Today marks the anniversary of one of the most impressive athletic feats by a quinquagenarian.It was 53 years ago today that the great Satchel Paige, three months removed from his 59th birthday, started a Major League game for the Kansas City Athletics. Not only did Paige start; his performance would
Today marks the anniversary of one of the most impressive athletic feats by a quinquagenarian.
It was 53 years ago today that the great Satchel Paige, three months removed from his 59th birthday, started a Major League game for the Kansas City Athletics. Not only did Paige start; his performance would have made him an ideal "opener" in today's game. The legend twirled three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit to the 10 Red Sox batters he faced. The three Kansas City pitchers who followed Paige (average age: 31) combined to allow five runs and lose the game.
Paige's night in Kansas City made for an incredible one-off performance, but it was far from the only one in the long, winding history of big league ball. With Paige's anniversary in mind, here's a collection of some of the weirdest and most memorable cameos in Major League ballgames.
Paige (age 59) for Athletics in 1965
Paige ranks among one of baseball's best showmen and its best pitchers, and he had to make up for lost time after being deprived of a chance to pitch in the Majors for so long because of the color barrier. A's owner Charlie Finley knew how to promote as well, and so late in the 1965 season he signed Paige for one game. In the ultimate show of confidence, Paige rolled through the Red Sox's lineup and relaxed in a rocking chair in between innings.
Minnie Minoso (age 54) for White Sox in 1980
Minoso's final two games for Chicago gave him the distinction of playing big league ball in parts of five decades. The beloved Cuban star famously singled as a 50-year old in 1976, then went hitless in two at-bats during his last cameo in '80. But Minoso wasn't done; he went on to log an at-bat for the independent St. Paul Saints in '93 at the ripe age of 77.
Nick Altrock (age 57) for Senators in 1933
Altrock was born the same year as the founding of the National League, and enjoyed quite a life in baseball. He was both a talented lefty who beat Mordecai Brown in the 1906 World Series and a professional clown whose salary at one point rivaled that of Babe Ruth. Altrock served as both coach and clown for the Senators until he was 81, and in '33, Washington let him make one final pinch-hit appearance.
"Orator" Jim O'Rourke (age 54) for Giants in 1904
O'Rourke is a bookend of sorts in NL history, slashing the league's first hit in 1876 and still representing the oldest player to suit up in an NL game. Known for his congeniality and his chattiness, O'Rourke went 1-for-4 for manager John McGraw's Giants on Sept. 22, 1904, and then went on to play a semi-pro game at age 62.
Charlie O'Leary (age 58) for Browns in 1934
O'Leary was both a utility infielder during the season and a vaudeville comedian in the winters, and after a long career as a player and coach he suited up for a memorable final act in 1934. On Sept. 30, weeks shy of his 59th birthday, O'Leary pinch-hit for the Browns and became the oldest player in MLB history to both knock a base hit and score a run.
Chris Chambliss (age 39) for Yankees in 1988
If there's a baseball rule informally named in your honor, you'd want it to be like the "Chris Chambliss" rule. MLB memorably allowed umpires to award any base to a runner if he cannot get through fans rushing the field after Chambliss sent Yankee Stadium into pandemonium with his walk-off homer in Game 5 of the 1976 American League Championship Series. Twelve years later, Chambliss (then the Yankees' hitting coach) ended a two-year layoff to step to the plate one last time for the Yanks in a game in Texas. Chambliss struck out looking and was deactivated two days later.
Eddie Gaedel for the Browns in 1951
It's one of the most famous promotions in history: Legendary owner Bill Veeck spiced up a lost season for the Browns by signing the 3-foot-7 Gaedel for a pinch-hit appearance. Though Gaedel was told not to swing the bat, his incredibly small strike zone helped him lead off the game with a four-pitch walk. Gaedel's "1/8" jersey is still shown prominently in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Ernie Shore for the Red Sox in 1917
Shore was part of the contract that transferred Ruth from the Orioles of the International League to the Red Sox in 1914, and his fate intertwined with the Bambino's again three years later. On June 23, 1917, Ruth was ejected after physically charging the home plate umpire following a leadoff walk. Shore entered and saw Red Sox catcher Sam Agnew catch the Senators' runner stealing after his very first pitch, and then Shore proceeded to retire the next 26 batters he faced for perhaps the oddest no-hitter in history.
Charlie Faust for the Giants in 1911
Faust was far from a heralded athlete when he crossed paths with McGraw in July 1911. Visiting McGraw in St. Louis, Faust told McGraw that a fortune teller informed him that New York would win that year's World Series, and McGraw jokingly offered Faust a tryout. The Giants' success with Faust was no joke: They went 36-2 when he was in uniform and just 3-7 when he was not.
