Following a successful career as a journalist, graphic designer, and marketer, Gary Kauffman is now a freelance writer.
Eduardo Escobar is hardly a household name outside of some rabid Minnesota Twins fans, but he is currently on pace to break one of baseball’s oldest hitting records.
Escobar, through June 24, had hit 33 doubles—just two shy of his previous career-high–which put him on a pace to belt about 70 two-baggers. The current record is 67, set in 1931 by Earl Webb.
Hitting doubles may not seem like that hard of a feat–it’s definitely easier than hitting a triple and it seemingly should be easier than hitting homers. Surprisingly, though, it turns out to be harder than even homers.
Only six players have ever tallied 60 doubles in a season, all in the years 1926-1936. A total of 93 players have hit 50 or more in a season, but only 22 have reached 55. In the past 20 years, nine players have hit 55 or more, but none got to 60.
Players with 60 Doubles in a Season
Close, but no Cigar
In 1999, Craig Biggio mounted a serious challenge to Webb’s mark. He had already hit 52 doubles with 30 games remaining. Sixty seemed a cinch and one every other game to reach Webb didn’t seem an exceedingly hard task. Amazingly, he hit only four more the rest of the year to finish with 56.
The next year, Todd Helton came the closest to Webb’s record by anyone since Joe Medwick had 64 in 1936 (Charlie Gehringer had 60 that same year). In 2000, Helton seemed like a sure bet to reach 60 with an outside chance of reaching Webb’s mark. He hit his 54th double with 21 games remaining and reached 59 with seven games to go. But he finished out the season without another two-bagger.
That same season, Carlos Delgado also challenged the mark, reaching 54 doubles with 12 games to go. But he hit only three more and finished with 57. His and Helton’s marks are the most by anyone since Medwick and Gehringer.
Players with 55 Doubles Since 1990
Since then, Lance Berkman (55, 2001), Nomar Garciaparra (56, 2002), Garrett Anderson (56, 2002), Brian Roberts (56, 2009), Matt Carpenter (55, 2013) and Jose Ramirez (56, 2017) have all had reasonable chances to reach 60, only to falter in the final week or two.
An Unlikely Record Setter
Webb seems like one of the least likely people to hold any record, let alone one that has been untouchable for so long.
After four at-bats for the Giants in 1925, he reappeared as a part-time player for the Cubs in 1927 and ‘28, hitting 25 doubles combined in those two seasons. He was gone from the Major Leagues in 1929, then had tryouts with the Reds and Senators in Spring Training of 1930 before finally landing with the Red Sox. That year, as a relatively full-time player, he hit 30 doubles for a career total of 55.
In 1931, he inexplicably became a doubles machine. He was a left-handed batter and while a number of left-handers have taken advantage of popping balls off the Green Monster, that didn’t seem the case for Webb—only 33 came at Fenway.
His record may have been even more unreachable had he not slumped badly in August that year. By the end of July, he’s already doubled 48 times in the first 97 games. But in August he managed just six doubles in 27 games. He rebounded with 13 in September, although just one in the final eight games.
He started 1932 slowly, with just nine doubles in the first 52 games before the Red Sox traded him to Detroit. He hit 19 doubles for the Tigers, for a season total of 28. The next year, he was waived after just six games and claimed by the White Sox where, as a part-time player, he hit five doubles.
And that was the end of his Major League career. He hit 55 doubles prior to 1931 and 33 after. He enjoyed several great seasons in the minors after that but never again made it to the big leagues. His 67 doubles in 1931 proved to be an anomaly but also one of baseball’s most unreachable records.
Earl Webb's Career Stats
Still a Long Way to Go
Escobar still has a long way to go to catch up to Webb, or even reached the 60-mark, and a lot could go wrong before the season ends. But he’s on a good pace–he has 33 in 71 games; Webb had 36 after his 71st game. But remember, Biggio had 31 after 71 games in 1999 and only hit 25 more.