Tag Archives: Hoyt Wilhelm

MAY 27 – Size matters

*1960 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK –  It’s been said, ‘catching a knuckle-ball is like trying to catch a butterfly with a fly swatter.’  It’s one of the biggest challenges a catcher faces. The Baltimore Orioles tried to do something about it on this date in 1960.

One of their starters was premier knuckler Hoyt Wilhelm. Oriole catchers had an especially difficult time catching him. The Orioles set a record in 1959 for the most passed ball with 49, 38 while Wilhelm was on the mound.

On this date in 1960, Baltimore manager Paul Richards. had an idea. He came up with an oversized catcher’s mitt for catcher Clint Courtney.

It worked. Courtney had no passed balls on this date – there had been 11 in Wilhelm’s previous 28 innings – and Wilhelm pitched his first complete game of the season beating the New York Yankees 3-2.

The oversized mitt led to a rule change a few years later. Beginning with the 1965 season catcher’s mitts were limited to 38 inches in circumference and 15 ½ inches from top to bottom.

The Official Rules of Baseball Illustrated, David Nemec,  2006
The knuckle-ball


1952 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – The first one took place in New York on this date in 1952. A relief pitcher by the name of Hoyt Wilhelm – you probably heard of him, a knuckleballer who became one of the best relief pitchers in baseball history, he’s in the Hall of Fame – hit a home run in his first major league at-bat.

He never hit another one in his 21-year major league career. This was before the designated hitter. How does that happen?

There is a logical explanation. Wilhelm was a middle relief pitcher. He played in over 1,000 games, but seldom was seen a bat in his hand. In 1968, for example, he appeared in 72 games for the White Sox. He had 3 at-bats the entire year. Struck out each time.

What Wilhelm was known for was pitching. He won 143 games as a starter, saved 227 games as a reliever, mostly with the Sox and New York Giants. He finished with a career ERA of 2.52. Seven different seasons he had ERAs under 2.00


1999 | LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – This may be more amazing. Also on April 23rd in 1999, Fernando Tatis hit two grand slams – IN ONE INNING! Needless to say, a record.

It turned out to be a breakout year for Tatis. He hit 34 home runs and drove in 107. Tatis never came close to those numbers again, but there’s a good chance his two slams in one inning record will never be broken.

First at bat HRs
New York Times, New York, NY, April 24, 1952
Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA, April 24, 1999
Hoyt Wilhelm
Fernando Tatis