Weird Baseball Facts and Trivia
Strange but True Baseball Stories
This page contains some of the weirdest "strange but true" baseball trivia. For
instance, one of the all-time great sluggers suggested that a measly singles hitter
ought to wear a dress, but the singles hitter ended up with 1,241 more total
bases. If you explore this page, you'll discover who they were. (By the way, the
singles hitter ended up with only 41 fewer career total bases than the greatest
slugger of them all, Babe Ruth!) You can also learn the answer to questions like
"Which two hall of fame pitchers played with the Harlem Globetrotters?" and why
it was necessary to put a man on the moon in order for a weak-hitting pitcher to
finally hit a home run. Or how about, "Which first baseman was such a
notoriously bad fielder that 30,000 fans once gave him a standing ovation for
catching a stray hotdog wrapper?"
Related pages: Best Baseball Nicknames
The Chicago Cubs went 108 years between World Series appearances. There are 108
stitches in a baseball, which was designed by A.G. Spalding, the Cubs pitcher
who was also their first manager. The movie Taking Care of Business, which
shows the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, is 108 minutes long. The Cubs
win the World Series in the movie Back To The Future II, which is also
108 minutes long. World Series MVP Ben Zobrist wears No. 18 = 10+8. The last
time the Cubs won a World Series game was on 10/8 in 1945. The final game went
10 innings and the Cubs scored 8 runs. There appears to be
a long list of such "strange but true" coincidences.
On August 17, 1957, Richie Ashburn of the Philadelphia Phillies hit spectator
Alice Roth with a foul ball, breaking her nose. As Roth was being carried off
the field on a stretcher, Ashburn hit her with another foul ball, breaking another
bone in her knee. The odds of a fan being hit by a baseball are 300,000 to 1.
The odds of the same fan being hit twice during the same at-bat, and breaking
bones both times, are beyond astronomical.
Gaylord Perry was a notoriously weak hitter. San Francisco Giants manager Alvin
Dark joked with reporters, saying: "They'll put a man on the moon before Gaylord
Perry hits a home run." Then on July 20, 1969, a mere 20 minutes after Neil
Armstrong set foot on the moon, Perry hit his first home run in the major
In his very first at-bat as a rookie pitcher, future Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm
hit a home run. His career lasted 21 more years and 493 plate appearances, but
he never hit another homer. Wilhelm is also unusual because he didn't debut as a
rookie until he was 29 years old, but then played to age 49! He retired with 143
wins, 228 saves and a gaudy 2.52 ERA. Oh, and that one freak homer!
Pud Galvin was baseball's first 300 game winner and he ranks second only to Cy
Young in complete games and innings pitched. His physique gave him the nickname
Pudding, which was shortened to the slightly more dignified Pud. Galvin may have been
baseball's first-ever PED user because he admitted to drinking an elixir that
contained monkey testosterone, way back in 1889!
Dave Winfield, a Hall of Fame outfielder playing for the Yankees at the time, was arrested in 1983 for killing a
seagull with a thrown ball. The police officer who arrested him and many fans
who witnessed the event claimed that
Winfield hit the bird deliberately. But Yankees manager Billy Martin questioned
whether Winfield possessed the necessary accuracy: "Cruelty to animals? That’s the first time he hit the cut-off man
Ted Williams has been called the "greatest hitter in the history of baseball"
and the "greatest fly fisherman in the world." He was also John Glenn's wingman during the Korean War. Talk about star
power (not to mention starman power). “John Glenn? Oh, could he fly an
airplane!” Williams once said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune.
“Absolutely fearless. The best I ever saw. It was an honor to fly with him.” And
Glenn may have saved his life. After getting hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire,
Williams’s F9F Panther jet was ablaze. Glenn flew next to his wing and pointed
up. Flying higher into thinner air, the fire was extinguished, allowing Williams
to make it back home safely.
Ted Williams was the best pure hitter to ever play the game. He has
the highest OBP (on base percentage) of all-time, at .4817. Basically, he ended
up safely on base nearly every other at bat. If the totals for the five seasons
he missed while fighting for his country were similar to what he produced in the
closest years that he actually played, it has been estimated that the Splendid
Splinter would have finished with something like 3,500 hits, 700 doubles, 100
triples, 700 home runs, 6,500 total bases, 2,700 walks, 2,400 runs and 2,500
RBI. That would make him the all-time leader in walks, runs and RBI, and in the top ten
for every major offensive category other than stolen bases. He remains the only
player to hit .400 in the modern era, and he once reached base a record 16
Tim "Rock" Raines lived up to his nickname by sliding head-first to avoid breaking the cocaine vials
he carried in his back pocket!
Dock Ellis says that he threw his no-hitter on June 12, 1970 while under the
influence of LSD.
It's easy as pie to guess the best-hitting pitcher of all time: Babe Ruth, duh!
But who was the worst-hitting pitcher of all time? Bob Buhl had the worst
season. In 1962 he went 0-for-70; including the end of the 1961 season and the
start of 1963, he had an overall 0-for-87 streak. That's amazingly bad! For a
career, well Dean Chance had a truly abysmal 406 strikeouts in 662 at-bats, and
a career batting average of .066. If we drop down to a minimum 200 at-bats, Ron
Herbel somehow managed to hit .029 for his career. Who was the best-hitting
pitcher of modern times? Ken Brett, the brother of George Brett. For his career,
he hit .262 and slugged an impressive .406, with 10 homer and 44 RBI. He set a
record for pitchers by hitting home runs in four consecutive starts when he
played for Philadelphia in 1973, and he once hit a pinch-hit triple and drove in
two runs. He was also the youngest pitcher to pitch in a World Series, at age
nineteen. Going back in time, Wes Ferrell had a career batting average of .280.
