Nine years ago, the Dodgers faced off with the Brewers for a three-game series beginning on May 21. Right fielder Shawn Green was struggling in the early going in 2002, hitting just .231/.339/.346 through 42 games. Green had not hit a home run in a month, a span of 24 games and 110 plate appearances. He had just three home runs on the season.
The Dodgers lost the opener in Milwaukee 8-6, but Green broke out of his slump with a pair of solo home runs. The next day Green hit a triple in the Dodgers' 1-0 win, but the best was yet to come.
In the series finale, Green had arguably the greatest offensive game in the history of baseball. Nate Colbert and Stan Musial, who hit five home runs in a doubleheader (1954 for Musial, 1972 for Colbert), might have an argument for the best offensive day in history, and I'm partial to Rick Wise hitting two home runs while no-hitting the Reds in 1971 as the greatest overall game in baseball history. But for a single game, nobody did better than Green against the Brewers on May 23, 2002.
Glendon Rusch started for the Brewers, but the Dodgers got him out of the game in a hurry. Green doubled in the first inning to drive home Cesar Izturis, part of a three-run opening frame for the Dodgers. In the second inning, Green hit a three-run home run to give the Dodgers a 6-1 lead, and Rusch was pulled four batters later after allowing eight runs while collecting five outs.
Brian Mallette was the second Brewers relief pitcher of the day, and his first batter was Green, who hit a home run to right center field to open the top of the fourth inning. One inning later, Green whacked Mallette again with a solo shot, giving the Dodgers a 10-1 lead. The three consecutive home runs for Green tied a Dodgers franchise record, co-held by six players, most recently Hee Seop Choi against Minnesota on June 12, 2005.
Green did not bat again until the eighth inning, and when he singled off Jose Cabrera it looked like the chance for a record four home runs was out of reach. Green needed at least three Dodgers to reach base to get one more plate appearance, and luckily Cabrera obliged. Hiram Bocachica homered off Cabrera in the eighth to score Green, then Chad Kreuter doubled to open the top of the ninth inning. Cabrera retired the next two batters, which brought Adrian Beltre to the plate with two outs and Shawn Green on deck in a 12-2 game.
Beltre homered, giving Green the chance he needed.
Green blasted a 1-1 pitch over the wall in right center field four his fourth home run of the game and a place in the record books. But the Dodgers weren't done, as Dave Hansen followed Green with another home run, the third straight for the Dodgers and fourth long ball in the last nine batters faced by Cabrera. The 30-year old Cabrera pitched in 27 more games that season, including nine starts, and allowed 63 runs (including 15 home runs) in 69 innings. He never pitched in the majors again.
As for Green, his portion of the box score looked quite unique:
Green RF 6 6 6 7
Green's four home runs tied the major league record, co-held by former Dodger great Gil Hodges, who went deep four times on August 31, 1950 against Warren Spahn and three Boston Braves relief pitchers at Ebbets Field. Green set the major league record with 19 total bases, tied major league records with six runs scored and five extra-base hits (Steve Garvey is the only other Dodger to have five extra-base hits in a game, doing so on August 28, 1977 against St. Louis), and he is the last of eight Dodgers to collect a franchise-record six hits in a game.
There have been 15 different players in baseball history to hit four home runs in a game:
|Four Home Runs In A Game, MLB History|
|Bobby Lowe||5/30/1894||Bos||Cin||6||4||5||6||other hit was a single|
|Ed Delahanty||7/13/1896||Phi||Chi||5||4||5||7||other hit was a single|
|Lou Gehrig||6/3/1932||NYY||Pha||6||4||4||6||first 4-HR game in AL history|
|Chuck Klein||7/10/1936||Phi||Pit||5||4||4||6||4th home run in 10th inning|
|Pat Seery||7/18/1948||ChW||Pha||6||4||4||7||4th home run in 11th inning|
|GIl Hodges||8/31/1950||Bkn||Bsn||6||5||5||9||other hit was a single|
|Joe Adcock||7/31/1954||Mil||Bkn||5||5||5||7||other hit was a double|
|Mike Schmidt||4/17/1976||Phi||ChC||6||4||5||8||4th home run in 10th inning|
|Mark Whiten||9/7/1993||StL||Cin||5||4||4||12||13 RBI in doubleheader|
|Mike Cameron||5/2/2002||Sea||ChW||5||4||4||4||HBP and lineout in final two PA|
|Shawn Green||5/23/2002||LA||Mil||6||6||6||7||19 total bases|
|Source: Baseball-Reference.com and Baseball Almanac|
The trip to Milwaukee was a springboard for Green. The Dodgers moved on to Arizona, and Green homered once in the opening game of the series on May 24, and added two more the next day. Green set a major league record with seven home runs in a three-game span, and hit 10 home runs in a seven-game stretch and 22 homers over 34 games beginning with that first game in Milwaukee. Despite his slow start, Green finished the season with 42 home runs, and hit .285/.385/.558.