OTD in 1987, Athletics' Mark McGwire Tied Record with 5 homers in 2 Days in Cleveland
It was the month of May in 1987 that established Mark McGwire as an up-and-coming home run hitter.
It was June 27-28 of that year that showed he’d arrived.
McGwire had started the 1987 season in a first base platoon with Rob Nelson. It was to Nelson, a lefty hitter, that they honor of starting Opening Day went. Oakland was 2-9 to start the season and McGwire only saw four starts, and one of those was in right field – April 13, 1987, you could look it up. (Hey, he started at third base on April 17 as a rookie, for what it’s worth, one of five starts that season at third).
By April 20, Nelson’s .167 batting average got him a one-way ticket to Triple-A. McGwire also was hitting .167, and while he’d only hit one homer and had driven in just one run, he’d shown manager Tony La Russa and general manager Sandy Alderson enough to get regular work.
In the final 10 games of April, McGwire made the move pay off. He hit three homers, had three three-RBI games and 11 RBI total. But it was May when things really took off. The A’s went 15-10 with McGwire hitting a league-best 15 homers for the month with 25 RBI.
Baseball-reference.com is littered with players who had one good month. What happened in June made McGwire a star. He hit just three homers from June 1-26, but on June 27 he went deep three times against the Indians in Cleveland. The next day, June 28, he drove two more out of the park. Suddenly, he was a record-setter.
Both of the homers on this date in 1987 came off Tom Candiotti, a knuckleballer. McGwire doubled and scored the A’s first run in the second inning, homered in the fourth inning to make it 2-0 and homered again in the seventh for 3-0, after which the A’s would pile on in the last couple of innings.
The five homers in two games tied a Major League record. He scored nine runs in the two games – 13-3 and 10-0 wins for the A’s – and that tied an MLB record, too. By the end of June, he had 28 homers. There were three months left in the season, and he was just 10 homers shy of the then-rookie record of 38 rookie homers.
He was suddenly a star, and an All-Star at that. After five bombs in early July, McGwire would go into the All-Star Game owning a .294 batting average, 33 homers and 68 RBI.
And Cleveland would always be good to McGwire. He’d homer 11 times in Cleveland Municipal Stadium, then 10 more times after what was then called Jacobs Field open. Other than Detroit, where he homered 24 time, 23 of them in Tiger Stadium, no city suffered more from McGwire’s home run swing.
It was on April 30, 1997, at the beginning of his final season with the A’s, McGwire had one final salute to Cleveland. McGwire became just the second player to hit a ball off the huge Budweiser sign behind and above the Jacobs Field left field bleachers. It was a two-run shot off Orel Hershiser in the third inning of an 11-9 10-inning A’s win. McGwire also homered in a four-run A’s 10 inning.
When McGwire came to the park the next day, there was a gift from the other man to have hit the Jacobs Field Bud sign, Indians’ first baseman Jim Thome.
He had a 12-pack of Bud delivered with this note: “Mac, This Bud’s For You.”
McGwire, touched by the gesture, took the 12-pack home and never opened it. He’d play three more games in Cleveland with the A’s without going deep again.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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