Faust implored McGraw to let him pitch the entire season, and the legendary manager finally granted his wish for two games in October. Faust wasn't bad, allowing a run on two hits over a pair of innings, but the Giants, ironically, lost both games. They did win the pennant, however, perhaps thanks in part to their "good luck charm."
Ruth pitches for the Yankees in 1930, '33
Ruth was one of the AL's most promising southpaw pitchers before he became the game's most famous slugger, and the Bambino proved he still had a little magic in his arm when he earned a complete-game win over his former club, the Red Sox, on Sept. 28, 1930 -- nearly nine years after his last trip to the mound. Ruth eked out another win over the Sox three years later with another nine-inning effort at age 38.
Stan Musial pitches for the Cardinals in 1952
"Stan the Man" actually came up to the big leagues as a pitching prospect, and at the end of 1952, Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky hatched up a way to return Musial to his roots. Cubs outfielder Frank Baumholtz was the only player within shouting distance of Musial for the batting title, and so Stanky decided to make Baumholtz truly earn the crown by knocking hits off the NL leader. In the first inning of a Cards-Cubs matchup on Sept. 28, Stanky moved starter Harvey Haddix to the outfield after one batter and brought in Musial from center field to pitch. Musial induced a Baumholtz grounder that Solly Hemus bobbled for an error, and then fled the mound with his left arm still intact.
George Halas wears pinstripes in 1919
Before Halas became "Papa Bear" and an institution for the NFL's Chicago Bears, he had quite a year in 1919. Halas first captured MVP honors in the Rose Bowl with Navy, then earned a promotion to the Yankees from their farm system later that fall. Halas logged 12 games in the outfield for New York before moving on to play, coach and own the Bears for more than six decades.
CUPS OF COFFEE
Walter Alston with the Cardinals in 1936
Alston struck out in his only at-bat with St. Louis, but he later led the Dodgers to four World Series titles and seven NL pennants to earn election to the Hall of Fame.
Joe Nuxhall with the Reds in 1944
Desperate for players in the height of wartime, the Reds made the 15-year-old Nuxhall the youngest player in Major League history when he allowed five runs in 2/3 of an inning on June 10, 1944. The lefty returned to the bigs eight years later, earning All-Star selections with Cincinnati in 1955 and '56.
Moonlight Graham with the Giants in 1905
Graham is perhaps the most famous player to never log a big league at-bat, later popularized in W.P. Kinsella's novel "Shoeless Joe" and the movie "Field of Dreams." Graham entered in the eighth inning on June 29 to play right field and was on-deck when the Giants side was retired in its final turn at the plate. He returned to the New York State League and later became a doctor, becoming much more famous after his death in 1975.
Allan Travers with the Tigers in 1912
Travers was put into an unfavorable situation after 16 members of the Tigers went on strike following Ty Cobb's suspension for fighting with a fan. AL Commissioner Ban Johnson threatened to fine the Tigers $5,000 if they didn't field a team for their next game against the A's, and so Detroit scrambled up any players it could find in the Philadelphia area.
Travers, who had never pitched a game in his life, accepted a $50 offer from Tigers manager Hughie Jennings to take the mound. What followed next was what you might expect: Travers allowed 24 runs, though he did finish the game by going a full eight innings. Travers went back to school and became a Catholic priest, but he still holds the distinction of allowing the most runs of any pitcher in modern history.
Adam Greenberg with the Marlins in 2012
One could hardly ask for a more unpleasant debut plate appearance than Greenberg's, as he was hit in the head with a pitch in 2005 and suffered a compound skull fracture. It didn't appear Greenberg would get another chance until an online petition convinced the Marlins to sign the outfielder seven years later. Greenberg led off the bottom of the sixth with Aerosmith's "Dream On" as his walk-up song before striking out against R.A. Dickey.
Larry Yount with the Astros in 1971
Yount shared plenty of joyful moments through the Hall of Fame career of his younger brother, Robin, but his own MLB career ended in far more frustration. On Sept. 15, 1971, Yount climbed the mound for his big league debut and then promptly left the game after feeling pain in his elbow during his warmup tosses. Yount was sent back to the Minors and was never able to get back to the big leagues, making him the only pitcher to officially appear in MLB record books without actually throwing a pitch (once a pitcher is announced, he is deemed to have officially participated in a game).
Mark Kiger with the A's in 2006
Most kids dream of playing in the postseason, but how about skipping your regular-season debut altogether? Kiger became a Major Leaguer when he came in as a defensive replacement at second base in Game 3 of the 2006 ALCS, making him the first player in modern history to debut in the postseason.
Kiger benefited from injuries to Mark Ellis, Bobby Crosby and Antonio Perez that helped him make Oakland's October roster, and he was released after the Tigers swept the A's in four games. He would never make it back into a big league lineup, making his two postseason appearances unique in baseball lore.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.