Nelson Cruz had the Orioles’ first multi-homer game of the 2014 season on Wednesday. It continues a career-long streak for Cruz, who has had at least one multi-homer game in each of his big league seasons. The lone exception, if you can call it that, came in 2005 when he had seven at-bats as part of a late-season call-up with the Brewers. With Wednesday’s performance, Cruz’s streak of seasons with a multi-homer game has reached nine.
Since I had multi-homer games on the brain, I went back through old box scores to see which Orioles batter had the first one for Baltimore. Turns out it’s the same guy who had the O’s first 20-home run season and the O’s first 30-home run season: Gus Triandos.
Triandos went deep twice during a July 10, 1955 game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The catcher led off the second inning with a solo shot off Red Sox pitcher Willard Nixon (remember the name; we’ll come back to it later). He then homered again in the eighth inning, another solo shot that tied the ballgame at five. However, a pitching meltdown in the bottom of the inning left the O’s on the short end of a 10-7 final.
Triandos was back at it four days later, homering twice against the Kansas City Athletics on July 14 at Municipal Stadium. His three-run homer in the seventh inning provided half off the six runs the O’s scored in the frame. This time, the O’s came out on the right side of a 10-7 final.
That seventh-inning home run was also notable for the fact that it came off A’s reliever Johnny Sain, who together with Warren Spahn formed a dominant starting pitching duo for the Boston Braves that inspired the saying, “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain.” Sain, who was in the twighlight of his career when he faced Triandos, also holds the distinctions of being the final pitcher to face Babe Ruth and the first pitcher to face Jackie Robinson.
The 1955 season was the first of five seasons in which Triandos had two multi-homer games. That quintet of seasons includes 1957, when Triandos homered twice on July 5 against Boston and twice more against Cleveland on Aug. 28. Three days after that Cleveland game Triandos stepped to the plate against Nixon (I told you to remember his name). He made Orioles history once
more when he became the first catcher in team history to hit an inside-the-park homer. Andy Etchebarren is the only Orioles catcher to have matched the effort. Etchebarren’s inside-the-park homer came on Sept. 6, 1965.
Triandos finished his career with a dozen multi-homer games, one more than Cruz’s current total. He became the first O’s player to hit 20 home runs when he slugged 21 in 1956 and did himself nine better in 1958, when he became the first O’s player with 30 home runs. He is one of three Orioles catchers to have consecutive seasons of 20 or more home runs. Chris Hoiles and Matt Wieters are the others. Triandos (142) trails only Hoiles (151) on the O’s career home run list for catchers.
Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. Follow him on Twitter: @RoarFrom34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.