Do you remember Tom Lawless’s three-run homer in Game 4 of the 1987 World Series? If you’re a young-ish idiot like me, there’s a decent chance you have no memory of that game and have never even heard of Tom Lawless. Let’s change that.
Lawless played eight seasons in the majors, and was an objectively bad baseball player. He hit .207 in 531 career at-bats, and only managed to avoid posting a negative WAR three times in his career. He hit .080 in 25 regular-season at-bats for the Cardinals in 1987, and had two career homers to his name going into the World Series.
So what the hell was he doing in the lineup in Game 4? The Cardinals’ starting third baseman, switch-hitting Terry Pendleton, had pulled a muscle in his side that prevented him being able to swing the bat against left-handed pitchers. The Twins sent lefty Frank Viola to the mound to start Game 4, which apparently left Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog no choice but to start Lawless at third.
Lawless was hitting eighth, and struck out looking his first time at the plate in the bottom of the second inning. Then he came up in the bottom of the fourth, with two men on base, and did this:
Lawless followed his dinger with an absurdly long, slow walk, and then capped things off with one of the most emphatic bat-flips you’ll ever see. The Cards would go on to win the game 7-2, and Lawless later told reporters that he didn’t even remember flipping the bat. From the Los Angeles Times:
“I didn’t know it was gone until I saw the umpire wave. I remember thinking, ‘Holy cow.’ I don’t remember flipping the bat or anything else. Even now I don’t think it will sink in until tomorrow and the guys start kidding me about being out of the lineup again.”
Coming into that game, Lawless hadn’t hit a dinger since 1984. He’d go on to hit one more in 1988, and then wash out of baseball after the 1990 season. Tom Lawless wasn’t good at baseball, but he was a good baseball man.