Greatest single games from Yankees hitters

January 11th, 2021

Sensational offensive performances are deeply entrenched in the annals of Yankees history, dating to the afternoons when Babe Ruth drew spectators to the Bronx in hopes of witnessing a few mighty swats into the bleachers. Over the decades since, the franchise has been blessed with numerous memorable single-game performances. Here are five of our favorites:

1. Reggie Jackson, 1977 World Series Game 6

One of the game’s all-time great nicknames was cemented on the evening of Oct. 18, 1977, when “Mr. October” blasted three home runs in the deciding game of the Fall Classic. As the Yankees' 21st title hung in the balance, Jackson capped an eventful first season in pinstripes by belting three home runs off three Dodgers hurlers, all on the first pitch.

Jackson hit a fourth-inning homer off Burt Hooton, ripped a fifth-inning shot off Elias Sosa and connected for an eighth-inning blast off Charlie Hough. The final homer landed in the black of Yankee Stadium's distant center-field batters' eye. Given the championship stage and the tumultuous season that preceded that evening, Jackson’s effort is rightly remembered as one of the finest single-game performances in all of sports history.

“I knew the number was three,” Jackson told in 2020. “I was always a statistical person. I knew that I had five homers for the Series then, and nobody had ever hit that many. So a lot was going through my mind as I began my way around the bases in the middle of all that noise. The next day there was a picture in the [New York] Daily News of me rounding second and going past [Dodgers shortstop] Bill Russell. And both of my feet were off the ground. That was exactly how I felt in that moment.”

2. Lou Gehrig, June 3, 1932

Incredibly, the Yankees have just one four-homer game in their history. It is owned by Gehrig, who enjoyed one of the best days of his career in a 20-13 victory over the Athletics at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park. The “Iron Horse” stepped out of Ruth’s shadow to clear the fences in each of his first four at-bats, becoming the first player to have a four-homer game in the Modern Era (since 1900).

Facing George Earnshaw, Gehrig cracked a two-run homer to left-center field in the first inning, then added solo shots off Earnshaw in the fourth and fifth innings. A’s manager Connie Mack yanked Earnshaw in the sixth inning, and Roy Mahaffey watched a Gehrig homer clear the right-field wall to lead off the seventh. Gehrig flied out to the deepest part of the ballpark in the ninth, approximately 460 feet from home plate.

3. Tony Lazzeri, May 24, 1936

The Hall of Fame second baseman enjoyed an afternoon for the ages in a 25-2 rout of the Athletics at Shibe Park, driving in 11 runs to establish a still-standing American League record. Lazzeri hit three home runs, becoming the first Major Leaguer to hit two grand slams in a game. Lazzeri’s performance came as he batted eighth in the Bombers’ fearsome lineup.

Lazzeri hit a second-inning grand slam off George Turbeville, then mashed his second grand slam in the fifth off Herman Fink. He cracked a solo homer in the seventh off Woody Upchurch, then nearly cleared the walls again in the eighth, settling for a two-run triple. According to The New York Times, Lazzeri was “almost mobbed” by spectators after the triple and had to battle a crush of adoring autograph seekers after the final out.

4. Hideki Matsui, 2009 World Series Game 6

Any questions about the Most Valuable Player of the 2009 Fall Classic were answered as Matsui collected six RBIs on the evening of Nov. 4, 2009, powering the Yankees to their 27th championship in a 7-3 victory over the Phillies. Playing his final game in pinstripes, Matsui tied Bobby Richardson’s record -- established in 1960 -- for the most RBIs in a World Series game (since tied by Albert Pujols and Addison Russell).

Matsui put the Yankees ahead with a two-run homer off Pedro Martinez in the second inning, then ripped a two-run single off Martinez in the third. He greeted J.A. Happ with a two-run double in the fifth, putting New York up 7-1. In 2018, Matsui said: “I know it was me, but it didn’t feel like it was me. I felt like it was some kind of mystical powers that were behind that performance.”

5. Alex Rodriguez, April 26, 2005

The 2005 season would see A-Rod secure the second of three career Most Valuable Player awards. He got off to an early start, driving in a career-high 10 runs in the Yankees’ 12-4 victory over the Angels at Yankee Stadium. Rodriguez was the 11th player in Major League history to drive in 10 or more runs.

Rodriguez launched a three-run homer in the first inning, then crushed a two-run shot in the third inning and a grand slam in the fourth. All three blasts came off Bartolo Colon. Rodriguez added a run-scoring single in the sixth off Kevin Gregg, finishing 4-for-5. In 2020, Rodriguez reflected: “It was the kind of game I had only dreamed about as a kid.”