Which pitcher hit for the most power? The great Walter Johnson had several years
in which he hit as many or more home runs than the teams he faced! The Big Train
slammed 94 doubles, an astonishing 41 triples, and an impressive 24 career home
runs. He drove in 255 runs and his 795 total bases are, by far, the greatest
number of total bases by a pitcher. Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale were other great
pitchers who hit with power, at times, with more than 20 career homers, but they
fall far short of the Big Train's total bases and RBI.
At just 15 years of age, Joe Nuxhall of the Cincinnati Reds was the youngest
player to ever appear in a Major League Baseball game.
Satchel Paige was the oldest rookie in major league baseball history, at age 42
in 1948. He made all-star teams in 1952 and 1953, at ages 46-47, but was
released after the 1953 season. Paige played one more major
league game in 1965 at age 59, in a publicity stunt engineered by
controversial Kansas City Athletics owner Charles O. Finley. Paige sat in a bullpen
rocking chair before the game and had a "nurse" to bring him coffee. But
he threw three scoreless innings, then left the game with the crowd singing "The
Old Gray Mare."
Paige was the oldest MLB all-star, at age 47. Pete Rose was the oldest position
player to appear in an all-star game, at age 44, plus three months.
Julio Franco retired as the oldest position player in modern baseball history,
at age 49 in 2007. A few years later in 2012, Jamie Moyer retired at the age of
49 as the oldest pitcher in MLB history to record a win in his final season.
Home run champions
Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth scored exactly the same number of runs in their
careers: 2,174. What are the odds?
Cincinnati Reds centerfielder Cesar Gerónimo was the 3000th strikeout victim of
both Nolan Ryan and Bob Gibson. (Gerónimo was better known for his Gold Glove
defense in center than for his hitting.)
The record for the most major league baseball career innings is held by Cy
Young, with 7,356 innings. To throw that many innings, a pitcher would have to
throw 300 innings per year for 24.5 years, or 200 innings per year for 36.7
years! It seems safe to say that this is one record that will not only never be
broken, but never neared. The "closest" pitchers of the modern era had nearly
2,000 fewer innings than Young.
Ralph Kiner is the only player ever to lead a league in home runs for seven
years in a row — and he did it his first seven years as a major league player!
Rick Ankiel was an "uber-prospect" with "amazing movement on his pitches." But
after a decent rookie year, he started to uncork wild pitch after wild
pitch. Eventually, he had to give up pitching. However, he made a comeback as an
outfielder with one of the strongest and most accurate outfield throwing arms
in the majors. Ironically, the player who lost his accuracy as a pitcher from 60
feet 6 inches away was able to unleash some of the strongest, most accurate
throws from the outfield distance that you’ll ever see. A fascinating story.
Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Steve Sax became unable to make routine
throws to first base, committing 30 errors in 1983. The phenomena was called the
"Steve Sax Syndrome." Fans who sat behind first base at Dodger Stadium would don
batting helmets, professing to have no idea where Sax's errant throws might
land. But Sax did eventually recover, going on to lead AL second basemen in
fielding percentage and double plays in 1989.
Jose Canseco was a notoriously poor defensive outfielder. He exceeded all
negative expectations when in 1993 he turned a long fly ball by Cleveland's
Carlos Martinez into a home run by "heading" it into the stands.
Dick Stuart, first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, led the league in errors
a record seven years in a row, from 1958 through 1964. Stuart was renowned for his
atrocious fielding and earned the nicknames "Dr. Strangeglove," "Stonefingers,"
and "The Man with the Iron Glove." Stuart recalled that "One night in
Pittsburgh, 30,000 fans gave me a standing ovation for catching a hotdog wrapper
on the fly." He owned a car with the license plate "E3." His
29 errors at first base in 1963 remain the major-league record for the position.
Pete Incaviglia was such a notoriously poor defensive outfielder that his
nickname was "Oops." His career fielding percentage was .966.
Curt Blefary was given the nickname "Clank" by teammate Frank Robinson, who
claimed it was the sound the ball made when it banged against Blefary’s glove.
Outfielder Smead Jolley was one of the most challenged defensive players in the
history of the game. Jolley committed 44 errors in just four seasons, and once
made three errors on a single play, having the ball somehow go through his legs
twice. The official scorer took pity on poor Jolley,
giving him only two errors.
Glenn Liebman quoted a teammate of Babe Herman as saying:
"Babe wore a glove for only one reason. It was a league custom. The glove
would last him a minimum of six years because it rarely made contact with the
ball." Liebman quoted another source as saying that Herman did get a bit better
later in his career: "Herman improved greatly in his ninth season. He still
hadn't caught a ball yet, but he was getting a lot closer."
Pete Browning was one of the worst fielders in major league baseball history. An
oft-reported story, possibly apocryphal, features one of Browning's managers
claiming that the team would be better off with a wooden statue of an Indian in
the outfield, since there was at least a slim chance that a batted ball might
strike the statue and rebound back in the direction of the field. Indeed,
Browning led his leagues outfielders in errors in both 1886 and 1887. Browning's
baserunning was also considered sub-par, exacerbated by his refusal to slide.
