Jim Bottomley

August 5, 1931: Jim Bottomley collects six hits vs. the Pirates

Few players in major-league history could lay claim to a six-hit game. On August 5, 1931, “Sunny” Jim Bottomley became the first player since 1894 to do it twice when he collected six base hits in the second game of a doubleheader vs. the Pirates.

Bottomley was one of two talented first basemen on the Cardinals roster that season, as he split time with rookie Ripper Collins, who was on his way to a season that included a .301 average, four homers, and 59 RBIs. The year before, Collins had earned a promotion by hitting 40 home runs and driving in 180 RBIs in the International League.

At age 31, Bottomley still had plenty of gas left in his tank. When Collins sprained his ankle on August 2,[1] the future Hall of Famer reclaimed his starting job, much to the Pirates’ dismay.

In Game 1 of the August 5 double-header, Bottomley went 2-for-4 with a triple as the Cardinals fell 5-4 in 12 innings. In Game 2, he proved unstoppable.

Bottomley singled off Pittsburgh starting pitcher Spades Wood in the first inning but was left stranded at first base when Wood struck out another future Hall of Famer in the Cardinals’ lineup, Chick Hafey.

The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI single by Adam Comorosky, but Bottomley answered two innings later. With two outs and Wally Roettger on second, Bottomley singled to left field to tie the game. He then stole second to put himself in scoring position, but Wood again struck out Hafey to escape the inning.

The Cardinals finally broke the game open with eight runs in the fifth. Bottomley singled for his third hit of the game as the Cardinals piled up eight knocks in the inning, including a two-run triple by Pepper Martin, RBI doubles by Jimmie Wilson and Sparky Adams, and RBI singles from Frankie Frisch, Hafey, and Charlie Gelbert.

In the sixth, Bottomley doubled for his fourth hit. One batter later, Hafey hit a three-run homer to give the Cardinals a 12-1 lead.

After the Pirates scored in the sixth, Bottomley and the Cardinals added on. With the bases loaded, Bottomley singled, driving in two runs and extending the St. Louis lead to 14-2.

The Cardinals added two more runs before Bottomley took his final at-bat in the top of the ninth. Facing Pirates reliever Steve Swetonic with a chance at history, Bottomley singled for his sixth hit of the game. With his two hits from Game 1, Bottomley finished with eight hits on the day and raised his batting average 27 points from .301 to .328.

“James Leroy Bottomley, a bench-warmer and playing second fiddle to a minor league recruit during a majority of the time the Cardinals have been driving for this 1931 National League pennant, today is a hero again,” Ray J. Gillespie wrote for the St. Louis Star and Times.

Bottomley’s Game 2 performance matched the six hits he piled up on September 16, 1924, when he totaled three singles, a double, and two homers in six at-bats against the Dodgers. The only other player since 1894 to get six hits in a game twice was Ed Delahanty, who accomplished the feat on June 2, 1890, and again on July 16, 1894. Delahanty, however, posted his six-hit games prior to the introduction of the foul strike rule.[2]

After the game, Cardinals manager Gabby Street said he planned to play Bottomley down the stretch as St. Louis chased the pennant and Collins recovered from his injury.[3]

“I like Collins and I think he deserves a chance,” Bottomley said, “but I know I’m good enough to play regularly at first base for any club in any league. I’ve been out of action for some time and it may take me a few days to hit my regular stride, but I’ll guarantee that if I’m to be given back my old job strictly on merit, I’m the Cards’ first baseman for the remainder of the 1931 season.”[4]

Bottomley certainly proved up to the task. In 28 August games, he hit .383 with four homers and 24 RBIs. He stayed hot in September, batting .368 with two homers and 20 RBIs. He finished the regular season with a .348 batting average, nine homers, and 75 RBIs.

The Cardinals cruised to the National League pennant with a 101-53 record, 13 games ahead of the New York Giants. Bottomley went just 4-for-25 in that year’s World Series, but right fielder George Watkins hit a two-run homer that proved the game-winner as St. Louis captured the second World Series in franchise history.

In 1932, Collins claimed the Cardinals’ starting job at first base, though Bottomley hit .296 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs in 311 at-bats. That December, Cardinals general manager Branch Rickey traded Bottomley to the Reds for Ownie Carroll and Estel Crabtree. In 11 seasons in St. Louis, Bottomley had compiled 181 home runs and 1,105 RBIs while batting .325 and winning the 1928 National League MVP.

Bottomley played three seasons in Cincinnati and two with the St. Louis Browns before retiring after the 1937 season at age 37. He posthumously was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.

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[1] “Collins’ Ankle Sprained; May Be Out 10 Days,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 3, 1931.

[2] Ray J. Gillespie, “Bottomley’s Terrific Batting Wins Regular Job With Cards,” St. Louis Star and Times, August 6, 1931.

[3] Ray J. Gillespie, “Bottomley’s Terrific Batting Wins Regular Job With Cards,” St. Louis Star and Times, August 6, 1931.

[4] Ray J. Gillespie, “Bottomley’s Terrific Batting Wins Regular Job With Cards,” St. Louis Star and Times, August 6, 1931.