In June, we declared the antiquated unwritten baseball rule mandating that hitters take the first pitch after back-to-back home runs to be unequivocally dead.
It’s not that most hitters don’t abide by it—it’s that most hitters haven’t heard of it.
If more proof is needed, look toward the Arizona Diaondbacks’ efforts last night, when Adam LaRoche, Miguel Montero, Mark Reynolds and Stephen Drew took Milwaukee right-hander David Bush deep, all in a row, in the fourth inning. (Watch it here.)
Reynolds, batting after back-to-back homers, swung at (and missed) the first pitch he saw.
Drew watched one, but that’s because it was out of the strike zone.
The guy who followed them all, Gerardo Parra, swung at the first pitch, singling to right field.
The true Code violation here was Bush’s refusal to take advantage of the stipulation allowing him free reign to knock somebody down. The Arizona lineup had become all too comfortable at the plate, a development that Bush did nothing to discourage.
It’s another example of how the game has changed. Bob McClure recalls giving up back-to-back homers while pitching for the Brewers in the 1980s, and knocking down the next hitter, Dave Kingman, in response.
“The catcher, Charlie Moore, called for a fastball away, but he knew better,” he said. “He went through them all. He called for a fastball away. I said no. Curveball. No. Changeup. No. Fastball in. No. And then he goes (flip sign), and I nod. I threw it, and it was a good one. It went right underneath (Kingman) and almost flipped him. He was all dusty and his helmet was over here and he was grabbing at his bat and his helmet. . . . Back then, we were taught the 0-2 up and in. Home run, next guy: boom! Knock him down.”
It’s about more than respect. It’s about pitchers utilizing the tools at their disposal to better insure their own success. Angels pitcher Paul Foytack, the first pitcher to ever give up four consecutive homers also failed to utilize those tools, going down nearly as meekly as Bush.
It was 1963, and Foytack started by allowing consecutive home runs Cleveland’s Woody Held, pitcher Pedro Ramos (batting a robust .109 at the time) and Tito Francona. At that point, he said, he decided to send a message by knocking down the next hitter, rookie Larry Brown. Even that didn’t go quite as planned, however; Foytack missed his spot, left the ball over the plate, and Brown hit his first career home run—and the fourth in a row for the Indians.
That’s how it’s not supposed to go. Here’s a small handful of examples of more successful operations:
- In 1944, Cardinals Walker Cooper, Whitey Kurowski and Danny Litwhiler hit consecutive homers against Reds pitcher Clyde Shoun. The next hitter, Marty Marion, was knocked down.
- In 1991,Angels pitcher Scott Bailes hit Randy Velarde of the Yankees after giving up consecutive home runs.
- In 1996, after the Red Sox connected for three home runs against the Angels, reliever Shawn Boskie threw a pitch behind Jose Canseco’s back.
- In 2003, Astros pitcher Shane Reynolds gave up three home runs to the Pirates, then put a pitch under the chin of Brian Giles.
- Mike Hegan: “In April of 1974, I hit behind Graig Nettles the whole month. Graig hit 11 home runs, and I was on my back 11 times. That’s the kind of thing that happened.”
None of this is intended to suggest that success merits retaliation. (The Commissioner’s office agrees; for his actions against New York, Bailes was ejected and fined $ 450.)
There is, however, importance in a pitcher’s ability to keep hitters light on their feet, and wondering at least a little about what his intentions might be on any given pitch. The more they think about their own safety, after all, the less they think about the act of hitting.
The Diamondbacks didn’t wonder about any of that with David Bush last night. Perhaps they should have.