Yankees History, July 20, 1965: Mel Stottlemyre hits inside-the-park grand slam against Red Sox

The designated hitter has distinguished the American League from the National League for as long as many current baseball fans (Gen Xers, Millennials and younger) can remember.  As such, today, it’s nearly unheard of for a pitcher to hit a home run, or to put up numbers on the offensive side with any regularity.  Those numbers sometimes come from the National League, and even on that side of MLB, it’s a rarity to see.  Generally, the pitcher isn’t going to be the player to make the big hit of the game.
Photo Credit: The Spokesman Review

However, pitchers playing the offensive side were more common “back in the day,” as the designated hitter didn’t exist until 1973.  It also started as an experiment that was only supposed to last three years, but ended up becoming adopted by MLB as part of the rules. However, even prior to the debut of the DH, league officials argued for a DH as early as 1906 due to the fact that pitchers, and pinch-hitters brought into the lineup to bat for the pitcher, just weren’t effective offensively.

There were a few exceptions, of course; most notably Babe Ruth, who carried a career 2.28 ERA and won the most games of any left-handed pitcher in MLB from 1915-1917, from the pitching side.  He managed to couple that pitching performance with offensive stats that are the stuff of legends; he hit .342 lifetime, with, of course, 746 career home runs. 

But another exception came on July 20, 1965, when the Yankees’ own Mel Stottlemyre gave fans a hit that led to the exceptional legacy that us fans have come to get kind of emotional over. While inside the park home runs were more common in 1965 than they are today due to the overall decreased size of today’s ballparks, this moment was, as they say, “for the books.”

Stottlemyre hit an inside-the-park grand slam against the Yanks’ most hated division rivals: the Boston Red Sox. 

Clearly, Stottlemyre was known for his pitching; were he not, he probably wouldn’t have worked as the Yankees’ pitching coach for as long as he did.  He carries a 2.97 lifetime ERA, with 1,297 strikeouts and 2,661.1 IP.  His career record comes in at 164-139.

Stottlemyre was not well-known for his hitting -- a fact which makes this moment even more memorable.  His lifetime batting average was only .160, with seven home runs, 57 RBIs and just 120 hits.  Of course, these stats do not take into account how many times a pinch hitter was placed in the lineup in Stottlemyre’s place, or the fact that as a pitcher, Stottlemyre was not a daily player.  But a baseball analyst would not estimate that a clutch grand slam would come from a player with offensive numbers that look like Stottlemyre’s did -- pitcher or not.

The moment came in the fifth inning of play, and eventually helped the Yankees walk away with a 6-3 victory.  Stottlemyre drove in runs from Roger Repoz, Clete Boyer and Joe Pepitone, who were waiting on first, second and third bases, respectively.

“I remember a lot about it,” Stottlemyre told the press.  “It was in [Yankee] Stadium, the ball was hit to left-center field, against Boston, a real hot day in July.  The pitcher was Bill Monbouquette.  Those things you don’t forget.”

No Yankees pitcher since Stottlemyre has hit an inside-the-park grand slam, and unless the Yankees are playing an interleague game and have a little bit of luck, it’s quite possible that fans will never see that feat from a pitcher ever again.

Article by: Mary Grace Donaldson


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