Generations of Americans have thrilled to the pageantry of summertime baseball in major league ballparks. And for those lucky fans who witnessed the greatest hitters of all time – members of the 500 Home Run Club® – blast out long balls under the bright big-league lights and the strobing effect of thousands of flashbulbs, nothing else will ever surpass the spectacle.
Ramirez Celebrates His Independence With
Grand Slam Game Winner
On July 22, 2009, Manny Ramirez hit what was arguably his biggest home run
to date for his new team – The L.A. Dodgers. After 7 ½ seasons of
thrilling Red Sox fans with his flair for the dramatic, “Man Ram”
stepped up to the plate on “Manny Ramirez Bobblehead Night” in Dodgers’
stadium and promptly laced the first pitch into the grandstands for a
game-winning grand slam.
It had been a little over a year since
he hit a similar shot on July 8, 2008 in Fenway Park. In what
approximated a final hurrah for the Bo-Sox nation, Ramirez (who was
traded to L.A. less than a month later) led a thundering
come-from-behind finish with a four-run eighth to stun the Minnesota
Twins 6-5. Manny tied the game with two-run Monster shot on the first
pitch he faced.
Aaron Dingers Lit Up The July Sky
like the Atlanta weather, “Hammerin Henry” Aaron always seemed to get
hot in July. In fact, he hit many career landmark blasts during the
mid-summer month. On July 21, 1959 Aaron knocked out three homers in a
single game against the San Francisco Giants -- the only time he hit
three long balls in one game. A little less than one year later, on
July 3, 1960, Aaron hit his 200th career homer. Then, eight years and
11 days later (on July 14, 1968) he hit No. 500 to join our club!
next year he crushed a July 30 pitch high into the night sky for career
homer #537 to move past Mickey Mantle into (what at the time was) third
place on all-time leader list, behind only Willie Mays and Babe Ruth.
Hank’s summer smashes just kept coming. On July 31, 1970 he homered
against Pittsburgh’s Dave Guisti for this 30th homer of the season,
establishing a NL record for most seasons (12) with 30+ homers. On July
21, 1973, Hank hit his 700th career homer, and then nearly three years
later to the day, he hit the final home run of his career (No. 755) on
July 20, 1976 off the California Angels' Dick Drago.
Mantle was a true Yankee Doodle Dandy
The Fourth of July was a truly
significant date for Mickey Mantle who, much like pyrotechnic experts,
used the day as an annual occasion to launch explosive blasts over
Yankee stadium. In 18 big-league seasons, Mantle hit a total of seven
Independence Day home runs. One of his most memorable came on July 4,
1960, when “The Mick” hit a three-run shot against Washington's Hal
Woodeshick, to become the 18th player to hit 300 career home runs. Two
years later, Mantle's hit four homers in consecutive at-bats from July
4-6th 1962, and went on to win his third MVP Award with a league-leading
batting average of .321.
On Independence Day 1964 he once
again launched his own brand of fireworks when he ignited the crowd with
a three-run homer in the 8th inning to help the Yanks best the Twins
7-5. But his most impressive July 4th performance came in 1966 when
he took to the launching pad (a.k.a. home plate) to hit two homers
driving in three runs for his beloved Yankees.
“Say Hey” Kid Says it All With His Bat
on July 4th
Although Willie Mays has the most July
4th home runs of any 500 Home Run Club members (with eight), his
connection to America’s birthday began years before he catapulted to the
major leagues when he made his professional debut in the Negro Leagues
on July 4, 1948. Another of his most memorable baseball achievements
came on Independence Day 1961, when he hit home run #300 one year to the
day after his fellow (eventual) 500 HR club inductee Mickey Mantle.
Mays’ most memorable July 4th home run was the only run scored in a
16-inning pitchers’ dual that actually started on July 3, 1963. In the
classic match up between two Hall of Famers; Giant’s Juan Marichal
(pictured to right with Mays after the game), who pitched a 16 inning
shutout with 10 KOs and Braves Warren Spahn, who gave up nine hits in 15
1/3 innings. Unfortunately for Spahn, he faced “Say Hey” Willie one
too often in the outing, as Mays ended the marathon game with a single
swing of his bat in the bottom of the 16th [at 12:31 A.M. PST on July 4]
giving Marichal a 1–0 win, and setting a record for the longest
National League game ending with a walk-off home run. Both pitchers went
the distance in one of the greatest matchups ever.
Big Mac’s Late Inning Fireworks
McGwire also made it a habit of ending 16 inning games with aplomb. In
fact, he did so two days in a row culminating in late inning fireworks
on July 4, 1988. After sending California A’s fans home with all the
excitement they could stomach on July 3rd when he belted a 16th inning
homer to give the A’s a 4-2 win over Cleveland, “Big Mac” manufactured a
memorable Deja vu experience by doing precisely the same thing one day
later to bring the A's from behind to win the game in the 16th inning.
the 8th inning of a game against the White Sox on July 4th 1961, Harmon
Killebrew, nicknamed “The Killer,” hit his only career inside-the-park
home run and the first one ever hit inside the Metrodome to give the
Twins the lead and the eventual victory.
Three Times Around on the 4th of
July 4, 1948 500 HRC member Ted Williams batted against three different
pitchers in the 7th inning, a first in American League history. Boston
snapped a 5–5 tie by scoring 14 runs to beat the visiting Philadelphia
Athletics, 20–8. Williams also made a rare appearance as a pitcher, facing three batters in the final innings of the blow out victory.