The official attendance at Great American Ball Park on the night of June 6, 2017, for a game between the Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals was 18,620 – not even half full. But the people who were there saw something so amazing that the likelihood of them ever seeing it again is next to nothing.
What they saw was Scooter Gennett – then a utility player the Reds picked up for free off the waiver wire at the end of spring training – did something that only 16 other players had done in the long history of major league baseball. J.D. Martinez, then of the Arizona Diamondbacks, became the 18th in September of that year.
Little Scooter – only five feet, 10 inches tall – hit four home runs in one nine-inning game.
There are many who will tell you that what Scooter did that night was the single greatest hitting performance in baseball history.
The numbers he put up are breathtaking:
- An RBI single to go along with his four home runs
- The first player in major league history with five hits, four home runs and 10 RBI
- Only the sixth player in major league baseball history to hit a home in four consecutive plate appearances
- Set a Reds record with 17 total bases
- Tied the Reds' franchise record for most RBIs in a game with 10
Think about the multitude of home run sluggers who have played for the Reds over the years – Frank Robinson, Ted Kluszewski, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, George Foster, Jay Bruce, Joey Votto and many more. None of them did what this so-called "utility player" – who soon became the Reds' regular second baseman – did on the night of June 6, 2017.
And it was a hometown boy who did it.
Scooter was born in Cincinnati and spent his early years in Lebanon before his family moved to Sarasota, Florida. He was always, from the time he was old enough to know what a baseball was, a Cincinnati Reds fan.
"It's surreal, man, it really is," Gennett told the baseball writers in a jubilant Reds clubhouse after the Reds' 13-1 win over the Cardinals. "I'm truly blessed being from here, born here and watching those guys when I was little. To do something that's never been done, I don't know. I can't put words to it. It's an honor for sure."
The Reds were in third place that night, three games out of first place in the National League Central Division. Gennett had broken out of a 0-19 slump the night before.
The Reds' line-up that night had Billy Hamilton leading off and in centerfield, Zach Cozart at shortstop, Joey Votto at first base, Eugenio Suarez at third base, Gennett in left field, Patrick Kivlehan in right field, Jose Peraza at second base, Tucker Barnhart catching and Tim Adleman as the starting pitcher.
A long-time and very popular Red, second baseman Brandon Phillips, had been traded to the Atlanta Braves just before spring training in 2017. After the Reds acquired Gennett, they assigned him the uniform number 4 – Phillips number.
Phillips did some considerable whining that the Reds had given away his number to a nobody like Gennett, as if Brandon believed his number should be retired.
On the night of June 6, Gennett earned the number he wore on his back.
Gennett's historic night began on a not-so-extraordinary note in the bottom of the first inning. With two outs, he hit a bloop single to left field that drove home Billy Hamilton with the Reds' first run of the evening.
Then, in the third inning, Gennett stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and the home run barrage began. He scorched a 3-2 sinker from Cardinals' ace pitcher Adam Wainwright into the right-center field seats. A grand slam.
Home run No. 1.
Scooter came to the plate again in the fourth inning to deposit one over the center field wall and make the score Reds 10, Cardinals 0.
Home run No. 2.
In the sixth inning, he was up again and smacked a solo home run that made the score 11-0.
Home run No. 3.
Gennett might have been done for the night with three home runs – certainly nothing to sneeze at. He was the fourth hitter due up in the eighth inning but he got another at-bat when outfielder Scott Schebler walked, Gennett came to the plate.
He was down in the count with two strikes against him.
But he hammered the next pitch into the right field Moon Deck.
Home run No. 4.
He was mobbed by his teammates as he ran to the dugout; was forced out on to the field to take a bow for the fans, who were losing their minds in delirious joy. Every person in the ball park knew they had seen something they would likely never see again.
"I kind of laughed, to be honest,'' Gennett told the baseball writers. "It's just crazy. For a guy like me to have done it, it's amazing. It's maybe a little short of a miracle.
"Baseball is an amazing game,'' he said. "You can go from 0-19 to four home runs in a game. It's pretty wild."