FanPost

Cubs position players who homered and pitched

Here is an obscure bit of Cubs trivia:

On Friday, Sept. 24, Sergio Alcantara became the first player in team history to hit a home run as a position player, then pitch the same day.

In the sixth inning of Game 1 of the Cubs' doubleheader against the Cardinals, Alcantara homered as a pinch hitter. He stayed in the game, playing shortstop in the final inning.

He started Game 2 at second base, went 0 for 3, then replaced Adam Morgan on the mound with 2 out in the seventh and coaxed a fly out to right field to end inning.

Granted, it took him 2 games to do it, but no previous Cub had homered and then pitched in a single day.

Two had done it the other way around: pitched, then homered.

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NO KIDDING

A query at baseball-reference.com for all Cubs, "typically a position player," who pitched in a game produces a list of 137 games, by 27 players.

But those numbers are not correct.

The first player listed is Kid Durbin (full name: Blaine Alphonsus Durbin), who appeared in 25 games for the Cubs in 1907-08, pitching in 5 of them.

But all 5 of those came in his first season, when he played in the field only 5 times, too. To me, that does not qualify him as "typically a position player" that season.

Durbin had a most peculiar pitching career: 1 game each in April, June, July, September and October.

He started once and threw a 7-inning complete game, allowing 4 runs on 5 hits.

In 2 of his relief outings, he pitched 1 scoreless inning. In the other 2, he gave up 9 runs on 9 hits and 7 walks in 7.2 innings.

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MARVELOUS

The Cubs' first real position player to pitch really was Marv Gudat.

He played 10 games for the Reds in 1929, then spent the next 2 years in the minors. After he batted .343 in 102 games for Columbus, Ohio, in 1931, at age 28, the Cubs selected him in the Rule 5 draft.

He appeared in 60 games as a Cub in 1932, 40 of them as a pinch hitter. But he played each outfield position a total of 13 times and first base 8 more.

On July 23, at Pittsburgh, the Pirates scored 5 runs in the seventh inning against 3 Cubs pitchers to take an 11-7 lead.

The final pitcher was lifted for a pinch hitter in the top of the eighth. In the bottom, Gudat trotted out to the mound. The lefty notched 2 strikeouts, before and after allowing a double, then got the opposing pitcher to make an out to end the inning.

...

Gudat never pitched for the Cubs again. He finished season with a batting slash line of .255.369/.351, with 4 doubles, a triple and a home run among his 24 hits.

The following January, the Cubs traded Gudat to Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League. That was the first of 4 PCL teams for whom he played for a remarkable 13 years, through 1945, when he was 41.

Gudat ultimately played at least 1,902 games in the minors, over 18 seasons, compared to just 69 in the majors, in 2 seasons.

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2 MORE DON'T QUALIFY

The next name in the B-R.com list of position players who pitched for the Cubs is Hal Jeffcoat.

It also is the next 88 names in the list!

But all 89 of those games were in 1954 and 1955, years in which Jeffcoat truly was a full-time pitcher. He played a total of 7 innings in the field, all in center, during 3 games, over 10 days in 1954.

From 1948-53, Jeffcoat had been a full-time outfielder and never pitched.

As a pitcher in 1954-55, he was 13-12, with a 4.09 earned run average, in 93 games. He started 4, completing 1, and finished 46, saving 13.

....

John Upham pitched in 5 games for the Cubs in 1967. Each of those games is in B-R's list.

But Upham never played in the field that season. He pinch hit 3 times.

In 1968, he pitched twice. He also played in the outfield twice, the second time for the entire game, while going 0 for 3. He pinch hit 6 times and pinch ran 3.

Those 2 seasons comprised his entire MLB career: 21 games, 7 on the mound, 2 in the field, 9 as a pinch hitter and 3 as a pinch runner.

Does that make him "typically a position player"? I don't think so.

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NOT JUST ANY SMITH

In my opinion, the Cubs did not have a true position player try his hand at pitching between Gudat, in 1932, and Willie Smith, in 1968.

On June 28, the Cubs obtained the 28-year-old outfielder from Cleveland, in exchange for Lou Johnson.

In his first 36 games as a Cub, Smith batted .286/.320/.451, with 5 doubles, 2 triples and 2 homers among his 26 hits. Both homers had come on Aug. 20, the second of them a 2-out solo shot in the 10th inning that beat the Braves, 6-5.

...

Smith had gone 1 for 15 in 6 games since then before starting in left field at San Francisco on Tuesday, Aug. 27. His struggles continued in his first 2 at bats, as he struck out in the second inning, then hit into a double play to end the fourth.

The Cubs led, 2-1, at that point. But Bobby Bonds slammed a 3-run homer with 2 out in the bottom of the inning, putting the Giants on top, 4-2. Then he homered again, with 1 on and 1 out in the sixth, making the score 6-2.

A walk, a double by Willie Mays and an intentional walk to Willie McCovey loaded the bases for Jim Ray Hart, who singled home 2 of the runners.

