Nig Clarke Goes 8 for 8 with 8 Home Runs

Editor’s Note: Joe Guzzardi’s Friday series “Double the Fun” has ended. It will return next baseball season
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I’m not impressed!

Sure, Prince Fielder hit three titanic home runs Tuesday night off soon-to-be former Pittsburgh Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf. That still leaves Fielder five behind Jay Justin “Nig” Clarke who, on June 15, 1902, belted eight round trippers for the Corsicana Oil Citys as they hammered their Texas League rival Texarakana Casketmakers, 51-3. Since runs batted in were not an official statistic in the early 20th Century, historians can only estimate that Clarke drove in between 16 and 20 runs.

To this day, the final score is in dispute. Telegraph operators, not believing their eyes, reported the score as 5-3 and changed Clarke’s “8” homers to 3. As recently as 1965, the Dallas Morning-News uncovered evidence that Corsicana manager and first baseman Mike O’Connor had inflated the totals.

According to the original newspaper account: “The official scorer lost his head, but the foxy manager of the Oil City boys has discovered a tabulated record which goes as the official figures. He realizes the benefits in swelling batting averages …” Nevertheless, in an interview late in his life, Clarke recalled his 8 epic home runs “as if they were yesterday.”

Naturally, the left- handed hitting Clarke benefited from the 210 foot right field fence. Still, assuming each of Clarke’s homers went at least 250 feet, by the end of that June afternoon his balls had travelled 2,000 feet. I estimate the aggregate distance of Fielder’s 3 blasts at 1,100 feet. I should add that if the roof at Miller Park had been open, one of them would still be in orbit.

During the 2 hour and 10 minute game, the Oil Citys collected 59 base hits that included 20 homers. But before you totally dismiss Clarke’s historic day, keep in mind that the Casketmakers didn’t hit a single round-tripper.

Unfortunately for Clarke, his major league career was less spectacular. In a fifteen year career with the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Naps, St. Louis Browns, Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates, Clarke only hit 9 homers. Clarke did however hit .358 in 1906.

Clarke’s big league years included one wonderful game. On October 2, 1908 Clarke caught Addie Joss’ perfect game, at that time only the fourth in baseball history. Clarke had a well-deserved reputation as an outstanding defensive catcher from baseball’s harshest critic, Ty Cobb.

After Clarke caught his last game for the Pirates, he returned to the minor leagues where he hit .266 and played until he turned 42.

0 thoughts on “Nig Clarke Goes 8 for 8 with 8 Home Runs”

  1. As remarkable as that is, we should also remember another player whose record is equally remarkable and probably as unbreakable. I speak of Bob “Suitcase” Seeds.

    1. With the Newark Bears in 1938, he hit 7 HR and had 17 RBI and 30 total bases in 2 days, May 6-7.

    2. Bob (Suitcase) Seeds (.335) played in only 59 games before being sold to the Giants in June. The 31-year-old outfielder was playing in his ninth team in 12 years. Included in his resume was a four year stay in the majors (1930-33) for the Indians, White Sox and Red Sox. Joining Newark in 1937, Seeds batted .305 with 20 homeruns and 114 RBI. In 1938, he showed astonishing power at at the plate as evidenced by a two game outburst in May. On May 6, against Buffalo, Seeds singled in the second inning before belting four homeruns in consecutive innings from the fourth through the seventh. In the eighth frame he singled again to give him a 6-for-6 day. The next day, Seeds homered three more times to give him seven in two games while collecting 17 RBI. In his third of a season, he drove in 95 runs and hit 28 longballs, the latter good enough for second in the league behind Ollie Carnegie’s (Buffalo) 45. At the same rate, over the course of a full 154-game season, Seeds would have had the ludicrous total of 73 home runs with 248 RBI.

    3. The most spectacular outburst of the season came from the bat of 31-year-old holdover center fielder Bob (Suitcase) Seeds. His teammate at Cleveland, outfielder Bibb Falk, gave him his nickname because he said Bob moved around so much he must have been living out of a suitcase. A native Texan and a right-handed hitter, Seeds began his pro career in 1926 and played for five full seasons, 1930-34, and part of a sixth, 1936, in the American League with Cleveland, Chicago, Boston and New York. He came to Newark in 1937 from Montreal and batted .305-20-114 in 151 games. Before 1937, he had never hit more than 13 home runs in a season. On May 6-7, 1938, at Buffalo, Seeds put on one of the most spectacular hitting feats in baseball history. In the two games he hit seven home runs, four of them in successive innings, which no one had ever done before, drove in 17 runs, reached base ten straight times and had nine hits and a walk in 11 plate appearances. Seeds had four homers and 12 RBI on May 6, three homers and five RBI on May 7. Newark won the two games 22-9 and 14-8.

    On May 6 he singled in the second inning, homered with one man on base in the fourth, again homered with one on in the fifth, hit a grand-slam in the sixth, homered with one on in the seventh and singled in two runs in the eighth. On May 7 he homered in the first with two on, homered with the bases empty in the third, walked in the fifth, hit a solo homer in the sixth and finally was called out on strikes on a 3-2 pitch in the ninth. There was an oddity concerning the remarkable performance. Linthurst wrote “Bob wasn’t even using his own bat during the two games. He had borrowed Mickey Witek’s Pepper Martin model, a stick that was two inches longer than most bats and several ounces heavier.” Not surprisingly, Seeds switched to that model bat permanently.

    In the first two months of 1938, Seeds hit .335 in 59 games with 28 home runs, 95 RBI, 73 runs scored and a .752 slugging percentage. At that pace, over a full 154-game season, he would have hit 73 homers and driven in 248 runs. The 28 homers placed him second in the International League for the season to Buffalo’s Ollie Carnegie, who hit 45. In June, the New York Giants purchased Seeds’ contract for a reported $40,000.

    1. http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Bob_Seeds
    2. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/baseball/minors/news/2001/16team/
    3. http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/history/top100.jsp?idx=16

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