It’s been a fun ride over the past several years for Yankees fans, as position player prospects have reached the big leagues and dazzled us with outstanding debuts. From Gary Sánchez’s meteoric rise onward, a parade of Baby Bombers have had us dreaming big on their major league ceilings. Aaron Judge’s 2017 was, of course, the eye-popping pièce de résistance of this trend, as the hulking slugger broke the franchise rookie home run record, one set 81 years before his debut.
The freshman from days gone by who set the standard that Judge finally surpassed? Joe DiMaggio, of course. The Yankee Clipper hit 29 home runs in his outstanding rookie season of 1936. And on his way to that record that stood the test of time for generations, he did something that no Yankee had done before him: mash two dingers in the same inning.
The Yankees entered their game against the White Sox on June 24, 1936 with a 41-21 record, miles ahead of the Pale Hose’s 29-31 mark. But through four innings, Chicago played New York tough, and when the Bombers came to the plate in the fifth inning, they did so trailing by a 7-5 score.
Down two runs, DiMaggio stepped to the plate as the tying run, after Red Rolfe singled to lead off the frame. Joe came into the game midway through a standout rookie campaign, hitting .343 with a .939 OPS at first pitch, even after going 0-for-5 the day before. Despite the gaudy numbers, DiMaggio wasn’t exactly sending balls out of the park on the regular. He came into the June 24th tilt with a total of six dingers to his name.
But in that fifth inning, DiMaggio added to his total. First, he demolished a ball to deep left field off of White Sox reliever Ray Phelps. That tied the game up. Then, his teammates went to work. Base hit after base hit, including a grand slam by Jake Powell, and then knocks from Don Heffner and Pat Malone brought Joltin’ Joe back to the dish, with two runners on and the Yankees up, 11-7.
Phelps had long since departed the game. This time, reliever Red Evans was on the mound when DiMaggio stepped to the dish. The result was another home run, this time to center field, scoring three Yankees. They weren’t quite done with their 10-run inning, as Bill Dickey later singled home Lou Gehrig. For DiMaggio though, he earned his paycheck in the fifth with two dingers and five ribbies. And a two-run deficit became an eight-run lead that New York never surrendered, winning the tilt, 18-11.
The phenom did more than just pad his already impressive rookie stats. With DiMaggio’s two home runs in the fifth inning, he became the first Yankee to ever accomplish that feat. Neither Ruth nor Gehrig nor anyone else before him could lay claim to that.
After DiMaggio’s performance, it took time for another Yankee to join him. On May 23, 1962, though, up-and-coming slugger Joe Pepitone did so. Fifteen years later, DH Cliff Johnson mashed two home runs in one frame on June 30, 1977. It took awhile for another Yankee to expand the club’s membership, but in 2007, amidst his own season for the ages, Alex Rodriguez joined the party.
In doing so, A-Rod not only matched DiMaggio; he also tied and passed Mel Ott on MLB’s all-time home run leader board. And he sent John Sterling into paroxysms of joy in the booth:
Not bad for an inning of work.
Unbelievably, Rodriguez did it AGAIN two years later. On the final day of the 2009 regular season, he entered the game with 28 home runs and 93 runs batted in, meaning his 11-year streak of at least 30 jacks and 100 ribbies was in serious jeopardy — well, at least until the sixth inning. A three-run round tripper and a grand slam later, and Rodriguez had rescued his streak and become the only Yankee to ever hit two home runs in the same inning twice.
As of now, no other Yankee has managed the rare feat that DiMaggio managed in late June of his rookie season. Of course, considering the prodigious power nestled at the heart of the Bombers’ lineup, I doubt anyone would bat an eyelash if someone like Judge or Giancarlo Stanton demolished two baseballs in the same inning.
Even if no current Yankee slugger does it, there are some Baby Bombers who may have the oomph in their bats to join this pretty exclusive club, too. FanGraphs lists Anthony Volpe, Jasson Dominguez, and Everson Pereira all with a 60 Future Value on their game power. And considering the hype and hope surrounding The Martian, if he were to go deep twice in an inning the way DiMaggio did as a rookie, hundreds of thousands of Yankees fans might have simultaneous heart attacks.
Regardless of who’s next, it’s always fun when the Yankees are socking dingers. Eventually, someone will step to the plate having already knocked one once that inning. And sooner or later, someone will hit their second, and join a lineage that included Joltin’ Joe and A-Rod. That’s pretty good company.