FanPost

Pitchers who pinch-hit for position players

On June 30, Jason Heyward was the second Cub due up in the top of the ninth inning at Milwaukee.

But after the first batter flied out, Heyward did not come to the plate. Alec Mills pinch hit for him and struck out.

A ground out then concluded a horrific 15-7 loss, in which the Cubs had scored all their runs in the first inning.

By batting for Heyward, Mills became only the 16th Cubs pitcher since 1901 who has pinch hit for a position player.

...

He was only the second to do so since July 17, 1964.

And the third since Aug. 26, 1951.

And the fourth since July 10, 1939, nearly 82 years earlier.

The last pitcher before Mills to bat for a position player was Jason Hammel, on April 28, 2016. The player he hit for was in the Cubs' dugout along with Heyward when Mills stepped into the batter's box at Milwaukee: Manager David Ross.

Ross had caught the first 8 innings at home against the Brewers that night. He had led off the second inning with a home run that increased the Cubs' lead to 3-0.

They were ahead, 7-1, in the eighth when Hammel pinch hit for Ross with 1 out and runners on first and second.

Hammel struck out, then a fly ball ended the inning. The Cubs won the game, 7-2.

...

Hammel and Mills had plenty of company in striking out when batting for a position player.

Collectively, the 16 pitchers struck out at least 12 times, in 34 at bats, with 8 of them known to have fanned in an at bat.

The exact nature of 2 outs is unknown; there is no available play-by-play of those games, and contemporary newspaper accounts do not describe what the pitchers did when they pinch hit.

In those 34 at bats, pitchers batting for position players made 6 hits: 1 triple, 1 double and 4 singles. They also had 3 walks, hit 1 sacrifice fly, for a total of 43 times that a pitcher hit for a fielder.

Six times, the pitcher was the last batter of the game. Three of those times, he struck out.

...

The .176 batting average for the pitchers who pinch hit for position players virtually identical to the .178 (37 for 214) by those who batted for fellow pitchers.

There have been 61 different Cubs pitchers who have pinch hit only for pitchers. The most recent was Zach Davies, on Aug. 6.

So, the 16 pitchers who batted for position players represent 21 percent, a little more than 1 in 5, of all 77 pitchers who have pinch hit for the Cubs in the Modern Era.

Their 38 plate appearances are 14.1 percent of all 269 by pitchers, a bit more than 1 of 7.

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Who were the Cubs pitchers who pinch hit for position players before Hammel and Mills?

When did they do it?

Who was the first?

Who did it most often?

The answers to those and other questions follow.

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DEADBALL DOMINANCE

Of the 39 times that a pitcher batted for a fielder, 30 -- more than three quarters -- came in 1920 or earlier.

It happened only 5 times in the first decade of the Modern Era, then 23 in the second.

The Cubs sent a pitcher up to hit for a position player 6 times in 1916, then 11 in 1917 and once in 1919.

They did it 3 times in 1920. In the 101 seasons since then, they have done only 7 more times, and only 4 starting in 1940.

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TAYLOR MADE DP

The first time the Cubs ever tried the strategy was on Sept. 6, 1901, in their 130th game of the Modern Era.

Jack Taylor, a 27-year-old right hander, had appeared in 30 previous games: 29 as a pitcher, once, on July 5, as a pinch hitter for Mal Eason.

He had gone 1 for 3 in his most recent game, Aug. 31, to improve his slash line to .204/.237/.269. He had 19 hits, 6 of them doubles.

Rookie shortstop Eddie Hickey, in contrast, had made his Major League debut just 3 days earlier, at age 28. In 3 games, he was 2 for 12, both singles.

Hickey was 0 for 2, plus a walk, in his 3 trips to the plate at Philadelphia on Sept. 6.

The Cubs, then known as the Orphans, trailed, 3-0, when the ninth inning began. With 1 out, Pete Childs smacked a 2-run double. Hickey was due up next, but Manager Tom Loftus told Taylor to bat instead.

He lined a ball at shortstop Monte Cross, who speared it and threw to second baseman Shad Barry, doubling off Childs and ending the game.

