"Get out the rye bread and mustard grandma, cause it's GRAND SALAMI TIME!"
—Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Niehaus when calling a grand slam
Since 1900 there have been more than 6,000 grand slams hit in the major leagues including 39 during post-season play and Fred Lynn's lone All-Star Game blast in 1983. Hundreds of players have experienced the thrill of hitting a bases loaded home run and many of them on multiple occasions during their careers. Hall of Fame slugger Lou Gehrig was the lifetime record holder with 23 grand slams before Alex Rodriguez belted his 24th career slam on Sept. 20, 2013. They are followed by Manny Ramirez, 21, Eddie Murray, 19, Willie McCovey and Robin Ventura, 18, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams and Carlos Lee, 17 and Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Dave Kingman with 16.
There are also those players who hit only one of baseball’s most productive home runs, and their once in-a-lifetime accomplishment was a feat they’ll never forget.
Irv Noren, New York Yankees:
Noren was a solidly built left-handed hitting outfielder who spent 11 years in the major leagues with the Washington Senators (1950-1952), New York Yankees (1952-1956), Kansas City A's (1957), St. Louis Cardinals (1957-1959), Chicago Cubs (1959-1960) and Los Angeles Dodgers (1960). He hit .275 during his career with 65 home runs and 453 RBI.
Noren's most productive season was his rookie year in 1950 when he reached single-season high marks with 160 hits, 10 triples, 14 homers and 98 RBI while batting .295. He played on three World Series winning Yankee teams and served as the third base coach for the Oakland A's during their three consecutive world championship campaigns (1972-1974).
In 1954, Noren placed third in the American League with a .319 batting mark — surpassed only by league leader Bobby Avila (.341) of Cleveland and Chicago's Minnie Minoso (.320).
His only grand slam came on May 15, 1955 in a game against the Kansas City A's at Yankee Stadium.
"I know I hit one, but I can't remember the year," Noren said. "It was an inside-the-parker off Ray Herbert of the A's."
The blast came in the bottom of the sixth inning with the score tied, 1-1. With one out, Mickey Mantle tripled, followed by a Yogi Berra ground ball to second baseman Hector Lopez who threw to third and trapped Mantle off the bag. Mantle managed to return to the base safely, which led to runners occupying first and third with Joe Collins at bat. Collins, like Noren, was a left-handed swinger and was intentionally passed by the right-handed throwing Herbert to bring Noren to the plate.
"Thinking back, I remember I hit it pretty good, a low line drive to left-center field. It had to go all the way to the wall, because I wasn't a fast runner like Mantle or Mays and it was a long way to the fence — 457 feet. Heck, Mantle could have beaten me in a 100-yard dash by 50 yards," Noren recalled. "The ball got by A's center fielder Suitcase (Harry) Simpson and I remember I had to slide into home plate. I didn't score standing up, so it was a close play.
"I remember sliding. I remember coming home and almost falling down. I wasn't that fast, but I had good instincts," Noren said. "I didn't remember the specifies of the home run, but I had a guy come up to me in a restaurant one time and he told me he remembered that I hit an inside-the-park grand slam. Certain things during your career you don't remember as well.
"There are some home runs I hit that I can recall easily, like the one off Connie Marrero. He was a Cuban guy who was my teammate with the Senators and he didn't speak much English," Noren said. "He tells me that if he were to ever pitch to me, that he would throw me a slider chest high and says, 'You no hit.' Well, as fate would have it, I got traded to the Yankees in 1952 and later in the season came up to bat against Marrero. As I was waiting on deck before facing him, I'm saying. 'He's going to throw me that high slider.' And sure enough he throws it just where he said and I hit it out. As I was rounding third, I look at him on the mound and we were grinning at each other, I remember that like it was yesterday, and it was more than 50 years ago.
"The grand slam comes back to me in pieces, but I remember the pitcher was Herbert and running the bases and sliding home on a close play."
In retirement, the former outfielder lives in Oceanside, California with his family and tends to his thoroughbred horses, four children and 13 grandchildren with whom he shares his baseball memories, including his lone major league grand slam that was an inside-the-park rarity.
"Looking back, it's nice to think I did something special."
Joe Astroth, Philadelphia A's:
Astroth played ten years in the majors for the Athletics in Philadelphia (1945-1946, 1949-1954) and Kansas City (1955-1956) hitting .254 in 1,579 at-bats and 544 games.
He is the only player to catch for all three men who managed the A's while they were in Philadelphia. Astroth was behind the plate for Connie Mack from 1945 through 1950 before Mack passed on the managerial duties to Jimmy Dykes from 1951 through the 1953 season, and Eddie Joost for the 1954 campaign before the A's moved to Kansas City.
