The day Paul Richards started three pitchers…and the day Gene Mauch started four (and both involve Billy O’Dell)

I was playing around with Baseball-Reference.com‘s Batting Season Finder to see what pitcher had hit the most home runs as a teenager. (The answer, by the way, is Larry Dierker and Pete Schneider, each with 2. Schneider hit three home runs through his “age 19 season,” but checking his home run log I see the third one came after his 20th birthday. Both of Schneider’s home runs were inside the park, leaving Dierker as the only teenage pitcher to clear the wall twice.)

In looking at the list that was generated, I noticed that Milt Pappas was listed as also having played second base as a teenager. Huh? Looking at his career records, I saw it happened in 1958…and looking at his game logs, I saw it happened on September 11, a game in Kansas City in which he played second base only — weirder still. Checking the box score, I found something even weirder: Pappas was one of three pitchers in manager Paul Richards’ starting lineup that day. An item in The Sporting News told me more:

Paul Richards, who is a master of unorthodox maneuvering, pulled one for the books when the Orioles’ manager listed three pitchers in his starting lineup against the Athletics, September 11.

In addition to Billy O’Dell, who was assigned to the mound, batting ninth, Richards had Jack Harshman as his center fielder, hitting fifth, and Milt Pappas as the second baseman in the seventh spot in the batting order.

There was method in Oom Paul’s apparent madness. He hoped, if the Orioles had a scoring chance in the first inning, to remove Harshman and Pappas for pinch-hitters and then send his regular center fielder and second baseman into the game.

Actually, the situation worked out somewhat as Richards had planned. The Orioles had two runners on base with two out when Harshman’s turn to bat came up. Gene Woodling batted for Harshman and flied out. Richards then put Jim Busby in center and Billy Gardner at second.

Wow, this was a very clever tactic. The best case scenario is, you get pinch-hitters to bat in a high-leverage situation with runners on base, which you’re notPaul Richards guaranteed to get later in the game. The worst case scenario is, you’re out absolutely nothing except using up a pitcher who wasn’t going to play in the game anyway. And by having the “place-holders” in lower spots in the lineup (fifth and seventh), you reduced the risk that the poor-hitting glove man who came in (Busby or Gardner) would get an extra at-bat in the ninth inning.

Kansas City manager Harry Craft actually forced the issue to see what Richards would do in the first inning. With Bob Boyd on second base and two outs, Craft ordered an intentional walk to Oriole cleanup hitter Bob Nieman to bring Harshman to the plate. It was one of only two intentional walks the A’s issued in the first inning of a game all season (the other having come with the actual pitcher in the #9 spot on deck).

I guess I’m actually a little surprised Richards didn’t let Harshman swing theJack Harshman bat. After all, he used Harshman as a pinch-hitter 12 times that season, including eight times for a position player (Willie Miranda six times, Billy Gardner and Foster Castleman once each). Harshman hit 6 home runs in 82 at-bats in 1958 and finished his major league career with 21 homers in 424 at-bats. He first came to the major leagues in 1948 as a first baseman. And he hit 192 minor-league home runs before he reached the majors for good in 1954, including 40 in 1949 for Minneapolis and 47 in 1951 for Nashville, where the home park, Sulphur Dell, had an inviting 262-foot right field fence for the left-handed hitting Harshman to aim at. Apparently Nashville manager Larry Gilbert decided Harshman’s struggle to hit the curve ball made him more likely to stick in the majors as a pitcher. Harshman was converted to pitching in 1952 at Minneapolis, then in 1953, back in Nashville, he went 23-7 for the Vols, while batting .315 with 12 homers. Some details of Harshman’s story are in this 1957 Baseball Digest profile.

The right field fence at Nashville's Sulphur Dell, © Skip Nipper

The right field fence at Nashville’s Sulphur Dell, © Skip Nipper

(An aside: I can’t resist pointing out this from an ad in Senior Scholastic magazine on May 9, 1958:  Jack Harshman, Star Pitcher of the Baltimore Orioles, Says: “When Your Play Baseball, Wear a Good Supporter”)

Richards tried the tactic again the next day in Detroit, listing Hal “Skinny” Brown on the lineup card as the third baseman, batting sixth. But only four Orioles came to bat in the top of the first, and Brooks Robinson took the field at third base in the bottom of the inning. (A couple of asides:  first, it’s interesting to note that Richards had so little confidence in Brooks as a hitter at that point. Second, Brown actually played third base in a game earlier in the 1958 season. Richards went through so many pinch-hitters and other subs that, when the O’s scored four runs in the top of the ninth to take the lead, he was out of available position players, so Brown went in to play third with Robinson moving to second. The White Sox went down in order, with no balls hit Brown’s way.)

