4-Hit Debuts, Wilson Ramos and History


As I pointed out yesterday, Wilson Ramos had 4 hits in his major league debut on May 2nd, 2010. In the process of working on the article covering his debut, I started to wonder how many other players in major league history had 4 or more hits in their respective debuts.

Thanks to the wonders of the Baseball Reference Play Index the answer was not difficult to come by. I assumed that it was a fairly rare feat, but I knew it happened twice during the 2010 season so I was thinking the number was somewhere in the 40-50 range. I was stunned to find out, however, that it has only happened 15 times since the 1920* season.

*If you are wondering why I picked that particular year, it’s because Baseball Reference’s Play Index only goes back to 1920.

Wilson Ramos however didn’t just get 4 hits in his 1st major league game. He followed up his 4 hit debut with a 3 hit game the following day giving him 7 hits in his first two games in the big leagues. Being the curious sort, I wondered if any of the other 14 players on the 4-hit debut list could match or better his achievement.

Before we get too far though, lets first go over the 15 players to get 4 or more hits in their major league debuts.

As I mentioned already, Ramos wasn’t the only player to pull off the feat during the 2010 season. On August 8th, Blue Jays rookie J.P. Arencibia went 4-5 with 1 2B and 2 HR. It is far from hyperbole to say that Arencibia’s debut stands as one of the greatest major league debuts of all time.

Since it has only been done 15 times in 91 seasons, you might be surprised to learn that Ramos and Arencibia are not the only pair to pull off the 4-hit debut feat in the same season. It also happened in 1933. On April 25th, while playing for the New York Yankees, P Russ Van Atta went 4-4 and also had a sacrifice bunt on the way to a 16-0 rout of the Washington Senators. Pulling double duty as the starting pitcher, Van Atta also threw a complete game, 5-hit shutout. Just a few weeks later, 3B Cecil Travis went 5-7 on May 16th as the Senators prevailed over the Cleveland Indians 11-10.

Here is the complete list of all 15 players:

J.P. ArencibiaToronto Blue Jays8/7/20104-5
Wilson RamosMinnesota Twins5/2/20104-5
Derrick GibsonColorado Rockies9/8/19984-4
Delino DeShieldsMontreal Expos4/9/19904-6
Bill BeanDetroit Tigers4/25/19874-6
Kirby PuckettMinnesota Twins5/8/19844-5
Ted CoxBoston Red Sox9/18/19774-4
Mack JonesMilwaukee Braves7/13/19614-5
Willie McCoveySan Francisco Giants7/30/19594-4
Spook JacobsPhiladelphia Athletics4/13/19544-5
Joe BurnsBoston Braves4/24/19434-5
Ed FreedPhiladelphia Phillies9/11/19424-5
Cecil TravisWashington Senators5/16/19335-7
Russ Van AttaNew York Yankees4/25/19334-4
Art ShiresChicago White Sox8/20/19284-5

Not exactly a who’s who of major league superstars is it? Puckett and McCovey are the two that clearly stand out.

Some other fun tidbits from this list:

  • Ramos and Arencibia are the only 2 catchers to ever pull it off and they did it in the same season
  • The Twins/Senators have had a player get 4+ hits in their major league debut three times (Ramos in 2010, Puckett in 1984 and and Travis in 1933)
  • Van Atta was the only pitcher to accomplish the feat and he did it against the Sentators meaning the Twins were involved in 4 of the 15 times it has happened.
  • Teams are 12-3 when one of their players gets 4 or more hits in their major league debuts
  • Cecil Travis is the only player to get 5 hits in a major league debut
  • Arencibia is the only player of the 15 to have a HR as a part of his 4+ hit debut. He of course went yard twice.

Of course, we’re not done yet.

Wilson Ramos followed up his 4-hit debut with a 3-hit game. Was anyone else able to match or better that?

The answer is yes.

Arencibia, DeShields and Burns followed up their debut with a goose egg at the plate. Gibson, Puckett, Jones, McCovey, Van Atta and Shires were able to scratch out one hit. In the close but not quite category we have Bean, Cox, Jacobs and Freed who each had 2 hits in their 2nd game.

That of course leaves Cecil Travis who also had 2 hits in his 2nd game but those 2 hits came on the heels of his 5 hit debut. Travis went 2-3 in his 2nd game giving him a 7-10 start to his career. Ramos of course started 7-9 but there’s no need to split hairs. Travis spent his entire 12 year major league career with the Washington Senators and as a result is a part of Twins history too.