Pitchers can't hit? These 11 memorable moments say otherwise
Madison Bumgarner’s heroics with the bat have not only made his plate appearances must-see occurrences, but they’ve generated talk of a pitchers-only Home Run Derby and have somewhat softened talk of brining the DH to the National League.
Bumgarner's two-homer showing with the bat Sunday against the Diamondbacks got us thinking about the most memorable moments involving pitchers hitting.
What follows on this list is a mix of dramatic, improbable or just downright entertaining performances by pitchers at the plate.
1 Randy Johnson's lone homer
The Big Unit dominated hitters for most of his 22-year, Hall of Fame career, but only once did he dominate an opposing pitcher.
On Sept. 19, 2003, against Milwaukee pitcher Doug Davis, Johnson took him deep to left center for the only home run of his career. It was definitely a swing-hard-in-case-you-hit-it situation. Johnson did both. Despite this four-bagger, Johnson finished his career with a .125 slugging percentage.
Thankfully, he could throw a ball decently.
2 Phil Niekro turns slugger
Sometimes pitchers have to take the game into their own hands to get the win. That’s what Hall of Famer Phil Niekro did for the Braves on Oct. 1, 1982.
With the Braves battling for the NL West crown, Niekro — at age 43 and while also pitching a shutout — connected for a two-run homer off the Padres’ Eric Show in the eighth inning to help put the game away and give the Braves a much-needed win en route to the division championship two days later.
It was the last of Niekro's seven career home runs.
3 Madison Bumgarner vs. Clayton Kershaw
Everyone knows MadBum can rake. But, boy, does Clayton Kershaw know it.
Bumgarner has twice taken the game’s best pitcher deep with mammoth home runs, simultaneously generating awe among fans and leaving position players wondering why he makes hitting against Kershaw look so easy.
As MadBum rounded the bases after his most recent Kerhaw-served homer, the Dodgers lefty was pretty much in shock, though he wasn’t exactly speechless.
4 Noah Syndergaard owns the Dodgers
Noah Syndergaard made sure the Mets beat the Dodgers on May 11, 2016. Seriously, he really made sure.
In addition to pitching eight innings of two-run ball, Syndergaard smacked two homers and drove in all four of the Mets’ runs in a 4-3 in Los Angeles. His solo shot in the third inning put New York up 1-0, then his three-run homer in the fifth put the team back in front for good.
5 Jose Fernandez makes Braves mad
Fernandez has earned lots of fans in part because of his fiery and entertaining on-field personality. But his reactions sometimes rub people the wrong way. Hello, Braves.
When Fernandez hit his first big-league homer in 2013 off Atlanta’s Mike Minor, he paused to admire it a little too long for the Braves’ liking, leading to a silly benches-clearing incident and the usual talk of unwritten rules and respecting the game.
Fernandez later apologized for his actions, which, come on, really wasn’t necessary.
6 The majesty of Bartolo Colon
Any list of notable pitchers-hitting moments from here to eternity is required to include the round-tripper that result from Bartolo Colon’s lusty swing on May 7, 2016, against the Padres’ James Shields.
It was the first homer of the entertaining and portly 42-year-old’s 19-year career, leading to much social media fun and humorous tribute videos. It was dubbed by Mets announcer Gary Cohen as “one of the great moments in the history of baseball.”
7 Madison Bumgarner's big opening day
Already known for his big stick at the plate, Madison Bumgarner put on a show on opening day 2017 against the Diamondbacks. In Bumgarner's first at-bat of the season, he clubbed a laser home run to left-center field at Chase Field, then followed that up with a mammoth shot to left in his next at-bat — becoming the first pitcher in MLB history to hit two homers on opening day.
8 Dave McNally’s World Series slam
McNally made history in 1970 when he became the first — and still only — pitcher to hit a grand slam in the World Series.
The Orioles hurler connected off Reds pitcher Wayne Granger in the sixth inning of Game 3 to help lead Baltimore to a 9-3 win on its way to a world championship. The grand slam was McNally’s second career World Series homer — he also hit one against the Mets the year before.
McNally also touched ‘em nine times in the regular season during his career, including three times in 1968.
9 Tony Cloninger’s two grand slams
Braves pitcher Tony Cloninger set all kinds of records on July 3, 1966 — the day he smacked two grand slams in one game as Atlanta clobbered the Giants 17-3 at Candlestick Park.
Not only was Cloninger the first pitcher to ever hit two slams in one game, he was the first N.L. player of any position to do it. He also set the record for most RBIs in one game by a pitcher (9).
Cloninger finished the 1966 season with five homers and a .414 slugging percentage, and finished his career with 11 dingers.
10 Rick Wise hits two homers, no-hits Reds
Phillies pitcher Rick Wise had perhaps the most dominant game in history on June 23, 1971, against the Reds.
Wise not only hit two home runs and collected three RBIs to pace a 4-0 Phillies win, but, oh yeah, he also pitched a no-hitter.
The no-no might’ve been an unexpected surprise, but Wise’s two homers shouldn’t have surprised anyone. He hit six homers in 1971, which was one of four multi-homer seasons in his 15-homer career.
11 Rick Camp's fireworks
Other homers on this list may have been more dramatic, or more comical, but none were as improbable as the one Braves reliever Rick Camp hit in the early hours of July 5, 1985.
The story is well known: The Mets and Braves were tangled in a weird, 19-inning marathon of a game that also included rain delays. Camp, with no other hitters left for the Braves to use, brought his .060 career average to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the 18th inning. He was such an easy out that Mets catcher Gary Carter waved the outfielders in as Camp stood in. It seemed an even more forgone conclusion when Mets pitcher Tom Gorman quickly got ahead 0-2.
But on the next pitch, sending Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium into delirium and leading announcer John Sterling to dub the contest “the wackiest, wildest, most improbable game in history.”