And that was the end of Paul Richards’ experiment in 1958. But what if Gene Woodling had gotten a hit when he pinch-hit on the 11th? Or if Brown’s position produced a hit on the 12th? Would he have continued to use it? A modern manager probably doesn’t have the manpower to do this in this era of 11- and 12-man pitching staffs…but I can still see the sense in it.

I’ve looked at the other major league teams Richards managed to see what other pitcher-related hijinks he may have been involved in. Fritz Dorish is credited with a game at third base in 1951, Richards’ first season managing the White Sox, but Retrosheet does not have box scores and I can’t pin down the date or circumstances. (UPDATE 12/8/13: Since I wrote this, Retrosheet has added the box and play-by-play of that game.) In a 1953 game, lefty Billy Pierce moved to first base so Dorish, a righty, could face two batters in the ninth inning, then Pierce returned to the mound to complete a win over the Yankees. Sandy Consuegra moved to third base for one batter in 1954 before returning to the hill. (That same season, Richards used Harshman as a first baseman for two innings in a game in which he did not pitch.) Bill Wight moved off the mound for three batters in a 1955 Orioles game. After 1958, nothing. (By the way, my quick check for this is to go to the team batting page on Baseball-Reference.com, look at Pos. Summary under Team Advanced Batting and look for players who have other positions listed in addition to 1. And I should point out that under modern rules, namely Rule 10.20, a player listed on the lineup card who does not take the field does not get official credit for a game played at the position, making it impossible to use this method to find more recent players who were used the way Pappas and Harshman were in 1958.)

Anyway…you think three pitchers in the starting lineup is a lot…how about the day Gene Mauch used four? I found this game when I was doing a search ofGene Mauch left-handed throwing catchers and found Chris Short listed as playing the position in 1961. Chris Short, the pitcher? That made no sense. But there he is in the box score, batting seventh…with pitcher Don Ferrarese listed in center field, batting first, and pitcher Jim Owens in right field, batting third.  Ken Lehman was actually listed as the pitcher, batting ninth. But this wasn’t like the 1958 Richards situations, because the Phillies were the HOME team and had to take the field to start the game! And of course, Short, Ferrarese and Owens were all replaced.

Then you look at the box score a little more closely and you see Lehman was relieved after pitching to just two batters. And the Giants’ starting pitcher, Billy O’Dell, was replaced after pitching to ONE batter in the bottom of the first. What the…

This story actually begins the previous night. This was the longest night game in major league history to that point, more than five hours, and was called after 15 innings because of curfew…the game went in the books as a 7-7 tie, the stats counted but it had to be re-played in its entirety and it led to a twi-night doubleheader on the 29th.

Anyway, the Giants took the lead on the 28th with three runs in the top of the 15th! But the Phillies came back…two-out RBI singles by Tony Gonzalez and Tony Taylor made it a one-run game, with runners on first and third. Al Dark brought in lefty Mike McCormick to face lefthanded hitting Clay Dalrymple to try to finish the win. According to Bob Stevens in the San Francisco Chronicle, Giants catcher Hobie Landrith was preparing to throw the ball back to McCormick after a pitch when, just as he was releasing the ball, he noticed McCormick was looking away. Landrith tried to hold onto the ball but wound up making a wild throw into center field and Gonzalez scored the tying run! Dalrymple then grounded out to end the game. What a way to kick away a win after all that baseball!

So that set the scene for the next night’s doubleheader. Allen Lewis, the venerable Philadelphia scribe later elected to the Hall of Fame, picks up the story in the July 12, 1961, issue of The Sporting News:

When the [first game of the doubleheader] started, not a person in the stands or the press box knew the starting lineups.

Manager Gene Mauch, hoping to have lefthanded-hitting Dallas Green pitch against Righthander Sam Jones, refused to name his starting pitcher before the game and Giant Manager Al Dark reciprocated. As a result, there were five pitchers warming up just before the Phils took the field.

