“For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!'”John Greenleaf Whiitier, Maud Muller
So another Monday off-day… Y’all missing me?
As I posted a week ago, I’ve developed a little tool I call The Ronald. You put in some season accomplishments and it spits out the earliest date anyone has achieved that accomplishment in the Retrosheet Era (roughly the last 100 years, not including this year.) On July 24th Acuña stands at 23 homers, 46 stolen bases and 131 hits. Only 4 players have achieved this trifecta before the end of August.
1986 Rickey Henderson: 131st hit and 23rd homer on August 29th, stolen bases June 23rd)
1987 Eric Davis: 131st hit on August 30th (homers June 25th, stolen bases August 28th)
1974 Cesar Cedeno: 23rd homer on August 31st (hits August 13th, stolen bases on August 30th)
1990 Rickey Henderson: 131st hit on August 31st (homers on August 30th, stolen bases on July 28th)
He’s over a month ahead of the best four similar performances in baseball history. That’s the kind of first 4 months Ronald has had.
But I’d like to talk about somebody else. In the course of creating The Ronald, which creates combinations of season statistics, I wanted to make a version that tracked career statistics as well. But to do that, I need to know when everyone’s career started. My basic database only gives the year a player entered MLB, so I needed to search records for the first game in which an appearance is noted.
So when I was carrying out my checks of my program to calculate first appearance, I found a player who was supposed to have made his debut in 1971, but had no record as a batter, fielder or pitcher. Puzzled, I found just about the saddest MLB story I can think of.
How many of you know about the only player ever to have made one game appearance in his career, and never to have been on the field for a single play. He was a pitcher who hurt his arm while throwing his warmup tosses (coming in relief against the Atlanta Braves on September 15th, 1971) was removed and never again made a major league appearance. This is incomparably worse than the immortalized Moonlight Graham, who at least made an appearance on the field on defense, even if he never got to bat. And what’s even sadder about this pitcher is that his brother is in the Hall of Fame. If you don’t know who it was, it was this guy. He doesn’t appear in the Retrosheet database because he was never on the field when a play was made. Every time you see a guy making his MLB debut, think about him.