With Ty Cobb, the major leagues’ reigning home run champion, out of the lineup with an eye injury, pitcher Ed “Kickapoo” Summers took it upon himself to provide the punch one Saturday afternoon at Bennett Park.
On September 17, 1910, Summers, a career .162 hitter, banged a pair of two-run homers and pitched the Tigers past first-place Philadelphia, 10-3. Both home runs came off of Harry Krause, who had fanned Summers the first time up.
Eddie Bachelor of the Detroit Free Press was as astounded as anyone in the park. “Time was when anyone, asked to name the worst hitter in the world, would have said Summers without hesitation,” Bachelor wrote. “Eddie’s efforts to get even so much as a high class foul have excited the mirth of Detroit fans for several years.”
Summers, a switch-hitter, batted from the right side of the plate against the southpaw Krause. In the fourth inning, he belted his first home run, unknotting a 1-1 tie with a drive to right. Two innings later, he broke open a still close game with another drive, this time to left. Each time the ball landed just inside the foul line and bounded over the fence, which counted as a home run then.
This was quite an achievement for anyone in the deadfall era, particularly a pitcher. Newspapers reported that it was the first time in “modern” big-league history – that is, since 1900 – that a pitcher had accomplished the feat.
Ironically, on each trip around the bases Summers had to pass Philadelphia third baseman Frank Baker, who was destined to acquire his famous moniker of “Home Run” Baker after hitting two round-trippers in a game in the 1911 World Series. In 1910, however, Baker could manage only two home runs for the season, the same total as Summers.
Summers had one last at-bat against Krause, giving him a chance to hit a third home run. He singled instead, capping off a 3-for-4 day at the plate.
Detroit’s dailies had a field day playing up Summers’ unaccountable outbreak of bashing. “What matters it if Ty Cobb’s eyes are bad, if Crawford is in a batting slump and Bush and Delahanty are crippled?” Bachelor wrote. “We still have Summers, king of clouters.” Another scribe wrote: “The day will live long in the history of Detroit baseball. Ty Cobb, with one eye bandaged, sat on the bench to see a new batting king arise, at least for one day.”
Cobb didn’t have to worry. Summers’ home runs were the first – and last – of his five-year career.