Maybe you don't realize that driving in 10 runs in a single game is an extremely rare accomplishment. Or maybe you do. Maybe you scratched your head and said, "Garret Anderson?" when you found out just who had picked up 10 RBIs in an 18-9 drubbing of the Yankees Tuesday night.
Maybe you even recall Mark Whiten's 15 minutes (OK, it was more like two hours) of glory for the Cardinals back in 1993, when he put together what really must be considered the greatest single offensive game since at least the founding of the National League back in 1876. Mark Whiten?
A 10 RBI or better game in the major leagues is incredibly rare. Rarer than perfect games. (There have been 17 of them.) Rarer than four home runs in a game. (That's been done 15 times.) Even rarer than unassisted triple plays. (Hard to believe, but there have been 13 of those.)
On August 21, 2007, the Angels' Garret Anderson became just the 12th player to have 10 or more RBIs in a single game. Now that's rare. And, as typically is the case with rarities, there have been some remarkable moments worth remembering.
However, just because a player does something remarkable in one game does not mean that he is fated for fame and fortune, or the Hall of Fame. If that were the case, Don Larsen and his 81-91 career record would be in Cooperstown.
And that's the case with a 10-RBI dozen. Norm Zauchin, Phil Weintraub, Garret Anderson and Mark Whiten have all had 10 or more RBIs in a game, and the only way any of them are getting to the Hall is the same way you or I get there, take I-88 past Oneonta and then hang a left at state route 28 and follow that north into Cooperstown. (You can also get there from the north via U.S. 20, but that's another story.) Mark Whiten?
Yes, Mark Whiten. On Tuesday, September 7, 1993, in the second game of a doubleheader at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati (The House that Pete Built), Whiten had himself a pretty fair month of baseball in just two hours and 17 minutes. During the course of a 15-2 embarrassment of the Reds (who had won the first game 14-13), Whiten, hitting sixth in the Cardinals lineup behind the immortal Gerald Perry, went four for five with four home runs and 12 RBIs, in the process tying two of the most notable marks in the annals of baseball – home runs in a game (4) and RBIs in a game (12).
Whiten was a fabled prospect when he first came up with the Blue Jays – a switch-hitting centerfielder with a rifle arm who was also a line drive machine. Somehow, like a lot of fabled prospects, Whiten hadn't exactly panned out. At 26, he was already on his third team in four years, and would end up playing for eight teams in an 11-year major league career that produced a .259/.341/.415 line for a 102 Adjusted OPS and 712 strikeouts in just 3104 at bats. But, in game two on September 7, 1993, he was better than Babe Ruth (who never had 10 RBIs or four home runs in a game.)
In the top of the first, Whiten started the game off right with a grand slam against Larry Luebbers. After popping up while leading off the Cardinals' fourth, he next came up in the sixth, this time with two on and facing pitcher Mike Anderson, who was making his major league debut. Another home run, and Whiten had seven RBIs on the night.
In the seventh, the Cardinal onslaught continued against poor Anderson, as Perry and Todd Zeile were once again both on base ahead of Whiten (Perry would score four times in the game on Whiten homers, Zeile three times). Another three run homer, and Whiten now had 10 RBIs, and Anderson went off to write his memoirs, having given up seven runs in one-and-two-thirds innings in his first game. (He would get in two more games in September and end his career with an 18.56 ERA.)
Having disposed of Anderson, the Cardinals next turned their attention to Rob "Double" Dibble. The future ESPN analyst faced Whiten in the ninth with, fortunately for Dibble, only Perry on base ahead of him. The results were the same – a fourth home run, two more RBIs and a fleeting form of immortality… tying Jim Bottomley's long-standing (since 1924) record of 12 ribbies in a game AND also joining the ranks of the four-home-runs-in-a-game platoon.
In one game in what was also his best single season in terms of counting numbers (25 home runs, 99 RBIs) Mark Whiten had accounted for 16 percent of his year's total home runs and just over 10 percent of his RBIs. Maybe even more incredibly, he had also accounted for almost four percent of his 11-year career home run total and more than two percent of his career RBI total – in just one night in Cincinnati.
Anderson's outburst against Mike Mussina, et al, may not have been as dramatic, but it still wasn't a bad night's work. Anderson "only" hit two home runs, a three-run homer in the third and a grand slam in the sixth, but, on the other hand, he had his 10 RBIs by the end of the sixth, having hit run-scoring doubles in the first and second innings and also accounting for six RBIs by the end of the third.
He actually had a shot at Whiten's and Bottomley's record when he came up in the eighth with two on, but he grounded out to shortstop. Oh well, a 6 3 4 10 line for a single game isn't anything to be ashamed of. Anderson also just missed the American League mark of 11 RBIs in a game, which dates back to Tony Lazzeri in 1936 in a game in which the future Hall of Famer had two grand slams.
Other American Leaguers with 10 RBIs in a game include Rudy York (1946), the aforementioned Norm Zauchin (1955), Reggie Jackson (1969), Fred Lynn (1975), Nomar Garciaparra (1999) and one of the Yankees who took the field against Anderson on August 21, and had two home runs of his own, Alex Rodriguez, who did it for the Yankees in 2005.
In another of those statistical oddities that baseball seems to generate, six of the eight American Leaguers to drive in double digits in a game were members of the Yankees or Red Sox. (Just like the two National League and Major League record holders were both Cardinals.)
In the National League, only Weintraub, who had 11 RBIs in a 1944 wartime game for the New York Giants, and Walker Cooper (10), when he was playing for the Reds in 1949, also made it to double figures in a single contest. And, as noted previously, not everyone who has driven in 10 or more runs in a game was a star – Weintraub being a good example.
Although he was a pretty good hitter (132 OPS+), he only played seven years and, in fact, had been out of the majors for six years when the Giants called him back to duty in 1944. Zauchin was actually a below-average hitter, with a career OPS+ of just 94 in six seasons with the Red Sox and the Senators in the 1950s. Somewhat in the fashion of Mark Whiten, Zauchin's big year came in tandem with his big game – he hit 27 home runs and drove in 93 runs in 1955.
Garret Anderson is certainly a better player than Norm Zauchin, or Mark Whiten, for that matter. Although last night's home runs were just his seventh and eighth on the year, he's in his 14th season in the majors and has 249 home runs and 1178 RBIs, having hit as many as 35 home runs and driven in as many as 123 runs in a season, despite a terrible strikeout/walk ratio (about 3:1). His career Adjusted OPS at the moment is 105 (101 for 2007), although that is in a longer career than Whiten.
Although he's had some notable accomplishments, and deserves to be remembered as a good player, he more so deserves to be remembered for what happened on the night of August 21, 2007 – an occasion that called for Anderson to take the first curtain call of his career. Go ahead, Garret, you earned it.
A member of the Society for American Baseball Research, John Shiffert's background includes serving as a sportswriter, as sports information director for Earlham College and Drexel University, and as publisher of the Philadelphia Baseball File. He's been director of University Relations at Clayton State University since August 1995.