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3 FINGERS, 2 PA

Pop Williams made an out batting for first baseman Dad Clark in 1902.

Two years later, Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown became the first Cubs pitcher to make a hit while replacing a position player. On June 28, 1904, he smacked a ninth-inning single in place of center fielder Jack McCarthy. The Cubs scored twice in the inning, but still lost to the visiting Reds, 9-5.

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On July 9, 1908, Brown became the first Cubs pitcher to supplant a fielder twice, hitting for another center fielder, Kid Durbin, with 1 out in the bottom of the ninth, a runner on second and the Cubs losing to Brooklyn, 3-1.

Brown struck out, but his day was not over yet.

Joe Tinker singled the runner to third and Johnny Evers was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. Solly Hofman grounded to the shortstop, who tossed to second in a bid to force out Evers, but Evers beat the throw, as a run scored.

Jimmy Sheckard then walked, forcing in the tying run.

The reprieved Cubs sent Brown to the mound, where he worked a quick 1-2-3 inning.

In the bottom of the 10th, Heinie Zimmerman singled, went to second on a bunt, took third on a wild pitch and raced home on Pat Moran's fly ball, giving the Cubs a 4-3 victory -- and Brown his 13th in 14 decisions. He would end the year 29-9.

...

Brown never batted for a position player again.

Harry McIntire matched his 2 such appearances, making outs in 1910 and 1912.

Ed Reulbach, King Cole, Orval Overall and Larry Cheney all were 0 for 1 in the unusual role between 1905 and 1913.

Cheney's strikeout marked the 10th time that a Cubs pitcher had pinch hit for a fielder.

The pitcher who did it next went on to do so 13 times, all in exactly 4 calendar years, from July 3, 1916, through July 3, 1920.

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MASTER OF THE ART

Claude Hendrix pinch hit 33 times as a Cub, 3 more than any other pitcher. He made 9 hits, nearly double the 5 by runnerup Lefty Tyler.

He had pinch hit only once -- for Brown, no less -- during the first 3 months of 1916, his first season with the Cubs.

On July 3, at Pittsburgh, the Cubs trailed, 2-0, in the top of the eighth. Their first batter grounded out. The second singled and the third flied out.

Right fielder Max Flack should have hit next. He was batting a respectable .283/.356/.373, including a single and a walk in 3 trips to the plate earlier in the day.

But Flack batted left handed and the Pirates' pitcher, Wilbur Cooper, was a lefty. So Manager Joe Tinker sat him down and sent up Hendrix, whose slash line was quite similar, .286/.375/.357, although in just 16 plate appearances, to Flack's 261.

Hendrix rose to the occasion, coaxing a walk. It was just the second by Cooper. The first had to the first batter of the game.

Cy Williams followed with a single, and both the lead runner and Hendrix scored when the right fielder's throw to the plate got past the catcher.

Williams wound up on third and trotted home moments later on a double by Zimmerman that put the Cubs in front, 3-2.

In the ninth, Cubs reliever Gene Packard got 2 outs, then hit a batter, gave up a single and issued a walk, loading the bases. But he induced a popup to wrap up the come-from-behind victory.

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FREQUENT SWITCH

Five days later, Hendrix batted for Flack again and hit a double. He pinch hit for 4 more position players, once each, before the season ended.

In 1917, he did it 4 times -- each for Flack. On May 26, June 9 and June 20, Hendrix achieved a bizarre trifecta, pinch hitting for Flack when the outfielder was playing center, then left, then right.

He was in right when Hendrix batted for him on May 13, 1919, and again on July 3, 1920. The latter marked the eighth time that Hendrix had replaced Flack. He was 2 for 8, with 1 known strikeout.

The 1920 game also was the last time that Hendrix batted for any position player. He finished 3 for 13, .231, compared to 6 for 20, .300, when pinch hitting for pitchers.

...

The batters other than Flack for whom Hendrix pinch hit were shortstop Eddie Mulligan, center fielder Cy Williams, shortstop Chuck Wortman and first baseman Vic Saier, all in 1916; and left fielder Dave Robertson, in 1920.

