The date: May 31, 1998
The place: Ned Skeldon Stadium (Maumee, OH)
The situation: A storm was moving in. The skies were gray and dark. It occurred to the Red Barons that Sunday afternoon at historic Ned Skeldon Stadium that this game might not happen, that they’d leave town without getting a shot to break a rather ominous streak of failure on their own terms. Once it did, the Red Barons not only snapped that streak, they rewrote the record book for the long term, forever setting the franchise’s standard for a one-game offensive performance.
The lead-in: The Red Barons were a win away from a modest task they somehow hadn’t accomplished in nearly two years: A winning month. They came into the final game of a series against the Toledo Mud Hens a win away from a 15-13 record that May of 1998. They hadn’t played a full months worth of games and finished with a winning record since going 15-13 in July of 1996.
With left-hander Randy Wolf on the mound, the Red Barons liked their chances. Wolf was the Phillies’ second-round pick in the 1997 draft out of Pepperdine and the team elevated him to Triple-A to start his first full professional season.
He was the story going in. It hardly mattered what he did that day, though. His offense had his back.
The moment: Right-hander Kerry Taylor’s first pitch of the game for the Mud Hens was a fastball.
Red Barons leadoff man Wendell Magee Jr. ripped if off the wall in left-center field for a double.
Taylor’s second pitch was ripped for an RBI single by Marlon Anderson. Two pitches in, the Red Barons led, 1-0.
It was a portent of things to come for Taylor and the Mud Hens.
We’ll spare you the play-by-play and focus on the breadth of the numbers. The Red Barons pounded out 25 more hits and scored 25 more runs.
Catcher Bobby Estalella tied a franchise record with five hits. Two were doubles. One was a long home run.
Infielder David Doster knocked in five runs. He, too, smashed two doubles and a homer.
Like six of his teammates that day, Tony Barron had three hits. Two of those were homers.
Estalella and Jose Flores homered in the second. The Red Barons scored seven runs in the fourth and six in the seventh and three more in the ninth. You get the picture.
More than half the Red Barons’ starting lineup that day — Magee, Anderson, Doster, Estalella and Barron — scored four runs apiece in a game the Red Barons won, 26-4.
HISTORY BEHIND THE MOMENT
Pick up the 2019 RailRiders Media Guide, flip through the records pages, and the 26-4 battle against Toledo remains as well-represented in the record book today as it did back then.
The May 31, 1998 game against Toledo still holds the following franchise records:
- Most runs in a game (26)
- Most hits in a game (27)
- Most home runs in a game (7)
- Most extra-base hits in a game (14)
- Most total bases in a game (55)
- Most runs batted in in a game (24)
So, 21 years later, every record the Red Barons broke as a team in that game still stands.
That includes Estalella’s five-hit performance. He was the sixth player to have five hits in a game for the franchise, and 16 more have tied it since. But nobody has ever gotten six.
That said, it’s not the record for most hits in one day. Outfielder Mark Budzinski had seven combined hits in a June 4, 2005 doubleheader against…Toledo.
Budzinski, a tall, slender leadoff man who spent the last two years of his professional career with the Red Barons in 2004 and 2005, would have fit right in with that 1998 team as a record-setter. He holds several individual records for single-game prowess, and he is one of the 22 players in franchise history with a five-hit game — all singles (again, a record for most singles in a game) on May 7, 2004 against Syracuse.
He once had four extra-base hits in a game on July 25, 2004, and he also drove in nine runs that day. Both are team records.
The Red Barons’ opponent that day: You guessed it…Toledo.