Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Who's pitching?

Yesterday was a fascinating night for my beloved Cubbies.

The Cubs beat the Rockies, 4-3, in 16 innings, the winning run coming on a sacrifice fly from Starlin Castro in the 16th. The game time of six hours and twenty-seven minutes was the longest (time-wise) in each team's history.

I got home right around the start of the seventh inning when the score was already tied at three. To be honest, the game was rather dull up until the 16th. That's when the Cubs did the only thing they could to spice up a boring game between two last-place teams.

They let a position player pitch.

John Baker, the club's backup catcher, took the mound in the top of 16th. He got the first Rockie he faced to pop out. He walked the next hitter, but quickly erased him on an inning-ending double play.

Baker then walked to lead off the bottom of the frame. As fate would have it, he was the runner that scored on Castro's game-ending sac fly. So, to recap, John Baker, a catcher, pitched, scored the winning run, and got the win in the same game. He's the first known position player to do that.

I guess I have no choice but to collect the guy now. The way Baker carries himself has been growing on me all season. He seems like a nice guy who genuinely loves the game. Last night was the straw that broke the camel's back. But, you know, in a good way.

With any luck, Topps might make a card commemorating Baker's pitching feat next year.

It wouldn't be the first time a position player has been featured on the mound.

I've never declared this as an official mini-collection of mine because there aren't a whole lot of them out there. I guess it's a mini mini-collection, if you will.

As you can tell with these two, there are a few candid cards of position players simply having a laugh on the mound.

While shots like these are definitely fun...

...I much prefer to see some real game action.

Cards of the sort are amongst the rarest sights in the world of cardboard. I treasure the select few I've found.

As great as his feat was, John Baker wasn't the first catcher to earn a win as a pitcher. That honor goes to Brent Mayne. He did so with the Rockies, the team Baker defeated last night. The distinction was noted in the special "Season Highlights" subset from 2000 Fleer Tradition Update.

The Rockies ran out of pitchers in a 12-inning contest against the Braves in August of 2000. Mayne lied about having pitched in high school in order to be allowed to take the ball. 

Though he was on the roster, he couldn't hit because of a sprained wrist. You can see the brace on his non-pitching arm in this shot. He got Chipper Jones to ground out to end the top half of inning, then picked up the victory as the Rockies plated a run in the bottom of the 12th to win, 7-6.

Before Mayne, the last position player to earn a pitching victory was Rocky Colavito in 1968.

There's your useless bit of trivia for the day.

Doug Dascenzo is the only position player I know of to be featured pitching on two different cards.

He took the mound for one inning in 1990 (as seen on his 1991 Score issue), then made three more pitching appearances the following year (shown on the back of his 1992 UD card).

Dascenzo didn't allow a single run in five career innings.

He's one of the few players who can say he retired with a 0.00 ERA.

Perhaps the most infamous position player pitching stint was Jose Canseco's fateful mound appearance.

He allowed three runs in one inning of work during a blowout against the Red Sox in 1993. More notably, however, the slugger blew out his arm pitching that afternoon. He ended up needing a Tommy John-like surgery and missed a big chunk of time.

I don't know if it was that serious at the time, but the back of his card hints that people were questioning whether or not Canseco would ever play again after the injury. As we all know, he eventually returned and went on to play many more years in the bigs.

Still, a story like this one is the obvious risk to having an inexperienced position player take the mound.

Although it is interesting to think about what might have happened if Canseco's career had indeed ended after that pitching appearance in 1993, I must admit.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

My far and away favorite from this mini mini-collection, however, is this one of "The Splendid Splinter" himself, Ted Williams.

It's among the best cards ever and one of the first I can vividly remember treasuring as a young collector. My dad got it for me as a Christmas gift one year. I couldn't have been older than ten or eleven at the time.

Had this card not come along, I might have never known that Williams once took the mound. He allowed one run in two innings of work during a blowout against the Tigers on August 24th, 1940, his only career pitching appearance.

While I've owned this one for about twelve years now, the sight of "Teddy Ballgame" on the mound still hasn't quite sunk in yet.

Mayne, Dascenzo, Canseco, and Williams are the only position players I know of that have been featured in live-game pitching action on cardboard.

With any luck, maybe John Baker could join that select class next year.

He certainly deserves it.


P-town Tom said...

Count me in as one who really would like to see Baker get a card of him pitching. What a fun 16th inning!

Marcus said...

Baker is a former Padre and everybody (fans and players) loved the guy. Great teammate, easy to root for.

BaseSetCalling said...

Honus Wagner also retired with a 0.00 ERA, though he walked in several runs across 8 innings of work.

jacobmrley said...

These are glorious. You need a Jimmie Foxx and Babe Ruth to round out the collection.