Now pitching for the Cardinals ... Stan Musial?

News-DemocratMay 17, 2014 

Q. Last Monday night, utility infielder Daniel Descalso was the talk of Cardinal Nation when he came in to pitch during Chicago's 17-5 laugher over the Redbirds. How many other "one-pitch wonders" -- position players put in to pitch -- have the Cardinals had in their history? Anybody famous?

-- W.F., of O'Fallon

A. When it came to public stunts, most St. Louisans probably think of St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck as the master. Whether it was sending 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel to the plate or allowing fans to vote on strategy, nothing seemed too outlandish as long as fans were talking about his Browns.

But Cardinal manager Eddie Stanky apparently also appreciated a good joke, and as the 1952 season came to a close, his mind was working overtime. Wouldn't it be a great gag, he thought, if he had perennial National League batting champ Stan Musial pitch to his nearest rival, the Cubs' Frankie Baumholtz?

After all, the Birds' beloved No. 6 had started out as a pitcher in the minors until a 1940 shoulder injury while playing the outfield ended his career as a hurler. And the stars had lined up perfectly for Stank's prank. By the final game on Sept. 28, Musial's .336 average already had earned him his third consecutive batting title. Besides, despite an 88-65 record, the Cards were mired in third place, eight games out.

So in the top of the first, Harvey Haddix took the mound and walked leadoff batter Tommy Brown. That's when Stanky stopped the game and had Haddix move to right field while Musial, the only Redbird to have played every game that year despite a twisted knee and a bad wrist, trotted in to the mound.

As Ellis Veach described it in the East St. Louis Journal, Musial took a couple of warmups. (The Journal even published a picture of Baumholtz standing next to Musial as he loosened.)

Then, Musial fired a fastball to Baumholtz, who hit a bouncer to third. Third baseman Solly Hemus didn't even move as he waited on the big hop. Unfortunately, Hemus was so eager to start a double play that he fumbled the grounder and both runners were safe.

So one pitch ended Musial's only mound appearance in the majors. Although he reportedly grinned in the clubhouse while questions were thrown at him by the press, the Hall-of-Famer, who won seven batting championships, later regretted going along with the joke during the Cards' eventual 3-0 season-closing loss.

"I didn't relish that contrived show," he told longtime Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg for his books, "Stan Musial, The Man's Own Story" and "The Man ... Then and Now."

"Because the one batter I'd face would be Baumholtz. I didn't want to give any impression I might be trying to show him up. Frankie must have had the same thought because, although left-handed, he turned around and batted right-handed. I flipped the ball, he hit it and he reached base on a questionable error. I'm not proud of that box office circus."

Still, Musial's single pitch earned him a spot on www.baseball-reference.com's "Pitching Hitters," a list of 507 players from Charlie Abbey to, yes, former Cardinal Todd Zeile, most of whom have pitched only a handful of innings in their careers since the 1870s. (Zeile, by the way, tossed an inning for both Colorado and the Mets.) Among them, I counted 35 Cardinals, including Musial and Descalso, who have become asterisks in the annals of baseball pitchers.

However, before I list all of them, a couple of qualifiers: The list includes all players who played in at least five times more games as a non-pitcher than as a pitcher. This means such players who had early pitching careers, such as Babe Ruth and Rick Ankiel, are included. I have decided to disqualify them from consideration.

I have also disqualified players like Mike Donlin and Henry "Heinie" Peitz, who played prior to the first World Series in 1903. Still, my list boasts 23 Redbirds from the famous to the obscure.

Most, like Descalso, had the unenviable task of mopping up during a shellacking. In his final year in the majors, for example, Bobby Bonilla in 2001 was called in against Arizona when the Birds were down by 11. In his only inning, he allowed three hits, including a two-run homer.

If you think that's bad, pity poor Aaron Miles. Over three seasons, Miles pitched in five games, all with the Cardinals down by as many as 18. He wound up allowing just five hits and two runs in five innings.

The story was the same for countless others. In 1969, outfielder Vic Davalillo was called on twice in a week with the Cardinals down eight and six. In 2007, Scott Spiezio came on in the eighth with the Cards down 11.

And in 2011, Skip Schumaker allowed a two-run homer but struck out two with the home team down 11. Later, he was traded to Los Angeles, where he was called back to the mound twice in 2013 with the Dodgers down 15 and 10.

Sometimes, however, a team just runs out of pitchers. You may remember the 20-inning marathon on April, 17, 2010, when just about everybody but the batboy was called in to help. Felipe Lopez pitched a scoreless 18th but the New York Mets finally knocked Joe Mather around for a run in both the 19th and 20th innings to eke out a 2-1 win. As part of the sequence, Cards pitcher Kyle Lohse played left field, because St. Louis had run out of position players, too.

Mather wound up as one of only three such players to at least earn a decision for their struggles. In 1913, first baseman Ed Konetchy tallied the only victory during a nearly five-inning stint, one of two he had with the Cardinals.

The only other decision? Who else but the Secret Weapon -- Jose Oquendo, who entered in the 16th and valiantly fired four innings before giving up two runs in the 19th for a 7-5 loss to Atlanta on May 14, 1988. It was one of three appearances the current third base coach made while pitching six innings and allowing 10 hits and eight runs.

Musial wasn't the only Cardinal All-Star pressed into pitching duty, either. Way back in 1910, Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan, who also was managing the Cardinals, put himself on the mound for 31/3 innings, allowing just one run. In both 1934 and 1936, Pepper Martin had a two-inning stint and acquitted himself admirably -- just two hits and a run. And in 1939, center fielder Terry Moore fired an inning of shutout, hitless ball with a strikeout.

See how many of the others you remember. In chronological order: Bill O'Hara (1910), Ted Cather (1913), Gene Paulette (1918), Jack Fournier (1922), Tim Jones (1990), Gary Gaetti (1997 and '98), Cody McKay (2004), and Rob Johnson, a third of an inning during the Cards' 13-4 loss to Los Angeles on Aug. 7, 2013. You can check other particulars at www.baseball-reference.com. Under "more," click on "Pitching Hitters."

Two final postscripts: You'll find the list includes several more Hall of Famers, including Ted Williams, who logged two innings during his second year in the majors in 1940, Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb, who gave up six hits and two runs in his five innings over three games.

Even famed evangelist Billy Sunday got in on the act. Before he became an internationally known preacher, he played eight years of baseball in the outfield. But in 1890 -- his final season -- he faced two batters as a Pittsburgh Allegheny and gave up two hits and two runs.

Hopefully, he became better at saving souls than ball games.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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