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Pitchers trading homers…a rare event

ERIC: On Saturday, July 21, 2012, Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants and Cole Hamels faced off in a duel of pitching aces. Cain hurled Major League Baseball’s 22nd perfect game earlier this year, and Hamels, the Most Valuable Player of the 2008 World Series, pitched in his third All Star Game two weeks ago. Match-ups of two of the best hurlers in baseball happen rarely, and they usually attract a lot of attention when they do. Yesterday was no exception, but neither pitcher had his best stuff yesterday. Both surrendered five earned runs and multiple homers, and both go no-decisions in the game.

What made the game interesting was that Cain smashed his first homer of the season, but the sixth of his eight year career in the top of the third. Homers by pitchers are rare enough, but then Hamels came up in the bottom of the third and smacked a homer of his own, his first in seven major league seasons. ‘It was nice,” Hamels said. ”I enjoyed it more after giving up my first ever homer to a pitcher.” Cain was philosophical about it. ”I figured he’d try to put one out,” Cain said. ”The most frustrating thing you can do is give up a homer to a pitcher.”

This was only the 18th time in the very long history of Major League Baseball when opposing pitchers hit homers off of each other in the same game. Here is a complete listing of the prior instances where it happened, courtesy of Baseball Almanac:

Opposing MLB pitchers who hit homeruns off of one another:

Pitcher

Team / Roster

Pitcher

Team / Roster

Date / Box

Frank Mountain Worcester Jim McCormick Cleveland

08-19-1882

Pud Galvin Pittsburgh John Clarkson Chicago

05-07-1887

Stump Wiedman Detroit Jimmy Ryan Chicago

05-13-1887

John Healy Indianapolis Mark Baldwin Chicago

06-13-1887

Pete Conway Detroit John Clarkson Chicago

07-26-1887

Pink Hawley St. Louis Ben Sanders Louisville

10-12-1892

Tom Parrott Cincinnati Bill Hutchison Chicago

04-20-1894

Case Patten Washington Clark Griffith Chicago

08-20-1901

Milt Gaston St. Louis Ted Blankenship Chicago

04-18-1927

Cliff Chambers Pittsburgh Ralph Branca Brooklyn

06-08-1950

Don Larsen New York Dick Brodowski Boston

08-16-1955

Pedro Ramos Minnesota Eli Grba Los Angeles

05-12-1961

Buster Narum Washington Earl Wilson Boston

04-14-1965

Ray Sadecki San Francisco Tony Cloninger Atlanta

07-03-1966

Kevin Gross Montreal Fernando Valenzuela Los Angeles

05-14-1990

Marvin Freeman Colorado Kevin Foster Chicago

05-23-1995

Denny Stark Colorado Kevin Millwood Atlanta

05-18-2002

When future Hall of Famer (1963) John Clarkson joined this elite club in 1887, he was the first of many Chicago pitchers to do so. Two months later, he became the only member of the club to do so twice in one season, and he remains the only one to also be the first to do so in a career.

The 1887 Chicago White Stockings (now known as the White Sox) only had four full-time pitchers on the team’s roster, meaning that position players had to take the mound regularly. Outfielder Jimmy Ryan, who joined the club on May 13, 1887, accomplished the feat who played 120 games in the outfield, 3 at second base, and only on the mound that year. While Ryan is not remembered for much, he is a member of this elite club.

Tony Cloninger of the Atlanta Braves had one of the greatest days any pitcher ever had on July 3, 1966. In his first at bat that day, in the first inning, Cloninger crushed a grand slam off of San Francisco Giants’ starter Bob Priddy. Cloninger came to the plate with the bases loaded again in the fourth, and smacked his second grand slam of the day off of Ray Sadecki. Later in the game Sadecki hit a homer off of Cloninger, permitting both hurlers to join the club in what proved to be a truly historic day for Cloninger.

Saturday’s feat by Hamels and Cain was the first time that opposing pitchers had homered off of each other since Denny Stark of the Colorado Rockies and Kevin Millwood of the Braves did so on May 18, 2002, and it had been seven years before Stark and Millwood did so. With the fortieth anniversary of the introduction of the designated hitter in the American League looming next year, the opportunities for this rare feat to happen are limited to the National League. This unusual occurrence may not happen again for another decade, so let’s enjoy this episode of two of the best pitchers in  baseball feeding each other’s gophers while it lasts.

Congratulations to Cole Hamels and Matt Cain for their induction into the You Stink! Hall of Shame.

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