Garry Templeton’s Disappearing — and Reappearing — Record

About three years ago, I wrote about former St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Garry Templeton. In 1979, Templeton became the first player ever to have at least 100 hits from each side of the plate in one season. He had 111 hits as a left-handed hitter, and exactly 100 hits right-handed. Or so the legend went. According to more modern records, Templeton was only credited with either 94 or 96 hits from the right side, according to Retrosheet and Baseball-Reference, respectively. Both sites agree that Templeton had 94 hits off left-handed pitchers, but B-Ref credits him with two hits as a right-handed hitter versus a right-handed pitcher. (View the following screenshots to see Templeton’s hit totals according to both sites. I’m including screenshots because I expect these numbers to change based on what you’re about to read.)

Garry Templeton 1979 splits, via Baseball-Reference and Retrosheet.

As I wrote in April 2017, it appeared that whoever told Templeton he was close to reaching 100 hits right-handed had been mistaken about exactly how close he was, and he fell short. This was doubly frustrating because Templeton actually took time off after recording what he believed to be his 100th right-handed hit of the season, leaving 11 plate appearances on the table that he obviously would have taken had he known he was still short of the record.

One little thing has been nagging at me for the last three years, though: Wouldn’t Templeton have had to be pretty confident in his totals to stop right on 100 with a few games left in the season? And if he was that confident, isn’t there a chance that he was right?

So I set out to figure out exactly what Templeton’s total was. Step one was easy: Make a spreadsheet of all his hits, with the name and handedness of the pitcher. Basically, unless we can confirm otherwise, switch-hitters are presumed to have batted lefty against righties and righty against lefties — it’s the platoon advantage, and it’s the entire point of being a switch-hitter. In this way, I was able to confirm what Retrosheet and B-Ref agree on: Templeton had 94 hits off left-handed pitchers in 1979, with the most coming against Philadelphia Phillies teammates Randy Lerch (8) and Steve Carlton (7).

That meant that if Templeton really had 100 hits right-handed in 1979, six of them came in right-on-right situations. Our next clue came from a book on Cardinals history called “Cardinals Journal: Year by Year & Day by Day with the St. Louis Cardinals Since 1882” by John Snyder. On pages 578-79, in the entry for September 28, Snyder writes:

Garry Templeton becomes the only player in major league history to collect 100 hits from both sides of the plate with three hits from the right side during a doubleheader against the Mets at Busch Memorial Stadium. … Templeton collected his 94th hit from the right side on September 22. Upon learning that no one had ever gotten 100 hits from both sides in the same season, he began batting right-handed against right-handed pitching to get the record.

There’s a date for us! With that September 22 date in mind, I went back to my spreadsheet and my newspaper archives. After September 22, Templeton’s next two hits came against Lerch, so while they count towards his total of right-handed hits, they don’t do us any good in this context because he would have been batting righty against the lefty anyway. Templeton’s first hit(s) against a righty after that September 22 date came on September 25, when he had two hits against Phillies right-hander Dan Larson. If Templeton batted right-handed against the righty, perhaps there was some mention of it in contemporaneous accounts?

Proof that Templeton batted right-handed against Dan Larson.

Yes, yes there was. In the next morning’s edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, an article by an unnamed “Special Correspondent” said:

Tuesday night, Templeton stroked his ninth home run (a career high), his 19th triple, scored two runs and led the Cardinals to a 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies — a victory that assured them of at least a tie for third place in the National League’s Eastern Division.

And he did it righthanded against a righthanded pitcher, Dan Larson. Templeton, a switch hitter who has a league-leading 206 hits, is going head-to-head with righthanders because he wants 100 or more hits from each side of the plate. He currently has 111 from the left side and 95 from the right.

“I wouldn’t be doing it if I wasn’t going for 100 hits,” Templeton said. “The only way to do it is to hit righthanded against righthanded pitching. I don’t think we’ll see that many lefthanders for the rest of the year.”

We learn a few important things in those paragraphs. For starters, we have confirmation that Templeton was both aware of and actively seeking the record. And we now know that he had at least two right-on-right hits, getting him to the 96 listed at B-Ref. (I don’t know if the two hits against Dan Larson are the two B-Ref is crediting him with; there are only numbers there, not specifics.)

