The Orioles' Luke Scott Channels Jim Gentile
On Tuesday, Luke Scott tallied 7 RBI against the Mariners in a 12-4 Orioles victory. Scott's RBI effort was two off the team record, held by former first baseman Jim Gentile. Gentile's prowess driving in runs that day was part of an outstanding overall 1961 season in which he compiled his best career numbers.
Gentile's record-setting nine RBI effort came on May 9, 1961, during a 13-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins. If anyone ever tells you they were there, they're lying; only 4,514 fans attended the game at Metropolitan Stadium. Gentile finished two-for-three with a walk, a sacrifice fly, and oh, by the way—two grand slams.
Gentile cleared the bases in consecutive innings to open the game, becoming one of 12 players to hit two grand slams in a game—three of whom are Orioles: Gentile, Frank Robinson (June 26, 1970), and Chris Hoiles (Aug. 14, 1998). Gentile finished the 1961 season with five grand slams, breaking Ernie Bank's 1955 total for the major league record that now belongs to Don Mattingly, who hit six grand slams in 1986.
The player who went by the sobriquet "Diamond Jim"—after famed Dodger catcher Roy Campanella called him "a diamond in the rough" during the Dodger's 1956 tour of Japan— batted .302 with 46 home runs, 141 RBI, and a .423 on-base percentage in 1961. The effort earned the then 27 year old an All-Star berth and third place in the Most Valuable Player vote behind two players who were having decent seasons of their own in 1961: Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.
"Everyone has one of those career years," said Gentile, in a 1999 Baseball Digest article. "It seemed everything went my way and I was always getting base hits at the right time. When men got on, I was getting base hits."
In 1996, Gentile lost two club records that he established during the 1961 season: Most home runs by a left-handed batter (Brady Anderson hit 50 in '96) and most RBI (Rafael Palmeiro drove in 142 in '96). Nevertheless, Gentile's 1961 surge produced two records that still stand: Most game-winning RBI (unofficially 21) and highest slugging average (.646). His 46 home runs are the third most in O's history behind Anderson and Frank Robinson (49 in 1966).
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