He singled for Mulligan leading off the ninth inning, with the Cubs behind, 5-4. He was lifted for a pinch runner -- Flack! -- who trotted home moments later when Jimmy Archer slammed a walk-off home run.

Hendrix replaced Saier in the bottom of the ninth with the Cubs down, 5-4, 2 out and runners on first and second. He flied out.

He struck out to end the game when he batted for Wortman, and made unknown outs when he batted for Williams and Robertson.

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TRIPLE DUTCH

Carlos Zambrano had the second most pinch-hit appearances of any Cubs pitcher, 30. But he never batted for a position player.

The Cubs who did that second most was Dutch Ruether, who played only 31 games for the Cubs, all between April 13 and July 4, 1917. He pinch hit 18 times, while pitching only 10.

His first experience batting for a fielder did not go well. Sent up in place of shortstop Chuck Wortman on April 14, in the ninth inning, with 1 out and a runner on first, he struck out. The runner tried to steal second and was thrown out, ending the game.

His second time was spectacular -- the best of its kind.

...

On April 26, at Cincinnati, the Cubs began the seventh inning in a 3-0 hole.

Fred Merkle fouled out, but Cy Williams singled, Les Mann doubled and Art Wilson walked, loading the bases.

Playing the left/right odds, Manager Fred Mitchell pulled third baseman Charlie Deal, a righty, who was 1 for 2 for the day but slashing just .133/.188/.133. Lefty-swinging Ruether's line was .273/.385/.364. In his previous 3 games, all when pitching, he was 4 for 11, including a triple.

He swung at a pitch by righty Jimmy Ring and sent the ball soaring over the head of center fielder Greasy Neale. By the time he retrieved the ball and got it back to the infield, Ruether was standing on third and the score was tied at 3.

A pinch runner came home moments later on a sacrifice fly by pitcher Phil Douglas, giving the Cubs a 4-3 lead.

Neale gained some revenge in the bottom of the inning, slugging a 2-out triple of his own. He tied the game when the next batter poked an infield single. The third baseman threw wildly to first, allowing the batter to wind up on third. Jim Thorpe's hit then put the Reds in front again, and they held on to win, 6-4.

...

The triple was Ruether's only hit when batting for a pitcher.

On May 19, at Philadelphia, he drew a walk, batting for center fielder Cy Williams, to load the bases with 1 out in the 10th inning, but the Cubs failed to score and lost in the 11th.

On June 16, batting for Deal again, he hit a seventh-inning sacrifice fly during a 7-4 loss at home to the Braves.

The next day, he struck for catcher Art Wilson in an unknown inning of a 5-3 loss that featured 6 ejections.

Finally, on July 3, Ruether replaced shortstop Rollie Zeider in the bottom of the ninth, with 2 out, a runner on second and the score 3-1. He struck out, in his final at bat hitting for a position player, just as he had in his first.

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Two weeks later, the Cubs placed Ruether on waivers. He was picked up by the Reds, and went on to pitch in the big leagues through 1927, winding up 137-95, with a 3.50 earned run average, for 5 teams. He also batted .258/.314/.335.

As a Cub, he was 2-0, 2.48, as a pitcher and .273/.385/.432 at a batter (12 for 44), including 4 for 15 as a pinch hitter: 3 for 10 batting for pitchers, 1 for 5 batting for position players.

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LONG TIME COMING

On Sept. 13, 1920, a Cubs pitcher hit for a fielder for the 21st time. For the first time in more than 7 years, his last name was not Hendrix or Ruether.

In the eighth inning of a 5-2 loss at Brooklyn, Lefty Tyler singled a runner to third, only to be erased moments later in an inning-ending double play.

And then there was not another pitcher replacing a position player for nearly 18 years.

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The pitcher who ended the long drought was Clay Bryant.

The 26-year-old righty made his big league debut with the Cubs in 1935. After 2 years as a reliever, he started half of his final 12 games in 1937, then was Opening Day starter in 1938.

After a walk-off loss at Brooklyn on July 27, his record was 5-5 and his ERA, 3.16. His best effort was a 3-hit shutout against the Phillies, at home on July 14.

