Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber shares Rays’ Nathan Karns’ night to remember

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Nathan Karns had the game of a lifetime. Not only did he earn the win in the Rays’ 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, he provided the only offense with a third-inning home run.

Karns became only the sixth American League pitcher to homer in a 1-0 game. The last such occurrence was April 18, 1962, when Milt Pappas beat the Yankees with his fifth-inning homer. JFK had been president for little more than one year.

The other five were Washington’s Tom Hughes in 1906, the Yankees’ Red Ruffing in 1932, the Yankees’ Spud Chandler in 1938, and Early Wynn of the Chicago White Sox in 1959. The Karns’ long ball was the first by an AL pitcher since 2011, when Baltimore’s Zach Britton homered in Atlanta.

Of course, American League pitchers have had little opportunity to hit since 1973 and the unfortunate advent of the Designated Hitter. It took the institution of interleague play for AL pitchers to even have the chance. The Rangers’ Bobby Witt broke the 24-year drought in 1997.

Karns earned his first major league hit and the first by a Rays’ pitcher this year. His homer was only the second home run by a pitcher in team history. Esteban Yan went deep in 2000.

“It’s just one of those funny things you find yourself a part of sometimes,” said Karns. “I’m going to take pride in that and continue on with my career and hope it’s a long one.”

Perhaps appropriately, Karns took his turn to shine in his home state. He is a native of Franklin, Pa.

The Karns outing is memorable, but the all-time great game for a pitcher has to belong to Rick Wise. The Phillies’ right hander went into Cincinnati on June 23, 1971, to face the Reds.

All he did on that evening was hit two home runs in Philadelphia’s 4-0 win. Wise also happened to throw his only career no-hitter.

The only other guy who may have had a better night on Tuesday was rookie catcher Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs. While the Cubs were playing on the road in Cincinnati, it was almost a home game for him.

Schwarber had plenty of friends and family make the 38-mile drive from his hometown of  Middletown, Ohio. He was called up from AAA Iowa less than a week ago.

In the top of the ninth inning, with his team trailing 4-2, Schwarber launched a massive two-run homer to tie the game. In the 13th inning, he hit the game-winning blast on a line drive into the bleachers. He knocked in four of the five Cubs’ runs and was a triple away from the cycle.

“He’s pretty impressive,” said Cubs’ and former Rays’ Manager Joe Maddon. “Offensively, there’s a different kind of thing about him.”

Florida State baseball fans probably remember Schwarber. In 2013, he led his Indiana Hoosier team to a two-game sweep of the Seminoles in the Tallahassee Super Regional.

He belted a mammoth home run over the right-field screen at Dick Howser Stadium that proved to be the difference in game one. The ball just landed last week.

Nathan Karns and Kyle Schwarber both had nights to remember. They should have many more.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at