September 7, 1993: Mark Whiten homers four times

In the hours before Mark Whiten made history with a four-homer, 12-RBI performance in the second game of a double-header against the Reds on September 7, 1993, he didn’t appear to be a man on the verge of the greatest performance of his major league career.

The first game of the double-header was an ugly affair, as the Cardinals and Reds set a record by utilizing 15 different pitchers in Cincinnati’s 14-13 victory.[1] St. Louis entered the bottom of the ninth inning with a 13-12 lead, but Jacob Brumfield doubled into the right-field gap, Hal Morris walked, and Reggie Sanders hit a game-winning line drive to center that Whiten misplayed, allowing Brumfield and Morris to score.

“He was buried in his locker after that first game,” Cardinals manager Joe Torre said. “Not that the ball got away from him but the fact that we lost. He takes losses as hard as anybody on this ballclub.”[2]

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound outfielder had come to St. Louis that March when the Indians, who needed pitching after Steve Olin and Tim Crews were killed and Bob Ojeda was injured in a tragic boating accident, traded him for pitcher Mark Clark and minor league shortstop Juan Andujar.

Whiten’s debut season in St. Louis proved to be the best of his career, as he posted career highs in homers (26) and RBIs (99). Both totals would be aided significantly by his performance in the second game of the double-header, and by the time the nightcap was over, Whiten’s frustrations from the first game of the twin bill were long forgotten.

Cincinnati’s Larry Luebbers struggled with his control early in the game, walking Geronimo Pena and Todd Zeile before Gerald Perry singled to load the bases for Whiten. On a 2-0 count, Luebbers challenged Whiten with a fastball. Batting left-handed, the switch-hitting Whitten, standing in the far back corner of the box, extended his arms and sent the ball over the wall in left-center field for a 4-0 Cardinal lead.

 

The Reds would cut that advantage in half in the bottom half of the first as Morris hit a sacrifice fly off Bob Tewksbury and Jacob Brumfield scored on a throwing error by Tom Pagnozzi. After a rocky first inning, Luebbers settled down, working around a walk to Tewksbury in the second inning and retiring the side in order in the third and fourth.

Finally, in the fifth inning, after Luebbers led off the inning by walking Tewksbury for the second time in the game, Lonnie Maclin hit a sacrifice fly to center field. The score remained 5-2 until the sixth inning, when Reds manager Davey Johnson replaced Luebbers with rookie right-hander Mike Anderson.

Anderson walked Zeile and Perry to lead off the inning before challenging Whiten with a first-pitch fastball. Whiten sent the pitch over the wall in right-center field for his 20th home run of the season.

In the seventh, Anderson retired the first two batters in order before Bernard Gilkey and Zeile each singled into left field. Perry scored Gilkey on an infield single, bringing Whiten to the plate once more. This time, Whiten turned on a 2-1 pitch and pulled it over the right field wall. He punctuated the blast with a casual bat flip and a few steps spent admiring his handiwork before he broke into his home run trot. By this time, with the score 12-2, even the few Reds fans still in attendance applauded Whiten.

Gilkey said after the game that he could tell Whiten was in the zone.

“I was talking to him in the outfield after he hit his third one and it was almost like he didn’t see me,” Gilkey said. “He looked straight through me.”[3]

Tewksbury, who allowed just two runs in a complete-game effort to earn his 16th win of the season, saw the same thing.

“What I saw in his face was complete emptiness – in a good sense,” he said. “There was no emotion. No highs. No lows. He was just existing. Nothing permeates that zone.”[4]

In the eighth, Cincinnati called on Rob Dibble, who allowed a solo home run to Pena to make it 13-2 headed into the ninth.

“Nobody said anything about (my home run),” Pena said. “I didn’t see my name on ESPN. I hit mine farther.”[5]

On the mound for a second inning of work, Dibble struck out Stan Royer before Perry singled to center for his third hit of the day. Despite Whiten’s already historic night, Dibble wasn’t about to pitch around the Cardinals’ center fielder, even as KMOX broadcaster Jack Buck asked his broadcast partner, Mike Shannon, “Do you think Dibble will come after him? Do you think Dibble will let him swing the bat?”[6]

“I’ve walked 30 guys in the last week,” Dibble said after the game. “I’m not going to walk him. That’s not my style.”[7]

On a 2-0 count, Dibble challenged Whiten with a fastball out over the plate and Whiten blasted it 441 feet for his longest home run of the night. All four of Whiten’s home runs came against fastballs.

 

“I was impressed with that one,” Whiten said.[8]

So were the Cincinnati fans. After celebrating with his teammates in the dugout, Whiten did something almost as rare as a four-homer game – he gave the Cincinnati fans a curtain call from the visiting dugout. Incredibly, the crowd of about 2,000 remaining fans roared their appreciation.[9]

 

“I’m happy for Mark Whiten,” said Dibble after the game. “He’s a part of history and so am I.”[10]

With the homer, Whiten became the 12th player ever – and the only switch hitter – to hit four home runs in a game, joining a list that included Hall of Famers Ed Delahanty, Lou Gehrig, Chuck Klein, Willie Mays, and Mike Schmidt, and tied Jim Bottomley’s 1924 record for the most RBIs in a game with 12.

“It’s like when Michael Jordan gets in the zone,” Whiten said. “He’s going to score 50 points. That’s kind of the way I felt. It didn’t matter. I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s just amazement, I guess.”[11]

After the game, Whiten’s teammates made him a makeshift red carpet comprised of equipment bags and greeted him in the clubhouse with an honor guard, each player raising their bats in salute, as they chanted, “Hard Hittin’ Mark Whiten.” In addition to a couple of bottles of champagne, Whiten also received each of his four home runs balls, which had been retrieved by the Cincinnati grounds crew.[12]

 “This is the top of the list for me,” Torre said. “This is the No. 1 achievement I’ve ever witnessed.”[13]

Ozzie Smith agreed. “I’ve been around the game 16 years, I’ve seen some guys do some unbelievable things, but nothing like tonight,” he said.[14]


[1] Hummel, Rick. “Whiten Marks Up Reds,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 8, 1993: Page D1.

[2] Hummel, Rick. “Whiten Marks Up Reds,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 8, 1993: Page D4.

[3] Hummel, Rick. “Whiten Marks Up Reds,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 8, 1993: Page D4.

[4] Hummel, Rick. “Historic Game ‘Kind Of A Blur,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 9, 1993: Page D3.

[5] Hummel, Rick. “Historic Game ‘Kind Of A Blur,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 9, 1993: Page D3.

[6] Caesar, Dan. “Over The Airwaves: Play-By-Play Of Whiten’s Four Blasts,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 9, 1993: Page D3.

[7] Hobson, Geoff. “Whiten has historic night,” Cincinnati Enquirer, September 8, 1993: Page E1.

[8] Hummel, Rick. “Whiten Marks Up Reds,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 8, 1993: Page D1.

[9] Hummel, Rick. “Historic Game ‘Kind Of A Blur,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 9, 1993: Page D3.

[10] Hobson, Geoff. “Whiten has historic night,” Cincinnati Enquirer, September 8, 1993: Page E1.

[11] Hobson, Geoff. “Whiten has historic night,” Cincinnati Enquirer, September 8, 1993: Page E5.

[12] Hummel, Rick. “Whiten Marks Up Reds,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 8, 1993: Page D4.

[13] Hummel, Rick. “Whiten Marks Up Reds,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 8, 1993: Page D1.

[14] Hobson, Geoff. “Whiten has historic night,” Cincinnati Enquirer, September 8, 1993: Page E5.

 

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