The afternoon Tiger pitcher Babe Birrer hit like Babe Ruth

Babe Birrer Detroit Tigers 1956 Topps baseball card

Babe Birrer's 1956 Topps baseball card.

Werner “Babe” Birrer was a mediocre big-league pitcher, compiling a 4-3 record with a 4.36 ERA during his brief career with Detroit, Baltimore, and Los Angeles in the 1950s. For one afternoon at Briggs Stadium, however, Birrer hit and pitched in a multidimensional fashion true to his namesake, the immortal Babe Ruth.

In a game against the Orioles on July 19, 1955, midway through his only season with the Tigers, the 27-year-old right-hander relieved starter Frank Lary. Detroit was clinging to a 5-4 lead, but a close game turned into a rout thanks to Birrer’s slugging.

A year earlier, Birrer had hit 29 homers playing for the 7th Army Corps in Germany. This Tuesday afternoon, with a couple of Tigers on base in the sixth inning, the 6-foot, 200-pound pitcher drove one of George Zuverink’s deliveries off the facing of the upper deck in left. The three-run shot increased Detroit’s lead to 8-4.

Birrer batted again the following inning, again with two men on base. This time he lined Art Schlock’s pitch into the lower pavilion in left-center for his second three-run homer of the day. The Tigers went on to win, 12-4, as Birrer also pitched four innings of scoreless relief.

It was a shame Birrer batted only twice. Another turn would have given him the chance to challenge a couple of hitting records for pitchers. In 1945, Jim Tobin homered three times in a game for the Boston Braves. And Birrer’s six RBIs fell one short of the American League mark set by the New York Yankees’ Vic Raschi in a 1953 game against the Tigers at Yankee Stadium.

Talking to reporters after the game, the man of the moment was at a loss to explain his success with the bat. “I just went up there and swung like I always do,” shrugged Birrer, who never hit another major-league home run. “I don’t have the eye or the coordination to be a punch hitter, so I always go for the long ball. I just happened to connect with a couple.”

One reply on “The afternoon Tiger pitcher Babe Birrer hit like Babe Ruth

Comments are closed.