My Scott Rolen Moment

A Scott Rolen Story

As a Phillies fan, I was excited to see Scott Rolen voted in the baseball Hall of Fame this week. That brought back memories. Living in northwest Ohio, we don’t make it to that many games, but I recall our family making it to a game between the Tigers and Phillies in Comerica Park where Scott Rolen was playing third base.

Here’s the story. Our family had tickets in the left bleacher about 10 rows up. We sat in our assigned seats but since it was pretty quiet in the stands, we eventually moved down to the first row of the bleachers to get a better view. Scott Rolen came to bat and hit a long drive to left-field — it was coming right at us! It seemed at the moment that we had a great chance to catch the ball. But the ball hit the landing right in front of the bleachers and bounced over our heads. If we had stayed in our reserved seats, we may have caught the ball. (I don’t believe I have ever caught a ball in a MLB stadium.). As a Phillies fan, it was exciting to see Rolen hit a home run that day.

Here is where the details are fuzzy. I recall the home run by Rolen but I don’t have any record of the date of the game or the particular inning — I can’t even tell you who won this particular game.

Retrosheet to the Rescue

To learn more about the details of this game we watched, I went to the Retrosheet play-by-play files for the seasons where Scott Rolen was a player.

I have a data frame pbp.80.13 containing all plays in the seasons 1980 through 2013. I collected the plays for all of Rolen’s home run events as follows. (Rolen’s retro id is “roles001” and home runs correspond to a EVENT_CD of 23.)

pbp.80.13 %>% 
  filter(BAT_ID == "roles001",
         EVENT_CD == 23) -> rolen_hr

Next, I found all of the home runs Rolen hit when Detroit was the home team.

rolen_hr_detroit <-
  filter(rolen_hr, substr(GAME_ID, 1, 3) == "DET") 

This data frame contained only one row. This means that Rolen hit a single home run in Detroit which must be hit in the game that I watched.

Some Details of the Game

By inspecting the variables of this particular Retrosheet row, I learn a lot about this particular home run event that I saw.

  • The game between the Phillies and Tigers was on June 7, 2002.
  • Rolen’s home run was in the ninth inning. The Phillies were leading the Tigers 9-1 and there were no outs and a runner (Jeremy Giambi of Moneyball fame) was on first.
  • Rolen was playing third base that day (BAT_FLD_CD = 5) and was batting 6th in the lineup (BAT_LINEUP_ID = 6).
  • Rolen had seen two pitches, a called strike and a ball (PITCH_SEQ_TX = “CBX”), and hit the home run on a 1-1 count.
  • The EVENT_TX of the play was “HR/7.1-H”. This means that Rolen did indeed hit his home run to left field (field position 7) and “1-H’ indicates that Jeremy Giambi scored on the play.

To learn even more, I go to Baseball-Reference and look up the boxscore for this particular game on June 7, 2002.

Here’s a snapshot of the Phillies lineup for this game.

This was a fun game for the Phillies as they won 11-1. We see Rolen had a great hitting day going 4 for 4 with 5 rbi. Some HOF candidates played for the Phillies including Jimmy Rollins at shortstop and Bobby Abreu in right-field. Actually Jimmy Rollins and Pat (the Bat) Burrell also hit home runs. This was a pretty well-attended game with an official attendance count of 25,908. I see from the box score that it was great weather — sunny with a temperature of 71 degrees at the start.


I recall going to a SABR talk where there was a fan who found a baseball ticket stub in his grandfather’s dresser and did a little research on the game that his grandfather saw. Nowadays, we are blessed with the ready availability of much historical data. By using resources like Retrosheet and Baseball-Reference, any fan has the opportunity to find the details of any game watched where the remembered details are a bit fuzzy. These tools really add to the enjoyment of a baseball game.

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