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The home run is one of the most exciting plays in baseball. It is becoming more common, even in one of the most dominant pitching eras ever, for multiple players in a Major League lineup to be a legitimate home run threat.
As it turns out, fans get even more amped up for this particular type of home run that does not happen often: the grand slam.
In baseball, a grand slam is when a player hits a home run while every base is occupied. In other words, when there are runners on first, second, and third base, and the batter hits a home run, he has hit a grand slam.
Grand slams may not happen often in the game of baseball, but they do give us plenty to talk about.
What is the Difference Between a Grand Slam and a Home Run?
All grand slams are home runs, but not all home runs are grand slams.
Any time a player hits the ball over the fence, it is considered a home run. When a player does this with the bases loaded (runners on first, second, and third base), it is considered a grand slam.
Oftentimes, people like to specify the type of home run a player hits.
A home run with no one on base is called a solo home run. A home run with one player on base is called a two-run home run because it produces two runs. Naturally, a home run with two players on base is called a three-run home run.
Every time a player crosses home plate because of a hit, the batter receives an RBI (Run Batted In) in the stat book. In the case of a home run, the batter’s run is also counted as an RBI. So a three-run home run would produce three RBI.
For a grand slam, the batter receives four RBI.
How Often Do Grand Slams Happen?
One of the reasons a grand slam generates such excitement is the fact that it is so rare.
In the 2021 MLB season, there were 4,516 plate appearances with the bases loaded. 159 of those plate appearances resulted in a grand slam. That means that in 2021 when a hitter stepped to the plate with the bases loaded, he had a 3.5% chance of hitting a grand slam.
On top of that, there were 5,944 total home runs hit this past season in the MLB. Only 159 of them were grand slams. That means only 2.6% of the home runs hit this past season were grand slams.
There are several reasons why the grand slam is so rare in baseball.
The first and most common reason is that bases loaded situations just don’t happen that often. As mentioned earlier, there were 4,516 plate appearances with the bases loaded in 2021. That may seem like a lot, but when compared to the 181,818 total plate appearances it is miniscule.
Only 2.4% of the plate appearances in the MLB last year occurred with the bases loaded.
Let’s prove the rarity of the grand slam even further by considering the number of grand slams and the total number of plate appearances (159 / 181,818), and we see that 0.0008% of plate appearances in 2021 resulted in a home run.
Second, players don’t swing for the fences as often with the bases loaded as they do in other situations. With so many players on base, it does not take much for them to do some damage as a single likely scores two runs.
Also, while it may seem as though the pitcher is backed into a corner when the bases are loaded, the fact that there is a force out at any base gives most pitchers confidence that even a hard hit ground ball can result in a positive defensive play.
All in all, the reason most players do not hit many grand slams is the fact that they simply don’t hit with the bases loaded that often. When they do, swinging for the fences can sometimes backfire and give the pitcher all momentum for getting out of a tough jam.
Grand Slam Records
There are several noteworthy records in the MLB when it comes to grand slams.
Alex Rodriguez holds the career record with 25 career grand slams. Lou Gehrig was the previous record holder with 23 bases loaded long balls.
The record for most grand slams hit in a single season is shared by Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees in 1987 and Travis Hafner of the Cleveland Indians in 2006. Both players hit six grand slams in their respective years.
In 2011, the New York Yankees became the first team to ever hit three grand slams in one game when Robinson Cano, Russell Martin, and Curtis Granderson all drove in four runs with one swing of the bat. The Yankees won that game against the Oakland A’s 22-9.
13 players in Major League history have hit two grand slams in one game. Tony Lazerrie was the first to do it in 1936, and the latest is Josh Willingham in 2009.
On April 23, 1999, Fernando Tatis did something that no other player has done and may never do again. He hit two grand slams in the same inning off the same pitcher (Chan Ho Park).
Four players in MLB history have hit a grand slam in their first career at-bat: Bill Duggleby (1898), Jeremy Hermida (2005), Kevin Kouzmanoff (2006), Daniel Nava (2010). Talk about a grand (pun intended) entrance into the league.
Other Names for a Grand Slam
Now that you have a good understanding of what a grand slam is and how rare it is, it is important to learn some other common names for it in order to not be confused when talking to other baseball fans.
Two of the most common nicknames for a grand slam are four-run homer and grand salami.
People sometimes describe the grand slam as a four-run homer to be consistent with the way other home runs are described. This nickname offers a bit of irony as it lessens the enormity of a grand slam and makes it seem rather ordinary.
It is unclear where the term grand salami actually originated, but it has been around for quite a while. Ernie Banks can take some credit for the term’s popularity as he reportedly referred to every grand slam he hit as a grand salami.
While it is a common way to refer to a grand slam, if you google grand salami, you will probably be directed to sports gambling sites as a grand salami bet is a specific type of bet that allows betters to make an over/under bet for the total points scored over a large slate of games.
These terms are far less common than the original term of grand slam, but as a baseball fan/player, it is important to know that when you hear someone refer to a four-run homer or a grand salami, they are talking about a grand slam.
Also, it is important to understand that there are other ways to describe a bases loaded situation. Here are some other ways that fans/players describe this scenario: bases juiced, ducks on the pond, loaded up, four men on, bases full, and several others.
Why is a grand slam called a grand slam?
The term grand slam originated in Bridge, the card game. When a player wins every trick in Bridge, it is referred to as a grand slam. This carried over into baseball when a player scores as many runs as possible for his team in one single at-bat.
How many grand slams have been hit in the World Series?
There have been 19 grand slams hit in the World Series. The first was hit in 1920 by Elmer Smith, and the latest was hit in 2016 by Chicago Cub Addison Russell.
Are grand slams counted in their own stat category?
Yes, grand slams are counted in their own stat category, but they are not typically shown on a player’s stat line. When a player hits a grand slam, a number is added to his home run total (which is often shown on his stat line) and his grand slam total.
What is an ultimate grand slam?
An ultimate grand slam is a walk-off grand slam that occurs when the home team is trailing by three runs. There have been 31 ultimate grand slams in MLB history. Daniel Vogelbach of the Milwaukee Brewers is the most recent player to do it in 2021.