More than 60 years after Stan Musial became the first big-league player to hit five home runs in a doubleheader, only one other has matched the feat and no one has surpassed it.
Eighteen years later, on Aug. 1, 1972, Padres first baseman Nate Colbert, a St. Louis native, hit five home runs off five different pitchers in a doubleheader against the Braves at Atlanta.
Musial is the only left-handed batter to achieve the feat in the majors. Colbert is the only right-handed batter to do the same.
Although sluggers such as Roger Maris, Hank Aaron, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds have broken cherished single-season and career home run records in the years since Musial hit five home runs in a doubleheader, the record likely will continue to endure because of the degree of difficulty and because the number of doubleheaders played each season has decreased significantly.
Move over, Babe
For instance, in 2001, when he hit a single-season record 73 home runs for the Giants, Bonds didn’t play in both games of any doubleheader. The previous record holder, Mark McGwire, played in both games of three doubleheaders in 1998 when he hit 70 home runs for the Cardinals. The most total home runs McGwire hit in a doubleheader that season were two versus the Mets on Aug. 20.
However, the longtime single-season and career home run leader, Babe Ruth, played in a lot of doubleheaders. So did Aaron and Maris. Only Maris came close to matching Musial’s feat.
In 1961, when he surpassed Ruth by hitting 61 home runs for the Yankees, Maris played in both games of 23 doubleheaders. On July 25 that season, he hit four home runs in a doubleheader against the White Sox at Yankee Stadium. Maris hit two homers in Game 1 and two in Game 2. In his last at-bat of Game 2, with a chance to match Musial’s record, Maris grounded out to second base.
When Ruth hit 60 home runs for the 1927 Yankees, the most he had in a doubleheader were three against the Red Sox at Boston on Sept. 6. Ruth played in both games of a doubleheader 18 times that season. He also hit three home runs in a doubleheader, all in Game 1, on May 21, 1930, versus the Athletics at Philadelphia.
Aaron, who surpassed Ruth’s career mark of 714 by slugging 755 home runs, had a single-season best 47 home runs for the 1971 Braves. He played in both games of a doubleheader five times that year and his best total was one home run. The next year, Aaron played in both games of the doubleheader in which Colbert tied Musial’s record. Aaron didn’t hit any home runs that Tuesday night.
Musial hit well against all teams, but his run production was best versus the Giants; in part because of the short distances down the lines at the Polo Grounds in New York, home of the Giants before they moved to San Francisco in 1958.
Jolting the Giants
In 1954, Musial hit more home runs (12) and had more RBI (27) versus the Giants than he did against any other team. He batted .338 against the Giants that year. Musial also had career highs in home runs (89) and RBI (312) versus the Giants.
Musial’s five home runs in the May 2, 1954, doubleheader came off three pitchers: left-hander Johnny Antonelli and right-handers Jim Hearn and Hoyt Wilhelm (who, like Musial, would be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame).
Musial hit well against all three throughout his career. Here’s a look:
_ vs. Antonelli, 9 home runs, .301 batting average (34-for-113).
_ vs. Hearn, 4 home runs, .341 batting average (15-for-44).
_ vs. Wilhelm, 4 home runs, .375 batting average (9-for-24).
5 for No. 6
In Game 1, Musial hit two home runs off Antonelli, with the bases empty in the third and one on in the fifth, and a three-run shot off Hearn in the eighth, breaking a 6-6 tie. Here is how The Sporting News described each:
_ Home run #1: “Swinging like a golfer with arms close to his body, Stan lifted a low pitch inside the strike zone onto the right field roof at Busch Stadium.”
_ Home run #2: Musial “socked a slow curve to the top of the 40-foot pavilion.”
_ Home run #3: Musial hit “a slider and the ball … reached the roof.”
It was the first time Musial hit three home runs in a big-league game. Boxscore
In Game 2, Musial hit both home runs off Wilhelm, with one on in the fifth and none on in the seventh. The Sporting News report:
_ Home run #4: Musial “hammered a slow curve clear out of the park onto Grand Boulevard.”
_ Home run #5: Musial “whacked a knuckler out on the streetcar tracks, this one farther toward right-center.”
In his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story” (1964, Doubleday), Musial wrote of that fifth home run, “I’m especially proud that it was hit off a knuckleball. Not just any old knuckleball _ and they’re all pretty tough _ but a great knuckler’s, Wilhelm’s.”
Musial, who wore No. 6 on his uniform, almost had a sixth home run that Sunday afternoon. In the third inning of Game 2, he “sent a tremendous drive to dead center, where it was caught by Willie Mays some 410 feet away and just 15 feet from the bleacher wall,” The Sporting News wrote.
In his book, Musial wrote of that long fly out, “The wind that day blew toward left field. If it had blown toward right, I believe I would have had two three-homer games the same afternoon.”
In his last at-bat of Game 2, facing right-hander Larry Jansen, a pitcher Musial hit .344 against in his career with four home runs, the Cardinals standout admitted he was swinging for a home run. Instead, he popped out to first base. “It was high, inside _ a bad pitch,” Musial said to The Sporting News. Boxscore
Musial, batting third and playing right field in both games, was 4-for-4 with 6 RBI, 3 runs scored and a walk in the opener. He was 2-for-4 with 3 RBI, 3 runs scored and a walk in the second game.
Musial’s totals for the doubleheader: 6-for-8, 5 home runs, 9 RBI, 6 runs scored, 2 walks. His batting average after the doubleheader, 16 games into the season, was .400. He would finish the 1954 season at .330 with 35 home runs.
“In the clubhouse afterward,” Musial wrote, “manager Eddie Stanky, who had been coaching third base, told reporters I not only had smiled, but actually had laughed as I trotted around the bases after that fifth homer. You know, I just couldn’t believe I’d hit five homers in one day _ and that no one else had.”