There are two others things we can glean from the paragraphs above, but I’ll save those for a minute. Let’s jump to his next two hits, which came on September 27 against Pittsburgh Pirates right-handers Don Robinson and Kent Tekulve. Presumably, since Templeton was on record as chasing 100, he would have been batting right-handed for these hits, too. But let’s check the newspaper and see what we can find, just in case.

Proof that Templeton batted righty against Don Robinson and Kent Tekulve.

Sure enough, we find this from Michael Farber of the Montreal Gazette:

Hitting right all week

Templeton certainly has a good attitude about Garry Templeton. Templeton, a switch-hitter, already has more than 100 hits left-handed and in order to become the first man to have 100 each way in a season, he has been hitting righty the past week against all pitchers.

Sacrificing team goals for personal goals?

Not yesterday.

Templeton was retired twice by left-hander Dave Roberts. But, again batting righthanded, he singled in a run against right-hander Don Robinson in the fourth, walked against right-hander Dock Ellis in the sixth and doubled another run home in the eighth against Tekulve, a diabolical right-handed side-armer.

The hits gave him 97 from the right side and raised his major league leading total to 206, one more than teammate Keith Hernandez, who also had two hits.

At this point, we now know that both Retrosheet and B-Ref are wrong. We now have 98 documented right-handed hits — the 94 that came off lefty pitchers, plus the four confirmed cases of right-on-right.

We also know that Templeton is committed to seeing this through. The problem is, there’s only one hit left against a right-handed pitcher, and we still need two more. In the September 28 doubleheader against the New York Mets, Templeton had one hit off right-hander Juan Berenguer and two off lefty Pete Falcone. The last hit off Falcone, a bunt single, was the one that gave him 100 from the right side of the plate, according to pretty much everyone. But in our spreadsheet, it only gives him 99, even once we’ve proven the hit off Berenguer was right-handed. There’s no specific mention of the Berenguer hit that I can find, but I find a lot of articles from that day that mention him batting exclusively right-handed, so that’s good enough for me. But more interesting is what else those articles say.

Evidence that Templeton hatched his all-righty plan on September 20.

Like this one, for example, from Tom Duffy in the Chicago Tribune:

St. Louis Cardinal shortstop Garry Templeton beat out a bunt single in the third inning of the second game of a double-header against the New York Mets for his 100th hit this season right-handed. Templeton thus became the first switch-hitter ever to get 100 hits from both sides of the plate in one season. After getting his 200th hit Sept. 20, the 23-year-old Templeton decided to hit exclusively right-handed to get the 11 hits he needed for history.

There it is! Did you catch it? Our September 22 date was wrong! According to Duffy, Templeton made the decision to hit righty on September 20, not September 22 as Snyder’s book said. That brings us back to the two others things we pick up from the Post-Dispatch article above. First, that article had lines like “is going head-to-head,” “I wouldn’t be doing it,” etc., that lead one to believe this wasn’t the first game Templeton had tried hitting right-on-right. On its own, that’s not convincing, but the other tidbit is when it said he currently had 95 hits right-handed, even though our spreadsheet only showed 94. And Snyder’s account says it was after Templeton’s 94th right-handed hit on September 22 that he made the decision to hit exclusively from the right side. Again, it’s all circumstantial, but it was certainly enough to make me look closer.

Evidence that Templeton batted only right-handed for nine games before getting his 100th hit.

The next clue came as I looked deeper at the events of September 28 — or, more specifically, the coverage of those events in September 29’s newspapers. I came across a blurb from the Associated Press, printed in many newspapers that day, that says this:

Templeton had started the night batting .346 right-handed and .290 left-handed. During St. Louis’ last nine games, the 23-year-old infielder batted exclusively right-handed in pursuit of his achievement.

Count back nine games, and you have Templeton beginning his righty-only approach with his team’s doubleheader on September 22 — their first games after the September 20 magic date we just discovered. Snyder’s book had us looking at games after September 22, but in actuality we needed to include those two games.

