Play it again, Phil
By Craig Muder
Records, they say, are made to be broken. But my favorite record has never been surpassed.
It has, however, been tied… more than 20 times.
Exclusive? Hardly. But Phil Garner’s 1978 mark of back-to-back games with a grand slam home run will always have a special place with me. Because I was there to see it.
Sept. 15, 1978… My dad took me to my second major league game, which was also my first night game. I remember walking around gigantic Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, bounding down the left-field box seats to the bullpen edge. There, before the Expos-Pirates game, I leaned over with my program and got Ed Ott’s signature. Ott, the Pirates’ catcher against right-handed starters, was off that night because lefty Woodie Fryman was pitching for Montreal. Duffy Dyer was the Bucs’ right-handed hitting platoon catcher.
Garner’s home run cleared the bases in the bottom of the first, giving him two grand salamis in two nights following his shot against the Cardinals the night before. Scrap Iron was already one of my father’s favorite players, and I recall Dad jumping out of his seat when the ball cleared the fence.
At that point, it was safe to say, I was hooked on baseball.
It seems inconceivable that in the more than 100 years of pro ball prior to that game – and the 32 years since – no one has hit grand slams in three straight games. But there it is, in the record books and in my memory.
These are the moments that will come alive this spring at the Hall of Fame’s new One for the Books exhibit. The stories, the records… the connection that bonds us to baseball. It’s what makes the National Pastime unique.
It’s what makes us love the game.
Someday, the record may fall. But Garner’s effort – and that night with my Dad – will remain forever.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.