On July 31, 1963, immortality beckoned for four Indians batters – and unfortunately, for Paul Foytack, a pitcher at the end of his career with the Angels.
The Tribe and the Halos were playing a doubleheader at Municipal Stadium. The Indians prevailed in the first game 1-0, with a seventh inning solo home run by Fred Whitfield providing the only offense. But there would be more fireworks in the nightcap.
The Indians were holding on to a 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the sixth – thanks largely to Whitfield’s grand slam in the third – and Foytack was the third pitcher of the game used by Bill Rigney. Foytack had spent most of his career with the Tigers, but in June of that year, he was dealt to Los Angeles, coming out of their bullpen at the end of a 10-year career that was decent but unspectactular – particularly since most of it came in Detroit, which saw a lot of mediocre baseball in the 1950s.
Foytack, who had gone seven innings in a start three days earlier, offered to come out in relief on July 31, and came out in the fifth inning, giving up a single to Jerry Kindall while inducing three groundouts. He came back out for the sixth, getting Joe Azcue to strike out and Al Luplow to fly out. With two outs, he was staring down Woodie Held, the eight batter in the Tribe lineup.
Held jacked one over the left field fence to give the Indians a 6-1 lead. Up came pitcher Pedro Ramos. No problem, right? Well, Ramos – who hit a home run in the third inning off starter Eli Grba – hit another one. Tito Francona came up, expecting to be knocked down. “When the man before you homers, you stay loose,” he said after the game. “When two men homer, you’re looser. I was ready to jump back. Instead, the ball jumped out.”
Foytack then faced rookie shortstop Larry Brown. After throwing two balls, Foytack grooved another pitch, which Brown promptly deposited in the stands for the first of his 47 career home runs. “I was trying to brush him back,” Foytack said. “It shows you I didn’t know where my pitches were going.”
It was just the second time in major league history that four straight batters hit home runs – and the first time they all came off one pitcher. “At least I’ve got to go into the history books,” Foytack said.
Rigney came out to get Foytack after the fourth home run, but Foytack said, “I think I am in pretty good shape. There’s nobody on base.” Rigney disagreed, removing Foytack to a chorus of boos. But Foytack was cheered as he walked back to the dugout – a first in his career, he said. “I was glad to get out of there alive,” he said.
The Angels turned around to put up four runs in the top of the seventh, but the Indians held on to win 9-5. The next day’s Plain Dealer said the only person in the ballpark who didn’t enjoy the offensive display was the man who had to load the fireworks for the scoreboard. “They came so fast in the sixth inning, he couldn’t reload in time to have the board celebrate Brown’s record blast,” legendary Plain Dealer sportswriter Hal Lebovitz wrote. “Cost for exploding the board last night was $210.”
Foytack was released by the Angels the following year, and after one year in Japan playing for the Chunichi Dragons, he retired from baseball. He returned to the Detroit area, where he got a job in sales and – befitting his inauspicious place in history – pitched batting practice for the Tigers.
He remained the only pitcher ever to give up four consecutive home runs until 2007, when Yankees rookie Chase Wright got so shelled by the Red Sox.
A New York Times reporter called Foytack, who said he’d send Wright a letter not to be depressed. “Hey, things like that happen,” he said.