SIOUX CITY -- Somewhere along the way, I was told that just about anything imaginable has happened at one time or another in major league baseball.
The premise is clearly overstated and all the proof I need is that no one has ever hit more than four home runs in a big-league game.
Yes, players have “gone yard’’ no less than 18 times, which includes twice in the very season that wrapped up regular season business on Sunday (J.D. Martinez, Diamondbacks, Sept. 4, and Scooter Gennett, Reds, June 6). Still, you can stuff all of this into the bulging file on records that are “meant to be broken.’’
Not all records, though, are still up for grabs. Some can only be equaled. And, this was the case Saturday, when Andrew Romine, a 31-year-old utilityman with Sioux City ties, managed to play all nine positions while helping his Detroit Tigers teammates post a 3-2 win over the playoff-bound Twins.
The Tigers, incidentally, finished their schedule on Sunday at 64-98, tying the San Francisco Giants for this year’s worst record. And, with Minnesota’s postseason fate already determined, there were no apologies necessary from lame-duck Detroit Manager Brad Ausmus, allowing Romine to roam all over the diamond.
The older brother of Austin Romine, the Yankees’ backup catcher, Andrew opened the contest in left field. He moved to center in the second inning, slid over to right field in the third and then headed for third base in the fourth frame. Taking over at shortstop in the fifth, he then became the Tigers’ second baseman in the sixth.
It was in the seventh that he pulled out a mitt he’d been gifted by his brother, moving behind the plate for a brief stint at catcher. Base hits by two of the next three batters pulled the Twins within 3-2 and when a passed ball by Andrew put runners at second and third, Ausmus went back to a real catcher and sent the versatile veteran back to second.
Still clinging to that 3-2 lead, though, the Tigers didn’t hesitate to let Romine move to the mound to begin the eighth inning. He’d actually made three brief pitching appearances previously over eight seasons in the majors.
After managing to get Miguel Sano to ground out on a 3-1 pitch, nonetheless, it was time to make that one last switch, sending Romine to first base for the final five outs.
Quite an accomplishment, right? Well, playing all nine positions in the same game had actually been done four times before in major league history. Romine joined Bert Campaneris and Cesar Tovar, two players I happen to recall, along with Scott Sheldon and Shane Halter, two others I definitely don’t.
Now, you’d think this little novelty act wouldn’t matter nearly so much as 2017 baseball stories like the record 6,105 home runs that flew out of MLB parks in 2,430 games. Then again, it’s only a matter of time before skeptics write this off to some conspiracy to manufacture livelier baseballs. So, we’ll stay tuned for that.
My late-season anecdote seemed important because of the aforementioned Sioux City connections I’ve been following for many years. This dates back to sometime in the 1980’s, when a polite gentleman named Clair Walsh telephoned to report that his grandson was turning into quite a baseball talent.
He wasn’t exaggerating, either, because Kevin Romine, son of Clair’s daughter, Patty, a Heelan graduate, had been an All-American outfielder at Arizona State and then a second-round draft pick by the Boston Red Sox in 1982. This led to Kevin playing parts of seven seasons with the Bo Sox.
Now, let’s toss in the fact that Kevin, who grew up in the Los Angeles area, returned to those roots after baseball and become an L.A. police detective, raising two sons -- the aforementioned Andrew and Austin -- who have since followed him to the majors.
Clair, a 1932 East High grad, was Woodbury County’s deputy county clerk of court for 20 years before retiring in 1980. His wife of 56 years, the former Frances Smith, matriculated from old Central High in 1933 and the couple raised two sons and six daughters just a little more than a block from Immaculate Conception Church on Morningside Avenue, their home parish.
Clair passed away in 1992 at age 78 and Frances was 83 when she joined him in the Calvary Cemetery Mausoleum in 1998. Two wonderful folks who weren’t seeking attention when Clair told me about his grandson, I’m almost certain they never called again about Kevin, an MLB retiree when he made two long trips from California to serve as a pallbearer at both funerals.
In between these two solemn milestones, sadly, Patty Romine was only 58 when she died in 1996 following a lengthy illness.
Patty’s husband, Willis, a longtime pilot for American Airlines, lived to see his grandson, Andrew, make his major league debut with the Angels late in the 2010 season. However, he didn’t make it to the following season, when Austin debuted with the Yankees, who have signed his paychecks since making him a second-round draft pick in 2007.
A funny story I came across had Kevin reflecting on the development of his talented sons. It seems that Andrew, the aforementioned history-maker, was 4 years old or thereabouts when he used to play a little trick on his dad in the home clubhouse at Fenway Park. With superstar Wade Boggs occupying the locker next to Kevin’s, Andrew liked to hide out under Boggs’ mammoth collection of shoes, maybe 50 pair or more.
As many of you realize, this small-world stuff never gets old for me. It occurs to me, for example, that several of Kevin Romine’s six stints with the Red Sox’ Class AAA Pawtucket farm club would have come when our friend, Ed Nottle, was the manager of that team.
It also intrigues me that Kevin made his way to Arizona State and the Red Sox as a star athlete at Fountain Valley High School, which was the largest high school west of the Mississippi when former Central High football coach Bruce Pickford was hired there in the mid-1960’s.
Back to all of those home runs, I could note that “Giancarlo” Mike Stanton’s 59 home runs this season trail only the 61 by Roger Maris in 1961 and Babe Ruth’s 60 in 1927.
Well, that is if you don’t count the six larger totals all racked up by Barry Bonds (73), Mark McGwire (70, 65) and Sammy Sosa (66, 64, 63) in a four-year span (1998-2001) when evidence of those players having pharmaceutical help is strong enough that none of them have made it to Cooperstown.
Stanton got a second look from me because I learned he’d been a three-sport star at Los Angeles-area powerhouse Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, drawing major college offers as a football wide receiver.
And, that rang a loud bell because this turns out to have been just one year before Ryan Kasdorf began a two-year stint as the quarterback at that same school, garnering Gatorade Player of the Year laurels for the state of California in 2009. Kasdorf, of course, starred for three seasons at Morningside before Trent Solsma succeeded him last fall.