And what do you know? Templeton had exactly one hit against a right-hander in that September 22 doubleheader: a leadoff single to center in game one against Mets starter John Pacella. With our spreadsheet sitting at 99 right-handed hits, could that Pacella single be the elusive number 100 we’re looking for?

Rick Hummel’s article telling us about Templeton’s plan to bat exclusively right-handed.

To be honest, I can’t find a single contemporaneous newspaper account that says Templeton batted right-handed against Pacella that day. But what I can find, which I believe is just as good, came the day before. In the September 21 issue of the Post-Dispatch, Rick Hummel wrote:

After reaching one switch-hitting milestone Thursday night, Garry Templeton immediately set his sights on another as the Cardinals headed east for their last trip of the season.

As an addendum to Silvio Martinez‘s staff-high 15th victory, a 2-1 triumph over the Chicago Cubs, Templeton got his 200th hit of the season. His single in the sixth inning meant that Templeton has had 200 hits in two of the last three seasons and made him only the third switch-hitter in history to have gotten 200 hits at least twice. Pete Rose will do it for the 10th time this year and Frankie Frisch did it three times.

Now, Templeton wants to be the first switch hitter to compile at least 100 hits from each side of the plate. But since he has only 89 right-handed hits now and since the Cardinals have just 11 games to play, Templeton said he would modify his approach. With Manager Ken Boyer‘s permission, which he obtained after Thursday night’s game, Templeton will bat righthanded any time he wishes the rest of the season.

“This will satisfy everybody’s curiosity,” said Boyer. “If he can hit .400 righthanded.”

It long has been Templeton’s contention that he could have hit for a higher average had he batter exclusively righthanded, instead of being converted to a switch-hitter by the Cardinals’ organization in 1974. And, for much of the season, Templeton carried a .380 average right-handed before he dived to .344 in the midst of a 3-for-29 slump.

“I’m tired, but I’m going to make it,” said Templeton. “I’m not scared to bat righthanded. But I don’t want anybody to think I’m showing them up — because they’ll throw at me.”

Boyer told Templeton, “It’s fine with me. But they’ll probably put an asterisk after it.”

Not quite conclusive — Hummel’s article merely says Templeton had permission to bat right-handed whenever he wanted to, not that he absolutely would every time. But it seems like, if you have permission to bat righty, you would take your first opportunity to do so, and his first opportunity was the at-bat against Pacella.

Proof that Templeton planned to bat exclusively right-handed.

But we have one last bit of evidence to push us over the edge. An Associated Press article from the same day as Hummel’s had a slightly different take on Templeton’s plans:

Afterward, Templeton conferred with Cards Manager Ken Boyer and said he will bat only right-handed for the remainder of the year in a bid to become the first switch-hitter in major league history to total 100 hits from each side.

There you have it. Here’s a summary:

  • With Templeton sitting on 89 right-handed hits, he conferred with his manager and got permission to bat exclusively right-handed the rest of the season and stated his intention to do so.
  • He had 11 more hits that season, including six against right-handed pitchers.
  • Four of the six are specifically mentioned to have come right-handed, and the other two have extremely strong circumstantial evidence.
  • The numbers in every account from the time line up with this established timeline.

THUS: In 1979, Garry Templeton did, in fact, have 100 hits from the right side of the plate and 111 from the left side, becoming the first player ever to do that. Retrosheet and Baseball-Reference both currently have incorrect splits for Templeton from that season.

Below, you will find my spreadsheet of all 211 of Templeton’s hits.

(NOTE: In 1980, Willie Wilson became the second player to have 100 hits from each side of the plate, but B-Ref and Retrosheet both currently have Wilson listed as only having 99 hits from the right side. I’m digging, but thus far I haven’t been able to find any evidence that Wilson batted right-on-right at any point that season.)

