August 29, 1977 – Duane Kuiper’s Only Home Run in 3,379 At Bats
Tribe pitcher Rick Waits was facing future Cy Young winner and South Euclid native Steve Stone and the White Sox. Just over 6,000 fans were present in Municipal Stadium for this Monday night contest. The White Sox were still battling for the division lead, and so ABC had decided to show the game regionally as part of Monday NIght Baseball. The start time was moved from 7:30PM to 8:40, and then up to 8:30.
Indians second baseman Duane Kuiper was in his third year in the majors. Kuiper was a solid second baseman, with a .281 batting average. However, he did not hit for power.
Waits retired the Sox in order to start the game. Then, in the bottom of the first, Stone struck out the leadoff hitter Paul Dade. Kuiper stepped in and sent Stone’s pitch into the empty Municipal Stadium seats in right field.
Kuiper later remembered, “I hit it, and I saw Wayne Nordhagen, the right fielder, running after it, and I saw his number. And I never saw a right fielder’s number. I saw him running back, and I said, ‘You know what? This is going to go out.’”
The ball bounced off the empty seat and back into the outfield. Nordhagen picked it up and fired it back to the Indians dugout. This was Kuiper’s first home run in 1,381 at bats.
Two batters later, Andre Thornton laced a ball into left field which bounced past the charging left fielder Ritchie Zisk. By the time Zisk tracked it down, Thornton had an inside-the-park home run. Bruce Bochte followed with a powerful homer to deep left field to put the Tribe up 3-0.
Stone complained, “I was told the game was going to start 8:40 local time, and it started 10 minutes early. I couldn’t believe it. I need about 25 minutes to warm up…I wasn’t ready to pitch. I had nothing in the first inning.”
Waits went on to pitch a complete game. He gave up only two runs on six hits while striking out eight White Sox.
Kuiper ended his night 2 for 5 with his 45th RBI of the season. Kuiper would go on to play twelve seasons in the majors. His home run in Game 130 of 1977 is his only major league homer in 3,379 at-bats.
Since World War II (post-deadball era), no one is within 1,000 at bats of Kuiper with only one recorded home run. Woody Woodward had only one in 2,187 at-bats for the Braves and Reds. Al Newman had one homer in 2,107 at bats for the Expos, Twins, and Rangers. Which leaves Duane Kuiper as the undisputed king of not hitting home runs.
Honorable Mention: August 31, 2017 – Zach McAllister’s Kick-Save
Still one of the most unlikely and amazing put-outs I have ever seen. The Indians would go on to beat the Twins in 10 innings.