05-29-2013 3:11:06 PM PST
SWING AND A MIST
Thick fog immersed a New England League game in Lynn, Massachusetts on May 20, 1911. Outfielders couldn’t see other outfielders because the fog was so heavy. Fall River’s Buck Weaver hit a soaring fly ball into the fog with the tying runner on base. Never mind trying to catch it, Lynn’s outfielders couldn’t even find the ball when it landed. Weaver rounded the bases for a go-ahead, inside-the-park, or outside-the-park, home run. Nobody knew for sure. The ball was lost.
Lynn manager Frank Leonard ran out and argued the game should have been stopped earlier because of the dense fog. The umpire agreed, returned the contest to the previous inning, called the game and declared Lynn the winner.
05-21-2013 12:50:38 PM PST
Sports RP Photo
WHEN BILLY BUTLER WAS A PITCHER
The first team I broadcasted for was the Idaho Falls Chukars, the Royals’ rookie league club. I was looking at box scores and statistics recently from that 2004 Pioneer League Wild Card-winning team and was stunned by what I saw.
Kansas City Royals slugger Billy Butler was the best prospect on that team, leading the league in batting average and RBIs. But the 8/12/2004 box score lists Billy Butler pitching and receiving a loss at Ogden, Utah.
Why would the Royals let their first round pick pitch, just weeks after a million dollar signing bonus hit his bank account? He was an infielder and a great young hitter. Pitching would put Butler at an enormous risk of injury.
They didn’t let him. He didn’t pitch. Now I remember what happened:
Idaho Falls also had Billy Buckner on that squad. The official scorer accidentally entered "Billy Butler" when Buckner came in to pitch. I caught the mistake, called the scorer, emailed the scorer, called the stats company in New York, all the usual steps to file a correction. Nothing ever happened.
And today, if you go to Billy Butler's baseball-reference page, it still lists him as pitching four innings in the minor leagues.
And Billy Buckner is now pitching for the Angels' Triple-A affiliate with four less innings, four less runs and one less loss as should be on his career line.
05-11-2013 12:13:54 PM PST
Austin Chronicle Image
NOT TAKING ANY BULL
Picture a player attempting to catch a fly ball with a raging bull charging at him. This actually happened in the middle of a Texas League game on July 28, 1888. The Austin Senators home game ended early when a wild bull sprinted onto the field, scattering players to all corners of the ballpark. Out of concern for the safety of players and fans, the game was cancelled after the bull ran on the field.
04-27-2013 2:59:14 PM PST
El Paso Times photo
With a steep elevation and gusting winds, El Paso has seen its share of high-scoring games, but none as drastic as the Texas League game there on April 30, 1983. The Diablos beat Beaumont, 35-21. El Paso’s Mike Felder drove in nine runs but had only two hits. He hit a grand slam, a three-run home run and added RBIs on a sacrifice fly and a sacrifice bunt. The two teams combined to break multiple offensive records that stood previously for more than 80 years.
04-17-2013 3:57:19 PM PST
St. Petersburg Times Photo
The Portland Phenoms and Manchester Manchesters played six games in one day in 1899. The Manchesters were chasing the first place Newport Colts in the second half standings and the Colts slyly scheduled a doubleheader to try and seal a first place finish. Manchester reacted by scheduling six games on the final day, with the first contest starting at 9:00 a.m. The plan seemed to work - the Manchesters won all six games and finished in first place, but baseball officials were furious about the sneaky scheduling change and later decided only two of the six wins counted, giving Newport the second half championship.
04-07-2013 10:25:11 PM PST
Photo: Chris Seliga
The Asheville Tourists play in one of the classic older parks in the minors, McCormick Field. The field opened in 1924, has a pretty setting of tall trees surrounding the ballpark and has seen Hall of Famers from Babe Ruth to Willie Stargell play there. McCormick Field also has a redundant scoreboard. The top line says “Visitors” and the bottom line reads “Tourists.”
03-31-2013 9:36:57 AM PST
Cashman Field photo
Baseball athletic trainers keep extra wooden tongue depressors around in case pitchers need to dislodge mud from the bottom of their cleats. On Easter Sunday in 1993, those wooden sticks came in handy because of candy. The Las Vegas Stars invited young fans to a pregame Easter egg hunt on the field and the staff scattered chocolate eggs in the outfield. The problem was, it was a very hot day and the candy melted into a chocolate lake across left field. Las Vegas left fielder D.J. Dozier had to use the wooden tongue depressor to scrape the chocolate from his cleats multiple times during innings. Other outfielders reported dizziness from the potent odor of melted chocolate.
03-28-2013 2:02:38 PM PST
The 2005 Nashville Sounds had two players named Corey Hart. Their first names and last names were spelled the same, giving official scorers and sportswriters fits. There was even a game when one pinch-hit for the other. Fans in Oklahoma City laughed on June 26, 2005, when the public address announcer proclaimed “now batting for Nashville, pinch-hitting for Corey Hart, Corey Hart.”
