White Sox Feats of Strength: Pat Seerey hits four home runs, July 18, 1948

Dan Johnson ended the 2012 season with the 16th three-homer game in White Sox history. Here's a story about the only White Sox player to hit four.

In the 112-year history of the franchise, Pat Seerey is the only Chicago White Sox to hit four home runs in a single game. And given the organization's historical inability to develop power hitters for most of its existence, Seerey might be the perfect guy to set the mark.

Like many White Sox strongmen of yore, whatever Seerey could accomplish with his power was offset by an inability to do much of anything else -- in Seerey's case, make contact.

This version of Seerey had been well-established in Cleveland. He had a habit of making tremendous first impressions, because the power he generated out of a stocky, 5-foot-9-inch, 220-pound frame was a sight to behold. But after the initial flash, Seerey would soon become overexposed. From his SABR bio:

There was a pattern to the five complete seasons, 1944 to 1948, that Seerey spent in the major leagues with Cleveland and Chicago. Slimming down as best he could, the young player would be a spring training sensation. Harry Jones of the Plain Dealer, writing from Topeka, Kansas April 14, 1948: "Pat Seerey hit a home run today that sailed high over the left field fence, cleared a fair sized elm tree, bounced on top of a garage and landed in a parking lot half a block from the ball park." Inserted into the lineup on opening day, Seerey would often hit tape measure home runs. Bob Feller remembered Seerey and a 1947 game Feller pitched against Detroit ace Hal Newhouser: "See that exit from the end of the stands up there?" Feller said, squinting into the Stadium's upper deck in left field, a distance of perhaps 475 feet. "I saw Seerey hit one right through there off Newhouser for a three run homer." Soon, though, he would fail to hit, striking out on a regular basis, and the fans would boo him. Four times he led the league in strikeouts. He averaged one strikeout for every four times at bat.

Seerey's four months with the White Sox followed the same arc after he arrive in Chicago with pitcher Al Gettel for outfield Bob Kennedy on June 2, 1948.

He made an immediate impact upon joining the White Sox, recording at least one RBI in each of his first nine games. That's another White Sox record (Ray Boone is a distant second, driving in a run in his first four games as a Sox in 1958), albeit a less meaningful one.

In the process, he gave fans of a miserable White Sox team something to watch. In an article from The Sporting News on June 23, 1948, a headline reads, "Sox Seem Less Weary With Arrival of Seerey."

Much of the new spirit was credited to the apparent success of the two major trades made by the Sox. Pat Seerey so far as been all for the White Sox that Bill Veeck so ardently had hoped he would be for the Indians, and Allen Gettel, who went from the Yanks to the Indians to the Sox, has shown no sniveling attitude about being sold down the river.

But Seerey's magic -- and plate discipline -- wore off shortly.

  • First nine games: .313/.488/.625, 13 RBI, 11 BB, 14 K over 43 PA
  • Next 28 games: .183/.246/.294, 11 RBI, 11 BB, 33 K over 119 PA

But Seerey regained his batting eye for a brief three-game stretch in mid-July. He broke out of a 1-for-20 slump with a couple of fine games against the Senators, going 3-for-5 with five walks in a pair of victories at Griffith Stadium on July 16-17.

That two-game winning streak didn't really help matters. The last-place White Sox left Washington with a 25-50 record, and they headed to Shibe Park in Philadelphia for a doubleheader against the Athletics the next day.

In the opener, Seerey enjoyed the finest day of his career.

The feat

If you're not familiar with Shibe Park, here's a picture. Note the double-deck in left field, because Seerey assaulted it all day long.

He went to work in the fourth inning, taking a Carl Scheib curve over the roof a solo shot to narrow the gap to 5-2. He'd add homers in the fifth (another roof shot, this one on a fastball) and sixth innings (roof again, Bob Savage fastball), becoming the first White Sox player to homer in three consecutive innings since Carl Reynolds in 1930 (you may remember Reynolds' name and face from this post). It was the second three-homer game of Seerey's career, too.

That last one was part of a five-run sixth, giving the Sox a 9-7 lead. They'd stretch it to 11-7, but the A's came back with four in the bottom of the seventh to tie it.

But that setback only set the stage for Seerey, who, with two outs in the 11th, "lodged it in the upper left field stands" to give the Sox their winning margin, and baseball's first four-homer game since Lou Gehrig in 1932. Gehrig also accomplished feat at Shibe Park, and George Earnshaw, a three-time victim of Gehrig that game, got a first-person view of Seerey's reprise from the stands.

The Associated Press' recap -- which you can read in its entirety here -- tells the story from Earnshaw's perspective, saying that he received "good natured ribbing" after Seerey hit his third.

By adding one more, Seerey became the fifth player to accomplish the feat. His predecessors included three Hall of Famers (Gehrig, Chuck Klein and Ed Delahanty), and Robert Lowe, a second baseman who enjoyed a long career, most of it in the late 1800s.

Lowe, who was 80, retired, and living in Detroit at the time of Seerey's big day, wanted to meet him on the Sox's next trip to Detroit, but he didn't know if he could do it. "My shoulder is bothering me some. Must be old-fashioned ball player's rheumatism," he told The Sporting News on July 28, 1948.

On top of it, Seerey also collected $500 from Weather King Batteries. The company originally advertised in The Sporting News that it would give $500 for the first player to hit four homers in Shibe Park during the 1948 season, but the offer was revised to $300 for three homers, since the first was considered highly improbable, if not impossible. When Seerey hit his fourth, the advertiser awarded Seerey the original prize.

Postscript

And that was pretty much it for Seerey. He hit just eight more homers over his White Sox and big-league career, both of which would come to a close in short order. He hit just .218 over his last 55 games, and a story from The Sporting News on Aug. 4, 1948, shows the Sox had run into the same wall the Indians encountered time and time again. The headline reads, "Socker or Sucker? Sox Puzzle Over Pat Seerey," and this a typical passage:

Strange as it may seem, the large Mr. Seerey is a homer hitter who can't see a baseball. It's little wonder that [Ted] Lyons, managing a last-place club, is somewhat discombooberated.

Discombooberated!

The 1948 White Sox as a whole barely made it to the finish line. They finished at 51-101, just avoiding the franchise mark of 102 losses, set in 1932.

He received just seven plate appearances in 1949, after which the Sox sent him to the minors. He played three more years, including a 46-homer season in 1950. But he never returned to the big leagues, and so he called it a career after an unsuccessful tryout in 1952. His SABR bio suggests a fulfilling post-career life:

After baseball, Seerey was employed by the St. Louis Board of Education as a custodian. Pat and Jeanne had two older daughters, Patsy and Jeannine, and two sons, Mike and Dennis. All four of their children eventually married and lived close to their parents in the St. Louis area.

Pat enjoyed fishing and playing golf with his sons who were astounded at his ability to drive a golf ball great distances. The boys were outstanding soccer players at perennial power St. Louis University. Mike was an All-American and was chosen for the 1980 Olympic team that wasn't allowed to compete in Moscow.

Previous White Sox Feats of Strength

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