[An aside–yes, Mauch was trying to start Green in the game of the doubleheader where he would get the platoon advantage as a HITTER. You look at Dallas’ career stats, you see he hit .120 lifetime with ONE extra-base hit in 142 at-bats, and you wonder–why bother? But Dallas hit 13 homers in the minors…in 1960 at Buffalo, he had a double, a triple and THREE homers in just 27 at-bats.]

For the Phils, Lefthander Ken Lehman warmed up on the sidelines, with Green and Art Mahaffey heating up in the bull pen. For the Giants, Lefthander Billy O’Dell threw on the sidelines, with Jones warming up in the bull pen.

Mauch, as the home team manager, had to present his lineup to the umpires at home plate first. Coach Whitey Lockman, given two lineups by Dark, handed in the one the Giants intended to use against Lehman after seeing that Lehman was listed as the starting pitcher.

Plate Umpire Frank Secory made no effort to see that the public-address announcer, Pete Byron, got the lineups which are usually posted before game-time in lights on the scoreboard.

Only as the hitters came to the plate could the fans determine who was playing where for the Giants or what the Phils’ order was.

The topper, however, came after the game, which the Giants won, 8 to 7, in ten innings. By chance, the official scorer discovered that the Phillies made three lineup changes before the club took the field for the top of the first inning.

The lineup Mauch handed in before the game contained the names of four pitchers.

Three pitchers were in spots where the Phils’ generally platoon according to the opposition pitcher.

Don Ferrarese was the leadoff man, with Jim Owens batting third, Chris Short seventh, and Lehman, of course, batting ninth. Officially, these three hurlers were in the game as center fielder, right fielder and catcher, although they never went on the field. Bobby Del Greco, Bobby Gene Smith and Jim Coker replaced them when the Phils took the field. The hurlers could not have entered the game later.

Lehman pitched to two Giants, giving up a single and a walk, and then was replaced by Green. O’Dell pitched to only one batter, Del Greco, before giving way to Jones. . . .

In view of the lineup confusion occasioned by this game, it may be worthwhile for the rules committee to consider a change that would require the starting lineups to be made out in quadruplicate, with the fourth copy going to the official scorer.

Lewis did not mention who the official scorer was in this game. I wonder if he was? At any rate this account helps me understand why the box score in the next day’s San Francisco Chronicle did not include Ferrarese, Owens or Short.

You’ll notice it went on to be another wild, extra-inning game, the Giants using 18 players and the Phillies 16 (including the phantom starters). Mauch put right-handed hitting Bobby Gene Smith (right field) and Jimmie Coker (catcher) in the game in the top of the first, then pinch-hit for each in the bottom of the first after the Giants switched pitchers from lefty Billy O’Dell to righty Sam Jones. Mauch got his dream match-up, Green vs. Jones, and Dallas scored a run after being hit by a pitch. Willie Mays hit three home runs, including the game-winner in the tenth inning; he had hit four home runs in a game earlier that season. Juan Marichal was the winning pitcher in the first relief appearance of his major league career. Billy Loes pitched to five batters in relief, asked between games if he could start the nightcap, and came back to pitch a complete-game five-hitter. (The Giants had used seven other pitchers in the previous 24 hours, including O’Dell and Stu Miller twice each.) Art Mahaffey, the only Phillies pitcher who warmed up before the first game who wasn’t used, was the starter and loser in the second game.

One final aside:  when I was looking at microfilm of the June 30, 1961, San Francisco Chronicle for their account of the doubleheader, I found a wire story about Angels pitcher Ron Kline being arrested for drunk driving and admitting to having had “10 or 12 Scotches.” Which maybe had something to do with why he was waived to the Tigers six weeks later?

(The Paul Richards game in 1958 was the subject of a story in the December 1958-January 1959 issue of Baseball Digest. And both these games are mentioned in a story by George Vass in the January 2001 issue of that same publication.)

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3 thoughts on “The day Paul Richards started three pitchers…and the day Gene Mauch started four (and both involve Billy O’Dell)

  1. Jonathan Goldsmith

    I think Earl Weaver used to list Steve Stone as a starter at something other than pitcher, and sometimes Stone wasn’t even in the same state. (The starting pitcher in the first game of a road series sometimes flew to that city a day ahead of time.)

    Also, Sam McDowell was switched from pitcher to first base once, and second base once, then was brought back to pitching. Both occurred in 1970. He even recorded a put out at second base!!

    Reply

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