With Joc Pederson on his latest homer spree to open June, it’s hard not to recall the exploits of the greatest month of circuit clouting in Los Angeles Dodgers history — especially since it took place exactly 30 years ago.
In 30 days from the start to the end of June in 1985, Pedro Guerrero blasted 15 home runs, a mark only previously achieved by a Dodger in any month by Duke Snider’s 15 in August 1953.
Guerrero hit his 15 home runs in only 25 games. Only Mark McGwire (July 1999) has hit more home runs in a single month while playing in 25 games or less.
Appropriately enough, Guerrero started out with a home run on the first day of June — in the 11th inning off National League saves leader Jeff Reardon of Montreal. But Guerrero’s pace over the next several days was not especially rapid. By June 9, he had a modest four homers in the month — matching his total from April and May combined.
Guerrero homered again on June 10, but thanks to some Midwestern rain, three straight days without games further slowed his progress. After that, things got serious: Four homers in three games in Houston’s spacious Astrodome put the slugger at nine for the month, and five more in the next 10 days put him within one of Snider and the MLB record for home runs in June, shared at the time by Babe Ruth, Bob Johnson and Roger Maris. (Eventually, Sammy Sosa would hit 20 homers in June 1998.)
Over the next three days, through his 29th birthday on June 29, Guerrero went homerless. One day remained in June: a rare midweek day game at Dodger Stadium against the Braves. Guerrero grounded out in his first at-bat and hit two furious but futile fly outs in his next two. He had one more trip to the plate left.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, with Ken Landreaux on first, the Dodgers down by a run and future Hall of Fame reliever Bruce Sutter on the mound, Guerrero launched a game-winning, milestone-achieving shot halfway into the left-field pavilion.
“I don’t remember a moment like this, except in the World Series,” Guerrero told Gordon Edes of the Times. “To hit a home run my last time up on the last day, the last chance, as the song goes — to go out and do it …”
Guerrero laughed and shook his head, Edes wrote, and then asked, “How did I do it?”
Here’s another anecdote from Edes:
In the Dodger bullpen, where Carlos Diaz was warming up with catcher Steve Yeager, Tom Nidenfuer leaped up and said: “There it goes.” Yeager turned to follow the flight of Guerrero’s ball and caught a pitch from Diaz flush in the forehead.
“I just hung the ball,” Sutter said. “He doesn’t miss very many of those. He’s not a schoolkid.”
But Guerrero acted as excited as one as he toured the bases. He exchanged high-fives with his mentor, Dodger coach Manny Mota, as he rounded the bag at first and again at the plate with Greg Brock, the on-deck hitter. The rest of his teammates poured out of the dugout, with manager Tom Lasorda locking him in an embrace.
As impressive as that achievement was, Guerrero wasn’t done. He made a game-saving play in the ninth, catching a sinking line drive to left by Albert Hall and throwing to second to double off Gerald Perry for the final two outs of the game.
Amazingly, in July, Guerrero was an even better hitter, batting .460 with a .563 on-base percentage and .794 slugging percentage, figures that all exceeded his June totals. From July 23-26, he set a franchise record by reaching base in 14 consecutive plate appearances, on three doubles, two homers, six walks and a hit-by-pitch, before the streak ended with a sacrifice fly.
Guerrero finished the year leading the NL in OPS (.999) and adjusted OPS (182) by wide margins, but finished third in the NL Most Valuable Player vote behind Willie McGee and Dave Parker. But there has never been a doubt in my mind that he was that year’s MVP.