Within the past week, the Yankees have seen the downside of pitchers hitting when Masahiro Tanaka was injured on the basepaths. The vast majority of us reading this are fans of an American League team and have only been watching baseball in the age of the designated hitter. While that will mean a lot of us are pro-DH, let’s look back at a time when pitchers hitting led to good things for the Yankees.
Hitting two home runs in a game is an impressive feat for any hitter. It’s happened countless times, but it’s still notable. Pitchers hitting two home runs in a game, however, is a much more significant accomplishment.
Red Ruffing was regarded as one of the best hitting pitchers of all time, so it’s not shocking that he shows up on a list of Yankees’ pitchers to hit two home runs in a game. On September 18, 1930, Ruffing got the start on the road against the St. Louis Browns. His performance on the mound was substandard, as he allowed five runs on 10 hits in five innings. His performance at the plate made up for it, however. Ruffing hit two homers on the day, driving in three runs between them. The Yankees went on to win 7-6 in 10 innings. Ruffing nearly cost them the game on the mound, but kept them in it with his bat.
The next person to do it was...Ruffing again, six years later. This time, the homers wouldn’t be quite as important. He had allowed three early runs against Cleveland on June 17, 1936, but by the time he hit his first home run, the Yankees were up big. He hit a pair of solo shots, and ended up throwing a complete game as the Yankees won 15-4.
Ruffing was still around the third time it’s ever happened, but this time it wasn’t him. Spud Chandler got the start for the Yankees on July 26, 1940 as the Yankees took on the White Sox in Chicago.
Before even hitting a home run, Chandler opened the game’s scoring with an RBI single in the second. Chandler and the Yankees fell behind, but went on to retake the lead. Then in the eighth, he gave the Bombers an insurance run with a solo shot. At that point, you probably wouldn’t have expected Chandler to get another at bat.
Three of the first four Yankees reached in the top of the ninth, loading the bases. White Sox reliever Pete Appleton then walked in a run, bringing Chandler back to the plate. With the bases loaded, Chandler hit his second home run of the day, this one a grand slam. He finished with over half of the RBI in the Yankees 10-2 win.
In 1921, Babe Ruth hit two home runs in a game he where he pitched, but he also played center field, and the split of what position he was playing in while he hit them is unclear. We won’t count it because of that and because it’s Ruth. Hitting two home runs in a game isn’t that interesting for him.
Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard have both had two homer games within the past five years, so this will happen again. However, it happening for a Yankee pitcher again is more unlikely than not.
All data courtesy of Baseball Reference