Independence Day Heroics

Perhaps nothing is more quintessentially American as taking in a ballgame on Independence Day. Even better is if the game features some special and memorable plays.

After the jump, I’ll recount some heroic Independence Day performances at the ballpark.

Following are the players to achieve a Win Probability Added (WPA) score over 0.75 in Independence Day games since 1950. WPA for a game is the sum of WPA achieved (could be positive or negative) in each plate appearance, and as a result of any baserunning plays (usually, stolen bases). The total is the percentage improvement in winning probability of the batter’s team. Thus, a 0.75 score represents a 75% improvement over average (or “expected’) performance in the same inning, score, out and baserunner situations encountered by the batter during the game. Click here for more information on WPA.

So, here are the games

Player Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF ROE GDP SB CS WPA RE24 aLI BOP Pos. Summary
Ryan Zimmerman 2006-07-04 WSN FLA W  6-4 5 3 2 2 0 0 1 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.965 3.383 2.378 3 3B
Bob Burda 1969-07-04 (1) SFG ATL W 7-6 2 2 1 2 1 0 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.954 3.593 5.780 8 PH 1B
Desi Relaford 1998-07-04 PHI MIL W 6-5 5 5 1 4 0 0 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.832 4.007 2.230 2 SS
Julio Becquer 1961-07-04 (1) MIN CHW W 6-4 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.819 3.313 7.010 8 PH
Gus Zernial 1957-07-04 (1) KCA CHW W 5-4 5 3 0 1 0 0 0 2 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.802 1.863 2.140 3 LF
Lou Piniella 1970-07-04 KCR MIL W 8-6 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.784 2.679 5.420 7 PH LF
George Crowe 1957-07-04 CIN MLN L 7-10 5 5 2 5 0 0 2 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.773 5.855 1.570 4 1B
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/4/2012.

The top game on our list, and the most recent, was from Ryan Zimmerman in 2006. Ryan compiled a 2 for 3 day with a HR, 2 runs, 2 walks and a stolen base. But the big 0.83 WPA was a walk-off 2-out, 3-run HR with the Nationals down a run. Zimmerman connected on a 2-2 pitch off Marlins’ closer Joe Borowski, who was attempting to complete what has become an unusual 5-out save.

Next on the list was the Giants’ Bob Burda in 1969. Burda entered the game trailing by two in the 9th inning, pinch-hitting for perennial out-making leader, shortstop Hal Lanier. Burda delivered a tying two-run HR off the Braves’ Cecil Upshaw, good for a 0.48 WPA. Staying in the game, Burda came up again in the 10th inning with the Giants down by one and greeted new reliever Paul Doyle with a walk-off, 1-out, bases loaded double, good for another 0.48 WPA. An interesting side note to this game is use of relief pitchers by both teams. The winning Giants’ pitcher Frank Linzy came on in the 8th and pitched a 1-2-3 frame to keep the Giants within a run, but then struggled in the 9th with the score tied, giving up two singles and two hit batsmen to start the inning, and a later sac fly to put the Giants down by two. After Burda tied the game in the bottom of the inning, the next batter was Linzy who, despite his struggles in the top of the inning, hit for himself (and singled), staying in the game for the 10th inning to surrender a go-ahead leadoff HR to Braves catcher Bob Tillman. On the Braves’ side, Cecil Upshaw relieved starter Milt Pappas in the 7th with the Braves ahead, blew the save in the 8th on a game-tying HR by Bobby Bonds, then surrendered the lead a second time on Burda’s game-tying shot in the 9th. How times have changed.

In 1998, Desi Relaford delivered a 4 for 5 game with 4 RBI, including a 2-run homer to open the scoring in the 2nd (worth 0.15 WPA), a 2-out run-scoring single to tie the game in the 7th (worth 0.23 WPA) and, finally, a walk-off run-scoring single with 2 outs in the 9th, for 0.36 WPA. Julio Becquer delivered your basic 2-out, walk-off, pinch-hit grand slam to beat the White Sox in 1961, connecting off Warren Hacker, the Sox 4th pitcher of the inning. The White Sox were also victimized in 1957, by Gus Zernial, the big blow coming on a walk-off 2-out 2-run single (described as a pop fly) to complete a 5-run ninth-inning comeback from a 4-0 deficit.

