Wednesday, April 18, 2007

baseball oddities

With the baseball season starting this month, I thought you'd like to know about some of the interesting obscure characters of the game.

There was the immortal Ron Necciai, a 19 year old pitcher, who struck out 27 batters in a 9 inning game in 1952, pitching for the Bristol (Tenn.)Twins against the Welsh Miners, while pitching a no-hitter. Actually one batter grounded out, one walked, one was safe on an error, and another reached base on a dropped third strikc, which allowed Necciai to strike out a fourth batter in the 9th inning. That game caused such a buzz that later that season, the Pittsburgh Pirates brought him up to the majors to debut in (where else) Wrigley Field against the Cubs. The Cubs, who normally didn't scare anyone, rocked him from pillar to post, and sent him to an early shower. Mr. Necciai did win one game that year for Pittsburgh, then hurt his arm and never played in the majors again. He ended up selling hunting and fishing equipment in Monogahela, PA, his home town, and he still comes to old timers games in Pittsburgh.

Then there was Joe Bauman, the pride of Roswell, New Mexico (along with Demi Moore). Most people thing nothing ever happens in Roswell, N.M., but in 1954, Bauman hit 72 homers for the Roswell Rockets in 138 games. His batting average was .400, and he drove in 224 runs. He never played in the majors. After his brilliant minor league career, he bought a Texaco station in Roswell and lived out his days. I was in Roswell for a couple days in 2005 and looked him up in the phone book--he was listed. I didn't get up the nerve to call him, and I regret that, because he unfortunately died several months later at age 82.

How about the incomparable Owen "Chief" Wilson, not the guy from Wedding Crashers, but the Pittsburgh center fielder, who hit 36 triples in 1912, a record which will probably stand forever. That season he also hit 19 doubles and 11 homers. Although he was not a fast runner, he hit many balls over the heads or between the outfielders, who, in that dead ball era, played shallow. That, coupled with the cavernous ballpark (462 feet to center field) allowed players of that era to hit many triples but few homers. Notwithstanding that, neither Wilson or anyone else ever approached that record before or after.

There was the unlucky John Paciorek, an 18 year old Houston outfielder who batted 5 times in a 1963 game and never made an out--an all time record because that was his entire major league career. He got 3 hits, 2 walks, scored 4 runs and batted in 2 runs. He injured his back in the off season and never played in the majors again. His brother Tom, was the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers announcer for many years, and had a somewhat distinguished career on the diamond.

A luckier teenager was 15 year old Joe Nuxhall, who pitched for Cincinnati in 1944. He got only one batter out and allowed 5 runs. But several years later he returned to the majors and pitched for several years and won over 100 games.

The last one for now is the once famous Dean Stone who was the winning pitcher in the 1954 All Star Game without throwing a single pitch or retiring a batter. He entered the game in the 8th inning with 2 outs and a runner on third base, with the American League losing 9-8. As he wound up for the first pitch, the urunner tried to steal home plate, and Stone threw him out to end the inning. In the next inning, the American League scored 3 runs to win the gams.

Thats enough for now.




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