Typically, when the ball is in a glove, the batter is not going to be going all that much further along the basepaths. On this day in 1949, St. Louis Cardinals rookie Rocky Nelson hit his first career home run in rather unusual fashion.
Rocky Nelson bounced around a bit during his Major League career, breaking in with the St. Louis Cardinals, and then playing for three other teams. A powerful left handed hitter, he was never able to get consistent playing time, with only two seasons of over 90 games played. However, Nelson was a minor league star, a home run hitter who dominated the International League during his eleven seasons in AAA.
Even though he did not have the same level of success in the Majors, Nelson still made a few memorable plays. One of those came in his fourth career game, when the Cardinals were facing the Chicago Cubs. With St. Louis trailing 3-2 with two outs in the top of the ninth, Nelson hit a little blooper to center, where it was caught by Andy Pafko, nominally ending the game.
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Instead, perhaps because his vision was obscured by the cups and garbage all over the field, umpire Al Barlick said that Pafko trapped the ball, calling Nelson safe. Pafko was furious, and came charging in from center to argue the call.
The problem was, Pafko did not call time as he was arguing his case. While he was holding the ball and yelling at Barlick, Chuck Diering, who was on first after pinch running for Eddie Kazak, came around to score the tying run. Nelson was right behind him, charging around the bases to give the Cardinals the lead in what would come to be known as an inside the glove home run. Chicago would go quietly in the bottom of the inning, as their victory escaped.
For Nelson, who had spent just three seasons in the minors, it was a truly head’s up play. Realizing that he had been called safe, and that Pafko had not called time, he was able to make his way around the bases and score before the Cubs knew what happened. Meanwhile, it showed an alarming lack of awareness for the team, who were that caught up in the moment to realize what happened.
Inside the park home runs happen, but an inside the glove homer? Well, that happened on this day in 1949, when St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Rocky Nelson showed an amazing amount of awareness on the field.