Astroth was a sturdy 5-9, 187 pound catcher with little power, hitting only 13 career home runs including his first career homer on September 23, 1950 against Julio Moreno of the Washington Senators with the bases loaded.
"Sure I remember it, because it came in a game in which I tied the American League record for RBI in an inning with six. I hit my only grand slam off Julio Moreno in the sixth inning when we were losing 5-1," Astroth said. "I came up later in the inning with the bases loaded again, and hit a single to drive in two runs, so I had a chance to hit two grand slams in one inning.
"It wasn't until Fernando Tatis drove in eight runs in an inning when he hit two grand slams in 1999 that my record for RBI in an inning was broken."
At the time Astroth had his record-tying performance, only three other players — Fred Merkle of the Giants in 1911, Bob Johnson of the A's in 1937 and Tom McBride of the Red Sox in 1945 — had driven in six runs in one inning.
"I realized I had tied the record during the game when it was pointed out to me and when the press questioned me the following day. It wasn't something you try to accomplish, it's just one of those things," Astroth continued. "Nobody can go up and say he's going to hit a home run, they just come. And my first one was with the bases loaded.
"I wasn't a home run hitter, so when I did hit one, teammates would respond with the silent treatment ... a sign in those days that they appreciated what I had done."
Astroth's homer came with the A's trailing 5-1 and tied the game at five in an eventual 16-5 Philadelphia victory over the Senators in Washington.
"I remember the homer well," Astroth said, "because it came in a game I tied a record and it was my first in the majors. People bring it up to me all the time at celebrity golf tournaments and it's right there in the record books. You can't dispute it.
"I couldn't hit as many homers as Babe Ruth, but nobody had more fun with his home runs than I did. I got a lot out of them and hit them at the right time."
Astroth was still an avid fan who attended a handful of games each year and watched as many as he could on TV before his death at age 90 in 2013. He lived in Pennsylvania during his retirement with his wife, four children and 10 grandchildren while staying active by participating in celebrity golf tournaments — in which his profile includes the historic game in which he hit his only major league grand slam.
"You don't forget a thing like that," he said. "As the saying goes, every dog has his day."
Lew Burdette, Milwaukee Braves:
Burdette was one of the top pitchers in the National League from 1953 through 1961, winning 157 games during that span for the Milwaukee Braves. He pitched 18 years in the majors with the Yankees (1950), Braves (1951-1963), Cardinals (1963-1964), Cubs (1964-1965), Phillies (1965) and Angels (1966-1967), posting a career won-lost record of 203-144.
The two-time 20-game winner teamed with Hall of Famer Warren Spahn for 405 victories from 1953 through 1963. Burdette helped lead the Milwaukee Braves to their only World Series title in 1957 when he defeated the Yankees three times to become the seventh pitcher in major league history to win three games in one Series.
A fine hitting pitcher during his career, Burdette collected 12 lifetime home runs but he slammed his only one with the bases full on July 10, 1958 against Johnny Podres and the Los Angeles Dodgers at the LA Coliseum.
"We were leading, 1-0, in the fourth inning," Burdette recalled. "And I came up with the bases loaded and hit a ball over the left field screen in the Coliseum. I hit nine of my home runs in the Coliseum. Left-center was only 320 feet from home plate where the screen ended. It was 250 feet from home plate to left field, but there was a screen about 40 feet high. The only ball I hit over that screen was the grand slam off Podres.
"I remember when the Dodgers moved to Chavez Ravine, I kidded with Don Drysdale that I didn't think the park was that big (330 feet down the foul lines). In one of our first games there, I was pitching against Drysdale and when I came up to bat, I hit a foul ball over the left field fence," Burdette recalled with a laugh. "The next two pitches, Drysdale knocked me on my back. I don't think I thought it was too small of a park after that."
Burdette's lone grand slam gave the Braves a commanding, 5-0, lead in the game. He hit a solo homer later in the contest that ended in an 8-4 Milwaukee win. It was one of two games in which Burdette hit two home runs.
"I hit two homers in a game off Joe Nuxhall of the Reds, and I hit two game-winning home runs off Sandy Koufax.
"I wasn't much of a hitter, but I could do some damage," Burdette said. "I would sucker the pitcher and catcher with my movements in the batter's box and let them think they could blow a pitch by me. Then I would just choke up and swing."
Before he died in 2007 at age 80, the former right-hander resided in Florida where he spent time with his family and played in an occasional golf tournament. "I had a good career," he said. "I roomed with Warren Spahn for 13 years and we became real close friends. Nobody had more fun pitching than we did. We loved to compete. Even during pre-game warm-ups, we would exchange gloves and see who could catch more balls in the outfield during batting practice. The winner had to buy dinner. We had great fun, and the things we accomplished, a World Series title, winning 20 games in a season or hitting a grand slam remain great memories for me."
