Monday Frivolities

He used to be one of the Braves better prospects, but Erik Cordier (who the Braves got for Peña) isn’t doing great in the Braves system, either.

It was only a matter of time, but Tony Peña, Jr.’s hitting has finally classified him as a pitcher. I didn’t know that poor hitting could actually reclassify your position. I thought that you had to, you know, play the position, but I guess, you know you’re pretty special when something like this happens.

Anyway, in honor of Tony Peña, Jr. hopefully finally making Joe Posnanski happy, I’ve decided that today’s post needs to center around “Non-Pitchers that Pitch“. Of course, bear in mind that he probably won’t be able to live up to his first appearance (July 21, 2008 — 1 IP, 0 H, 1 K, 0 ER, 0 BB).

Kid Gleason spent the first 8 years of his career as pitcher and was decidedly average (104 ERA+, though it’s a bit odd to use that statistic for a guy who pitched in the 1890’s). He split time during those years at pitcher and the middle infield, and in 1896, he switched to second permanently. As a second baseman, he wasn’t a particularly good hitter, but by grabbing a couple at-bats in 1912, he became one of the few to play in 4 decades. He soon became a manager and was the manager for the 1919 Black Sox team, though he supposedly knew nothing of the conspiracy. (299 games as a pitcher)

John Ward also spent his first few seasons (7) primarily as a pitcher, but after an arm injury in 1883, he taught himself to throw left-handed in order to play the outfield. The second pitcher to throw a perfect game and Bill James’ 15th best non-pitcher, Ward would become a Hall of Famer. But before that, he was a lawyer fighting for the players’ rights against the National League. (292 games)

– Did you know that Babe Ruth pitched? He was actually pretty good. (163 games)

Johnny Cooney spent his first 6 seasons on a mound before eventually giving way to being a first baseman/outfielder. He, like Gleason, was a pretty average pitcher, but he was fairly below-average as a hitter. In his entire 20 season career, he hit 2 home runs, and they came on consecutive days in September of 1939. (159 games)

Elmer Smith spent his American Association days as a pitcher, and in 1887, he led the league in ERA. Once the National League began, he became a member of the Cincinnati Red Stockings and was a pretty good hitter/outfielder. For his career, he hit .310/.398/.410. (149 games)

– For the five seasons up to the turn of the 20th century, Cy Seymour was the perfect example of an average pitcher (exact 100 ERA+). He was a decidedly better center fielder. In 1902, he had a really impressive 1905 when he hit .377/.429/.559 with 40 doubles, 21 triples, 8 home runs, and 121 RBI, narrowly missing out in leading in all of these categories because a jerk had to hit 9 home runs. How inconsiderate. (140 games)

John Coleman wasn’t a very good pitcher. In 1883, he threw 583 innings with a major-league record 48 losses, 772 hits, and 291 earned runs (501 overall — how many errors did his team, who was 17-81, make?) for one season. Granted, he pitched a lot, but it’s still impressive. At least, he was an average hitter (100 OPS+). (107 games)

Rube Bressler (I might name one of my kids or dogs Rube) wasn’t a very good pitcher, either, and after being sent to the minors in 1917, he was only brought back in 1918 due to a shortage of ballplayers caused by World War I. In 1921, he became a first baseman/outfielder, and he was a decent hitter. (107 games)

And so ends our list of players who spent most of their major-league careers as position players but were multi-talented enough to have made 100 appearances as a pitcher as well. Here’s to Tony Peña, Jr. even getting the chance to pitch once in the majors (or twice, I guess). It is, however, worth mentioning that all of these players did the exact opposite of what Peña is attempting, and what Peña is attempting is probably harder.

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4 Responses to “Monday Frivolities”

  1. Dan Says:

    What's funny is that you could probably get away with naming your kid Rube without too many people knowing the dictionary definition.

    Smokey Joe Wood also had two careers. One as a pitching wunderkind and then as a league-average fourth outfielder. In The Glory of Their Times, he said that after his arm blew out, he hung from the ceiling of his attic for hours trying to stretch his arm out.

  2. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    Probably.

    As for Wood, he didn't fit under B-R's restrictions for that particular section, but that's a good note.

  3. Ron Rollins Says:

    http://baseballoverhere.blogspot.com/2008/12/pulling-double-duty.html

    Just for information purposes, this was one of the first posts I did. Some good stuff in it.

  4. jorgesaysno Says:

    Back in 2007, Tony Pena Jr. helped my AL only fantasy team come in 1st place.

    The sad thing is that I'm not kidding. He was a terrible, terrible hitter.

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