For three games, nobody on the planet was better than Mike Benjamin

You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we’ll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.

ON THIS DATE IN 1995, Giants infielder Mike Benjamin went 6-for-7.

In his previous game, Benjamin had gone 4-for-5; the 10 hits tied the modern (since 1900) major league record for most hits in consecutive games. The game before the 4-for-5, Benjamin had gone 4-for-6; the 14 hits broke the modern record of 13 in three consecutive games, held by Joe Cronin (1933), Walt Dropo (1952) and Tim Salmon (1994).

The full “On this date …” archive

The day the stretch ended, I called Benjamin. He was pleased with what he had done but completely uninterested in talking about it.

“My wife asks me, ‘Why don’t you jump up and down and yell?”’ Benjamin told me. “I told her, ‘Because there’s another game tomorrow.”’ The beauty of this story is that this torrid stretch was accomplished by a hitter who finished that season with a .220 average, finished his 13-year career with a .229 average and never had more than seven hits in any other three-game stretch in his career. Before the salvo, he had two three-hit games in his career, then he got four or more in three straight games. He finished his career with four four-hit games, three of which came June 11-14, 1995. He was hitting .150 when the stretch began and .447 when it ended.

“Looking back now,” Benjamin said 25 years later, “it was kind of weird, it was like it didn’t happen. It’s something I’m proud of. And I hope it sticks around. But it was weird.”

But this is how baseball works. It wasn’t Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn or Ichiro that did this; it was Mike Benjamin, largely a utility player. No journeyman basketball player ever did something historically great over three games that Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James or Michael Jordan never did. This only happens in baseball.

“This game has showed us to expect things to happen that you would think could never happen, that anything is possible in this game,” Benjamin said. “For a guy like me to do this is unusual, but in my situation, I’m going to get more opportunities because I get pitched to. [Teammate] Barry [Bonds] told me, ‘I can’t believe you did that.’ I would tell him, ‘Barry, they aren’t going to pitch to you the same way that they’re going to pitch to me.”’

Other baseball notes for June 14

  • In 2014, the Rockies’ Brandon Barnes hit a two-run inside-the-park home run, which provided the winning run in a 5-4 win over the Giants. It was his second homer of the season, both inside the park. Tommy Leach led the National League in home runs in 1902 with six, all of them inside-the-park homers. He hit 63 in his career, 49 inside the park.

  • In 1978, Pete Rose’s 44-game hitting streak began. It was magical once he got to the mid-30s. But in the end, he was still a hit a day for two weeks away from Joe DiMaggio’s record. That just shows how hard it is to hit in 56 in a row.

  • In 2018, Ed Roebuck died. He pitched from 1955 to 1966. He missed by 10 years of having a chance to pitch to catcher Ken Sears, which would have been the Sears-Roebuck battery.

  • In 1985, the great Earl Weaver came out of retirement to manage the Orioles. In hindsight, it was a mistake, but he kept his team in contention until the final two months of the 1986 season. Then it all fell apart. In September 1986, early on a Sunday morning in Oakland, Weaver filled out his lineup card, looked at me and said, “This is the worst lineup I’ve ever filled out for a major league game.”