As a batter, he was slashing .207/.220/.328. Two of his hits had been home runs, on Opening Day and on June 19 at Brooklyn. That doubled his career total. His second had been a grand slam, the first ever by a Cubs pitcher, at Boston on Aug. 28, 1937.

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On July 31, 1938, the Cubs were in Philadelphia, scheduled to play a doubleheader. In Game 1, they trailed, 5-2, as they came to bat in the top of the eighth.

Gabby Hartnett had doubled home the Cubs' first run. With 2 out and a runner on first, he singled. Ripper Collins, the Cubs' first baseman, was due up next.

Back in 1934, Collins had the league in homers (35), slugging (.615) and OPS (1.008), while batting .333, with 200 hits.

But so far in 1938, the lefty-swinging veteran had a line of .265/.350/.425, with 8 homers among 73 hits.

Hartnett, who had become player/manager just 10 days earlier, replaced himself at first with a pinch runner, and Collins at the plate with Bryant.

...

Bryant coaxed a walk, his second of the season and fourth in 130 career plate appearances.

Hartnett sent up another pinch hitter. The Phillies changed pitchers. Hartnett told Ken O'Dea to pinch hit for the pinch hitter, and O'Dea responded with a 2-run single, making the score 5-4, with runners at first and second.

The next batter walked, too, loading the bases again. Another walk sent Bryant trotting home with the tying run.

A fly ball then ended the inning, however, and neither team could score again until the 12th, when Bill Lee, in his fifth inning of relief, surrendered a game-losing, 1-out, solo home run.

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FEET OF CLAY

In August and September, Bryant batted 49 times, slashing .250/.250/.375. He hit a third home run. None of his appearances were as a pinch hitter.

He also went 10-3, with a 3.03 ERA, as the Cubs roared from behind to win the pennant. He finished 19-11, 3.10.

Then he pitched only 12 total games for the Cubs in his final 2 years, 1939-40, going 2-2, 5.31.

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Following the Cubs' 6-4 loss at home to Giants on June 16, 1939, the Chicago Tribune wrote:

"Things have got so bad that Manager Gabby Hartnett sent up a lame pitcher, Clay Bryant, to bat for Stan Hack in the eighth with three runs in and the tying runs on base.

"Clay, who has been sort of out of touch with the ball club and all-around pitcher responsibility, struck out to end the lone Cub threat of the day."

...

Only July 9, at Cincinnati, he batted for a position player a third and final time, flying out for center fielder Carl Reynolds with the Cubs behind, 10-1, in the sixth inning.

After he grounded out, Bryant stayed in the game, taking over in center. He got a second at bat, leading off the ninth, and flied out.

As a pinch hitter, Bryant wound up 1 for 5 in his career, including 0 for 2 batting for a fielder.

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ONE AND DONE

Bryant's ground out as replacement for Reynolds raised the Cubs' total such appearances to 35, in 39 seasons, nearly 1 per year.

Since then, there has been fewer than 1 every 2 decades.

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Paul Minner batted for shortstop Roy Smalley at New York on Aug. 26, 1951.

With 1 out, nobody on and the Cubs trailing, 4-1, Minner drew a walk and went to second on an infield error. Eddie Miksis followed with a single -- on which Minner was thrown out at home.

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The Cubs gained the quickest possible lead at Los Angeles on July 17, 1964, when their first batter, Billy Cowan, homered off Don Drysdale of the Dodgers.

The Dodgers strung together 4 singles for 2 runs in the fourth, then got a leadoff homer of their own in the sixth.

The Cubs put their first 2 runners on the eighth. The second was Cowan, who was safe on an error. He then should have been picked off first, but Drysdale threw wildly, allowing the runners to reach second and third.

After a strikeout, Billy Williams grounded out, driving in a run and advancing Cowan to third. But Ron Santo struck out, leaving the score 3-2.

...

Ernie Banks popped up to open the Cubs' ninth. Len Gabrielson singled.

Catcher Dick Bertell was due up. He was 1 for 3, a single, making him .257/.316/.355. But he batted right handed, so he was lifted in favor of lefty-swinging Lee Gregory, a 26-year-old rookie.