Garry Templeton's 1979 Hits

All the hits Cardinals shortstop Garry Templeton had in 1979
DatePitcherPitcher HandPresumed Batting HandActual Batting Hand
Apr 6 1979Steve CarltonLeftRightLeft
Apr 7 1979Randy LerchLeftRightLeft
Apr 7 1979Randy LerchLeftRightLeft
Apr 12 1979Don RobinsonRightLeftRight
Apr 14 1979Ed WhitsonRightLeftRight
Apr 15 1979Grant JacksonLeftRightLeft
Apr 15 1979Grant JacksonLeftRightLeft
Apr 15 1979Kent TekulveRightLeftRight
Apr 17 1979Ken HoltzmanLeftRightLeft
Apr 17 1979Bruce SutterRightLeftRight
Apr 18 1979Willie HernandezLeftRightLeft
Apr 20 1979Fred NormanLeftRightLeft
Apr 20 1979Fred NormanLeftRightLeft
Apr 20 1979Fred NormanLeftRightLeft
Apr 21 1979Mike LaCossRightLeftRight
Apr 23 1979Phil NiekroRightLeftRight
Apr 23 1979Phil NiekroRightLeftRight
Apr 24 1979Mickey MahlerLeftRightLeft
Apr 27 1979Mike LaCossRightLeftRight
Apr 27 1979Mike LaCossRightLeftRight
Apr 27 1979Pedro BorbonRightLeftRight
Apr 28 1979Tom HumeRightLeftRight
Apr 28 1979Pedro BorbonRightLeftRight
Apr 29 1979Tom SeaverRightLeftRight
Apr 29 1979Paul MoskauRightLeftRight
Apr 30 1979Joaquin AndujarRightLeftRight
May 1 1979J.R. RichardRightLeftRight
May 1 1979Joe SambitoLeftRightLeft
May 2 1979Ken ForschRightLeftRight
May 5 1979Ed WhitsonRightLeftRight
May 6 1979Bruce KisonRightLeftRight
May 9 1979Joe NiekroRightLeftRight
May 10 1979J.R. RichardRightLeftRight
May 11 1979Larry McWilliamsLeftRightLeft
May 11 1979Adrian DevineRightLeftRight
May 20 1979Craig SwanRightLeftRight
May 21 1979Steve CarltonLeftRightLeft
May 21 1979Steve CarltonLeftRightLeft
May 21 1979Steve CarltonLeftRightLeft
May 22 1979Randy LerchLeftRightLeft
May 23 1979Dick RuthvenRightLeftRight
May 27 1979Ross GrimsleyLeftRightLeft
May 27 1979Ross GrimsleyLeftRightLeft
May 27 1979David PalmerRightLeftRight
May 27 1979Rudy MayLeftRightLeft
May 29 1979Skip LockwoodRightLeftRight
May 30 1979Craig SwanRightLeftRight
May 30 1979Craig SwanRightLeftRight
May 30 1979Craig SwanRightLeftRight
May 30 1979Dale MurrayRightLeftRight
May 31 1979Mike ScottRightLeftRight
Jun 1 1979Andy MessersmithRightLeftRight
Jun 1 1979Charlie HoughRightLeftRight
Jun 1 1979Jerry ReussLeftRightLeft
Jun 1 1979Terry ForsterLeftRightLeft
Jun 2 1979Doug RauLeftRightLeft
Jun 2 1979Doug RauLeftRightLeft
Jun 3 1979Burt HootonRightLeftRight
Jun 3 1979Burt HootonRightLeftRight
Jun 3 1979Burt HootonRightLeftRight
Jun 3 1979Burt HootonRightLeftRight
Jun 5 1979Vida BlueLeftRightLeft
Jun 5 1979Vida BlueLeftRightLeft
Jun 6 1979Phil NastuLeftRightLeft
Jun 6 1979Tom GriffinRightLeftRight
Jun 6 1979Gary LavelleLeftRightLeft
Jun 7 1979Bob KnepperLeftRightLeft
Jun 7 1979Greg MintonRightLeftRight
