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Play Index: Old guys hitting 3 home runs in one game edition

In his Allow Me to Introduce Myself moment, Paul Goldschmidt hit three home runs last night to power the Cardinals to a 9-5 victory over the Brewers in Milwaukee. He had a chance at number four in the top of the 9th but the Brewers opted to intentionally walk him because first base was open. The merits of doing that in a 4-run game in the 9th is something we can angrily discuss on a later date.

Today, let's look at the three home run game. It's a bit like hitting a hole-in-one in golf. It doesn't automatically mean you're a great power hitter, flukey as it can be, but it usually means something. Just as Rory McIlroy is more likely to hit a hole-in-one as compared to say, me, a player like Goldschmidt is more likely to go deep three times versus Andrelton Simmons.

Still, we remember Tuffy Rhodes or even Danny Valencia, who hit three home runs in a game in 2016 but didn't finish in the top-50 for total home runs that season in the American League. Shoot, we remember the only Cardinal to ever hit four home runs in a single game as well as the only person to ever do the same against the Cardinals, and neither Mark Whiten nor Scooter Gennett will ever have a plaque in Cooperstown. That's what makes baseball great - anyone can be king for a day.

According to Base Reference, Goldschmidt's performance last night marked the 584th three (or more) home run game in the regular season dating back to 1908. So while you shouldn't go to the ballpark expecting to see it happen, it certainly will happen somewhere at some point during the season as there's been at least one three home run game every year since the league was integrated.

Here's a good way to narrow down the list though: Look at only old guys. The very old guys. Age is always a good gatekeeper for elite talent because if you make it in MLB to your 40s that usually means you're doing something right. And that's especially true for position players.

So using Baseball Reference's Play Index, I did a search for players over the age of 40, who hit at least three home runs in a single game. These are the results, sorted by the oldest:

Now that's a list, not a fluke among the four. Atop sits our own Stan Musial, who was a full year older that everyone else on this list when he hit three home runs against the Mets during one of the greatest past-40 seasons of all time. And given that Fernando Rodney is currently the only active player over the age of 40, this club will stay at four for at least another season. Albert Pujols (currently 39) is probably the best candidate to join these ranks in the near future and what a moment that would be.

And poor Babe Ruth, his team didn't even win the game.

Credit to Baseball Reference's Play Index for the stats in this post. You can subscribe to the Play Index here.


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