May 26, 1997, 25 years ago today: The visiting Chicago Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 2-1, as Sammy Sosa and Tony Womack each hit rare inside-the-park homers in the sixth inning, less than five minutes apart. It was the first time that happened in the same inning in almost 20 years, when the Rangers’ Toby Harrah and Bump Wills did it—on consecutive pitches no less. There’s nothing more exciting than a walk-off inside-the-park homer. The last one was hit by Angel Pagan of the San Francisco Giants in 2013 at AT&T Park. The legendary Roberto Clemente hit the majors’ only walk-off inside-the-park grand slam home run for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1956.
Before Babe Ruth made power hitting the norm in the majors in 1920, inside-the-park homers were common—and home run trots less so. There was a guy named Jesse Burkett who played from 1890-1905, and 55 of his 75 career homers never left the yard. By comparison, the highest career number since 1950 is 13, held by Willie Wilson, who played from 1976-94. The last time a player hit two in a single game was in 1986, when Greg Gagne of the Minnesota Twins did it. The only inside-the-park home run in All-Star Game history was hit by the Seattle Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki in 2007.
It’s often something weird that results in an inside-the-parker. There’s been a pop-up lost in the fog, a ball lost after it hit a ceiling speaker at an indoor stadium, players falling over fences chasing extra-base hits, and a groin injury in the middle of a play. There have also been players weighing 285 pounds and 262 pounds who somehow made it around the bases in time.
Tyler Colvin, who began his pro career with the Boise Hawks in 2006 and went on to a six-year big league career, homered in five straight games for the Hawks near the end of the 2006 season. He hit six during that streak, an unofficial team record. The footnote is that one of them was one of those extremely rare inside-the-park grand slams.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)