03-10-2013 3:22:06 PM PST
Dwight Eisenhower reportedly played for Junction City in the Class D Central Kansas League in 1911 and used a false name to maintain eligibility for collegiate athletics. Eisenhower’s rumored alias “Wilson” was paid by the minor league team a year before Eisenhower joined Army’s football team at West Point.
Eisenhower vaguely referenced this in a 1945 New York Times article, saying “I was a center fielder. I went into baseball deliberately to make money, and with no idea of making it a career. I wanted to go to college that fall, and we didn’t have money. But I wasn’t a very good center fielder, and didn’t do too well at it.”
Mel Ott was more specific. The following quote is attributed to Ott in the archives of the Eisenhower Presidential Library: “The General (Eisenhower) admitted that as a youth he had done so (played professional baseball) under the assumed name of Wilson.” There was an outfielder named Wilson on the 1911 Junction City Soldiers.
The book My Three Years with Eisenhower: The Personal Diary of Captain Harry C. Butcher also gave a first-person account of hearing Eisenhower reflect on his experiences as a minor league baseball player.
Eisenhower never directly confirmed he was “Wilson,” perhaps to avoid being caught in a lie. The publication TechRepublic notes Eisenhower signed a document while a cadet saying he was never paid for sports. A future president lying in writing would be a major scandal, no matter the era.
03-02-2013 4:07:47 PM PST
Cordele A's photo: John Bell
Ralph “Froggie” Betcher stepped to the plate on July 3, 1952 and hit a home run for the Cordele A’s, the only homer the A’s hit all season. Yes, you read that right, 22 players, 139 games, 4,679 team at bats and only one home run. Dozens of individual players in the Class D Georgia-Florida League out-homered the A’s that season.
02-24-2013 3:08:58 PM PST
DON'T LEAVE NUKE IN TOO LONG
The most famous movie about minor league baseball needed help from baseball insiders to make scenes look as accurate as possible. Bull Durham director Ron Shelton asked the manager of the real Durham Bulls at the time, Grady Little, to visit the set and give input on the role of a manager. Little’s name appeared in the credits of the movie, more than a decade before he became a Major League manager.
02-17-2013 10:15:10 AM PST
Birmingham Barons Photo
AIR JORDAN ETIQUETTE
Nobody is above baseball’s unwritten rules, even the NBA’s best player. Michael Jordan stole second base for Birmingham against Huntsville late in a 1994 game, even though the Barons had a sizable lead, a breach of the baseball code. When a team is crushing an opponent, it is considered unsportsmanlike for the leading team to steal bases late in the game. Birmingham manager Terry Francona told Jordan of his violation and warned he may be hit by a pitch as retaliation the following day.
An apologetic Jordan visited the Huntsville clubhouse the next afternoon and talked to Stars manager Gary Jones, who said all is forgotten if Jordan got him a signed basketball. Jordan agreed and no retaliation hit by pitch was necessary.
Source: Interview with Gary Jones
02-09-2013 6:21:30 PM PST
A RECORD RECORD
The Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992. The same year, the Blue Jays’ Dominican Summer League team had one of the best records in professional baseball history. The “D-Jays” went 68-2, won 37 consecutive games to start the season and finished 36.5 games ahead of the second place squad. While Toronto received World Series rings, the Dominican Summer League team left empty handed. They lost in the first round of the playoffs.
02-05-2013 7:43:46 PM PST
The Allentown vs. Lancaster game had major competition for fan attention on May 27, 1885. Only one guy showed up to the ballgame because it started at the same time as a popular parade in Lancaster. With thousands watching the parade and one spectator at the ballpark, team officials apologized to the single fan and postponed the game.
01-27-2013 5:09:22 PM PST
Oates Park photo: Ron Schuler
THE HALF-HOUR GAME
It looked like a typo in the box score. Time of game: 31 minutes. On August 30, 1916 Asheville and Winston-Salem finished a nine-inning game in only 31 minutes. The teams agreed to rapid speed-up policies so they could catch an afternoon train, plus the late-season matchup didn’t matter to the pennant race. Baserunners galloped until they were tagged out, pitchers lobbed the ball over the plate and fielders dashed to the dugout, sometimes even before the third out was recorded. All of the runs in Winston-Salem’s 2-1 win came from solo homers. In hindsight, the 200 spectators witnessed a historic game, but at the time they were furious. So was Asheville owner L.L. Jenkins, who was blindsided by the quick-game stunt and refunded all fans. It is believed to be the fastest nine-inning game in professional baseball history.
01-15-2013 5:32:02 PM PST
Photo: The Bakersfield Californian
LOSE YOUR HEAD
Jose Canseco’s head gave fans one of the most famous baseball bloopers in 1993. Canseco was playing right field for the Rangers when a deep fly ball bounced off his head and over the wall for a home run. The blunder may have been a result of baseball karma. Nine years before, Canseco and two Modesto A’s teammates stole the Bakersfield mascot’s head after a game against the Dodgers affiliate. Canseco smuggled Roger the Dodger’s head onto the team bus and brought it all the way to Modesto. It wasn’t returned to Bakersfield until the following season.
