The time a fielder got stuck in a doghouse

The first, and only, inside-the-doghouse home run

January 10th, 2022
Illustration by Tom Forget

Boundary Field, only home to the Washington Senators from 1891-1910, had some interesting things happen inside of it.

The very first Congressional Baseball Game was played there in 1909 -- the Democrats crushed the Republicans, 26-16. The Georgetown Hoyas once won a football game there 96-0. And one of baseball's grandest traditions began on the hallowed D.C. grounds back on April 14, 1910: William Howard Taft delivered the very first Presidential First Pitch. Look at that form, look at that watchful crowd. A no-doubt laser to Walter Johnson.

And Boundary Field, or National Park, or American League Park (it went by many names), also had some strange quirks.

There were trees out in center that reached over the fence -- causing balls to get stuck or hit off branches and ricochet in all kinds of directions. Homeowners who lived just beyond the walls erected bleachers on their rooftops so they could watch games and yell at opposing outfielders. But one of the weirdest features -- and one of the weirdest in all of baseball history -- was that a doghouse sat way out in the outfield.

There was a doghouse on a baseball field. In play.

Not the actual doghouse from Boundary Field

But the house didn't hold a dog (or a pig), it was used like a storage shack. From the book "Nats and the Grays: How Baseball in the Nation's Capital Survived WWII":

"The outfield included a doghouse near the flagpole, which housed the Stars and Stripes [flag] before and after games but had no canine resident."

And apparently, during at least one fateful day, the doghouse played to the home team's advantage.

Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics were in town, a dominant team during that era with future Hall of Famers such as Rube Waddell and Eddie Collins. The A's also had a portly outfielder by the name of Ralph "Socks" Seybold -- a fantastic nickname given for how the slugger used to sock the baseball, not because his feet stunk up the clubhouse. Seybold's 16 homers in 1902 were actually MLB's single-season record before some guy named Babe Ruth broke the mark with 29 in 1919.

Although Socks could hit, he had some trouble in the field. In his book "The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract," James describes Seybold as a "roly-poly fellow who played right field with a first baseman's mitt."

Because the game took place more than 100 years ago, it's hard to even tell if Socks misjudged a ball or a batter just cleared a line-drive well over his head. Either way, at some point during this A's-Senators game, a fly ball got behind him and bounded straight into, you guessed it, the open doghouse (A groundskeeper had reportedly forgotten to close the door over the hole before the game started).

And Socks, of course, went in after it. It was so far back that he couldn't just reach for it with his arm, so he stuck the upper part of his body through the opening. He got the ball, but then, well, he couldn't pull himself back out. He was stuck, flailing his feet everywhere and probably screaming for help. Here's more from the book "Green Cathedrals."

"Socks got his head stuck in the house trying to recover the ball. Three minutes later, the Athletics got Socks out, but the batter had long crossed the plate with the first and only inside-the-dog-house-home-run in major league history."

Three minutes! What was the crowd doing? Was everyone falling over laughing? It sounds like some made-up cartoon or Sunday comic strip.

Unfortunately, mostly for Socks, that's the only bit of information we have from the day. Hopefully Seybold hit a home run or made a nice diving catch and didn't have to go home to his wife with nothing except "I got my head stuck in a doghouse and gave up an inside-the-park home run."

A fire burned down Boundary Field in 1911, and for Socks' sake, hopefully it took the house with it.