There were many home-run heroes for the Tigers in their 9-8 victory over the Cleveland Indians in the second game of a doubleheader on June 21, 1970, at Cleveland Stadium.
Jim Northrup hit two home runs and had five RBIs. Mickey Stanley broke a tie with a home run in the top of the 12th inning to give the Tigers a 9-8 lead. Al Kaline homered. And John Hiller combined with Tom Timmermann to shut out the Indians over the final five innings of the game.
But this is how Jim Hawkins began his game story in the Detroit Free Press: “Call Cooperstown. Rip up the record books. Retire No. 7. Cesar Gutierrez is now an immortal. Well, almost an immortal.”
The first time a major-league player went 7-for-7 was on June 10, 1892, when Wilbert Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles did in in a 25-4 win in nine innings. Gutierrez was the first to go 7-for-7 in an extra-inning game, and five years later, Rennie Stennett of the Pirates went 7-for-7 in a nine-inning game.
The Tigers had one other seven-hit game. Rocky Colavito went 7-for-10 in a 22-inning game against the New York Yankees in 1962.
Gutierrez came into his big game hitting .218, and he had only played in two of the Tigers’ previous five games, including the first game of the doubleheader. He was hitting .249 after the game.
‘I was mad, I not playing,” Gutierrez said in the Detroit Free Press. “I mad because I don’t play the first game just because Cleveland pitch a right-hander. I don’t even eat after the first game because I afraid I get sick. I nervous, you know, I want to get some hits and do good so (manager Mayo Smith) play me some more.”
One move made by Smith helped Gutierrez get the seven hits. In his previous eight starts, Gutierrez had hit eighth in the batting order. For this game, Gutierrez hit second. The eighth spot in the order finished with six plate appearances in the game.
The rest of the Tigers celebrated the event. Catcher Bill Freehan, Gutierrez’s roommate on the road, promised to buy Gutierrez a steak dinner for every time he gets three hits in a game.
“I get two and a half steak dinners,” Gutierrez said in a loud enough voice that Freehan would hear it.
The Tigers also made up a song for their new Sultan of Swing. The melody is borrowed from “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”
“John E. Fetzer had a team, eee-yii-eee-yii-oh.
“And on his team he had Little Cesar, eee-yii-eee-yii-oh.
“With a base hit here, and a base hit there, here a hit, there a hit, everywhere a base hit.”
And then in the next game, Gutierrez went 0-for-5 against the Washington Senators.
Wait! What? They called him “Little Cesar” in the song? Future Tigers owner Mike Ilitch would have embraced that title.
HOW CESAR GUTIERREZ WENT 7-FOR-7
First inning: Single to right off Rick Austin
Third inning: Single to left off Rick Austin
Fifth inning: Infield single to shortstop off Dennis Higgins
Seventh inning: Double to left field off Dennis Higgins
Eighth inning: RBI single to right off Fred Lasher
Tenth inning: Infield single to shortstop off Dick Ellsworth
Twelfth inning: Single to center off Phil Hennigan
GUTIERREZ BEFORE AND AFTER THE 7-FOR-7 GAME
Prior to the 7-for-7 game, it took Gutierrez 48 at-bats to get seven hits.
After the 7-for-7 game, it took Gutierrez 37 at-bats to get seven hits.