12-31-2012 9:02:18 PM PST
Photo: St. Petersburg Times
PRAY FOR UMPIRES
Fans were growing impatient in Poughkeepsie, New York on June 12, 1905 because the umpires didn’t show up. The Poughkeepsie Colts were ready to play the visiting Paterson Intruders and team management was trying to contact the absent umpiring crew. Local Reverend C.S. Rahm appeared from the stands and offered to umpire the game without bias. The players were skeptical, asking how one person could possibly see every play in a professional baseball game? As it turns out, Reverend Rahm officiated the game and both teams were pleased with his performance.
12-25-2012 10:17:10 AM PST
Photo: Colorado Springs Sky Sox snow delay
Courtesy: Colorado Springs Gazette
JULY FOURTH FLURRIES
Snow delays halting early season games in Colorado aren’t rare, but Independence Day snow is. On July 4, 1886 the St. Joseph Reds and Leadville Blues waited through a half-hour snow delay. Leadville is 10,000 feet above sea level and the Blues handled some extreme weather situations in their time in the Western League. After the brief storm the snow melted and the game began.
12-21-2012 4:43:08 PM PST
Rawhide Ballpark Photo: Joe Mock
CIRCLE OF TRUST
There is a ballpark in professional baseball with only one on-deck circle. Rawhide Ballpark in Visalia, California boasts the closest seats in Minor League Baseball – the backstop is only 28 feet from home plate! With so little foul territory behind home, there is no space for an on-deck circle on the first base side. So before each visiting player at bat, the on-deck hitter must exit the first base dugout, walk behind the plate and prepare in the third base side on-deck circle in front of the opposing team.
12-17-2012 4:58:53 PM PST
Winston-Salem Twins Photo: Chris Holaday
Winston-Salem hurler Thomas Gheen baffled hitters and humored fans with his underhand delivery. Gheen wound up and arced his pitches in with great accuracy and astonishing movement. On April 26, 1922 Gheen underhanded his way to a perfect game against Greensboro. Surprisingly, it was his only win of the season. Fans marveled at Gheen’s quirky pitching style throughout his seven-year professional career, all spent with minor league teams in the Southeast.
12-09-2012 7:39:40 PM PST
Bill Murray photo: NBC
At the peak of his Saturday Night Live fame, actor Bill Murray played minor league baseball. In 1978 the show asked its contributors to take up their dream job, and Murray selected professional baseball player for his occupation. Murray’s business manager owned the Grays Harbor Loggers of the Northwest League and signed him to a contract. The 28-year-old Murray was in great shape at the time and went 1-for-2 in his first and only professional game.
12-01-2012 7:47:46 PM PST
Syracuse Stars photo: Bill Burgess
Fans in Syracuse were fired up for Opening Day on May 3, 1885 after a long upstate New York winter. The grass was cut, rival opponent Rochester was in town and the stadium was clean and ready to host the local rooters. There was only one problem; the Syracuse Stars didn’t have uniforms. The jerseys were still being prepared when Opening Day arrived. In lieu of traditional uniforms, the Stars took the field in dress suits.
11-27-2012 11:27:41 AM PST
Logo: Nashville Sounds
WHO'S THE BOSS?
The Nashville Sounds had five different managers in 1988. Opening Day manager Jack Lind left the team at mid-season because of health issues and was replaced by pitching coach Wayne Garland temporarily. Garland was succeeded by veteran manager George Scherger, who worked one game, had second thoughts and went back into retirement. Jim Hoff replaced Scherger before accepting a job in the Cincinnati Reds front office. Former Major League manager Frank Lucchesi was the fifth and final skipper that season in the Music City.
11-23-2012 11:27:59 AM PST
Photo: Providence Grays/Baseballisms
A train schedule helped John Frill pitch a perfect game on July 6, 1912. Frill’s Jersey City Skeeters and their opponent, the Providence Grays, agreed to shorten their game to seven innings as a gesture to the umpire, who had to leave early and take a train out of town. Frill threw seven perfect innings, the first seven-inning perfect game in International League history.
11-20-2012 4:05:55 PM PST
Photo: Portland Beavers
The Portland Beavers had the hardest-throwing mascot in baseball on August 20, 2009. Scott Patterson, a pitcher with a goofy personality, was traded from the Padres minor league affiliate to the Oakland A’s but his flight to California wasn’t until the following day. He wasn’t allowed to be on the bench with his former team so he had nothing to do. Patterson convinced the guy inside the Lucky Beaver mascot suit to cough up the costume and the six-foot-seven pitcher climbed in. He ran around the stadium entertaining fans throughout the whole game.