These all-time hitters have taken the mound before

May 23rd, 2022

Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina: two Cardinals icons, two potential future Hall of Famers and two … pitchers? 

They are now. St. Louis has sent both Pujols and Molina to the mound this season to make their Major League pitching debuts. And the two of them are far from the first great position players to get a shot at pitching during their careers. 

We're not talking about Babe Ruth or Shohei Ohtani. These are pure hitters -- including some of the best to ever swing a bat -- who, for one reason or another, got to be a pitcher for a day.

Here's what happens when legendary position players get to pitch.

: May 22, 2022 – 1 IP, 4 ER

Molina had spent nearly two decades behind the plate before stepping out and seeing the other side for the first time in his career. Molina came off the bench and took the mound in the ninth inning in an 18-0 blowout of the Pirates, giving up four runs on four hits before all was said and done. He gave up two homers to Yoshi Tsutsugo and Jack Suwinski, showing that throughout all those years, he was guiding pitchers to a power he couldn’t possess.

He did get some pointers on how to succeed on the mound beforehand, though, as Albert Pujols came out to help him warm up before the inning.

: May 15, 2022 – 1 IP, 4 ER

A week before Molina toed the rubber, Pujols stepped up to the bump in yet another Sunday blowout for the Cards, this time against the Giants. His line was eerily similar to his longtime teammate’s, as he also gave up four runs and two homers. When he took the mound, he made history as well, making him only the second player ever in AL/NL history who had hit at least 600 home runs and pitched in a game, joining Babe Ruth.

One of those homers was to outfielder Luis González, who had taken the mound earlier in the inning and done quite well, making him the first player to homer as a pitcher in 2022 following the adoption of the DH in the NL.

: Oct. 4, 2015 – 1 IP, 1 ER

It was a beautiful sight when Ichiro took the mound for the Marlins, as the then 41-year-old outfielder had expressed his desire to pitch for years. And when he finally got the opportunity to on the final day of the 2015 season, he made sure to make the most of it.

Ichiro let it rip in his one inning of work, topping out at 88.4 mph. He gave up a run on two doubles, but he flashed some stuff that we’d never before seen from a position player taking the mound. After he retired in 2019, he went out and proved he could hold his own on the mound in Japan, striking out 17 on 147 pitches in an exhibition game against a team of high schoolers.

: May 9, 1997 & Aug. 10, 1999 – 2.1 IP, 1 ER, 2 K

Boggs didn’t just pitch, he came in throwing knuckleballs. The Hall of Fame third baseman had been perfecting the pitch for a long time, throwing it in pregame warmups, and he finally got his chance to bring it to the mound when the Yankees sent the 39-year-old in to finish up the game in a blowout loss to the Angels. Boggs’ teammates talked Joe Torre into letting Boggs pitch, and it was worth it. Boggs promptly buckled Luis Alicea’s knees with a beautiful knuckleball for a called strike on the first pitch he threw. He got Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson to ground out, but he saved his best for last: Boggs capped off his scoreless pitching debut by striking out Todd Greene swinging on one last knuckleball. Boggs got a standing ovation when he entered the game to pitch, and a curtain call after he left the mound.

Boggs made one more pitching appearance in 1999 with the Devil Rays, and although he gave up a run, he also struck out Delino DeShields.

Dave Concepción: June 3, 1988 – 1.1 IP, 0 ER, K

At age 39 in his 19th season, Dave Concepción was sent to the mound by Reds manager Pete Rose to pitch with two outs in the seventh inning of a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Dodger Stadium. The nine-time All-Star gave up two hits, no runs and struck out one batter – Franklin Stubbs. The 1988 season would prove to be the Reds legend’s last, but he didn’t call it quits before taking the mound for Cincinnati.

: Sept. 28, 1952 – 0 IP, faced one batter

The 24-time All-Star and a three-time National League MVP threw just one pitch in his career. After pitcher Harvey Haddix started the game on Sept. 28, 1952, against the Cubs with a walk, Musial took the mound while Haddix moved to right field and Hal Rice took over the Hall of Famer's spot in center field.

The only batter he faced, Frank Baumholtz, who finished second behind Musial for the batting title in 1952, hit a ground ball to third that Solly Hemus fumbled. And that was it for Musial’s pitching career. Haddix returned to the mound and held the Cubs to no runs in the inning.

Ted Williams: Aug. 24, 1940 – 2 IP, 1 ER, 1 SO

"The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived" took the mound for the only time during the latter innings of the first game of a Saturday doubleheader on Aug. 24, 1940 – the result of “a long-standing request” to manager Joe Cronin to let him take the mound, according to the Boston Globe. And it didn’t go half bad. Williams tossed two innings of one-run ball against the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers. He got Bobby Doerr to fly out to left field for the first out of the eighth inning, and he struck out Bobby York.

: Aug. 6, 1939 & nine games in 1945 – 23 2/3 IP, 4 ER, 11 K, 1 W

Foxx had a pitching background and liked to take the mound every now and then, like when he pitched a few innings during an All-Star tour of Japan in 1934. He made his first pitching appearance in a Major League game as the reigning MVP in 1939, throwing a scoreless inning with a strikeout in mop-up duty for the Red Sox against the Tigers. 

The more interesting part of the story happened in 1945. With many Major Leaguers enlisted in World War 2, a 37-year-old Foxx agreed to return for one last year with the Phillies. During the season, the team hatched a plan to have Foxx try his hand at pitching. He did, making nine appearances, and even two starts. On Aug. 19, Foxx pitched 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball with five strikeouts to get his only career win as a starting pitcher.

: Sept. 1 and 2, 1918 & Oct. 4, 1925 – 5 IP, 2 ER, 1 SV

Cobb first got into a game on the mound at the end of the 1918 season. With the Tigers facing the Browns, and both teams way out of the running, Cobb pitched the last two innings of the second game of their doubleheader on Sept. 1. Closing out the game for St. Louis opposite Cobb? George Sisler. Yes, the rival Hall of Fame hitters pitched against each other in the same game. Cobb pitched again the very next day against the White Sox, also in relief in the second game of a doubleheader, and he went 3-for-5 at the plate to wrap up the MLB batting title. 

Cobb’s final big league pitching appearance came seven years later, as a 38-year-old in 1925. Again it was at the end of the season against the Browns, and again Sisler pitched on the other side. Cobb closed out the game for Detroit and was credited with his only career save.