According to some accounts, on defense he would stand on one leg to avoid
collisions with baserunners. According to other accounts, he was drunk! But if
so, he could apparently hit drunk, as his career batting average of .341 is one
of the highest ones on record. He was reported to have
said: "I can't hit the ball until I hit the bottle!"
Pete Browning is probably best remembered today as the inspiration behind the
"Louisville Slugger" line of baseball bats. Browning was known as the
"Louisville Slugger" for his impressive power. He was the first player to
purchase a bat from the company, and they adopted the name a few years later to
honor his patronage and capitalize on his fame.
When Pete Browning signed with the Pittsburg franchise, he helped give it the
nickname "Pirates." Other teams claimed that it was an act of "piracy" for
Pittsburg to sign free agents (a revolutionary idea at the time). In addition to
being one of baseball's first free agents, Browning was also involved in
baseball's first player strike. In addition to being called the "Louisville
Slugger," he was also known as "The Gladiator," although sources differ as to
whether the nickname applied to his struggles with ownership, the press, his
drinking problem, or particularly elusive fly balls!
Nolan Ryan was the greatest strikeout artist of all time, but he struck out as a
fielder, once committing 30 errors in four seasons while with the California
Angels. Fastballs were Ryan's forte; ground balls weren't. His career fielding
percentage was a woeful .895!
Bill Dahlen holds the all-time record for most errors 1,080. He committed 86
errors in a single season while playing for the Chicago Colts in 1895.
Adam Dunn almost holds the modern baseball distinction of leading the league in
errors at two different positions! In 2006, Dunn led all NL outfielders in
errors with 12. In 2010, he finished second in errors at first base, to Ryan
Howard, with 13. After that, he was understandably primarily a DH!
Going from the ridiculous to the sublime: Brooks Robinson undoubtedly is the
greatest defensive third baseman ever: 16 straight Gold Gloves and 11 seasons
leading the AL in fielding percentage. After Robinson's tour de force in the
1970 World Series, Sparky Anderson said, "He can throw his glove out there and
it will start 10 double plays by itself."
Jim Abbot was born without a right hand. At age 11, he threw a no-hitter in his
first Little League game. In high school, he fielded and threw well enough to
play first base and outfield when not pitching. And he hit .427 with 7 home
runs, batting essentially one-handed. While at the University of Michigan,
Abbott won the James E. Sullivan Award and the Golden Spikes Award, as the
nation's best amateur athlete and best amateur baseball player, respectively. He
won a gold medal in the baseball demonstration event at the 1988 Summer
Olympics, pitching a complete game victory in the gold medal game against Japan.
He was also the first U.S. pitcher to beat the Cuban national team in Cuba in 25
years. Abbot was drafted in the first round of the 1988 MLB draft and reached
the major leagues the next year, never playing in the minors. In 1991, Abbott
won 18 games with the Angels while posting an ERA of 2.89, finishing third in
the Cy Young Award voting. In the 1992 season, he posted a 2.77 ERA and won the
Tony Conigliaro Award. He threw a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians in
Pete Gray was right-handed, until he lost his right arm at age seven or eight.
In 1944, playing for the Memphis Chicks, he hit .333 with 221 total bases and 68
stolen bases. As a result, he was named the Southern Association's Most Valuable
Player. Gray played 77 games in the outfield for the St. Louis Browns in 1945,
hitting .218 with six doubles and two triples. He was a competent fielder, even
playing center field, but struggled to hit breaking balls in the majors. Because
he had only one hand, once he started his swing, he was unable to check it or
adjust his timing. He did not play in the majors after 1945.
In 1884, Hugh "One Arm" Daily had a season for the ages, throwing four
one-hitters, striking out a then-record 19 batters in a game, and finishing with
a record 483 strikeouts for the season. But the competition was watered down,
his career was soon over, and he retired with a record of 73-87.
Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown was the victim of a farming accident with a food
chopper. However, his loss of two fingers led to a grip that gave him a
devastating curveball, which both curved and sank. His career ERA of 2.06 is the
best in MLB history for pitchers with 200 or more wins.
Eddie Gaedel retired from major league baseball with a perfect 1.000 on-base
percentage. Of course, it helped that he had the smallest strike zone in
history, as Gaedel stood only 3 foot, 7 inches tall! Gaedel's appearance for the
St. Louis Browns was a prank; his uniform number was 1/8. He walked on four
pitches, was replaced by a pinch runner, and was never heard from again ... on a
baseball field. American League president Will Harridge, saying Browns owner
Bill Veeck had made a mockery of the game, voided Gaedel's contract the next
day. In response, Veeck threatened to request an official ruling as to whether
Yankees shortstop and reigning MVP Phil Rizzuto was a short ballplayer or a tall
Name the first switch hitter to win a batting title in the AL and the first
switch hitter to win the NL title. Hint: One of them said of the other: “If
I’d had to hit all those singles, I would have worn a dress.” Answer: Mickey
Mantle (1956-AL) was dissing Pete Rose
(1968-NL). But ironically Rose finished with 1,241 more total bases than Mantle!