Jun 7 1979Tom GriffinRightLeftRight
Jun 8 1979Bob OwchinkoLeftRightLeft
Jun 8 1979John D'AcquistoRightLeftRight
Jun 9 1979Tom TellmannRightLeftRight
Jun 10 1979Randy JonesLeftRightLeft
Jun 11 1979Ken BrettLeftRightLeft
Jun 12 1979Burt HootonRightLeftRight
Jun 13 1979Rick SutcliffeRightLeftRight
Jun 13 1979Terry ForsterLeftRightLeft
Jun 16 1979John CurtisLeftRightLeft
Jun 17 1979Bob KnepperLeftRightLeft
Jun 19 1979Eric RasmussenRightLeftRight
Jun 20 1979Gaylord PerryRightLeftRight
Jun 22 1979Kevin KobelLeftRightLeft
Jun 22 1979Kevin KobelLeftRightLeft
Jun 24 1979Andy HasslerLeftRightLeft
Jun 25 1979Dan SchatzederLeftRightLeft
Jun 26 1979Ross GrimsleyLeftRightLeft
Jun 27 1979Steve RogersRightLeftRight
Jun 27 1979Steve RogersRightLeftRight
Jun 29 1979Nino EspinosaRightLeftRight
Jun 29 1979Warren BrusstarRightLeftRight
Jun 29 1979Kevin SaucierLeftRightLeft
Jun 30 1979Steve CarltonLeftRightLeft
Jun 30 1979Steve CarltonLeftRightLeft
Jun 30 1979Ron ReedRightLeftRight
Jul 1 1979Dick RuthvenRightLeftRight
Jul 1 1979Tug McGrawLeftRightLeft
Jul 1 1979Randy LerchLeftRightLeft
Jul 2 1979Don RobinsonRightLeftRight
Jul 2 1979Dave RobertsLeftRightLeft
Jul 4 1979Dave RobertsLeftRightLeft
Jul 6 1979Mickey MahlerLeftRightLeft
Jul 6 1979Mickey MahlerLeftRightLeft
Jul 6 1979Craig SkokLeftRightLeft
Jul 7 1979Tony BrizzolaraRightLeftRight
Jul 8 1979Rick MatulaRightLeftRight
Jul 8 1979Gene GarberRightLeftRight
Jul 9 1979Bill BonhamRightLeftRight
Jul 9 1979Bill BonhamRightLeftRight
Jul 9 1979Manny SarmientoRightLeftRight
Jul 11 1979Mike LaCossRightLeftRight
Jul 11 1979Mike LaCossRightLeftRight
Jul 13 1979Ken ForschRightLeftRight
Jul 14 1979Joaquin AndujarRightLeftRight
Jul 19 1979Fred NormanLeftRightLeft
Jul 19 1979Fred NormanLeftRightLeft
Jul 19 1979Mario SotoRightLeftRight
Jul 21 1979Dave TomlinLeftRightLeft
Jul 24 1979Tony BrizzolaraRightLeftRight
Jul 24 1979Tony BrizzolaraRightLeftRight
Jul 24 1979Bo McLaughlinRightLeftRight
Jul 25 1979Rick MatulaRightLeftRight
Jul 25 1979Rick MatulaRightLeftRight
Jul 27 1979Kevin SaucierLeftRightLeft
Jul 28 1979Dickie NolesRightLeftRight
Jul 28 1979Dickie NolesRightLeftRight
Jul 29 1979Randy LerchLeftRightLeft
Jul 29 1979Randy LerchLeftRightLeft
Jul 30 1979Bill LeeLeftRightLeft
Jul 30 1979Bill LeeLeftRightLeft
Jul 30 1979Bill LeeLeftRightLeft
Jul 30 1979Elias SosaRightLeftRight
Jul 31 1979Rudy MayLeftRightLeft
Aug 1 1979Don RobinsonRightLeftRight
Aug 1 1979Dave RobertsLeftRightLeft
Aug 2 1979Jim RookerLeftRightLeft
Aug 3 1979Rick ReuschelRightLeftRight
Aug 4 1979Mike KrukowRightLeftRight
Aug 4 1979Mike KrukowRightLeftRight
Aug 5 1979Dennis LampRightLeftRight
Aug 5 1979Ken HoltzmanLeftRightLeft
