Bill Mueller of the Boston Red Sox made MLB history by clubbing two grand slams from both sides of the plate, the only player in baseball history to do so.
The date was July 29, 2003, and it ended up being one helluva day for Boston Red Sox third baseman Bill Mueller.
It was a Tuesday. I got a call from a buddy of mine, Kevin Grant, who was the lead singer in a hardcore band called The Hidden. He rang me to ask if I wanted to see them play a local show at The New Wave Cafe in New Bedford, Massachusetts. New Bedford is a fishing city, and its residents define the term blue collar.
The New Wave was about as divey as you could get. There was the bar, of course, right in front of you as you walked in. To the right was a foosball table, to the left some high top bar tables, a few couches and somewhere near the back was a stage that many local East Coast bands had performed on. Just above the bar were two lo-definition TVs, the old school ones that looked like they belonged in your junior high social studies classroom.
Considering I didn’t have to work the next day, I decided I wanted to add a little grit to my week, and accepted Kevin’s invitation. I rolled into the bar at about 9:30, a little earlier than the band would start, but I didn’t want to miss the start of the Red Sox game, which was being televised on the aforementioned archaic boob tubes.
Me and a few other buddies settled in at one of the four tops with a few Budweisers and some Jameson shots, and figured we’d watch the Sox until The Hidden began playing and we’d mosey on back to the stage area and do some moshing/headbanging. Apologies to Kevin Grant and The Hidden… I don’t think I stayed back there too long. Bill Mueller was putting on a show of his own.
The Sox were having a great season. They were 21 games above .500 at 63-42, and were in second place by 1.5 games to the powerhouse New York Yankees. This was prior to the miraculous 2004 season, where Red Sox Nation let out a collective sigh of relief, so every game, every inning, every pitch was still life or death for me. I don’t think I had fingernails in the summers from 1986-2004.
If the Red Sox won and the Yankees lost their match-up in Anaheim, the Sox would’ve been so close to first place, a position they hadn’t held since June 11. The pennant race was on and it was fun.
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So in the top of the third, with the Sox trailing 0-2, number eight hitter Mueller, who had a respectable ten homers up to that point in the season, took Dickey’s first offering of the inning into the bleachers in right field, cutting the Sox’ deficit to one. No big deal. Solo homer. Nice to see, but the Sox squandered some opportunities later that inning that frustrated us.
Not much good came until the seventh inning. Wakefield had given up another two runs, and this game looked like it was slipping away. But the Sox managed to get two runs early in the seventh, and then Mueller stepped up from the right side of the plate and with the bases loaded against reliever Aaron Fultz, he crushed a 2-2 pitch int deep left field, which gave the Sox a nice 9-4 cushion going into the late innings.
By this time, the band had started up. I crept back to the live music area, but I stayed far enough back to see the fuzzy TV screen to monitor when Mueller would get up again. He had already cranked two dingers, and even though we were in the late innings, I wanted to see if he could park another one into the warm Texas night.
Sure enough, an inning later Gabe Kapler walked, Kevin Millar singled, and Trot Nixon also took a free pass. Bases juiced again, with Mueller headed into the batter’s box, this time from the left side to face righty reliever Jay Powell. Muller promptly took an 0-1 fastball that was just a bit too inside and pulled it into the stands in right field. He had done it. Two grand slams in one game, making him only the thirteenth player in MLB history to do so.
The next morning was hell. I nursed a domestic beer and Irish whiskey hangover, and dragged my bleeding ears over to my Gateway desktop to read about the game. I had always loved the gritty, blue collar player Mueller was. He matched the spirit of the city I was living in. I was pumped for his hat trick and wanted to read more about the comeback and see if the Yankees had lost to the Angels (they hadn’t).
What I did learn was that Mueller was (and still is) the only player in MLB history to rip a grand salami from both sides of the plate in the same game. Although I wasn’t there to see it live in person, I’m glad I took a brief hiatus from getting my eardrums broken by The Hidden to creep back over to the bar to witness this historical feat in real time. That’s the thing I think we all miss about baseball… any given night something completely wacky and unpredictable can happen.