On June 23, 1971 – that’s two months after A Fistful of Death had its release date, for those of you who crave historical context – Phillies pitcher Rick Wise enjoyed the kind of performance that might best be described as “The Good, the Great and the Wise,” if only because it perfectly fits this narrative. On that day in Cincinnati, the 25-year-old righty not only no-hit the Reds but also homered twice, racking up three of Philly’s four runs batted in, in a 4-0 victory against the defending National League champions.
That’s the sort of game you might have twice in a lifetime: once, when you’re a 25-year-old righty on June 23, 1971, and once when you’re 10 in the Pony League.
Why do we mention this? It’s not because we own stock in Rick Wise’s Most Fabulous Day Ever Enterprises. It’s because yesterday, against the same Philadelphia franchise, Dodgers righty Zack Greinke had the kind of performance that might best be described as … well, you saw the headline up there, right? It perfectly fits this narrative.
In L.A.’s eventual 10-8 victory, Greinke, who entered the game with an ERA of a precocious Pony Leaguer (1.41), allowed six earned runs – five in the first inning alone – but balanced that stink job by going 3-for-3 at the plate, with three runs scored, a solo homer and one theatric bat flip.
In so doing, he became the second Dodgers pitcher to score thrice in a game since Claude Osteen in 1970; the first to go 3-for-3 or better with a home run since Leo Dickerman in 1923; and the first to yield five earned runs in the first inning of a game in which he also bat-flipped like nobody’s business since…well, you Dodgers historians will have to answer that one.
Greinke now enters his next start with an ERA of 1.71 and a batting average of .220. What does it all mean? First, it means that baseball is, as ever, just plain weird. It also means that given his abilities at the plate, plus the fact that he allowed just one earned run in his final six innings, Greinke is still worth A Fistful of Dollars.
The 1964 Spaghetti Western, a forerunner to The Good, the Bad and The Ugly, has made $14.5 million to date. And if we value each win – i.e., $/WAR – at around $7 million, then Greinke, with a 2015 fWAR of 4.2, is worth roughly twice what the Clint Eastwood shoot-’em-up has earned, with enough left For a Few Dollars More.
Seriously. The budget for that Spaghetti Western was just $600,000.
John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.