The hits that kept on coming

Written by: Matt Kelly

Reggie Jackson’s three home runs on three straight pitches. Whitey Ford’s 33 2/3 scoreless innings. Sandy Koufax’s five straight strikeouts to begin his 15-punchout masterpiece against the Yankees in 1963.

Hall of Fame members have set some of the World Series’ most famous streaks. But another Fall Classic streak, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is also celebrated within the walls of the Hall of Fame – a streak compiled by a career .264 hitter.

On Oct. 17, 1990, Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hatcher went 4-for-4 at the plate in helping his team win 5-4 in a 10-inning affair against the Oakland A’s in Game 2. Hatcher’s perfect batting line matched his 3-for-3 performance in Game 1, pushing him past the six consecutive hits by Goose Goslin (for the Senators in 1924) and Thurman Munson (for the Yankees in 1976) and into sole possession for the most consecutive hits in the long history of the Fall Classic.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum received three donations from Hatcher in commemoration of his streak. The bat pictured to the right is one of two donated sticks in Cooperstown that he used to put up a slash line that would make even sluggers like Reggie and the Babe jealous: a .750 batting average, .800 on-base percentage (both World Series records) and 1.250 slugging percentage. The last two totals add up to a 2.050 on-base-plus slugging percentage – second only to Lou Gehrig’s nearly inconceivable mark of 2.433 in the 1928 World Series.

The other bat, which Hatcher used to collect his record-breaking seventh straight hit, is currently on display in the Autumn Glory World Series exhibit on the Museum’s third floor. Hatcher also donated his game-worn Cincinnati Reds cap from the club’s four-game sweep of Oakland.

Members of the Cincinnati Reds celebrate as pinch runner Billy Bates crosses home plate on a walk-off single by catcher Joe Oliver in the bottom of the 10th inning in Cincinnati's 5-4 victory over the Oakland A's in Game 2 of the 1990 World Series. BL-6949-93 (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

Hatcher’s unlikely dominance matched that of his team, who came in as underdogs to both the Pittsburgh Pirates in NLCS and the AL champion A’s, who were making their third straight World Series appearance. However, Hatcher was not a stranger to big moments in the postseason: His solo home run off the New York Mets’ Jesse Orosco in the bottom of the 14th inning temporarily saved the Houston Astros’ season in Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS, before they eventually fell in a thrilling 16-inning contest.

The name is Billy Hatcher. You won't forget it now.

Mike Littwin of The Baltimore Sun, Oct. 18 1990

Hatcher’s name is also part of another piece of history from Sept. 2, 1986, when he hit a home run in the top of the 18th inning to give Cubs reliever Greg Maddux a loss in the first appearance of Maddux’s Hall of Fame career.

But Hatcher’s heroics will be remembered most in Cincinnati, where Hatcher remains in baseball as the team’s first base, outfield and baserunning coach.

“There is no way to even dream of something like this,” Hatcher earnestly told reporters after Game 2 in 1990.

Though not even he could have predicted it, Hatcher’s dream-like World Series is now preserved in perpetuity in Cooperstown.

Matt Kelly is the communications specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
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