Last night Lorenzo Cain joined elite company in Royals history for his amazing home run performance with three home runs. For a team that does not hit home runs often, from a player who had never hit more than seven home runs in a season until last year, it was a surprising feat. However, Cain is not the most first in Royals history to go yard three times in a game.
The feat has only been accomplished eight other times in Royals history:
- Lorenzo Cain - May 10, 2016 vs. New York
- Kendrys Morales - September 20, 2015 vs. Detroit
- Danny Tartabull - July 6, 1991 vs. Oakland
- Bo Jackson - July 7, 1990 vs. New York
- George Brett - April, 20, 1983 vs. Detroit
- George Brett - July 22, 1979 vs. Texas
- John Mayberry - June 1, 1977 vs. Toronto
- Tony Solaita - September 7, 1975 vs. California
- John Mayberry - July 1, 1975 vs. Texas
John Mayberry and Danny Tartabull are no surprise as some of the more prolific power hitters in Royals history. Kendrys Morales enjoyed a career day in Detroit last year.
The name that really stands out there is Tony Solaita, a light-hitting first baseman with 50 career home runs. But in 1975, he hit a career high 16 in just 93 games, with three coming in one game against the Angels.
To no surprise, George Brett accomplished the feat twice in the regular season, but the more impressive feat was when he did it in Game Three of the 1978 American League Championship Series. The Royals had split the first two games, but faced future Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter in Yankee Stadium for Game Three. George Brett had not enjoyed a very good power season that year, hitting just nine home runs that year, although four of those came in September, foreshadowing his power-filled October.
George actually hit lead off that game, due to his mediocre power but superior on-base skills. He promptly deposited the third pitch of the game from Hunter into the third deck of Yankee Stadium. In the bottom of the second, Yankee slugger Reggie Jackson drilled a home run off Royals starter Paul Splittorff to tie the game at 1-1. Perhaps George saw that as a challenge, for the very next innings, he took a low sinking pitch and drilled it into the bleachers in centerfield, some 430 feet away.
The Royals trailed 3-2 when Brett led off the top of the fifth. Brett had some good hitters behind him - Hal McRae, Amos Otis, and Darrell Porter, so the Yankees could not exactly pitch around him. So Hunter gave him a hittable pitch on the outside of the plate, and Brett turned on it to put it in the right field seats, his third home run of the game.
However, like Lorenzo Cain last night, George's performance wasn't enough to lift the Royals to victory. They lost 6-5, and went on to lose the series three games to one.
There are so many great legends and true feats about former Royals outfielder Bo Jackson. But perhaps Bo's best game in a Royals uniform came in Yankee Stadium. In 1990, Bo was at the apex of his fame. He had been named the All-Star Game MVP the previous season, and was having another power-filled season filled with amazing plays. He came into Yankee Stadium, the biggest stage in baseball, hitting .263/.338/.471 with 16 home runs in 78 games by early July.
It was a bad Yankees team that the Royals faced on July 17. They would go on to lose 95 games and finish dead last for the first time since 1966.The game was hyped a bit because the Yankees had their own two-sport star - Deion Sanders. Sanders, who moonlighted as a cornerback for the NFL's Atlanta Falcons in the fall, started in centerfield and lead off, despite hitting well below the Mendoza Line that year, his rookie season.
Bo faced Andy Hawkins, best known for throwing a no-hitter that year, only to lose the game. With a runner on base, Jackson deposited a fat pitch over the fence in dead center for a two-run home run. Bo came up in the third, again with Brett at first base. Hawkins hung a fat pitch chest-high to the massive slugger, waving his bat in anticipation. Bo drilled the pitch to deep right-center field, deep enough that right fielder Jesse Barfield barely had to move.
Bo faced Hawkins a third time, in the fifth inning. With two runners on, Hawkins actually kept the ball down this time. It didn't matter. Bo flicked the ball with his bat and hit it down the right field line for a three-run home run. Three home runs. Seven RBI. It was an awe-inspiring performance.
"That's the best performance I've ever seen by an individual in a major league game."
-Manager John Wathan
In the bottom of the sixth, the Yankees trailed 8-4. Bo would be due up a fourth time the next inning. Deion Sanders, the rookie two-sport star, sliced a ball into the gap in right-center field. Bo Jackson dove for the ball. He missed. The ball skidded past him for an inside-the-park home run. Bo came up lame.
Jackson exited the game with a dislocated shoulder, an injury that would keep him out for five weeks, depriving fans of the chance to see him try for a four-home run game. In his first plate appearance upon returning on August 26, Bo homered off future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, tying a Major League record for home runs in consecutive plate appearances.
Three home runs is quite a feat, but certainly George and Lorenzo would happily exchange that individual feat for a team win. Still, for one day, each of these players had a career performance, one for the record books.