July 4, 1940: George Case ties record for most hits in a double-header

On July 4, 1940, at Griffith Stadium, speedy Senators’ outfielder George Case had nine hits in a double-header against the Athletics, matching a major league record that still stands.

In the modern era (post-1900), this record is held by six others, but was achieved the last time more than 60 years ago. Case’s 9-for-10 was the second time this has been done in the A.L. Ray Morehart of the White Sox had done it in 1926. Two Giants’ batters in 1928, Fred Lindstrom and Bill Terry, had nine hits in N.L. twin bills before Case tied the record.

Case sliding safely on the bases

In the first game, Case went 4-for 5 with a triple, leading off against the Philadelphia Athletics in Washington’s 5-1 victory. He singled in the first, second and fifth. After a force-out grounder in the sixth, he tripled and scored in the eighth

Case was 5-for-5 with a double and two RBIs in the second game. He singled in first but was picked off. Retrosheet’s box score has no detail, so it’s likely Case, who led the league in stolen bases for five straight years, was leaning the wrong way and couldn’t get back.

His single in the second drove in Washington’s first run. Case scored the second run on a Buddy Lewis double. In the fifth, Case led off with a single, advanced to third on another single and scored on pitcher Bill Beckmann’s throwing error on a pick-off try at first.

Case singled again the sixth. By then, the Nats were ahead, 5-0 but, helped by an error by pitcher Joe Kakauskas, the A’s tied it with five in the top of the seventh.

In the bottom of the inning, helped by two errors, the Senators scored four times. Case drove in the last of the four with a double. Washington won 9-5 to sweep the twin bill. Three of Case’s nine hits were bunt singles.

Lee Thomas of the Los Angeles Angels was the last player with nine hits in a twin bill, doing it on September 5, 1961, in record-setting style. After five hits in the first game against the then-Kansas City A’s, Thomas had four more, including three home runs, in the nightcap. He tied the A.L. record with 19 total bases in the double header, but the Angels lost both games.

The year before, on August 30, Pete Runnels had nine hits in a double header for the Red Sox. Runnels was 6-for-7 in the first game, including a game-winning double in the 15th inning. He was 3-for-4 with two doubles in the second game. Runnels, who played for Washington from 1951 through 1957, hit .314 or better in each of his five years in Boston and won the first of two batting titles in 1960. 

Case, who hit lead-off as usual when he matched the double-header record on Independence Day, was the majors’ premier base-stealer in the 1940s, winning consecutive stolen base crowns from 1940 through 1944. He led again with Cleveland in 1946, to tie Ty Cobb by leading the league in steals six times, a record until broken by Luis Aparicio, then by Rickey Henderson, who led the league a record 12 times.

In an era when stolen bases declined, Case led the league with as many 61 steals in 1943, when the N.L. leader had 20. Those 61 stolen bases were the most in either league since Sam Rice of the Senators stole 63 in 1920. Not until Maury Wills set a new record in 1962 was Case’s 1943 total exceeded.

Case remained in baseball after he retired as a player. He took Rutgers University to the college World Series in his decade handling the baseball team there. Then he managed in the minors and coached for the expansion Senators before scouting for several teams.

He died in 1989 in Trenton, New Jersey, his hometown.

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