|Pitching for the Red Sox - Ted Williams|
By Tom Hufford
The use by Baltimore of two non-pitchers on the mound in a 24-10 loss to Toronto on June 26, 1978, served as a reminder that there have been a sizeable number of regular players who have taken a fling at pitching. If the pitching staff is depleted or overworked, the manager may go this route in a game that is obviously lost, as was the case between the Orioles and the Blue Jays. Outfielder Larry Harlow did not fare well, giving up 5 runs in 2/3 of an inning. Catcher Elrod Henricks, a 11-year veteran and part-time coach, did much better, giving up only 1 hit and no runs in 2-1/3 innings.
A surprising number of well-known players with long service at a regular position have taken a turn on the hill and for various reasons. Sometimes it was expediency; sometimes it was an emergency; sometimes it was an opportunity to really see if the player could pitch; and sometimes it was a late season stunt. It might be of interest to elaborate on some of these occasions.
Ty Cobb, for example, pitched in 3 official games, giving up 6 hits and 2 runs in a total of 5 innings. Two of these outings came in season-ending games against the St. Louis Browns where the rival pitcher was his chief batting rival, George Sisler. Of course, Sisler had better credentials as a hurler, having been a part-time pitcher in 1915-16, once winning a 1-0 victory over Walter Johnson. In the 1918 game on September 1, Sisler pitched a scoreless frame against the Tigers, and, facing Cobb, hit a double and scored the only run off him in the two innings. In the 1925 game, on October 4, Cobb pitched a perfect inning and Sisler was not scored on in two innings. Both Cobb and Sisler were managers of their respective teams as well.
Another manager who took to the mound was Lou Fonseca of the White Sox in 1932, but this was out of frustration with his hill corps rather than a stunt. The date was September 23 and the opposition was the Indians in Cleveland. Young Ed Walsh was batted out by the Tribe, but the White Sox had nearly closed the margin, trailing 8-6 in the fifth. However, Bill Chamberlain, the third Chicago pitcher, gave up five runs in the 6th before he could get anyone out. In disgust, Manager Fonseca yanked him, and went to the mound himself. There were two Indians on base but they died there as the new hurler got Frank Pytlak to foul out, Wes Ferrell, the rival pitcher, to fly out, and Johnny Burnett to ground out.
Fonseca admitted many years later that this was one of his prouder moments, but he decided to quit while he was ahead and had Chad Kimsey pitch the rest of the game.
Manager Joe Cronin of the Red Sox never inserted himself as a pitcher but was not averse to sending in regular players. On August 24, 1940, the Tigers were leading the Red Sox 11-1 in the first game of a twinbill at Boston when Cronin called in leftfielder Ted Williams to pitch in the 8th. The Boston Globe said it was in response to repeated requests over the season from the young outfielder, who that day could do nothing at bat against Tommy Bridges. According to the reporter: "The appearance of Williams on the mound marked Joe Cronin's annual insult to his regular mound corps, as well as another exhibition of the Sox skipper's eye for showmanship. He did it a year ago with Jimmie Foxx and two years ago with Doc Cramer."
Ted handled himself pretty well. Frank Croucher led off with a single, but when Bridges tried to bunt him to second, Williams grabbed the ball and retired the lead man with a "bullet peg." In the ninth Pinky Higgins and Hank Greenberg singled and one run scored when Charlie Gelbert at third juggled a double play grounder. Ted's big moment came when he fanned Rudy York on three pitches after the Tiger first baseman had knocked in 5 runs with a homer, double, and two singles.
The Red Sox had an interesting line-up that game. When Williams went to the mound, he was replaced in leftfield by pitcher Jim Bagby, who had as garden mates Dom DiMaggio and Doc Cramer. Cronin played short, Bobby Doerr second, and Lou Finney was at first while Jimmie Foxx was the starting catcher. But "Double X" was also scheduled to catch the second game so departed before Ted took to the hill. It ruined a chance for baseball's greatest "home run battery," but from a historical standpoint, all was not lost. Joe Glenn was behind the plate for Williams, and he was the same journeyman backstop who caught the last game pitched by Babe Ruth when he beat the Red Sox in 1933. Glenn never made it into a World Series with the Yankees, but he did have the distinction of catching two of baseball's greatest hitters.
Another pitcher-outfielder exchange took place on the last day of the 1952 season in the National League. That was the year Stan Musial was leading Frankie Baumholtz of the Cubs in the batting race. On the mound were Paul Minner of the Cubs and Harvey Haddix of the Cards. When Baumholtz came up in the first inning, Musial, a pitcher many years before in the minors, went to the mound from centerfield. Haddix shifted to rightfield and Hal Rice went to center. Baumholtz, who was a lefthand swinger, batted right against Stan and lined the ball to Solly Hemus at third, who made an error on the play. Haddix then returned to the mound and Musial to centerfield. Paul Minner shut out the Cards 6-0. Musial had one hit and ended the season at .336, Baumholtz went hitless and ended at .3 25.
The most recent example of a regular player actually winning a game took place in 1968. Rocky Colavito was playing his final year in the majors and volunteered to help out the Yankees in a period when they were besieged with a series of doubleheaders compounded by a 19-inning game. In the first game of a twinbill against the Tigers on August 25, 1968, Rocky pitched 2 2/3 innings of scoreless ball in a period when the Yanks rallied and went ahead to win 6-5. Colavito got the victory. Ten years before, the strong-armed outfielder had pitched three scoreless innings for Cleveland so his ERA stands at 0.00 for the two games.
Colavito pitched very well compared to most of the other spot performers. Others who showed a flash of talent included Jimmie Foxx, a war-time fill-in for the Phils, who had a nifty 1.52 ERA, George Kelly, who had one good outing for the Giants in 1917, and Myril Hoag, who gave up no runs in three brief stints. After Hoag left the majors he had good success as a twirler in the lower minors.
Of those who might like to forget that they ever appeared on the mound, the names of Red Kress, Mark Koenig, Vic Davalillo, and Larry Biittner could be cited. Davalhlo never retired a batter in two outings, and Larry Biittner of the Cubs, who did strike out three batters in the one inning he pitched in 1977, also got banged for six runs. As might be expected under the circumstances, the primary characteristic of most of the one-time hurlers was wildness. Their walks outnumbered their strikeouts by a substantial margin.
Listed below are some of the long-service stars who, for one reason or another, got into a box score or two as a hurler. The list includes two, Cesar Tovar and Bert Campaneris, who did it while playing all nine positions in one game. Two others, Bus Mertes and Jack Rothrock, did it while playing all nine positions in one season. Most of the hurlers pitched only one inning or so, but note that while outfielder Hank Leiber of the Giants pitched in only one game, he went the route and lost in 1942, his final season.