Quite a long title for an item called baseball shorts… Anyhow, in this episode of baseball shorts, we will talk about a player who hit a home run in his first MLB at-bat, but never hit one afterward.
We are talking about Hoyt Wilhelm, a famed knuckleballer. Old Sarge, as he was nicknamed, Made his MLB debut on April 18, 1952 in relief. Five days later, he would take the mound again in a 9-5 over the Boston Braves.
In the first two innings, it looked like the Braves would walk off the field as a victor as they jumped on Giants’ starting pitcher Roger Bowman. Bowman gave up three earned runs on five hits in 2.1 innings. So manager Leo “The Lip” Durocher pulled Bowman and guided the rookie Wilhelm to the mound. The future Hall of Famer would pitch a solid game in which he helped his own cause. He would last for 5.1 innings in which he allowed two runs on six hits and struck out three.
But as stated earlier, Wilhelm would help his own cause. In his very first MLB at-bat, in the fourth inning with the Giants leading 6-3 and the bases empty and one out, Wilhelm swung at a pitch that ended into the stands of deep right field. But you have to wonder how deep right field, deep right field really was as the dimensions of the Polo Grounds were far from normal as the right field foul pole stood at 258 feet (78 meters).
Two innings later, Wilhelm would serve up the pitch that would lead to the two runs he allowed as Eddie Matthews drove it to deep right field and took Walker Cooper with him.
After an extensive career with the New York Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, California Angels, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, and Los Angeles Dodgers, the master of the knuckleball would be elected in the HOF in 1985. He would end his 20-year career with a more than respectable ERA of 2.52 and 1,610 Ks.