearances after that game and averaged a home run every 160 times he went to the dish.
Bench’s 1980 game was the 16th time a Red had a 3 HR game. Since that day, sixteen other Reds have sent 3 balls over the fence in a single game. Both Boones went deep thrice in a game; Aaron even did it twice. Eric Davis did it twice, Barry Larkin once, Willie Greene once, as well.
And just last week, Chris Heisey etched his name in the Reds record book forever when he became the only Red to do it in an inter-league game.
And — poof – another moment is born.
Here are some charts and lists, because darn it… I like that sort of stuff.
The frequency of the event (currently missing Bench’s 1970 game)
|Kampouris||@Phillies||May 9, 1937|
|Cooper||Cardinals||Jul 6, 1949|
|Bell||Phillies||Jul 21, 1955|
|Burgress||Pirates||Jul 29, 1955|
|Bell||@Cubs||May 29, 1956|
|Bailey||@Dodgers||Jun 24, 1956|
|Klu||@Cardinals||Jul 1, 1956|
|Thurman||Braves||Aug 18, 1956|
|Robinson||Cardinals||Aug 22, 1959|
|Shamsky||Pirates||Aug 12, 1966|
|Bench||Cardinals||Jul 26, 1970|
|Bench||@Phillies||May 9, 1973|
|Foster||Braves||Jul 14, 1977|
|Rose||@Mets||Apr 29, 1978|
|Bench||@Padres||May 29, 1980|
|Davis||@Giants||Sep 10, 1986|
|Davis||Phillies||May 3, 1987|
|Larkin||Astros||Jun 28, 1991|
|Sanders||Rockies||Aug 15, 1995|
|Greene||Cardinals||Sep 24, 1996|
|Brett Boone||@Cubs||Sep 20, 1998|
|Hammonds||@Rockies||May 19, 1999|
|Vaughn||@Cubs||Sep 7, 1999|
|Braynan||@Padres||Aug 4, 2002|
|A Boone||Padres||Aug 9, 2002|
|A Boone||Cardinals||May 8, 2003|
|Votto||Cubs||May 7, 2008|
|Gomes||Nationals||Aug 13, 2009|
|Stubbs||@Cubs||Jul 4, 2010|
|Bruce||Cubs||Aug 27, 2010|
|Heisey||Yankees||Jun 22, 2011|