Lou Piniella (who I’m listening to right now doing the color on YES) delivered a pinch-hit, 2-out, 3-run homer in the 9th to put the Royals ahead. The game was in Milwaukee in the Brewers’ first season but still drew a holiday crowd of under 10,000 to County Stadium. The fact that both teams were more than 20 games back might have had something to do with it. Finally, back again to 1957 and the only game on the list where our hero came out on the losing side. George Crowe did everything he could, going 5 for 5 with 6 RBI, including two 2-run homers, but could not overcome a homer and 2 doubles by Hank Aaron, plus another dinger from Eddie Mathews. Crowe, incidentally, is the only player on our list to have another game in the same season with a higher WPA, garnering a 0.853 score on May 19 against Pittsburgh.

On the pitching side, here are the hurlers to record a 90 or better game score on July 4th.

Player Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Str GSc
Herb Pennock 1925-07-04 (1) NYY PHA W 1-0 SHO15,W 15.0 4 0 0 0 5 0 114
Steve Carlton 1979-07-04 PHI NYM W 1-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 1 0 0 0 9 0 94
Bob Turley 1959-07-04 (2) NYY WSH W 7-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 1 0 0 1 9 0 93
Dave Righetti 1983-07-04 NYY BOS W 4-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 0 0 0 4 9 0 92
Tom Seaver 1972-07-04 (1) NYM SDP W 2-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 1 0 0 4 11 0 92
Howie Pollett 1943-07-04 (1) STL BRO W 2-0 SHO10,W 10.0 3 0 0 2 8 0 92
Shawn Estes 1997-07-04 SFG COL W 4-0 GS-9 ,W 8.2 1 0 0 2 11 0 134 86 91
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/4/2012.

Dave Righetti`s 1983 no-hitter is here, as are one-hitters by Carlton, Turley and Seaver. Pennock tangled with Lefty Grove in their 15-inning tilt in 1925, with both starters going the distance (Grove missed this list with an 87 game score, due primarily to allowing 14 hits). Dual complete games were also recorded in 1943 (Hollett over Curt Davis) and 1979 (Carlton over Andy Hassler). Shawn Estes gave way to Rod Beck in 1997 with one out go, after walking two runners aboard, thereby putting the tying run into the on-deck circle and triggering a save situation (why do I cringe writing that?).

What July 4th performances do you remember?



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15 Comments on "Independence Day Heroics"

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Insert Name Here

Speaking of Ryan Zimmerman, he homered on the 4th of July for the 4th time in his career today – he has now homered in 4 of his 6 career Independence Day appearances.

Mike L

Sorry for being a homer, (and you didn’t say hitters only) but Dave Righetti’s 1983 no hitter ranks very high. Especially since I was there.

Richard Chester

I remember a July 4th game I have posted at least twice on this blog site. In 1949 in the first game of a double-header between the Yankees and the Red Sox Johnny Pesky was forced out at home in the top of the 9th on what would have been a single for Al Zarilla. Pesky, whose vision was obscured by weather conditions, represented the tying run. The Yankees won that game.

I also remember when the 4th was a day of double-headers for all teams. A single game was sacrilege.


Nothing will ever top the overall absurdity that is the July 4, 1985 game between the Mets and Braves. You could write a book about the game. Hernandez hit for the cycle, the heroics and failures of Rick Camp, the rain delays, the back and forth scoring, the fact that they shot off the fireworks at the stadium for those that stayed for the game at 3:55 AM (not to mention a certain insomniac 10-year old that stayed up and watched the whole damn thing on TV). Here is the box score, for the uninformed:


John Nacca

I watched the entire game…I was mesmerized to be honest (and I had no rooting interest in either team). I was…23 at the time. Funniest thing was the announcers (Caray, etc), when the fireworks went off, they were honestly scared a bit (their voices went WAY up as they were doing the wrap-up).

Richard Chester

They got the fireworks in just before daybreak.

Nash Bruce

I didn’t see the game, but from what I can tell, this 16-13 game becomes even more absurd, because the Mets starter that day was Dwight Gooden- who, it would seem, just from reading the box score, had by far the worst start of his ridiculous 1985 campaign. However, after reading the play-by-play, I’m thinking that maybe Dr. K left due to injury?

Mike A.

There was at least one rain delay, which is why Gooden left the game so early, i.e., he did not return after the delay.


I think I recall a story about one of the players getting yelled at by his wife for “sneaking” into the house the next morning. Apparently, she had not seen the game and did not know about the fireworks afterwards, which some of the players stayed to watch.


I remember Mike Ivie having 5 doubles in a doubleheader against the Giants, back in ’77.

independence day

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