At D.C. Stadium in 1964, Mel Stottlemyre became the last pitcher to get five hits

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the designated hitter becomes universal this season. Pitchers, unless another Shohei Ohtani emerges, will no longer routinely bat in either league.

So it’s worth looking back at a memorable game 58 seasons ago: September 26, 1964, the last time a pitcher actually had – and will ever again have — five base hits in a game. It was accomplished by a 22-year-old rookie sensation who helped lead the Yankees to the last of their 29 pennants between 1921 and 1964.  

Against the Senators that afternoon in Washington, Mel Stottlemyre tossed a two-hit shutout. He pitched no-hit ball over the final seven innings. His two-run single in the second knocked out the Senators’ Claude Osteen and put New York ahead, 4-0. Two pitchers later, the Yankees were up 6-0 by the end of the inning.

Joe Pepitone’s 27th homer accounted for the final Yankees’ run in the seventh. The final score was 7-0.

The shutout gave Stottlemyre, who made his debut on Aug. 12, his ninth victory. (Exactly a month earlier, the Senators had shut out the Yankees 2-0 and handed Stottlemyre his first major league defeat.) Soon after, however, the Yankees began an amazing run, winning 19 of 22 games from September 4 through 26.

Stottlemyre’s pitching and hitting that night led the Yanks to their 11th-straight victory, tied for most in the A.L. that season. He was only the second batter to get five hits in a game at D.C. Stadium in its first three seasons. In his previous start, September 22 in Cleveland, Stottlemyre had singled his final time up, so the five knocks in Washington gave him six in a row. He raised his batting average 124 points to .257 in his shutout, yet surprisingly this was the only season in his career that he hit better than .200.

The soon-to-be Yankee ace singled off journeyman Steve Ridzik in the third inning for his second hit. Trying sacrifice in the fifth, Stottlemyre beat out a bunt off former Yankee Jim Bronstad. Off Alan Koch, the Nats’ fifth pitcher, Stottlemyre singled in the seventh and doubled in the ninth.

On the mound, Stottlemyre yielded a one-out single in the first to Don Zimmer and a two-out double in the second to Joe Cunningham. That was it for Washington’s hits. Stottlemyre walked five and struck out five in throwing the first of seven two-hitters in his career.

When he was finished after 11 seasons, he had thrown 40 shutouts. He spent most of the rest of his working years as a pitching coach, notably for the Mets and Yankees. Two of his sons also pitched in the majors. Stottlemyre died on January 13, 2019, at age 77. Check out Gregory H. Wolf’s excellent SABR bio essay here.

Before Stottlemyre, eight pitchers in the 20th century had five hits in a game, but it hadn’t been done since 1936, according to a list in the SABR publication Great Hitting Pitchers, updated in 2012. Babe Ruth as a pitcher had a five-hit game in 1918.

Since Stottlemyre amazing performance, 15 pitchers have had four hits in a game, thanks to a list supplied by SABR’s Al Yellon. Dan Haren was the last, in 2010. Noted for his hitting as much as his pitching, Micah Owings had two of those four-hit games.

As a fan of N.L. baseball, I’m sorry to see the adoption of the DH, but I recognize the arguments in its favor. Still, the game just won’t be the same.

This also appeared in an April 2022 Here’s the Pitch, the daily online post of the Internet Baseball Writers Association, and on the popular Yankees site, StartSpreadingTheNews.blog

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