By The Common Man
Last night, Mike Trout reminded us that he is, indeed, very good at baseball and going to get even better, hitting two homers off of a clearly overmatched Anthony Vasquez. In doing so, he became the 9th youngest person in baseball history to hit two homers in a game. Here’s the list:
|Danny Murphy||9/27/1961||Larry Jackson||19 years, 35 days|
|Mel Ott||5/18/1928||Pete Alexander||19 years, 18 days|
|Andruw Jones||8/22/1996||John Smiley||19 years, 121 days|
|Mel Ott||9/5/1928||Claude Willoughby||19 years, 187 days|
|Ken Griffey||5/30/1989||Jimmy Jones||19 years, 190 days|
|Ken Griffey||7/5/1989||Juan Berenguer, Mike Dyer||19 years, 226 days|
|Brian McCall||9/30/1962||Bill Stafford, Ralph Terry||19 years, 248 days|
|Tony Conigliaro||9/16/1964||Blue Moon Odom, Ted Bowsfield||19 years, 253 days|
|Ed Kranepool||8/14/1964||Rick Wise||19 years, 280 days|
|Harmon Killebrew||5/29/1956||Erv Palica, Johnny Schmitz||19 years, 335 days|
|Mike Trout||8/30/2011||Anthony Vasquez||20 years, 23 days|
As you can see, Ott and Griffey both appear on the list twice, which is cool in and of itself, but it’s a very interesting list. Ott, Griffey, and Killebrew are all inner-circle Hall of Famers, and Tony C looked to be on his way there before a Jack Hamilton fastball destroyed much of his promise. Andruw Jones is a borderline Hall of Fame player who probably will never get in, one who peaked early and lost much of his momentum thanks to an expanding waisteline (although he’s hitting again). Of the other players on the list, you see that both Murphy and McCall had their moments in the sun during September of expansion seasons, when diluted pitching was diluted even further by expanded rosters.
Danny Murphy was a highly regarded high school prospect both in the outfield and on the mound, who the Cubs paid $135,000 to in 1960, when he was just 17 years old. This was billed, at the time, as the largest bonus in baseball history. Lenny Merullo, the scout who signed him announced that he would immediately join the Cubs, and “We may even insert him in the lineup in right field.” Indeed, Murphy started the next day and went 0-for-4 against Cincinnati. He stuck around for about a month, starting 9 games and serving as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement, hitting .116/.156/.163 in 46 plate appearances. He was sent down to AA, where he hit .294/.389/.514 in 47 games before coming back in September. He would spend almost all of 1961 down in the minors, earning a September call-up just in time to hit two homers off of Larry Jackson. Murphy broke camp with the club in 1962, but started the season 0-for-8 before getting sent down. He was traded to the new Houston franchise in 1963, and then to the White Sox for Nellie Fox after a season. There, he took up pitching again, and relieved for the White Sox in 1969 and 1970. For his career, he finished with an 82 ERA+ and a 53 OPS+, and hit just two other homers in his career.
McCall was also a high school phenom, and 17, when the White Sox signed him to the largest bonus in team history, just three months after the Cubs signed Murphy, and assigned him to Class C Idaho Falls. He put up strong numbers, and showed great patience, and in 1962 the Cubs called him up for September. In his first and only start, in the last game of the year against the eventual World Champion Yankees, McCall went 2-for-5 with two homers off of Bill Staffard and Ralph Terry. He started one more game in his career, on September 28 of 1963, and never hit another homerun. While he was terrific in the low minors, the high minors seemed to flummox him, as he posted just a .246/.343/.370 line at AA before retiring at 23 years old. Which is just a weird possibility to even think about.
Kranepool was much more successful than these other two bonus babies, signing out of the Bronx as a 17 year old for around $75,000 in 1962. He had just broken Hank Greenberg’s high school homerun record. He was assigned to Syracusue, but did make it into three games in September, starting one of them. In 1963, the Mets turned the starting job over to him, but he played his way out of it (as an 18 year old would probably do), hitting .190/.242/.284 through July 7. He was awarded the job again in 1964, and delivered league average offense, including his two-homer game against Rick Wise. Kranepool never really became the player the Mets hoped for, topping out at 16 homers in 1966 and with a 124 OPS+ in 1971. His career OPS+ was just 97, and he was worth just 4.4 Wins Above Replacement over an 18 year career.
Trout is much more justifiably more hyped than these relative flops. He has flown through the minors, but has dominated at every level and has demonstrated an advanced approach to hitting. He is almost certainly more Jones, Griffey, and Conigliaro than McCall. The omens are good, so buckle up. The Common Man, for one, welcomes our new Mike Trout overlords.