May 1, 2012
Inside The Park Blog
On Total Bases and an Obscure Character of Lore
As you've no doubt seen by now, the Brewers' Ryan Braun had three homers and a triple last night at Petco Park, piling up 15 total bases in the game. His triple was a gapper to right-center that wasn't especially close to going out of the park. In his first at-bat, he flew out to medium center field on a well-struck ball. It was a career night for the reigning MVP. His first three-homer game was also the first at Petco.
The 15 total bases are what really jump out at you in the box score. A 3.000 slugging percentage, even if it's only over five plate appearances, tends to draw one's eye. The total base figure prompted me to bring up the all-time, single-game leaderboard, where once again I saw a name that's left me scratching my head a few times. Never before have I done anything about it, until today. More on that in a bit.
First, a few observations from the linked list:
Let's bring this back to the beginning. I mentioned that there was a name on the four-homer list that has always troubled me. Let's see if you can guess. Here's the 13: Shawn Green, Joe Adcock, Mike Schmidt, Gil Hodges, Carlos Delgado, Mike Cameron, Mark Whiten, Bob Horner, Willie Mays, Rocky Colavito, Pat Seerey, Chuck Klein, Lou Gehrig.
Almost all of these names bring up instant memories or historical allusions. Green, Delgado and Cameron all happened during the Highlight Era, so we saw their replays ad nauseum. Adcock, as I mentioned, was the record-holder for total bases and I'm pretty sure that feat was mentioned on the back of a Topps baseball card one year. I've heard many tales of Schmidt's four-homer day with the wind blowing out at Wrigley Field in 1976. Hodges is one of the revered Boys of Summer and one of the best players not in the Hall of Fame. Whiten reminds me of a factory. Horner was once thought to be one of the future great sluggers in baseball. Mays was Mays. Rocky Colavito was an outstanding hitter in the '60s, once traded for Harvey Kuenn in what has always struck me as an odd deal. Chuck Klein put up ridiculous numbers for the Phillies during the offense-happy National League in the early '30s. Lou Gehrig was the unluckiest luckiest man on the face of the Earth.
But just who in the hell is Pat Seerey?
Seerey hit four homers in a game in 1948. That I knew, because his name always is trotted out on the four-homer list. I remember looking up his career record one time, and it's easily the worst of the Four Homer Club. He hit .224 in seven big-league seasons and led the league in batter strikeouts four times during that stretch, even though he never played more than 126 games in a season. For his career, he stuck out in 23 percent of his plate appearances. He was out of the big leagues at the age of 29.
But here's the thing about Seerey I never noticed until this morning: Not only did he pile up 16 total bases in his big 1948 game but, three years before, he had 15 total bases in a game -- three homers and a triple. Seerey put up four percent of his career total bases in two games. The only other hitters to have three jacks and a triple in the same game are Fred Lynn, Wes Westrum, Tony Lazzeri, Les Bell and, now, Braun.
That's still doesn't answer the question about who in the hell is Pat Seerey. His Wikipedia page is nigh empty. His BR Bullpen page describes him as a proto-Rob Deer, in style, numbers and body type. Finally, I came upon this page on the SABR site, which has a lot more background and for which I will be eternally grateful to its author, one Fred Schuld. My favorite part:
"Seerey had in Gordon Cobbledick's opinion 'the same eye-compelling quality that made Babe Ruth an idol.'"
Over the long baseball season, we'll see a handful of performances that, if we let them, will lead us to re-discover some lost element of the incredibly rich history of the game. Phil Humber had one of those performances a couple of weeks ago. Ryan Braun had one of those games last night. I'm sure many of the readers of this site already knew all about Pat Seerey, because we have a lot of smart, curious readers here. But I'm sure there are many, like me, who knew Seerey only as a name on a list. I'm thankful that Braun led me to find out more.