Aug 5 1979Lynn McGlothenRightLeftRight
Aug 7 1979Kevin KobelLeftRightLeft
Aug 7 1979Wayne TwitchellRightLeftRight
Aug 7 1979Dale MurrayRightLeftRight
Aug 7 1979Pete FalconeLeftRightLeft
Aug 7 1979Pete FalconeLeftRightLeft
Aug 8 1979Andy HasslerLeftRightLeft
Aug 9 1979Dock EllisRightLeftRight
Aug 9 1979Dock EllisRightLeftRight
Aug 9 1979Dock EllisRightLeftRight
Aug 10 1979Mike KrukowRightLeftRight
Aug 10 1979Mike KrukowRightLeftRight
Aug 10 1979Mike KrukowRightLeftRight
Aug 10 1979Willie HernandezLeftRightLeft
Aug 11 1979Rick ReuschelRightLeftRight
Aug 11 1979Bruce SutterRightLeftRight
Aug 12 1979Lynn McGlothenRightLeftRight
Aug 12 1979Dick TidrowRightLeftRight
Aug 13 1979Dennis LampRightLeftRight
Aug 16 1979Ken BrettLeftRightLeft
Aug 16 1979Bobby CastilloRightLeftRight
Aug 17 1979Ed WhitsonRightLeftRight
Aug 17 1979Ed WhitsonRightLeftRight
Aug 17 1979Ed WhitsonRightLeftRight
Aug 18 1979Vida BlueLeftRightLeft
Aug 21 1979Bob ShirleyLeftRightLeft
Aug 22 1979Bob OwchinkoLeftRightLeft
Aug 24 1979Jerry ReussLeftRightLeft
Aug 24 1979Dave PattersonRightLeftRight
Aug 24 1979Joe BeckwithRightLeftRight
Aug 25 1979Burt HootonRightLeftRight
Aug 26 1979Rick SutcliffeRightLeftRight
Aug 26 1979Rick SutcliffeRightLeftRight
Aug 28 1979Bob KnepperLeftRightLeft
Aug 29 1979Vida BlueLeftRightLeft
Aug 31 1979Bob ShirleyLeftRightLeft
Aug 31 1979Bob ShirleyLeftRightLeft
Aug 31 1979John D'AcquistoRightLeftRight
Sep 1 1979Randy JonesLeftRightLeft
Sep 1 1979Randy JonesLeftRightLeft
Sep 2 1979Bob OwchinkoLeftRightLeft
Sep 3 1979Dick TidrowRightLeftRight
Sep 4 1979Willie HernandezLeftRightLeft
Sep 4 1979Bill CaudillRightLeftRight
Sep 5 1979Don RobinsonRightLeftRight
Sep 5 1979Kent TekulveRightLeftRight
Sep 6 1979Jim BibbyRightLeftRight
Sep 7 1979Steve RogersRightLeftRight
Sep 7 1979Scott SandersonRightLeftRight
Sep 8 1979Bill LeeLeftRightLeft
Sep 9 1979Rudy MayLeftRightLeft
Sep 11 1979Dave RobertsLeftRightLeft
Sep 11 1979Dave RobertsLeftRightLeft
Sep 15 1979Stan BahnsenRightLeftRight
Sep 16 1979Ross GrimsleyLeftRightLeft
Sep 16 1979Ross GrimsleyLeftRightLeft
Sep 17 1979Steve CarltonLeftRightLeft
Sep 18 1979Dickie NolesRightLeftRight
Sep 19 1979Dave GeiselLeftRightLeft
Sep 20 1979Dennis LampRightLeftRight
Sep 22 1979John PacellaRightLeftRIGHT
Sep 22 1979Pete FalconeLeftRightLeft
Sep 24 1979Randy LerchLeftRightLeft
Sep 24 1979Randy LerchLeftRightLeft
Sep 25 1979Dan LarsonRightLeftRIGHT
Sep 25 1979Dan LarsonRightLeftRIGHT
Sep 27 1979Don RobinsonRightLeftRIGHT
Sep 27 1979Kent TekulveRightLeftRIGHT
Sep 28 1979Juan BerenguerRightLeftRIGHT
Sep 28 1979Pete FalconeLeftRightLeft
Sep 28 1979Pete FalconeLeftRightLeft

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