All those singles and doubles really did add up. Mantle had 10 seasons with 270
or more total bases, but Rose had 11 such seasons. And while Rose is not generally regarded as a
slugger, he had only 41 fewer career total bases than the Sultan of Swat
himself, Babe Ruth. Rose had
more total bases than Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx and Reggie
Jackson. Furthermore, Rose had more than a thousand total bases more
than Rogers Hornsby, Sammy Sosa, Ernie Banks and Mike Schmidt. And he had more
than two thousand more total bases than Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Johnny Mize,
Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra. Yes, all those singles and doubles really did add
up, over time.
Known as "Charlie Hustle," Pete Rose once said, "I'd walk through hell in a
gasoline suit to play baseball."
In 1968, Bob Gibson went 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA that included a 95-inning stretch
in which he allowed only two runs. Tim McCarver called Gibson the luckiest man
in baseball because "he is always pitching when the other team doesn't score any
runs." Sandy Koufax had a similar run of "incredible good luck."
Of course it helps one's luck to be incredible!
"Slug" was an appropriate label for the hard-hitting Harry Heilmann.
He was a slugger, and the
contrast between the thunder in his lumber and his slow feet made the nickname
doubly appropriate. Heilmann won four batting titles, and his .403 average in
1923 made him the last AL right-hander to hit over .400 in a full season. What
would he have hit if he had possessed Ty Cobb's speed?
Luke Appling, the man called "Old Aches and Pains," was famous for complaining,
but that rarely kept him off the field. He finished his career as baseball's
all-time leader in games and double plays at shortstop. Legend has it that
Appling once fouled off ten pitches just to provide souvenirs.
Dick Sharon once said of Nolan Ryan, baseball's all-time strikeout leader
nicknamed the Ryan Express, "He's baseball's exorcist; he scares the devil out of
Jim Palmer won three Cy Young awards, and four Gold Gloves, and won 20 or more
games eight times, but may be most famous for modeling underwear.
Which two players in the modern era had the highest on-base percentages at age
43 or older? Answer: Reds teammates Pete Rose (.364) and Tony Pérez (.363) in a
virtual tie. Rose also had two of the top ten batting averages of all time for
players age 43 and older. Pérez has the highest slugging percentage (.410) for
such players. Rose and Pérez rank in the top ten in nearly every major batting
category for players age 43 and older. If we expand the category to players age
40 and over, Rose leads all players in the modern era in games, at bats, plate
appearances, hits, walks, times on base, singles, doubles, triples, total bases
and runs created. And he ranks in the top ten in nearly every category other
than homers and slugging. It seems safe to say that Pete Rose was, overall, the
greatest player of the modern era from age 40 to retirement.
Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were considered to be the three
greatest outfielders of their era. They finished with virtually the same career
slugging percentages: .555, .557 and .558 respectively. That's a difference of
three thousandths of a whole number.
Roberto Clemente finished his career with exactly 3,000 hits. He got his 3,000th
hit in his last official at-bat. Clemente died on
the last day of that year, December 31, 1972, while trying to deliver
humanitarian aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. His older brother Luis also
died on December 31, but in 1954.
Kid Nichols almost always finished what he started, completing 532 of his 562
Reds leftfielder George "the Destroyer" Foster was the last major league
baseball player to hit 50 home runs prior to the steroid era, with 52 homers in
1977. From 1966 to 1997, a span of more than three decades, Foster was the only
National League player to hit 50 or more home runs. Foster did it with natural
muscle and bat speed. Does he remain the last baseball player to hit 50 homers honestly?
Albert Pujols is one of only six players to reach 1,600 RBIs before age 35,
joining Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Alex Rodriguez, Mel Ott and Hank Aaron. That's
pretty exclusive company, to say the least!
Gaylord Perry was widely known for doctoring baseballs throughout his career,
which led former manager Gene Mauch to say: "He should be in the Hall of Fame
with a tube of K-Y Jelly attached to his plaque." Despite his checkered
reputation, or perhaps because of it, Perry finished his career with 314 wins, 3,534 strikeouts and a 3.11
But the argument can still be made that Babe Ruth was the greatest baseball
player of all time, because Ruth was one of the best pitchers of his era before
he became a full-time hitter. His career ERA of 2.28 is the 17th best of all
time, and half the pitchers who rank above him are mysterious figures from baseball's
distant dead-ball days. Ruth was a winner, ranking
11th in career winning percentage at .671. And he was at his best on the biggest
stage of all. Ruth pitched 29 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings in the World Series: a
record that stood for 42 years. He was 3-0 in the
World Series with a microscopic ERA of 0.87. According to CBS Sports, Ruth is
one of the ten greatest World Series pitchers of all time. According to Game
Score, Ruth's 14 innings of one-run ball in game two of the 1916 Fall Classic
remains the single greatest start in World Series history by any pitcher, ever.
The New York Yankees are the most successful major league baseball team of all
time. Who is the pitcher with the best won-lost percentage of any hurler with at
least with 15 wins against the Yankees? Babe Ruth, who was 17-5 with a .773
winning percentage against the Yankees while pitching for the Red Sox!
However, Babe Ruth was not the most versatile baseball superstar. That honor
goes to Pete Rose, who was an all-star at five different positions: 2B, LF, RF,
3B and 1B. Rose also played CF, and was even a player-manager! And he was
all-world at those five positions, making 17 all-star teams, earning two Gold
Gloves, and appearing in the MVP rolls a remarkable 15 times.
Cap Anson is in the baseball hall of fame, and was the first player to tally
3,000 hits. But he was also a champion balkline billiards player and won a
national title as part of a five-man bowling team. He was also an avid golfer.
