Saturday, July 4, 2009 | 2:05 a.m.
In honor of the Fourth of July, the Las Vegas 51s shot off fireworks the past two nights at Cashman Field.
The fireworks shows always draw big crowds — even when the 51s aren’t playing their new cross-state rivals, the rookie Reno Aces. The 51s left town for Fresno so don’t expect any fireworks at Cashman Field tonight.
But the Las Vegas franchise has had plenty of explosions on the field in its 27-year history. In keeping with the fireworks theme, here are some of those memorable performances:
Fans who attended the July 3, 1998, game against the Nashville Sounds, the biggest crowd to watch a game in franchise history — and also a fireworks promotion night. Of the 10 most attended games, nine have come on fireworks promotion nights.
Home runs hit by Eddie Williams on April 22, 1998, against Calgary to set a franchise record. His 10 RBIs that day are also a record. Williams, who was part of six big-league organizations and played one season in Japan, retired after his season in Las Vegas. But not without an offensive explosion for the ages.
Runs scored by Billy Hall on Sept. 4, 1994, against Calgary in what was one of the best days for any Las Vegas hitter. Hall added a franchise-best six hits and hit for the cycle, one of seven players in the club’s history to do so.
Consecutive hits in an inning on June 20, 2003, against Edmonton.
Runs in an inning on June 10, 2008, against Portland.
Largest margin of victory in franchise history. The 51s also set a franchise record with 22 RBIs in a 23-2 victory against Tucson on May 27, 2008.
Home runs by first baseman Chin-Feng Chen during his tenure with the 51s. His 298 career RBIs are also a franchise-best, but so are his 426 strikeouts. Chen had 146 minor-league home runs while rising through the Dodgers’ minor league system, but fizzled when he reached the big leagues with no home runs in 22 at-bats over 19 games.
At-bats in a season by Joe Thurston in 2002. Thurston, who is a utility infielder with the St. Louis Cardinals, also set a club record for hits (196) and triples (13) in 2002. Like the fireworks nights, Thurston was a fan favorite in playing a record 453 career games in Las Vegas. His 516 career hits are also a record.
Inside-the-park home run by John Kruk. While Kruk’s feat isn’t as impressive as a four-home-run game, his race around the bases on July 13, 1985, was the first of its kind for Las Vegas. And the not-so-physically fit Kruk, now a commentator on ESPN, has long been one of the club’s most notable alumni. He had a .351 average in 1985 to capture the Pacific Coast League’s batting title.
Home runs given up in one game on July 5, 1998, by Las Vegas’ Brian Tolberg.
Home runs allowed in 1999 and 2000 by Buddy Carlyle, the current Atlanta Braves pitcher who has given up 39 home runs in 243 big-league innings over parts of six years.
Fireworks shows after games at Cashman Field later this season (Aug. 1 vs. Salt Lake City, Aug. 14 vs. Albuquerque and Aug. 28-29 vs. Reno).
Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected].