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Johnny Blanchard, Four Straight Hommers - July 21- 22, 1961

by Harvey Frommer

Most people associate home run hitting and the Yankees with 1961 and Roger Maris. But it was also the time of Johnny Blanchard. The third string catcher nearly quit in 1960 when Casey Stengel toyed with activating 40-year-old Jim Hegan as a back up to Yogi Berra when Elston Howard was hurt. Casey was glad he didn't go for Hegan; Blanchard had a career year and was adequate behind the plate. And he also did some special home run hitting.

On July 21, Johnny B hammered a ninth inning, two out, pinch hit grand slam home run at Fenway Park to push the Yanks to an 11-8 victory over the Red Sox. The next day Blanchard hit another ninth inning, pinch hit homer to spark a second come-from- behind victory over Boston.

On July 26, the man they called "Super- Sub" slashed his third and fourth home runs at Yankee Stadium against the Chicago White Sox. The homers drove in four runs as the Yanks beat the White Sox, 5-2.

Four straight homers over three games tied a major league record. Not bad for a guy who was ready to pack in his career the year before.

Blanchard's career was essentially spent as a third string catcher: He played in 516 games, batted .239, hit 67 home runs. In the World Series he caught fire; in 15 games he batted .345 and had five home runs.

In 1965, the Yankees traded him to to Kansas City. The "Super- Sub" sat in the Yankees clubhouse and sobbed away. Mickey Mande sat down next to Blanchard and attempted to cheer him up.

"Don't take it so hard, John. Just think, in Kansas City you're going to get a chance to play."

"Hell, I can't play, Mick. That's why I'm crying."

But Blanchard could play especially on July 21- 22, 1961 - when his bat was lit by lightning.

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