Bo Jackson is the only athlete to be named an all-star in two major American
sports: baseball and football. He also won the Heisman trophy and was named the
greatest athlete of all time by ESPN. He was a two-time Alabama state champion
in the decathlon, setting state high school records for indoor high-jump (6'9")
and triple-jump (48'8"). Jackson's 221 yards on November 30, 1987, just 29 days
after his first NFL carry, is still a Monday Night Football record. His NFL
career rushing average of 5.40 yards per carry is third-best of all time, and
better than Jim Brown's, Walter Payton's and Emmitt Smith's. Jackson was a very
rare athlete: able to throw a football 60 years, run 4.2 in the 40-yard dash,
and bench press over 400 pounds. Was he the greatest dual-sport athlete ever?
Or was Jim Brown the best multi-sport athlete of all time? He is considered by
many to be the best running back in NFL history and was named the best NFL
player of all time by the Sporting News. He was also called the best
lacrosse player in his day. And he averaged 38 points per game as a high school
basketball player (his scoring record was later broken by another great
multi-sport athlete, Carl Yastrzemski). Brown earned 13 letters in high school,
playing football, basketball, baseball, lacrosse, and running track.
Or was the best multi-sport athlete Jim Thorpe, who has also been called the
world's greatest athlete? Thorpe excelled in
baseball, football, basketball, track and field, lacrosse ... even ballroom
dancing! A Native American, and a descendent of the legendary Chief Black Hawk,
Thorpe was relegated to his tribe's reservation until he participated in
athletics for the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (which competed in NCAA
events). Thorpe led Carlisle to back-to-back National Championships in football,
and was a three-time All-American. In a game against top-ranked
Harvard, Thorpe scored all his team's points in an 18-15 upset, kicking four
field goals! Thorpe also won the 1912 intercollegiate ballroom dancing
championship. He won gold medals in the 1928 Olympic games for Pentathlon and
Decathlon, with records that would not be bested for 36 years. After his career
with Carlisle, he played professional football, professional baseball, and
barnstormed as a professional basketball player. Thorpe played major league
baseball with the New York Giants, Cincinnati Reds and Boston Braves. In his
best major league baseball season, he hit .327 for Boston. He was named to the
first All-NFL team, and even co-founded and served as the first president of the
American Professional Football Association, which became the NFL. In 1950, the
national press selected Jim Thorpe as the most outstanding athlete of the first
half of the 20th Century. He was also named Athlete of the Century by ABC's Wide
World of Sports. Among his amazing athletic accomplishments, he once high-jumped
5'9" in street clothes (heavy overalls), and kicked a wind-assisted 95-yard
Who is the only player to hit a major league home run and score an NFL touchdown
in the same week? "Neon" Deion Sanders hit a home run for the NY Yankees on
September 5, 1989, then followed up on September 9
with a 68-yard touchdown return for the Atlanta Falcons. "Primetime" was named
the 1994 NFL defensive player of the year. He was a 9-time pro bowler, and 6
times an all-pro. Neon Deion won two Superbowls with the 49ers and another with
the Cowboys. He once ran 4.17 in the 40-yard dash and may have been the best
"shutdown" cover cornerback of all time. And he was an electrifying returner of
punts, kick-offs and interceptions.
Jackie Robinson was not just the first African-American to play major league
baseball; he was a dynamic multi-sport athlete. In high school Robinson played
shortstop and catcher on the baseball team, quarterback on the football team,
and guard on the basketball team. With the track and field squad, he dominated
the broad jump. He was also a member of the tennis team. In 1936, Robinson won
the boys' singles championship in the annual Pacific Coast Negro Tennis
Tournament. After a short stint in junior college, Robinson chose to attend
UCLA, where he became the school's first athlete to play four varsity sports:
baseball, basketball, football, and track. In track Robinson won the 1940 NCAA
Men's Track and Field Championships in the long jump, jumping over 24 feet.
Oddly enough his future career, baseball was Robinson's worst sport at UCLA!
Robinson played football semi-professionally in Hawaii and Los Angeles before
serving in WWII after the Pearl Harbor attacks. After being discharged from the
Army in 1944, Robinson joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro leagues.
Playing shortstop, he played in 47 games, hitting .387 with 5 home runs and 13
stolen bases, good enough to make the 1945 all-star game. Kansas City took
notice of his play and signed him on November 1, 1945. He spent one year in the
minor leagues before breaking the major league color barrier in 1947. During his
10 major league seasons, Robinson excelled, making 6 all-star games and winning
the 1949 NL MVP award. The speedy second baseman twice led the league in stolen
bases and lead the National League in batting average at .342 in 1949.
Danny Ainge is the only athlete in the history of the United States to be named
a high school All-American in three sports. Ainge excelled in football,
basketball and baseball at North Eugene High in Oregon. He led his team to
back-to-back state championships in basketball. As a junior quarterback Ainge
was named to the Parade magazine all-American football team. Many thought his
best sport was baseball where he was drafted by the Toronto Bluejays straight
out of high school. Ainge chose to attend BYU on a basketball scholarship, but
before he did that he signed with the Toronto Bluejays. Which meant that Danny
would play for the Bluejays and attend BYU at the same time. During his
sophomore season Ainge would be called up to the majors by the Bluejays. He hit
his first home run at 20 years and 77 days old, a franchise record. At BYU Ainge
dominated on the basketball court, posting at least 18 points, 4 assist and 4
rebounds during each of his four seasons. Ainge concluded his senior year by
winning the John R. Wooden Award. During his career at BYU, Ainge was an
All-American, the WAC Player of the Year and a four-time All-WAC selection. He
concluded his college career having scored in double-figures in 112 consecutive
games, an NCAA record at that time. After his third season with the Bluejays,
Ainge decided to give up baseball to focus on basketball (he could never hit the
curve). The guard was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1981. Ainge would
contribute to two Boston championships in 1984 and 1986. His best season came
during 1988 when he averaged 15 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds, good enough to
be selected as an all-star. Ainge finished his 14-year NBA career with 11,964
points and 4,199 assists.
