Eight years ago today, Yankees left fielder Johnny Damon swung a scorching hot bat. It was perhaps hotter than any ticket to the old Yankee Stadium during that 2008 campaign, which would be the last season played in the House that Ruth Built.
Damon led off for the Bombers in the home half of the first with a double off of starting pitcher Brian Bannister, and never stopped. He then singled in the third. In the fourth, he tied the game with another single. In the sixth, well, you get the idea.
After a hitless effort the night before, Damon rebounded in historic fashion with six hits, including a walk-off single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to give the Yankees a 12-11 victory, lifting the club to the .500 mark.
The six-hit outburst catapulted Damon's batting average from .308 to .326, while he tallied four RBI from the lead-off spot. He became just the third Yankee to collect six hits in a single game, and only the second to need just nine innings to do it. His six hits in a nine inning game tied the American League record, with Ian Kinsler and Alex Rios being the only others to match Damon since his offensive tirade on that pleasant Saturday afternoon in the Bronx.
What tends to be lost when reflecting on Damon's historic day is the absolute mayhem that was the game itself. The Yankees found themselves down by four runs two different times, and overcame both deficits. The Yankees' offense, mainly Damon, came alive to bail out an ineffective Andy Pettitte, who surrendered a grand slam to Royals outfielder Jose Guillen in the seventh to end his day with ten earned runs.
Damon knotted the game at 10 with a two-run single in the eighth. However, Mariano Rivera was unable to keep the score tied when Royals outfielder David DeJesus launched a go-ahead solo home run. Jorge Posada answered in the bottom of the ninth with a home run of his own, before Damon concluded his hit parade in walk-off style. His sixth and final hit of the day bounced just inside the right field line, scoring Wilson Betemit and sending the Stadium into a frenzy.
With Yankee Stadium closing after the 2008 season, Damon will forever remain the only Yankee to record six hits in a single game at the Stadium. The only other player to match that feat before the Stadium's closure was Omar Vizquel back in 2004, who recorded six hits in seven at bats as a member of the Cleveland Indians. Just two other players ever recorded six hits in one game for the Yankees: Myril Hoag and Gerald Williams.
What was the secret behind Damon's dramatic afternoon? Perhaps the absence of a "lucky" mustache, which Damon shaved off after finishing 0-5 in the previous game in a loss to the Royals. What a difference a bare upper lip makes.