Gregory had been to the plate only 6 times, going 1 for 6. As a pinch hitter, he had grounded out and hit into a forceout. Those at bats had come nearly 2 months earlier, April 17 and 21.

This time, he did not ground out. He struck out.

So did another pinch hitter who followed him, giving Drysdale 10 strikeouts, no walks and a 6-hit complete game.

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Gregory pinch hit 8 more times in 1964. He went 0 for 6, with 3 strikeouts and walked twice. Each time, he batted for another pitcher.

Except for Hammel in 2016 and Mills in June, so has every Cub pitcher who pinch hit since then: 134 of 136, through the end of the 2021 season.

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EVERY CUBS PITCHER WHO PINCH HIT

FOR A POSITION PLAYER, 1901-2021

Here, in chronological order, are all 38 times that a Cubs pitcher batted for a position player, with the name and position of the player he replaced, the inning and what the pinch hitter did. They are divided into groups of 10 for easier reading. An asterisk indicates the at bat ended the game.

9/06/1901: Jack Taylor, Eddie Hickey (3B), 9th, lineout double play*

8/24/1902: Pop Williams, Dad Clark (1B), 9th, out

6/28/1904: Mordecai Brown, Jack McCarthy (CF), 9th, single

8/23/1905: Ed Reulbach, Johnny Kling (C), 9th, safe on error

7/09/1908: Mordecai Brown, Kid Durbin (CF), 9th, strikeout

5/30/1910: Harry McIntire, Fred Luderus (1B), 8th, out

8/27/1910: King Cole, John Kane (2B), 9th, out

10/13/1910: Orval Overall, Joe Tinker (SS), 9th, out

4/16/1912: Harry McIntire, Jimmy Sheckard (LF), 7th, out

8/20/1913: Larry Cheney, Cy Williams (LF), 8th, strikeout

...

7/03/1916: Claude Hendrix, Max Flack (RF), 8th, out

7/08/1916: Claude Hendrix, Max Flack (RF), unknown, double

7/15/1916: Claude Hendrix, Eddie Mulligan (SS), 9th, single

7/26/1916: Claude Hendrix, Cy Williams (CF), 8th, strikeout

7/31/1916: Claude Hendrix, Chuck Wortman (SS), 9th, out*

9/07/1916: Claude Hendrix, Vic Saier (1B), 9th, out*

4/14/1917: Dutch Ruether, Chuck Wortman (SS), 9th, strikeout and CS*

4/26/1917: Dutch Ruether, Charlie Deal (3B), 6th, triple

5/19/1917: Dutch Ruether, Cy Williams (CF), 10th, walk

5/22/1917: Dutch Ruether, Rowdy Elliott (C), 5th, strikeout

...

5/26/1917: Claude Hendrix, Max Flack (CF), 8th, single

6/09/1917: Claude Hendrix, Max Flack (LF), 7th, out

6/16/1917: Dutch Ruether, Charlie Deal (3B), 7th, sacrifice fly

6/17/1917: Dutch Ruether, Art Wilson (C), unknown, strikeout

6/20/1917: Claude Hendrix, Max Flack (RF), 7th, out

7/03/1917: Dutch Ruether, Rollie Zeider (SS), 9th, strikeout*

7/16/1917: Claude Hendrix, Max Flack (RF), 9th, strikeout*

5/13/1919: Claude Hendrix, Max Flack (RF), 8th, out

6/28/1920: Claude Hendrix, Dave Robertson (LF), 8th, out

7/03/1920: Claude Hendrix, Max Flack (RF), out

..

9/13/1920: Lefty Tyler, Bernie Friberg (2B), 9th, single

7/31/1938: Clay Bryant, Ripper Collins (1B), 8th, walk

6/16/1939: Clay Bryant, Stan Hack (3B), 8th, strikeout

7/10/1939: Clay Bryant, Carl Reynolds (CF), 6th, groundout

8/26/1951: Paul Minner, Roy Smalley (SS), 7th, walk

7/17/1964: Lee Gregory, Dick Bertell (C), 9th, strikeout

4/28/2016: Jason Hammel, David Ross (C), 8th, strikeout

6/30/2021: Alec Mills, Jason Heyward (RF), 9th, strikeout

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