When Mitch Moreland went deep in the second inning of yesterday's game it was more than just the Rangers' first home run in this World Series. In fact, it was the first home run in World Series history for the Rangers franchise. On a team with plenty of established sluggers who could've hit it, it ended up being the unheralded rookie who's plugged the Rangers' first base hole admirably since late July.
I got to wondering: who hit the first World Series homer for each franchise? To Baseball Reference I went for the answers, and here they are:
Some of you might not like George McQuinn of the Browns being listed for the Orioles or Goose Goslin of the Senators being listed for the Twins, but hey, they are the same franchises. If you consider a team in a new city with a new name completely separate from its ancestor though, the first "Twins" homer was hit by Don Mincher off Don Drysdale in 1965, and the first "Orioles" homer was hit by Frank Robinson off Drysdale the very next year.
As long as we're here though, I thought it'd be fun to classify each of these batters by how "fitting" he was for the part. For instance, Babe Ruth seems perfect as the first guy who homered for the Yankees in World Series play. What about guys like Craig Counsell? In some ways, it's cooler to see one of the "little guys" earn the distinction. I think the best method here would be to sort them in tiers, from most to least likely.
First up is the Franchise Stars. These are power hitters who were best remembered as core members of the franchises they homered for. Not all of them were big threats in the years they hit that homer, but their memorable associations with the club made it poetic that they got to hit it.
Perhaps it's only right that this is the most populated group of them all. I suppose Happy Felsch is more famous as a member of the "Black Sox" than as the power threat he was, but he never played for any other team in his brief career. Amos Otis and Carl Crawford both had down years homer-wise, but both had established their power in previous seasons. Babe Ruth holds an interesting distinction: He's the only player who both allowed and hit a franchise's first World Series homer.
Next up is the Power Stars. These are guys who were among their teams' most homer-prone hitters, but who didn't have the longtime associations with the franchise that the above group did.
As you can see, I put Mitch Moreland here for now. If he goes on to have a long career with the Rangers replete with round-trippers, he may be moved up to the "Franchise Stars" tier. I realize Billy Southworth is closely associated with the Cardinals, but I'm only looking at playing careers, not managerial ones.
This next group I simply call the Good Players. These are the guys I couldn't really place in any of the other groups. Essentially they're solid players who were neither stars nor big-time home run hitters.
Sebring was a journeyman whose four homers were fifth on the team, only three behind the leader, but his .383 slugging average doesn't suggest he was much of a power threat. Dougherty was actually second on his team in OPS+, but he was far behind the team lead in homers, and he spent only two and a half seasons with the club. Myers could be considered a longtime core member of his franchise, but the fact that he wasn't much of a slugger (except for a brief period in the middle of his career), keeps him out of the "Franchise Stars." I guess I could sum up this group as the guys who were fairly unlikely to be the first, though not completely out of the question.
Next is the Postseason Heroes. These guys weren't great power hitters or franchise icons, but they came up notably better than usual in October.
So many great stories here. Gowdy unquestionably would've been World Series MVP in 1914 had the award existed at the time. Ripple had a career OPS of .738, but in three career World Series it was .913. Bevacqua batted .412 with two homers in the World Series after hitting .200 with one homer in the regular season. Counsell didn't have a great World Series, but he was fresh off being named NLCS MVP when he hit that homer. Lamb homered in all three rounds of the playoffs for the Astros in 2005, despite hitting only 12 during the regular season.
Finally, I call this last one-man tier Completely Unexpected.
I suppose there should be a semi-disclaimer here. Back in the Deadball Era, as most of us know, home runs were almost a random occurrence. In fact, there were several World Series back then where neither team homered. Still, if you were to predict the first player to homer from the 1909 Tigers, I highly doubt you'd pick Davy Jones, who hadn't hit one all season.
The beauty of October is that players of every caliber have the opportunity to go down in history, from the Davy Joneses to the Babe Ruths. The Kurt Bevacquas and Mike Lambs of this world may not be stars, but they hold distinctions no one can ever take away.