Facing a familiar foe, George Watkins and Frankie Frisch delivered an unusual double dose of ninth-inning power for the Cardinals.
On June 16, 1931, Watkins and Frisch hit back-to-back home runs off the Phillies’ Ray Benge in the bottom of the ninth at St. Louis, erasing a 1-0 deficit and lifting the Cardinals to a 2-1 victory.
It was the first of only three times since 1930 that the Cardinals hit the tying and go-ahead home runs in the ninth inning, according to researcher Tom Orf.
The other times were:
_ On July 4, 1953, facing starter Paul Minner, Peanuts Lowrey hit the tying two-run home run and Rip Repulski hit the go-ahead solo home run in the top of the ninth at Chicago, overcoming a 3-1 deficit and carrying the Cardinals to a 7-3 triumph in the opener of a doubleheader. Stan Musial contributed a three-run double off Johnny Klippstein in the inning. Boxscore
_ On Sept. 6, 2016, facing reliever Tony Watson, Matt Carpenter hit the tying solo home run and Randal Grichuk hit the go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the ninth at Pittsburgh, wiping out a 6-5 deficit and helping the Cardinals to a 9-7 victory. Jhonny Peralta also hit a solo home run off Watson in that inning. Boxscore
Struggle to score
The 1931 ninth-inning comeback was the lone time the Cardinals achieved the feat at home.
Benge, a right-hander who would earn 101 wins in 12 seasons in the major leagues, had shut out the Cardinals on three hits through eight innings.
Sparky Adams led off the bottom of the ninth for St. Louis and lined out to shortstop.
Next up was Watkins.
A left-handed batter, Watkins would hit .293 versus right-handed pitchers in 1931. He was especially effective against Benge. Watkins would hit .348 (24-for-69) against Benge in his career, according to the Web site retrosheet.org.
With his 1-0 lead, Benge worked carefully against Watkins with one out in the ninth.
“Benge fooled around with Watkins and, after Watty fouled off a couple, he finally got one in there too good,” Burleigh Grimes, the Cardinals’ starting pitcher, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Watkins hit the pitch onto the roof of the right-field pavilion at Sportsman’s Park, tying the score at 1-1.
The next batter was Frisch.
A switch-hitter, Frisch batted from the left side against Benge.
Like Watkins, Frisch would hit Benge hard during his career, producing a .391 batting average (25-for-64), according to retrosheet.org.
Frisch, however, hadn’t hit a home run in 1931.
“Frisch was lucky enough to guess just right,” said Grimes. “The first one to Frankie was a slow one and he figured the next was going to be a curve. Sure enough, it was and Frank was laying for it.”
Frisch hit the pitch onto the pavilion roof as well. Boxscore