John Elway starred at baseball and football. After his high school baseball
career was over, he was drafted by the Royals. But he chose to attend Stanford,
where he hit .361 with nine home runs and 50 RBIs in 49 games as a sophomore.
After his sophomore season, he was picked in the first round by the Yankees. He
hit .314 with a club-high 24 homers with the Yankees' single-A farm club. Elway
started for three seasons on the gridiron for Stanford. He finished his football
career with 9,349 passing yards, 77 passing touchdowns and
only 39 interceptions. Elway was taken first in the 1983 NFL draft by
Baltimore, but was then traded to Denver. Elway went on to a storied NFL career
with two Super Bowl victories in his final two seasons. He finished his career
with over 50,000 passing yards, 300 passing touchdowns and was selected to the
pro bowl 9 times. He was also named the NFL MVP in 1987 and the Super Bowl MVP
Which Hall of Fame pitchers played basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters?
Ferguson Jenkins and Bob Gibson.
Who is the only player to play on championship teams in both MLB and the
NBA? Gene Conley with the 1957 Milwaukee Braves World Series Champs and 1959-61
Boston Celtics NBA Champs.
Chuck Conners, the actor best known as TV’s the Rifleman, is one of 12 people to
play in the NBA (Celtics) and MLB (Dodgers/Cubs). Conners was also drafted by
the NFL’s Chicago Bears and is credited with being the first player to shatter
an NBA backboard, in 1946.
Todd Helton had a hall-of-fame baseball career, but did you know that he once
started at quarterback for the Tennessee Volunteers? Unfortunately for Helton,
his understudy was a gawky freshman named Peyton Manning, and Helton soon
retired his football cleats.
Which major league baseball player scored 33 runs and stole 31 bases without
ever making a plate appearance? Herb Washington, a former Michigan State
All-American sprinter who played only as a pinch runner for the Oakland A's in
Nicknamed the "Mechanical Man," Charlie Gehringer batted .300 or better 13
times, scored 100 runs or more 12 times and collected 200 hits seven times.
Pitcher Lefty Gomez marveled at Gehringer's remarkable consistency, saying:
"Charlie Gehringer is in a rut. He hits .350 on Opening Day and stays there all
A creature of habit, Wade Boggs would eat chicken before every game, take the
exact same number of ground balls and run sprints at exactly the same time. That
discipline served him well at the plate, as Boggs might have had the best
batting eye the game has ever seen. As George Brett said in 1988 about Boggs: "A
woman will be elected president before Wade Boggs is called out on strikes. I
New York Yankee Don Larsen, a mediocre 81-91 lifetime pitcher, pitched the only
perfect game in World Series history on October 8, 1956. Oddly, Larsen's wife
filed for divorce that same day.
From April 30, 1982 to September 19, 1990, Cal Ripkin Jr. played 2,632 straight
games, which means he didn’t miss a single game in sixteen years.
Name the future Hall of Famer who was pitching when pitcher Joe Niekro smacked
his only career homer, in 1976? Answer: Joe’s brother, Phil Niekro. The dinger
tied the game at 2-2 and Joe's Astros eventually beat Phil's Braves 4-3.
How many times was Roger Maris intentionally walked the year he hit 61 homers?
Answer: Zero. (Of course he did have Mickey Mantle hitting behind him.)
Sammy Sosa broke Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs three times. How many of
those years did he lead the league in home runs? Answer: Zero. (Mark McGwire hit
more in 1998 and 1999, while Barry Bonds hit more in 2001.)
Joey Votto played the entire 2010 baseball season without hitting an infield
pop-up. In 2011, he hit an infield pop-up just once. Also, through July of 2012,
Votto had pulled just one ball foul in his entire career. In 2012, despite
missing around 50 games, Votto still led the N.L. in walks with 94, and in
on-base percentage for the third straight year. His .474 on-base percentage
means that he gets on base nearly every other plate appearance. That's Ted
Fidel Castro was a star baseball player for the University of Havana.
Robert Redford attended the University of Colorado on a baseball scholarship.
During the Battle of the Bulge, Americans used their knowledge of baseball to
determine whether soldiers were really Americans, or German infiltrators wearing American
MLB made a rule during WWII, which said that in the event of an enemy bombing,
whoever led after five innings would be declared the winner.
Baseball player Moe Berg (1902-1972) was a linguist. He used Latin rather than
hand signals to communicate on the field. His knowledge of languages made him a
useful spy after his baseball career ended.
On June 11 and 15, 1938, Johnny Vander Meer pitched back-to-back no-hitters for
the Cincinnati Reds. The second no-no was pitched at Ebbets Field and was the
first night game ever played there.
Johnny Bench, a Hall of Fame catcher, could hold seven baseballs in one hand.
