Exactly one year has passed since Shawn Green plastered his name all over baseball’s record book, smashing four home runs and amassing 19 total bases in a 16-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in Miller Park, but the details of what may be the most prolific offensive day in the history of the game are no more crystallized in the Dodger right fielder’s mind.
“I remember it being a blur the whole day,” said Green, who returns to the scene of the sublime tonight when the Dodgers open a three-game series in Miller Park. “I looked up, and all of a sudden I had five hits and three home runs going into my last at-bat. It came out of nowhere.”
That last at-bat was the coup de grace, a 450-foot ninth-inning blast off reliever Jose Cabrera that landed on a concourse well beyond the right-center field wall. That capped a six-for-six, seven-RBI day in which Green became the 14th player in major league history to hit four homers in a game.
Green’s five extra-base hits -- he also had a double and a single -- tied a National League record, his six hits tied a franchise record, and his 19 total bases were a major league record, breaking the previous mark of 18, set by Joe Adcock of the Milwaukee Braves in 1954.
“It would take me a week to get 19 total bases, and he did it in a matter of, what, three hours?” Dodger center fielder Dave Roberts said. “What he did in a major league game, people can’t do in batting practice. It was a perfect day. It was phenomenal. I’m at a loss for words when trying to find adjectives for that day.”
So is third-base coach Glenn Hoffman.
“Nineteen total bases ... oh my gosh, I didn’t even reach that one year,” said Hoffman, a former Red Sox, Dodger and Angel infielder. “That was an individual day you won’t see for a long time. We’ll still be talking about it 20 years from now.”
A four-homer game is even harder to fathom today, “because that’s almost as many home runs as I have this year,” said Green, who has five home runs in 2003. “You get in a groove like that and you wonder how you ever go into slumps.”
When the Dodgers arrived in Milwaukee last May, Green was mired in the worst slump of his nine-year career, a one-for-19 skid that had lowered his average to .231.
Green had all of three home runs, and in five games before the Brewer series, he failed to hit a ball out of the infield. Even worse, the fan favorite was booed in Dodger Stadium.
Green found his stroke with two solo home runs in an 8-6 loss to the Brewers on May 21, and he tripled in the Dodgers’ only run in a 1-0 victory the next night.
Then on May 23, a day game and the finale of a three-game series, Green hit an RBI double to right field in the first inning and a three-run homer to right in the second against left-handed starter Glendon Rusch, who, coincidentally, is scheduled to start tonight for the Brewers.
A solo shot to right-center off reliever Brian Mallette in the fourth inning gave Green two home runs, and Green added an opposite-field solo homer to left-center off Mallette in the fifth.
“On the bench, it felt like a guy throwing a no-hitter,” Roberts said. “No one wanted to talk to him because he was in such a zone.”
Green lined a sharp single to center in the eighth off Cabrera, and it appeared his day would end there. But a ninth-inning rally and Adrian Beltre’s two-out, two-run homer gave Green another shot.
“You’re sitting there thinking, ‘No way, no way is he gonna do that again,’ and boom -- there it goes,” Dodger left fielder Brian Jordan said. “It was an unreal day, a dream day. That was a pretty good month, all in one day.”
What followed was two amazing months. Green homered against Curt Schilling in his first at-bat in Arizona the next night. He hit two homers the following day and another two days after that, giving him 10 home runs in a week.
From May 21, the day the Milwaukee series started, to July 11, Green hit .335 with 24 homers and 48 RBIs in 43 games, the springboard to a season in which he hit .285 with 42 homers and 114 RBIs.
“I went from as bad a slump as I’ve ever gone through to being as locked in as you can possibly be,” Green said. “That whole series was a big psychological boost. It turned around my whole season.”
Green can’t help but notice the parallels between 2002 and 2003. His average (.267) is better this season, but his power numbers (five homers, 22 RBIs) are weak. Green has a .438 slugging percentage and is batting .235 with runners in scoring position.
“It’s really frightening how similar this is to last year,” Green said. “There was the search for the first six or seven weeks of last season. Hopefully I can turn it around as quick as I did last year. I’m looking to get in a good groove and to build off that. I’m not expecting a 10-homer week.”
His teammates seem to be. While Green has struggled, the Dodgers have serenaded him all week with this refrain: “Don’t worry, you’re going to Milwaukee soon.” As if a trip to Miller Park is all Green needs to go into monster mash mode.
“It’s not like a birthday, where you know what to expect,” Green said. “It’s another year, and I think it’s unlikely that is going to happen again.”
Second baseman Alex Cora said the Dodgers are just trying to keep Green loose.
“That way he can start feeling relaxed,” Cora said. “He’s the biggest part of our offense, and when he gets going, we’re going to score a lot of runs.”
There is something about Miller Park that seems to bring out the best in Green. In six games in the Brewers’ new retractable-roof home, Green is batting .542 with nine homers and 13 RBIs in 24 at-bats.
“I see the ball well there,” Green said. “It’s a similar background to Arizona, a big dark wall beyond center field.... When my timing and swing are right, I get a lot of backspin and hit deep fly balls, the right path for hitting home runs, and not a lot of ground balls.”
When Green gets into that kind of groove, as he was last May 23 in Milwaukee, home runs seem to jump off his bat.
“It didn’t look like he was up there swinging for home runs; it looked almost effortless,” Brewer closer Mike DeJean said. “He made it look so easy. He has a really nice swing anyway. He went to left field, he went to right, he went to center. Usually you don’t pitch to a guy when he’s hot like that, but we did. He was mashing.”
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*--* Players who have hit four home runs in a game. Shawn Green achieved the feat on May 23 last season: AMERICAN LEAGUE Name Pos Team Year Lou Gehrig 1B New York 1932 Pat Seerey LF Chicago 1948 Rocky Colavito RF Cleveland 1959 Mike Cameron CF Seattle 2002 NATIONAL LEAGUE Name Pos Team Date Bobby Lowe 2B Boston 1894 Ed Delahanty LF Philadelphia 1896 Chuck Klein RF Philadelphia 1936 Gil Hodges 1B Brooklyn 1950 Joe Adcock 1B Milwaukee 1954 Willie Mays CF San Francisco 1961 Mike Schmidt 3B Philadelphia 1976 Bob Horner 1B Atlanta 1986 Mark Whiten RF St. Louis 1993 Shawn Green RF Dodgers 2002
*--* Totally Awesome On the same day, Green set a single-game record for total bases: Player Team Year TB Shawn Green Dodgers 2002 19 Joe Adcock Braves 1954 18 Gil Hodges Dodgers 1950 17 Mike Schmidt* Phillies 1976 17 Ty Cobb Tigers 1925 16 Lou Gehrig Yankees 1932 16 Jimmie Foxx* A’s 1932 16 Chuck Klein* Phillies 1936 16 Pat Seerey* White Sox 1948 16 Rocky Colavito Indians 1959 16 Willie Mays Giants 1961 16 Fred Lynn Red Sox 1975 16 Bob Horner Braves 1986 16 Mark Whiten Cardinals 1993 16 Edgardo Alfonzo Mets 1999 16 Mike Cameron Mariners 2002 16 *extra-inning game