We’ve got a little more road to cover before we anoint the career of 21-year old rookie second baseman Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros, but in the meanwhile, the kid certainly isn’t doing much to discourage the early adulation. He went 3 for 5 in Saturday’s game at Minute Maid Park against the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants, raising his batting average to .327 in 110 official times at bat during this late portion of the 2011 season.
Yesterday ALtuve also collected his first big league home run too, but it wasn’t just any old homer. It was inside-the-park job that caromed off the far left center field wall and got lost from the tracking vision of Giants center fielder long enough for Jose to burn a base running path all the way home for his first big league round-tripper, The kid has speed, moxie, and a high native baseball IQ. Nothing was going to stop him once he caught a glimpse of the fielder searching for the ball as he rounded second base. Not Third Base Coach Dave Clark, Not common sense. Not caution. Not the thought that starting any game with a man of third was a pretty good way to go. Nothing got in the way of Altuve’s literal most true enactment of a hell-bound-for-leather home run trip around the bases on the wings of opportunity. And he made it. With no play on him at the plate from a late and more than errant return throw of the ball to the infield.
In the early dead ball days of baseball, when many parks were canyons of space covered by shallow-playing outfielders, the balls that did skip through the defenses on a good roll were always a danger of becoming inside the park homers. The triple count, of course, was also quite high. The number of players who hit two inside-the-parkers in the early part of the 20th century is also quite high.
Ty Cobb led the American League with 9 home runs in the 1909 season and everyone of them was an inside-the-park job. That total by Cobb also represents the most inside-the-park home runs by an American Leaguer in any single season. That all of them for Cobb in 1909 were inside-the-park jobs speaks volumes for the normalcy of such a play back in the day. Tyrus was banging inside-the-prkers at a 100% rate in 1909.
Sam Crawford led the National League in 1901 with 16 home runs, and with 12 of these being inside-the-park acts and the NL record for same in a single season, giving old Sam a 66.7% sub-total of inside-the-park-home-runs to grand total homers for that one season.
Ty Cobb (1905-1928) hit 46 career inside-the-park homers to lead the American League for all time. His 46 sub-total from his 117 grand total career homers gave him a 39.3% average of insiders to total HR strokes.
Tommy Leach (1898-1915) hit 48 of his 63 career total homers as inside-the-parkers to become the National League’s all time leader. His figures represent that 76.2% of his shots never left the ballpark.
Jesse Burkett (1890-1905) is the major league leader in career inside-the-park homers. His career totals for each league place him back of Cobb and Leach respectively, but his grand total of 55 inside-the-parkers among 75 total homers still leads all MLB challengers. Burkett’s inside-to-total HR percentage is 73.3% – also the high stat among the three leaders portrayed here.
Isn’t baseball wonderful? Every time a kid like Jose Altuve does something like start a game off with an inside-the-park home run, it triggers the minds of many back to the days of old, when such a play was not quite the oddity it’s become in the early 21st century.
Keep it up, Jose Altuve! – We Astros fans need all the stoking of hope coals that players like you can give us by your performances.in the embers of this mostly forgettable 2011 season.