Something interesting happened in the Nationals’ 8-4 exhibition win over the Marlins on Wednesday. (Well, it was interesting to me, anyway.) In his first at bat, Nats center fielder Roger Bernadina hoisted a homer off Josh Johnson; and in his second time up, he bunted for a hit.
Homer/bunt single – now there’s a double you don’t see every day, especially in consecutive trips to the plate. Wish I had the research capability to see just how common an occurrence it is. During the Steroids Era, it was probably as rare as a Cecil Fielder leg hit.
In case you didn’t know, I’m a sucker for stuff like this – for unusual Combination Feats, I guess you’d call them. Of course, walking and chewing gum is a Combination Feat, but I’m talking about achievements that are a bit rarer than that.
For instance, the Reds’ Jonny Gomes did something last season that no one had done in 19 years – and that only seven players have managed in the modern era (read: since 1920, the year they started injecting the ball with PEDs). Care to guess what it was? I just stumbled across it.
Answer: On June 12 against the Royals, Gomes homered twice and got hit by a pitch twice. (Note in the box score, by the way, that the two dingers were off Brian Bannister, but the two HBPs were courtesy of Kanekoa Texeira.)
The first to pull off the pair-of-homers/pair-of-bruises parlay was a Washington Senator: Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew in 1959. Like Gomes, Killebrew got plunked by a different pitcher – two of them, actually – than the one he victimized for his homers. Maybe it’s one of those Unwritten Rules baseball types are always babbling about.
Anyway, we all have our weaknesses, and this is one of mine. Obviously, there are meaningful Combination Feats and there are less meaningful ones. In hockey, for example, the Gordie Howe Hat Trick – a goal, an assist and a fight – is one of the great combo platters of all time. A triple-double in basketball is another good one (and it’s even better when 10 steals or 10 blocked shots are involved). In track, meanwhile, it doesn’t get any sweeter than winning the 100 meters and the long jump at the Olympics (as Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis did).
Here’s a Combination Feat I just dreamed up:
1. Throw a no-hitter.
2. Strike out nobody.
3. Outpitch a Hall of Famer.
4. Retire the future career home run king for the final out.
This particular club has only one member: Ken Holtzman, who, in pitching a whiffless no-no for the Cubs against the Braves on Aug. 19, 1969, outdueled Phil Niekro and got Hank Aaron on a grounder to finish things off.
Generally, the smaller the club the more intriguing the feat – though it helps, too, if a Certified Legend or two belongs to it. Gives it an air of exclusivity. At first glance, I freely admit, the list of players (11 in all) who’ve had 10 sacrifice hits and 10 sacrifice flies in the same season might not seem that enthralling. But it becomes a little more enthralling when you notice that Brooks Robinson (10 SH, 10 SF for the Orioles in 1962) and Roberto Alomar (12 SH, 13 SF for the Indians in 1999) are on it.
Something else I just discovered: In 2007 – did anyone call attention to this? – the Tigers’ Ryan Raburn had a sacrifice bunt in a game in which he also had seven RBI. He was the first guy to do that since 1930. The previous three players to accomplish it: Bill Terry, Lou Gehrig and Pie Traynor, all Cooperstown residents.
See? Sometimes we’ve got history staring us right in the face, and we don’t even know it.
So we started out talking about Roger Bernadina – who’s trying to expand his offensive repertoire this spring in hopes of raising his on-base percentage – and we ended up talking about Pie Traynor. Roger was the entrée, Pie the dessert. Expect me to go off on more tangents like this in future blogs. Frankly, I can’t help myself.