Jim Delsing, Detroit Tigers:
Delsing played in the majors for ten years with the White Sox (1948, 1956), Yankees (1949 1950). Browns (1950-1952), Tigers (1952-1956) and A's (1960) hitting .255 with 40 homers in 822 big league games.
The left-handed hitting outfielder had his most productive season in 1953 when he batted .288 with a career high 138 hits, 26 doubles, 77 runs, 62 RBI and 11 home runs—one of which was his only grand slam, belted on June 13 against Washington.
"It was in Detroit at Briggs Stadium," Delsing said. "I hit it off Bob Porterfield of the Senators, I don't remember the final score, but I do know we won."
Delsing's blast came in the bottom of the third inning with the score tied, 2-2, in a game the Tigers won 7-6.
"I remember I hit a home run the game before," Delsing said. "We won the game 2-1 and I hit the homer against a pitcher named Connie Marrero, a little right-hander. I didn't hit many home runs and it was a long time ago, but I do remember that series against the Senators. I usually hit pretty well against Washington, and in that series, I was in one of the unusual hot spells I had during my career and I remember hitting a home run against Marrero in a 2-1 victory and then the next day hitting my only grand slam off Porterfield.
"I hit it in the upper deck in right-center field. Detroit was a place where the upper deck seats hung directly over the lower deck. I hit the ball well. A lot of the home runs hit in the lower deck in Detroit had to be hit pretty good and on a line drive because of the overhang," Delsing said.
"A lot of memories from my career tend to blend together, but when some of the particulars are recalled, you begin to piece the event together. And when you don't hit a lot of home runs, you remember these things. The grand slam against Washington was the only one I hit."
Delsing had been retired for 16 years at the time of his death in 2006 at age 80, and after he left baseball in 1960 he went to work with Kohler Manufacturing Company, a toilet fixture business before working for the Archdiocese in St. Louis for 30 years. He lived in Chesterfield, Missouri with his wife and spent his time with his five children and grandchildren.
"Yeah, I do remember the grand slam, and hitting it off Bob Porterfield, who was a teammate of mine with the Yankees. We became good friends, but that's how things went when you suited up for different teams. You'd make friends, get traded and have to face former teammates and roommates. And when I hit my only grand slam, it came off an old friend."
Chuck Hiller, San Francisco Giants:
Hiller was a left-handed hitting second baseman who played eight years in the major leagues with the Giants (1961-1965), Mets (1965-1967), Phillies (1967) and Pirates (1968), hitting .243 with 20 home runs in 704 games.
His best season was 1962 when he helped the Giants win the National League pennant by hitting .276 with 22 doubles, three home runs and 94 runs scored. But his biggest moment came in Game 4 of the World Series when he clubbed his only career grand slam against the Yankees in a 7-3 Giants victory that tied the-best-of-seven Series at two games apiece.
"It was a real thrill," Hiller said of his bases loaded home run. "It came on a 2-0 count against left-hander Marshall Bridges. He kept throwing me fastballs, and with two out in a tie game with the bases full, and being a left-handed batter against a lefty thrower, you naturally knew what was coming."
What Bridges threw, was another fastball that Hiller hit hard into the lower right field seats at Yankee Stadium to give the Giants a 6-2 lead in the seventh inning.
"It was very improbable for me to hit a home run. I hit only three in over 600 at-bats during the season. It was funny that with all the big hitters we had in our lineup — Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda — that I hit the grand slam."
Hiller is the only player to have his lone major league grand slam come in a World Series contest.
"I still get mail about that home run, and it was more than 40 years ago. It makes you feel good," Hiller said. "I am proud of what I accomplished. It was something many people enjoyed."
Hiller's grand slam was the eighth hit in World Series competition and the first by a National League player.
"Ken Boyer of the Cardinals hit one a couple years later," Hiller said, "and I have a framed picture of us together that he signed. We were the first two National Leaguers to hit grand slams in the World Series ... Boyer was a wonderful man."
After retirement as a player in 1968, Hiller coached for the Texas Rangers (1973), Kansas City Royals (1976-1979), St. Louis Cardinals (1981-1983), Giants (1985) and New York Mets (1990). Shortly after his 70th birthday in 2004, Hiller passed away after battling leukemia and continued to work with the Mets as a minor league advisor during his illness.
"It was just a thrill to hit one in such a big game," Hiller said. "It was my only World Series and the first time I was ever in Yankee Stadium. The older I get, the more I realize the significance of that home run. I was king for a day ... and the next morning with the media.
"It was my day in the sun."
