I’m dedicating this post to all my good friends who are devoted Boston Red Sox fans. As of Wednesday morning, their team stands at 2-9. Many have edged dangerously close to the ledge. If only they had heeded my spring training observation: before printing the World Series tickets, there’s that small formality of playing the games.
To lift my friends’ spirits, I’ll transport them back to a time when the Red Sox had bats booming and pitchers dominating. If fact, so lively were the Sox bats that they scored a record 17 runs in a single inning.
The Sox scoring extravaganza lasted two days. On June 17, 1953, the Red Sox destroyed Detroit Tiger pitching by racking up 20 hits against four hurlers in a 17-1 rout.
Watching from the bull pen, Steve Gromek who had just joined the Tigers via a trade with the Cleveland Indians sympathized with his new teammates.
What Gromek didn’t know at the time was that on the very next day in his Tigers’ debut, he would be mauled much worse. With Ned Garver starting for the Tigers, the game remained competitive into the sixth inning, a 3-3 tie. But when Garver walked the leadoff man, had an error committed behind him and gave up back to back singles that allowed two runs to score, manager Fred Hutchinson summoned Gromek who got the final two outs.
Unfortunately for Gromek, Hutchinson left him in for the seventh. Gromek retired only one batter, gave up seven hits including a home run, three walks and nine earned runs. After Hutchinson mercifully lifted Gromek, Dick Weik took over and, unbelievably, did worse. Weik’s line: IP, .1; H, 3; BB, 1; ER, 4, Hutchinson gave Weik the hook in favor of Earl Harrist whose pitching line was the best of the three “firemen”: IP 1.1; H, 7; ER 5; BB, 3; SO, 1. By the time the Boston half of the 48-minute seventh ended, the Red Sox had scored 17 runs on 14 hits (three by Gene Stephens and two each by Sammy White and Tom Umphlett) en route to 23-3 win.
For the afternoon, Billy Goodman had five hits and White, four. In all, the Red Sox broke or tied 16 American League offensive records. For the two days, the Red Sox scored 40 runs on 47 hits.
Interviewed after the game, Gromek said: “I never saw anything like it. They got some clean hits but most of them were flukes. The ball kept bouncing out of reach of our infielders or just in of our outfielders.”
But as proof that you never know in baseball, five days later to Gromek’s amazement and without any forewarning, Hutchinson handed him the ball and said: “You pitch today.” Gromek shut out the Philadelphia A’s 5-0 on only four hits. No Philadelphia batter reached third base.
Recalled Gromek years later: “I was flabbergasted. I thought I would never pitch again at least not for Detroit.”