J. D. Thorne, speaker and author of the new book Baseball’s Winning Ways (Available on Amazon Books).

There have already been six no-hit games recorded this season.

This week, at age 41, Albert Pujos smacked a dinger for his new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, at age 26, smacked his 14th tater of the season. That just about puts Ohtani on pace to break 60 HRs! Ohtani is the MLB leader. But he is also pitching, ala HOFer Babe Ruth. Ohtani, the pitcher, who also plays as designated hitter and sometimes outfielder, has already won 7 games!

Historical Season?

The last time the HR leader pitched in a game was when the Babe did it 100 years ago in 1921. It was in Ruth’s second year with the New York Yankees. He had been primarily a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox before being traded to the Yankees. Ruth was a tough negotiator. The Ruth trade at the time was considered by some a reasonable one based on the potential savings in future salary he was likely to command. Ruth, however, proved himself a bargain at practically any price. In his last season with Boston in 1919, Ruth received more at-bats between pitching assignments. He hit a league-leading 29 homers. To put that number into perspective, the entire team totaled 33 HRs on the season!

According to the Baseball Encyclopedia in my library, in 1921 Ruth’s second year for the Yankees, he hit 59 home runs; drove in 171 (Baseball Reference has 168); scored 177 runs; had over 200 hits (204); and that was all while batting for an average of .378. Ruth struck out only 81 times while earning 144 walks. He also hit for a slugging percentage of .846. You can’t beat that, except for the year before in 1920 he recorded a slugging percentage of .847 that remains the all-time high. Beat that, Ohtani! Of course, it’s a different game today with overall better athletes and better pitching, making Ohtani’s performance so far even spectacular.

This season has been outstanding in many ways. Brewer’s pitcher Corbin Burnes set a major league all-time record for striking out 58 hitters without giving up a walk. Amazingly, his new record was broken not one week later by Gerrit Cole who struck out 61! It reminds me of exploits attributed to the great Satchel Paige.

Satchel had names for his pitches: His “two hump blooper” was his change-up. His specialty however was his fastball— what he called a “bee ball.” This was because all the batter heard was the humming of the ball as it zinged across the plate. Biz Mackey, his catcher, was quoted in the book, Black Diamond, as observing: “When [the ball] is that fast . . . it tends to disappear. I’ve heard about Satchel throwing pitches that wasn’t hit, but that never showed up in the catcher’s mitt nevertheless. They say the catcher, the umpire, and the batboys looked all over for that ball. But it was gone. Now, how do you account for that?”
I wonder what HOF pitcher Walter Johnson say about this?

In the first quarter of the 2021 season, there are the extremes of both good pitching and power hitting!
My Book:

Baseball’s Winning Ways is written for enjoyment, inspiration, and information by the author of The 10 Commandments of Baseball, J. D. Thorne. Winning Ways explores baseball history and high profile players both current and past. American history highlights provide a more complete point of reference. The drama of the game, its history, baseball superstitions, statistics explained, and more provide features of interest to all fans from age 12 on up. The central theme of the book is baseball’s winning ways, those principles essential to the game itself that naturally values that parents, grandparents, teachers and coaches want to pass down that are as important now as ever.

Photographs from Library of Congress