Gene Alley, Pittsburgh Pirates:
Alley was a light hitting, defensive standout who played 11 years in the majors with the Pirates (1963-1973) batting .254 with 999 hits and 55 home runs. On the field, the right-handed hitting shortstop won two Gold Glove awards (1966-1967) and led all National League players at his position in putouts and assists once and double plays two times His 128 double plays in 1966 are the seventh most ever recorded by a shortstop in a single season.
His best year at the plate was 1966 when he batted .299 with 173 hits, 28 doubles and 88 runs scored — all bench marks for his career that included two All-Star game appearances and a World Series title in 1971.
Alley's only grand slam came on September 2, 1970 off Carl Morton of the Expos at Montreal's Jerry Park. With the bases filled with Pirate runners in the top of the sixth inning and Pittsburgh leading 2-1, Alley hit an inside-the-park home run to give the Bucs a 6-1 lead in an eventual 10-7 loss to the Expos.
"I didn't even remember I hit a grand slam," Alley said. "But I did know I hit an inside-the-park homer. I recall it was in Montreal and I hit a low line drive to center field and Boots Day (Montreal's center fielder) came running in and tried to make a shoe string catch.
"The ball skipped under his glove and went all the way to the wall and I circled the bases."
With Willie Stargell on third base, Richie Hebner on second and Manny Sanguillen on first, Alley connected off right-hander Morton, who won 18 games and went on to win N.L. Rookie of the Year honors that season. Alley hit a sinking line drive to straightaway center field that got by Day, who dived to make a sprawling catch but came up short.
"I knew I had an inside-the-park home run, and I remember the center fielder coming in to try and catch it and the ball getting past him, but I didn't remember that the bases were loaded," Alley said. "I didn't even know I'd hit a grand slam. I guess you learn something everyday.
"A lot of times when you play, you don't remember all of those things. I can remember seeing the ball going out there and Day coming in to try to make the catch. It was kind of exciting trying to make it around the bases without falling down," Alley remembered with a laugh.
"Once the center fielder comes in and the ball gets by him, you've gotta pretty good shot at making it around the bases. It's amazing, I didn't even know I had a grand slam."
Alley resides in Virginia and after he retired from the majors in 1973, he worked in the printing business, manufacturing printing plates with his cousin.
Ron Blomberg, Chicago White Sox
Blomberg was a hard-hitting outfielder, first baseman and DH who played eight seasons in the major leagues with the Yankees (1969, 1971-1976) and White Sox (1978).
He is most remembered as being the first official designated hitter in American League history when he was listed as the Yankees DH on Opening Day, April 6, 1973. In that game, Blomberg batted sixth in New York's lineup and in his first plate appearance, he drew a walk from Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant with the bases loaded.
During his career, Blomberg hit .293 with 52 home runs, 224 RBI and 391 hits in 1,333 at-bats. His best season was in 1973 when he batted a solid .329 with 12 homers and 57 RBI.
Injuries curtailed his career and sidelined him for the 1977 campaign. He signed with the White Sox in 1978; the year he hit his only bases loaded home run.
"I remember I hit it in Oakland off a tall right-hander," Blomberg said. "I hit it pretty good to right-center field and I remember we won the game."
Blomberg's slam was hit on September 19 off A's pitcher Alan Wirth in the top of the eighth inning with the White Sox trailing, 3-2. The blast gave Chicago a 6-3 lead in an eventual 8-4 victory.
"I knew I hit only one grand slam, but really, after I hit it, it wasn't a big deal. It mattered that the home run helped win the game, but it wasn't something that stood out like my first at-bat, as a designated hitter.
"Its not that the home run doesn't stand out for me, but really I didn't have many opportunities for a grand slam. I remember hitting a number of three-run home runs, but I don't recall having many chances to hit with the bases loaded.
"But, hey, two of my big moments came in that situation. My first at-bat as a DH was with the bases loaded and I drew a walk, and of course my only big league grand slam."
Blomberg spends his retirement from baseball doing public and motivational speaking engagements and lives in Georgia with his wife. His son is a graduate from medical school and his daughter from the University of Alabama.
"I don't pay much attention to baseball today," Blomberg said. "I'm a big family man and I do a lot of traveling. I'll help college players with some hitting tips, and I've had a few offers to get back into professional baseball as a coach, but it's not my style to critique players on how they perform. I don't want to do that. If I can't play, I don't want to be analyzing or second-guessing on what players should be doing.
"I had eight good years in baseball. I got the opportunity to be the first designated hitter back in 1973, and any time the DH — whether you like it or hate it — is brought up with an anniversary, my at-bat is always remembered. Fans come up to me all the time about that at-bat. I have fun with it and enjoy the attention it gets.
"I remember my only grand slam, too. It came in Oakland when I was with the White Sox and it helped win a game. It's another great memory of my playing days."