Editor's note: On Friday, April 23, 1999, Cardinals 3rd baseman Fernando Tatis hit two grand slams in one inning, which never had been done before. Here is how Rick Hummel covered the event.
Before Friday night, major-league baseball players had swatted 4,777 grand slams with no player ever hitting two in the same inning.
"You've got a better chance of winning the lottery, " said Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire, who was not the first player to reach this feat. McGwire once hit two homers in an inning - something which no Cardinal had ever done before Friday - but he did it with Oakland and only one homer was a grand slam. Fernando Tatis got his 15 minutes of fame and then some Friday night when he clubbed two grand slams off Los Angeles starter Chan Ho Park.
From a moderately known player heretofore, Tatis became a celebrity across late-night America and reached near deity status in his native Dominican Republic. All night and into the day, Tatis fielded calls from family, friends and media in the Dominican Republic. "Almost everybody back home, " he said. "They were watching the game and they were having a party."
Tatis will have eternal fame, and he said, "I think that's what every baseball player is looking for - to be famous, to be in the Hall of Fame. You just want your name to get bigger and bigger every year. I think my name is going to be, like you say, (famous)."
The Hall of Fame no doubt will call for some memorabilia although he said, "I've got to think about it. I'm not going to say yes" immediately.
Michael Lerner of Simi Valley obtained the second homer in the left-center-field pavilion. "After a kid grabbed it, I offered the kid $20, $40, $60, $80, " Lerner said. "The kid took the $80. I grabbed it. This ball belongs in the Hall of Fame and I hope you give it to the Hall of Fame, " Lerner told Tatis.
Rene Lachemann, the Cardinals third-base coach had something to do with this. He held Darren Bragg at third on McGwire's checked-swing single before the first slam and stopped slow-footed pitcher Jose Jimenez twice - once on Edgar Renteria's single which loaded the bases and the other time on McGwire's fly to medium right - before the second slam.
"I can't believe he didn't score on Renteria's ball, " manager Tony La Russa said. "Bad spring training preparation."
There were varying degrees of excitement for Tatis, 24.
"On the first one, he gave me kind of a dead fish handshake, " Lachemann said. "On the second one, he tried to knock my arm off."
La Russa said, "I never imagined what I would see (Friday). The game's been played 100 years. And this is the first time. That was an electrifying moment in that dugout."
Tatis wouldn't have even hit fourth if Eric Davis, who had a sore left hand, could have played. "Everything had to fall into place, " said Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, a 50-year veteran.
"(Tatis) had a great batting practice, " La Russa said. "Usually what that means is what it means - nothing. But he did have an outstanding BP."
La Russa said that if Tatis "doesn't come off the ball and if he disciplines himself - it's a big part of what Mark says. He tries to get a good pitch and drive it. If he does that . . . that's how you hit home runs."
Tatis pointed out, in fact, that La Russa had talked to him before the game about not swinging wildly, as he had been doing. "Tony told me, `Just be patient, ' " Tatis said.
What could compare?
La Russa brought up the famous 1917 game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds in which both the Cubs' Jim "Hippo" Vaughn and Cincinnati's Fred Toney had no-hitters through nine innings. Vaughn then allowed two hits in the 10th while Toney finished with a no-hitter.
Another game could be Los Angeles lefthander Sandy Koufax's perfect game against the Chicago Cubs in 1965 in which Chicago lefthander Bob Hendley allowed one hit.
Some perspective: Only four teams in this century - and one National League team - have hit two grand slams in an inning. The 1969 Houston Astros were the only National League team to do it, with Jimmy Wynn and Denis Menke the collaborators. The others were the 1986 Baltimore Orioles with Jim Dwyer and Larry Sheets, the 1980 Milwaukee Brewers and the 1962 Minnesota Twins.
Only once before had the Cardinals hit two grand slams in one game - Jim Bottomley and Chick Hafey did it in 1929. No Cardinal had ever hit two homers in one inning although one St. Louis Browns player, Kenny Williams, had two in an inning in 1922.
Tatis, with eight runs batted in, also shattered the modern-day RBI mark for an inning by 33 percent - or two runs batted in. The mark of six was set by Fred Merkle of the New York Giants in 1911, although RBIs did not become official until 1920. In 1937, Bob Johnson of the Philadelphia Athletics drove in six runs, a feat not done officially in the National League until 1970 when San Francisco's Jim Ray Hart drove in six.
There is a St. Louis connection here. Ed Cartwright of the 1890 St. Louis American Association team drove in seven runs in an inning.
A day later, Tatis could call his feat "unbelievable, " but still said, "Now I believe it." Thus is the magnitude of an accomplishment never achieved before.
Tatis said he watched the videos "only a few times." What he saw was a slam off a Park fastball on the first homer and off a Park slider on the second. "On two different pitches, " marveled McGwire, shaking his head.
The first one, which went about 450 feet, Tatis was sure about. On the second one, "I didn't think I had enough explosion. I was not sure it was going to go. It just happened. I thought, `I'm going to fly.'