Any Man with a Bat in His Hands Is Dangerous
Something got me thinking about Cesar Gutierrez, the light-hitting shortstop and short-time major leaguer who set an American League record with a 7-for-7 day at the plate for the Tigers in an extra inning game against the Indians in 1970. It turns out, however, that I have already written about Gutierrez and his one big day about five years ago.
So instead I’ll write about Johnny Burnett, the Cleveland Indians’ shortstop who holds the major league record with nine hits in a single game, a wild 18-inning contest between the Tribe and the Philadelphia A’s in 1932. Like Gutierrez, Burnett didn’t do much else in his major league career to make anyone think he’d put up one specular day in which he set an all-time record.
Burnett attended and starred on the baseball diamond for the University of Florida, and the Indians signed him out of college. Burnett was only an every-day player in 1931 and 1932, because while he hit reasonably well for a middle infielder, at least in those two seasons, his defense wasn’t great, and he had no power.
The game in which Burnett went 9-for-11 (eight singles and a double) occurred on July 10, 1032, and the A’s ultimately won 18-17. The game featured nine lead changes. Down 13-14, the A’s scored two runs in the top of the ninth, but the Tribe scored one of their own in the bottom half to send it into extra innings.
Relievers Eddie Rommel and Wes Farrell then traded zeros for six innings until both teams scored two runs in the 16th inning. The A’s finally scored the winning run in the top of the 18th inning, and Rommel held in the bottom half to pick up the win.
Rommel had come in in relief of starter Lew Krausse in the second inning. He went the final 17 frames, allowing 14 runs, 13 of them earned, on 29 hits and nine walks allowed. I can say with a fair assurance of certainty that Rommel’s pitching line that day was both unique and probably never approached before or after, at least in the major leagues. Rommel’s win that day was the 171st and last of his long (13 seasons) major league career.
Wes Farrell came in the 7th inning as the Indians’ third pitcher of the afternoon, and if he wasn’t exactly a hard-luck loser, he certainly pitched better than Rommel, allowing eight runs, six of them earned, on 12 hits and four walks over 11.1 innings of work. Farrell, who was one of the best hitting pitchers in MLB history, didn’t help his own cause that day, going 0-for-5 at the dish.
The biggest hero of the day for the A’s was probably Jimmy Foxx, who went 6-for-9 with a double and three home runs, driving in eight runs. The teams left a combined 39 runners on base to go with the 35 total runs scored, but the game was still played in a relatively crisp four hours and five minutes. I think it’s safe to say we’ll never see a similar major league game in our lifetimes.