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Vic Raschi: The Springfield Slugger

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The story of how pitcher Vic Raschi set an American League record with his bat instead of his arm.

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In his prime, Vic Ranchi was one of the Yankees' top starters during the late 1940s and 1950s. A 120-game winner with the Yankees, the Massachusetts native rattled off three straight 20-win seasons from 1949-51, and was one win shy in 1948 from making it four straight. The trio of Raschi, Eddie Lopat and Allie Reynolds during this era certainly made life difficult for opposing offenses. You can see Raschi in action in the video the 1952 World Series below.

In celebration of what would have been his 97th birthday today, we remember Raschi, not for his record on the mound, but for a record he holds as a hitter. The man known as the "Springfield Rifle" is the record holder in the American League for most runs batted in by a pitcher in a single game. Let's go back to that record-setting day to see how it unfolded.

On August 4, 1953, the Yankees were at home and set to welcome in the Detroit Tigers for a three-game series. At that point in the season, the two teams could not have been going in more opposite directions. The four-time defending champion Yankees, 67-34 heading into play that day, held a five-game lead over the Chicago White Sox. On the other end of the spectrum, the Tigers were sitting second-to-last in the A.L. at 38-64.

The Tigers' pitching staff in '53 was not good at all. Every starter had an ERA north of four, with August 4th starter Ted Gray ultimately ending the season with a 4.60 ERA. The Yankees' offense in 1953, on the other hand, would go on to lead the league in runs per game, RBI, batting average, OPS, and a host of other categories. I think you're getting an idea of where this is headed.

It took the Yankees all of an inning and a half to go to work on Ted Gray. With two outs and the bases loaded, thanks to three walks in the bottom of the second, Raschi drove in his first two runs of the afternoon with a single to centerfield that drove home Hank Bauer and Gus Triandos. Gil McDougald followed with a three-run home run to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead after two.

Gray lasted just 2+ innings as he was pulled after allowing a single and a walk to start the bottom of the third. After reliever Dave Madison got a double-play ball, he then allowed a run-scoring single and two walks, bringing up Raschi for the second straight inning with the bases full of Yankees. This time, Raschi brought them all home with a bases-clearing double to give the Yankees a 9-0 lead with Raschi driving in five of the nine runs. Raschi would later score to put the Tigers in a 10-0 hole.

Incredibly, Raschi would bat for the third straight inning with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth, this time singling to center again to drive in two more Yankees. So if you're keeping score at home, that's at-bats in the second, third, and fourth innings with the bases full each time, and Raschi knocked in seven of the nine baserunners during those at-bats.

Raschi's final at-bat was uneventful, grounding out to short bat to end the bottom of the sixth. Raschi actually ended up with more RBI in the game (seven) than innings pitched (six) and strikeouts (none) combined, as he was replaced on the mound by left-hander Art Schallock in the top of the seventh. The Yankees would go on to win the game 15-0.

To put Raschi's accomplishment in perspective, the .184 career hitter would end up driving in 50 runs in his career, which means this one game accounted for 14% of his career RBI total. In addition, Raschi drove home just two runs the prior year, while his career high for runs batted in for one season was eleven in 1948. That total would be matched again in '53, thanks in large part to this seven RBI game.

For the record, while Raschi's mark is noteworthy, he does not hold the MLB record. Two National League pitchers- Boston Beaneaters' righty-hander Henry Staley in 1893 and Tony Cloninger of the Atlanta Braves in 1966- hold the MLB record for most RBI in a game by a hurler with nine.

You can find the full box score for this game right here.