July Fourth is known for many reasons besides our Nation’s birth. We celebrate with Bar-B-Que’s, fireworks, parades, flag-waving decorations and of course, playing in and watching the game of our proud National Pastime – Baseball. Occasionally, history is made on the diamond.
The Diamondbacks spent their 4th of July holiday in New York, playing a 4 game series against the Mets. In the top of the 5th inning of the July 4th game, Diamondbacks Right Fielder Gerrardo Parra took a pitch from Mets starting right-hander Dillon Gee into shallow right field for a double that pushed Cody Ross from first to third. Only it wasn’t any ordinary double hit by #8, it was a rare Bunt-Double!! The hit by Parra made history by being the FIRST Bunt Double in Diamondbacks club history. It’s a rare occurrence to get on-base while bunting, which is a tactic usually employed by clubs in an effort to move a runner from First to Second in an attempt to manufacture a run during a close game. It is even more rare to get a Double out of a bunt. The history of the Bunt-Double dates back to 1951, where the legendary #42 Jackie Robinson was the first recorded MLB player to get a bunt double in a game on August 24, 1951 in a home game at Ebbets Field versus the Chicago Cubs.
There are three types of bunts: The Drag, Push and a Swinging or Slash bunt. All types of bunts have their strengths and weaknesses in placing the ball to a certain part of the field to either advance a runner, or give the batter a chance to leg out an infield single hit. A deeper analysis of the three techniques is something, for now, I won’t get into. In a review of the video, it appears that the approach Gerrardo Parra took to place the ball in shallow Right Field for the double was a drag bunt perfectly placed between first and second base.
In an short article looking at the brief history of the feat of placing a bunt for a double, James Gentile writing for BeyondtheBoxScore.com summarizes the history by offering a list of the 37 (now 38) players since 1951 to accomplish the successful Bunt Double. Among the notable names and years the double bunt was recorded as listed in the article by Gentile are: Willie McCovey(1970), Bobby Mercer (1976) Bret Butler (1985), Edgar Renteria (1997), Rafael Furcal (2000, 2001 & 2009), Juan Pierre (2004, 2007 & 2012), Cliff Pennington (2012). Gentile notes that “no bunting discussion would be complete without Brett Butler, the all-time leader at bunting for a hit”. Butler would record a league leading 29 safe bunts in 51 attempts in 1992. That’s an amazing success rate of 57%!! No one in Major League Baseball history has ever recorded a Bunt-Triple. No one.
The history of the bunt dates back to to the 19th Century. The earliest recorded bunt in a base ball game occurred on June 29, 1860 in a match between the Atlantic and Putnam Base Ball Clubs. The New York Clipper provided a brief description in which the umpire that was officiating the match declared it “an accident” and decided it was not an official hit. The writer for the Clipper though otherwise, citing that had a runner been on first, he would have easily made second base as well as drawing a similar description to a batsman in Cricket using the same technique where he “blocks a straight ball”. The bunt complimented the 19th Century rule of the Fair-Foul hit, utilizing the principle that once a ball strikes fair ground, it is always fair. These two tactics by batters of base ball played in the 1960′s era made fielding the ball more of a challenge, and opened tactics available to a batter. Dickey Pierce, of the Atlantic Base Ball club is credited with the first “Fair-Foul” hit and the first successful bunt attempt in 186o’s.
For the modern fan, the fair-foul hit no longer exists – a relic of a bygone era. The Rules Committee defined what is considered fair and foul, thus eliminating the fair-foul hit in 1877. Today, we only see a weaker hitter in the line up or a pitcher try to place a bunt to move a runner along. Seldom do we see quick footed batters like Gerrardo Parra, Rafael Furcal or Juan Pierre attempt this as a method to fool the infield and leg-out an infield hit. It seems that in today’s game, the bunt is under-appreciated. As we celebrate our Nation’s history, we can also mark a bit of Arizona Diamondbacks history too.
While celebrating our Nation’s founding in all it’s Star-Spangled grandeur while watching our National Pastime of base ball, we cast our thoughts to the past to learn more about this glorious game of ours, remember those who paved the way for the game as we know, love and enjoy it to be now. Happy 4th of July! God Bless America!