Pitcher Jim Abbott was born without a right hand, yet had a ten-season baseball
career which included throwing a no-hitter for the New York Yankees vs. Cleveland in
On July 17, 1990, the Twins entered the history books when they turned the
ultimate rally killer twice. Playing the Red Sox, the first triple-dip occurred
in the bottom of the fourth inning, the second in the bottom of the
eighth. Incredibly, the Twins managed to lose the game. The next day, the
Twins and Red Sox set more history: they combined for the most double plays
ever, a game the Twins also managed to lose.
Babe Ruth wore a wet cabbage leaf under his cap during games, to keep cool. He
would change it for a new one every two innings.
A teenage girl named Jackie Mitchell rocked baseball in the 1930s. Mitchell was
one of the first female baseball players. Her father began teaching
her to play baseball as soon as she could hold a ball. She was
neighbors with Hall of Fame pitcher Dazzy Vance, who taught her what became her
signature pitch: a devastating sinker. When she was 17, she began touring with
different teams. At one point she struck out nine
batters in a row. Joe Engle spotted her in 1931 and signed her to a contract to
play for the Chattanooga Lookouts, a AA minor league baseball club. It was with
this team that she faced some of the greatest players during an exhibition. The
first batter she faced was the Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth himself. She threw a
high ball first, then struck him out on three swinging strikes. Lou Gehrig came
up next, and
struck out on three consecutive sinkers. But she ruffled too many male feathers,
her contract was voided, and she wasn’t allowed to play ball anymore.
Warren Spahn was one of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball,
and he was no slouch
with the bat. He retired with 363
wins, and exactly the same number of hits.
In 1997, despite a league-leading 744 plate appearances, Houston Astros second
baseman Craig Biggio did not ground into a single double play all season.
On July 27, 1930 Reds pitcher Ken Ash was brought into a game against the Cubs
with two on and no outs. He delivered one pitch which resulted in a triple play.
Ash was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the inning, and the Reds staged a rally
to win the game 6-5. Thus Ash entered the history books as the only man to win a
MLB game with a single pitch.
Late in the 1957 season, the Dodgers were getting ready to move out west
(unknown to their fans), and the Cubs were going nowhere (as usual). Each team
deciding they needed some new blood down on the farm (plus the Cubs farm team
was already in Los Angeles), traded not one, two, or even three players, but the
entire 25-man roster. If it wasn't the strangest trade ever, it certainly was
Joel Youngblood was a center fielder for the Mets; in 1982, they were playing
the Cubs in Chicago, Youngblood struck out his first at-bat but knocked a single
his next. After the Cubbies had retired the Mets in the top of the inning,
Youngblood was informed that he had been traded to the Expos. He arrived in Philadelphia,
where the Expos were playing the Phillies, mid-way through the game. Coming in
as a pinch hitter, Youngblood recorded his second hit of a very long day!
"Neon" Deion Sanders is the only person to hit an MLB home run and
score an NFL touchdown
in the same week. He's also the only person to play in the World Series and the
The Yankees, Cubs, Angels and Dodgers are the only four MLB teams that lack a
mascot. The Yankees used to have one, but he quit after being beaten up by fans.
Jason Varitek is the only person to have played in the Little League World
Series, the National Championship of the College World Series, the MLB World
Series, Olympic Baseball, and the World Baseball Classic. He also caught a
record four no-hitters during his career.
MLB umpires are required by rule to wear black underwear, in case they
split their pants.
In 1978, during a match between Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles, a fan
suffered a heart attack. His life was saved by a baseball player, George "Doc"
Medich, who was a medical student during the off season.
In the 1934 World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Detroit Tigers. Jerome "Dizzy" Dean and his kid brother Paul "Daffy" Dean won two
games each, accounting for all four Cardinal wins.
Name the trio of brothers who, in the eighth inning of a game played on
September 15, 1963, made history by playing together in the outfield for the San
Francisco Giants. Answer: Felipe, Jesus and Matty Alou.
In 1962 the New York Mets traded for Harry Chiti in exchange for a player to be
named later. That player ended up being Harry Chiti. Thus Chiti was, in a
sense, traded for himself.
In the third inning of his May 10, 2013 start against the Padres, Alex Cobb
faced four hitters, struck out all four and still gave up a run (WP,
SB, SB, balk).
In 1930 when asked how he felt about holding out for a salary higher than President
Herbert Hoover's, Babe Ruth laconically replied, "Why not, I had a better year
than he did."
On the other hand, the worst professional season of all time undoubtedly
belonged to the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, who went 20-134 and finished last in the
NL, 84 games behind the pennant winner, Brooklyn. The Spiders averaged 145
paying fans per game, lost 40 of their last 41 games, and folded forever at the
end of the season. Their pitching staff gave up more than eight runs per game.
"Marvelous Marv" Throneberry was the worst player on the worst team of all time.
Playing for the 120-loss Mets in 1962, Throneberry set a record for lowest fielding
percentage by a first baseman (.981). He once hit a triple, but was called out after
missing both first and second base. Like Bob Uecker, Throneberry turned
ineptitude into glory, with the help of Miller Lite commercials. "If I do for
Lite what I did for baseball," he said, "I'm afraid their sales will go down."
Jimmy Breslin agreed. He once wrote that "Having Marv Throneberry play for your
team is like having Willie Sutton work for your bank."
Mets manager Casey Stengel once told Throneberry: "We was going to get you a
birthday cake, but we figured you'd drop it."
