On May 2, 2002, Mike Cameron hit four home runs in a game. I was going to talk about this on May 2, 2013, but after the Mariners got their faces stomped by the Rangers this weekend, I concluded I was going to talk about this today because it'd be nice to talk about something that doesn't result in soul-crushing depression.
Did you know that hitting four home runs in a game is both difficult and rare? Only 16 players have done it in baseball history, and before Josh Hamilton did it last year, nobody had done it since 2003! There's only been 23 perfect games ever, and last year Felix Hernandez did that as well. This franchise may not have any titles, but I'll be damned if I'm not going to pander towards some single game nostalgia for a bit.
Mike Cameron's day was exceptionally memorable. The Mariners were a month into the follow-up season to the historic 2001 season that ended in heartbreak, and were off to a good start again. At 18-9, the M's were in Chicago, finishing up a three game series. Chicago was also off to a hot start at 17-10, and rookie Jon Rauch was on the mound. Rauch made a handful of starts after this game before he was converted to reliever, but at the time was notable for being the tallest major league pitcher ever, and was a highly touted prospect. In 2001, Rauch was rated the #4 prospect in all of baseball. On this day, he recorded a single out and was tagged for 8 runs, 5 earned.
Ichiro gets hit by a pitch. Boone goes yard. Cameron steps to the plate, and on a 1-2 count, this.
Kenny Lofton almost ruined this historic day before it began, but Cameron got enough juice on it to sneak it out to the deepest part of the park, which really isn't that deep at all in Comiskey. The Mariners batted around, with Jeff Cirillo making the only out the first time through because Jeff Cirillo. After Ichiro grounded out back at the top of the order, Boone went yard again. Then Cameron did the same, on a full count. Again. To the same spot. This time, against Jim Parque.
This is an insane feat that goes forgotten on this day. Boone and Cameron went back to back in the same inning...twice. This was the first time this had ever happened in MLB history. It's still never been matched.
One half inning. 10-0, Seattle.
3rd inning. Parque got in some trouble in the 2nd, but got out of it. He gets ahead of Cameron, but on his 0-1 pitch, Cameron crushes another to left field. Three home runs in three innings.
Parque's reaction is incredible.
The game starts to speed up and the offensive fireworks slow down again, until the 5th inning, when Cameron steps to the plate again. Parque is still on the mound, and Mike Cameron destroys another bomb to dead center. Four home runs in five innings. Complete and total insanity.
Parque was promptly shipped to AAA after the game was over, and didn't poke his head out again until August, despite his 6.47 ERA in AAA. I like to think Mike Cameron broke Jim Parque, even though Parque wasn't ever good.
Cameron steps to the plate in the 7th inning, and is hit in the 3rd pitch of the at-bat. At this point, many had certainly tuned into the game to see his attempt at breaking the record, and Mike Porzio plunks him. Fucking Mike Porzio.
Cameron had another shot in the 9th against Porzio, and he ripped it to right field - after Porzio grooved one down the middle on a 3-0 count, and Cameron refused to break the unwritten baseball law of hacking 3-0, on top a blowout. Cameron connected on a 3-2 count, and I'll never forget the anticipation, the crack off the bat, the retreating Jeff Liefer (holy), and the catch on the track.
Mike Cameron's OPS jumped from .845 to 1.011 that day alone.
Gil Hodges was the first to hit 4 home runs where play by play data is available, in 1950. From that point on, here's a look at how everyone else fared in their plate appearances after the fourth home run was hit.
|Date||HR #4||1st PA after 4th HR||PA #2|
|Gil Hodges||8/31/1950||8th inning||N/A||N/A|
|Joe Adcock||7/31/1954||9th inning||N/A||N/A|
|Rocky Colavito||6/10/1959||9th inning||N/A||N/A|
|Willie Mays||4/30/1961||8th inning||N/A||N/A|
|Mike Schmidt||4/17/1976||10th inning||N/A||N/A|
|Bob Horner||7/6/1986||9th inning||N/A||N/A|
|Mark Whiten||9/7/1993||9th inning||N/A||N/A|
|Mike Cameron||5/2/2002||5th inning||HBP||Line out (deep right)|
|Shawn Green||5/23/2002||9th inning||N/A||N/A|
|Carlos Delgado||9/25/2003||8th inning||N/A||N/A|
|Josh Hamilton||5/8/2012||8th inning||N/A||N/A|
Since 1950, not only is Mike Cameron the only one to almost hit #5, he's the only one who even got a chance - and he got two. Everyone else hit their 4th on their final plate appearance of the game. I wish we had full data for the others so we could know what happened to some of the early guys who achieved the feat, but this is still cool. Not really anything more than an interesting look, but it does make the day more noteworthy.
Only 12,891 were in Chicago that day to see the achievement. And I've waited to post the link to the video until now, because Hawk Harrelson is on the call for some reason, and Hawk Harrelson ruins everything. Apparently it was too much effort to dig through the deep vaults of 2002 to get the Seattle broadcast team, so we're stuck with Hawk doing his usual pouting as the bad guys Cameron (and Boone) made history.
Mike Cameron, always underrated, compiled 49.7 fWAR over his career, ranking 37th among all hitters over the past 20 seasons. But back in 2002, on one day in May, he become immortal.