-Jim Gentile, on his 1961 season.
On Tuesday, Luke Scott tallied 7 RBIs against the Mariners in a 12-4 Orioles victory. Scott’s RBI effort was two off the team record, held by former first baseman Jim Gentile. This week’s Flashback Friday details Gentile’s heavy hitting ways during an outstanding 1961 season when he compiled his best career numbers.
Gentile’s record-setting nine RBIs came on May 9, 1961, in a 13-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins. If anyone tells you they were there, they’re lying; only 4,514 fans attended the game at Metropolitan Stadium. Gentile finished 2-for-3 with a walk, a sac fly, and – oh, by the way – two grand slams.
Gentile cleared the bases in consecutive innings to start the game; he is one 12 players to hit two grand slams in a game, three of whom are Orioles: Gentile, Frank Robinson (June 26, 1970) and Chris Hoiles (Aug. 14, 1998). He finished the 1961 season with five grand slams, breaking Ernie Bank’s 1955 total for the major league record that now belongs to Don Mattingly, who hit six grand slams in 1986.
The player who went by the sobriquet “Diamond Jim” after famed Dodger catcher Roy Campanella called him “a diamond in the rough” during the Dodgers’ 1956 tour of Japan batted .302 with 46 home runs, 141 RBIs, and a .423 on-base percentage in 1961. The effort earned the then-27 year old an All-Star berth and third place in the Most Valuable Player vote behind two players who were having pretty decent seasons of their own in 1961: Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.
“Everyone has one of those career years,” said Gentile, in a 1999 Baseball Digest article. “It seemed everything went my way and I was always getting base hits at the right time. When men got on, I was getting base hits.”
In 1996, Gentile lost two club records that he established during the 1961 season: most home runs by a left-handed batter (Brady Anderson hit 50 in ’96) and most RBIs (Rafael Palmeiro drove in 142 in ’96). Nevertheless, Gentile’s 1961 surge produced two records that still stand: most game-winning RBIs (unofficially – 21) and highest slugging average (.646). His 46 home runs are the third most in O’s history behind Anderson and Frank Robinson (49 in 1966).
Image source: Here.