Almost as amusing as Marv Throneberry was catcher Choo Choo Coleman, a career
.197 hitter. Stengel didn't think too highly of
Coleman, explaining how he kept his job: "You have to have a catcher or you'll have all passed
Butch Hobson committed a whopping 43 errors at the hot corner in 1978, finishing
the season with an .899 fielding percentage, one of the lowest at any position
for a full-time player in the modern era. And he was consistent, as his career
fielding percentage wasn't much better, at .927.
Eddie Gaedel, the star of Bill Veeck's famous (or infamous) publicity stunt,
stood only three feet, seven inches tall in his St. Louis Browns uniform. But he
was an unstoppable offensive force: in his lone at-bat in 1951, he took four
balls, went to first base, and was replaced by a pinch runner. The commissioner
intervened, and Gaedel retired with a career on-base percentage of 1.000.
Bob Kammeyer gave up only eight runs pitching for the Yankees in 1979.
Unfortunately, he never recorded an out, and ended the season with an earned run
average of infinity. (Infinity being only slightly worse than his 1978 ERA of 5.82.)
In May of 1912, a man named Claude Lueker, who had no hands, heckled Ty Cobb by
calling the Georgia Peach—himself a renowned bigot—"half a nigger." Cobb entered
the stands and slugged Lueker repeatedly, ignoring the pleas of fans for him to
stop beating up a man with no hands. When Cobb was suspended indefinitely for
the assault, his Tigers teammates went on strike until Cobb was reinstated. To
avoid paying hefty fines and forfeiting the next game, the Tigers had to find
replacement players. Aloysius Travers was one of those replacements: a violist
and college student, the priest-in-training was assistant manager of the St.
Joseph's College baseball team. In his one major league appearance, Travers
pitched a complete game, allowing 26 hits and 24 runs (only 14 earned).
Records of Bill Bergen's early 20th century baseball career have him as an
excellent defensive catcher—perhaps the best of his day. Unfortunately they also
have him as a terrible waste offensively. Bergen has the lowest career batting
average of any player with at least 2,500 at bats. He hit .170 with two career
Tony Suck sucked long before the word "suck" came to mean what it
means today. Suck retired in 1884 after two seasons of
miserable play as a catcher, shortstop, and outfielder with the Buffalo Bisons,
Baltimore Monumentals, and Chicago Browns. His offense was lousy: a career on-base percentage of .205, a career slugging percentage of .161, and zero home
runs. His defense, incredibly, was worse: Suck's fielding percentage was .894
behind the plate, .783 in the outfield, and .754 at shortstop.
Rabbit Maranville is in the Hall of Fame. He was famously short, famously ugly, and famously fast
(hence the nickname Rabbit). Less famous is the fact that Maranville was not a
particularly effective hitter or base stealer. His career OPS+ was 82. He stole 291 bases and was caught 112
times, and that's with 14 years' worth of his caught-stealing numbers missing!
Mike Kekich was not an effective major league pitcher. By the low-scoring
standards of the late 1960s and early 1970s, his 4.59 career ERA was atrocious.
Nor was Kekich an effective family man. In 1972, Kekich and teammate Fritz
Peterson traded families. They swapped wives, children, dogs and houses. Despite
their nontraditional method of pairing off, Peterson and the former Mrs. Kekich
got married and had four children of their own. However, Kekich and the former
Mrs. Peterson were finished in a matter of weeks.
Weirdest baseball names and nicknames: Pete "Charlie Hustle" Rose, Urban Shocker, Rube Waddell, Van Lingle
Mungo, Coco Crisp, Beef Bonser, Dick Pole, Dick Padden, Pete LaCock, Rusty
Kuntz, Razor Shines, Wonderful Monds, Cannonball Titcomb, Pussy Tebeau, Chief
Bender, Shooty Babbit, Tim Spooneybarger, Ten Million, Milton Bradley, Goose
Gossage, George "The Destroyer" Foster, Pickles Dilhoeffer, Dick "Dr. Strangeglove" Stuart, "Ugly Johnny
Dickshot, "Chicken" William Van Winkle Wolf, Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar
Tuskahoma McLish (better known as Cal McLish), "Oil Can" Boyd, "Kaiser" Wilhelm,
"Chubby" Childs, "Bald Eagle" Isbell, Snake Wiltse, "Boom-Boom" Beck, "Piano
Legs" Hickman, "Fatty" Fothergill, "Vinegar Bend" Mizell,
George Herman "Babe" Ruth, Ted "The Splendid Splinter" Williams, Willie "The Say
Hey Kid" Mays, "Hammerin'" Hank Aaron, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, "Rapid Robert"
Bob Feller, Sandy "The Left Arm of God" Koufax, Joe "The Yankee Clipper"
DiMaggio, Reggie "Mr. October" Jackson, Harmon "Killer" Killebrew, Ozzie "Wizard
of Oz" Smith, Frank "The Big Hurt" Thomas, "Steady" Eddie Murray, Willie
"Stretch" McCovey, "Big Poison" Paul Waner, "Little Poison" Lloyd Waner, "The
Fordham Flash" Frankie Frisch, Carlton "Pudge" Fisk, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, "Knucksie"
Phil Niekro, Bert "Be Home" Blyleven, "Dizzy" and "Daffy"
Dean (brothers who were teammates on the Cardinals)
Related pages: Best Baseball Nicknames