At first glance, this will appear to be a simple story about a couple of walk-off wins. But there’s more to it than that, so stick with me the whole way through.
White Sox youngster Norm Cash probably went home a little tired after a doubleheader between the White Sox and Tigers on May 30, 1959. It didn’t start great, but it ended well, with John Romano singling in the winning run after an intentional walk to Cash in the bottom of the ninth inning. The free pass made sense strategically in that it set up a double play, but Cash was hitting a meager .192 and was perhaps gettable with some good pitching.
Cash was 31 games into his career at that point and it’s unlikely he gave the walk much thought, since his team won the game. But that walk was a part of something remarkable.
Flash forward to May 10 1974, with Cash in the final season of a highly productive career that included 377 home runs. This time, in a game against the Red Sox, he came to the plate with a runner on second and nobody out in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth. He was given another intentional walk. This time it was Ben Oglivie playing the role of hero, hitting a walk-off double to give the Tigers a victory.
Such was the baseball life for Norm Cash, whose teams combined for well more than 100 walk-offs in his presence. And yet he had NO WALK-OFF RBIs in his career!!!
Let’s run through how ridiculous that is.
– He played in 1,050 regular season home games in his career and hit .276/.383/.515 in them. You’d figure he’d run into a walk-off by accident.
– He played in 103 regular season games in which his team won by walk-off. And he wasn’t the walker-offer in any of them!
– He had 111 plate appearances at home, in the ninth inning or later with the score tied. He hit .171 with one extra-base hit (a double), including 0-for-his-last-17. We should point out that teams were clearly scared of his walk-off potential. He was walked 27 times (12 intentional) and hit by a pitch twice.
– He had 31 plate appearances in the ninth inning or later at home WITH A RUNNER IN SCORING POSITION and the score tied. He was walked 15 times. In the other 16, he had one hit, an infield single in which the baserunner on second had no chance to score.
That hit came in a doubleheader in which Cash hit three home runs and newspaper accounts note that one was the first fair ball hit out of Tiger Stadium.
(also noteworthy, the newspapers describe a defensive shift in which Senators manager Mickey Vernon moved his center fielder to the left of his pitcher to try to cut off a run, but perhaps that’s for another time).
Cssh was described as having a good sense of humor about most things. After all, he was the guy who wanted to bat against Nolan Ryan using a piano leg for a bat (Ryan pitched a no-hitter that day). So I’d like to think he’d have a good appreciation of how he has the most home runs of any player without a walk-off. It’s really quite remarkable.