Sunday, June 8, 2014

25 years ago today: Steve Jeltz's greatest day (Phillies 15, Pirates 11)

I still haven't gotten around to writing the definitive history of the Steve Jeltz Fan Club...

(because, clearly, The Definitive History of the Steve Jeltz Fan Club is something this world has long awaited)

... but, in the meantime, I wanted to note a great anniversary that is upon the baseball world today.

Twenty-five years ago, on June 8, 1989, the Pittsburgh Pirates took a 10-0 lead against the Philadelphia Phillies in front of a robust crowd of 18,511 fans at Veterans Stadium.

But the Phillies battled back to score a 15-11 victory, thanks in large part of the bat of Steve Jeltz.

Jeltz, typically a shortstop, didn't even start the game. He entered it early as a substitute for second baseman Tom Herr, who had foot injury. Jeltz went on to charge the Phillies' comeback by hitting two home runs — one from each side of the plate. (Jeltz was a switch-hitter.)

To put Jeltz's display of power into perspective, he finished his Major League Baseball career with five home runs in 1,749 at-bats. So 40% of his home runs came in one game.

Afterward, Phillies skipper Nick Leyva told reporters: "(Tommy Herr has) got a sore foot and that looked like a good chance to rest him because I knew Steve Jeltz was going to hit two homers."

And the always humble Jeltz said: "I don't know what to say about it. I was just trying to hit the ball hard. Thank God they went out of the ballpark."

Also in the game, Philadelphia's Von Hayes cracked a pair of home runs and the Pirates' Barry Bonds hit one of his 762 career home runs.

One of Jeltz's home runs came off Bob Walk, who started Game 1 of the 1980 World Series for the Phillies.

This was also, famously, the game in which Pittsburgh announcer Jim Rooker, after the Pirates took a 10-0 lead, stated on the broadcast: "If we don't win this one, I don't think I'd want to be on that plane ride home. Matter of fact, if we don't win, I'll walk back to Pittsburgh."

After the season, he made good on that statement, walking more than 300 miles from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and raising money for charity in the process.

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