Steve Trachsel played a prominent role in two record-setting home run performances by the Cardinals. He was the starter the last time the Cardinals hit seven home runs in a game. Two years later, he yielded the home run to Mark McGwire that broke Roger Maris’ single-season big-league mark.
The Cardinals’ team record for most home runs in a game is seven. They’ve done that twice.
The first time was May 7, 1940, in the Cardinals’ 18-2 victory over the Dodgers at St. Louis. Joe Medwick, Johnny Mize, Don Padgett, Eddie Lake and Stu Martin each hit a home run off starter Hugh Casey. Mize and Lake also each hit a home run off Max Macon. Boxscore
Fifty-six years later, the Cardinals did it again. On July 12, 1996, Gary Gaetti and Ron Gant each hit two home runs and John Mabry, Ray Lankford and Brian Jordan had one apiece in the Cardinals’ 13-3 victory over the Cubs at Chicago. Boxscore
On April 15, 2016, the Cardinals came close to matching the feat. They hit six home runs in a 14-3 victory over the Reds at St. Louis. Matt Holliday hit two and Aledmys Diaz, Randal Grichuk, Brandon Moss and Matt Adams each hit one. Also, Matt Carpenter hit a ball that was caught by center fielder Billy Hamilton, who reached over the wall to deprive him of a home run. Boxscore
The 1996 performance at Wrigley Field was surprising.
The Cardinals entered the game with the fewest home runs (71) in the National League, according to the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald.
Trachsel, the Cubs’ starter, was considered an emerging ace.
Three days earlier, Trachsel had pitched a perfect inning for the NL in the All-Star Game, retiring Sandy Alomar, Cal Ripken and Alex Rodriguez.
Trachsel’s career record against the Cardinals then was 5-1.
“I know how good that young man is,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I wouldn’t have bet a dime we’d hit one (home run), much less seven.”
Trachsel yielded four home runs that day. In the third inning, Mabry hit a two-run shot and Gaetti followed with a solo home run. In the fifth, Lankford and Gant hit solo back-to-back shots, knocking Trachsel out of the game.
“They hit high pitches, low pitches, off-speed stuff, fastballs,” Trachsel said to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Said Cubs manager Jim Riggleman: “Even the elite have bad days.”
Rodney Myers relieved Trachsel and gave up the third home run of the fifth inning, a two-run shot by Gaetti, who was playing in his second career game at Wrigley Field.
“We haven’t been hitting like this,” Gaetti said to the Associated Press. “This ballpark is conducive to this, though.”
The sixth and seventh Cardinals home runs were a three-run shot by Jordan off Tanyon Sturtze in the sixth and a solo shot by Gant off Terry Adams in the eighth.
Trachsel was the Cubs starter again on Sept. 8, 1998, against the Cardinals at St. Louis. In the fourth inning, McGwire hit his 62nd home run of the season, surpassing Maris’ total of 61 with the 1961 Yankees and linking Trachsel to one of baseball’s treasured records.
Lankford and Gant also hit home runs off Trachsel that day in a 6-3 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore
Trachsel yielded 28 home runs in 28 career starts vs. the Cardinals. Lankford hit four career home runs off Trachsel and McGwire hit three.