Cubs Manager Leo Durocher then went to the mound, took the ball from Bill Stoneham, and motioned for Smith to come in from the outfield and replace him.

He threw a wild pitch, then got a called third strike and got a groundout to end the inning.

...

Smith struck out leading off the Cubs seventh. After 2 more outs, he returned to the mound, where he quickly recorded 2 groundouts and a strikeout -- of Bonds, no less.

He pitched a 1-2-3 eighth as well, including a groundout by Mays and a fly out by McCovery.

His 2.2 innings pitched are the most in a game by any Cubs position player.

The first 2 Cubs flied out in the ninth, then Ernie Banks doubled. That brought up Smith, who slammed a ball high over the wall in right field for a home run.

A fly out then wrapped up the Cubs' 8-4 defeat.

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FOURTH OF JULY IMPLOSION

The Cubs used only 1 position player as a pitcher over the next 21 seasons: Larry Biittner, who surrendered 6 runs on 5 hits, including 3 homers, in the final 1.1 innings of a 19-3 loss at home to the Expos on July 4, 1977.

Biittner entered the game to pitch and did not bat.

...

In stark contrast, Doug Dascenzo pitched 4 times in 1990-91, allowing no runs in 5 innings, including 2 full innings on July 10, 1991. He is the only position other than Smith to pitch at least 2 innings of a game.

In 3 of Dascenzo's 4 games, he batted before pitching.

In all 4, he batted as a pitcher. The first time, he singled and scored a run. In the others, he popped up, grounded into a double play to end the game and grounded out to end the game.

...

Gary Gaetti was 1 for 3, plus a walk, as the Cubs' third baseman in a 1999 game at Philadelphia. He gave up 2 runs on a homer, a walk and a triple, in the bottom of the eighth, then made the final out as a batter in the top of the ninth.

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LONG GAP AND LONG GAME

Thirteen years went by before another position player pitched: Joe Mather, who entered as the pitcher on Aug. 27, 2012. He did not bat.

John Baker's famous pitching appearance came next. On July 29, 2014, he toed the rubber to start the 16th inning at home against the Rockies. He got the first batter to foul out, walked the second, then induced a double play.

Baker drew a walk to start the Cubs' half. After a bunt, a hit batsman and a single, he scored the winning run on Starlin Castro's sacrifice fly.

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COMMON SIGHT

The arrival of Joe Maddon as the Cubs' manager brought a flood of position player/pitchers: 12 players, who did it 18 times, in just 5 seasons, 2015-19.

The first was David Ross. On May 9, 2015, in the eighth inning at Milwaukee. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning.

He did the same in the ninth inning on July 26, at home against the Phillies, then led off the Cubs' ninth with a homer.

That made Ross the only position player other than Smith in 1968 to pitch in a game, then hit a home run. Unlike Smith, Ross did not play in the field before appearing on the mound.

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PITCHING PARADE

Here are the other position players who pitched for the Cubs in 2015-19, in chronological order, with what each did at bat, before and/or after pitching:

8/19/2015: Chris Denorfia: entered as pitcher, struck out to end game

7/03/2016: Miguel Montero: entered as pitcher, flied out

5/06/2017: Miguel Montero: drove home 2 runs with pinch-hit single, did not bat as pitcher

7/06/2017: Jon Jay: 1 for 3 and hit by pitch as center fielder, did not bat as pitcher

9/04/2017: Leonys Martin: entered as pitcher and did not bat

6/23/2018: Chris Gimenez: entered as pitcher, hit into forceout to end game

7/20/2018: Victor Caratini: entered as first baseman and struck out, struck out as pitcher, then returned to first base

7/20/2018: Ian Happ: entered as right fielder and walked, then singled; did not bat as pitcher

7/20/2018: Tommy La Stella, entered as pitcher, hit into double play

7/23/2018: Victor Caratini: entered as pitcher and did not bat before moving to first base

7/23/2018: Anthony Rizzo: 1 for 4 as first baseman, did not bat as pitcher

5/26/2019: Victor Caratini: struck out as pinch hitter, did not bat as pitcher

6/22/2019: Victor Caratini: 0 for 3 as first baseman, popped up as pitcher

7/01/2019: Daniel Descalso: singled as pinch hitter, did not bat as pitcher, moved to first base

8/06/2019: Taylor Davis: entered as catcher and was 0 for 1, flied out as pitcher to end game

9/29/2019: Ben Zobrist: 0 for 3 as second baseman and shortstop, did not bat as pitcher

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2021 APPEARANCES

The Cubs did not use any position player to pitch in 2020. But in 2021, they did it 9 times. Here is how they batted in those games:

4/28: Matt Duffy, 0 for 1 with 2 walks as third baseman, grounded out as pitcher

4/28: Anthony Rizzo: 1 for 4 as first baseman, did not bat as pitcher

4/28: Eric Sogard: grounded out as pinch hitter, lined out to deep left as pitcher

6/19: Eric Sogard: 1 for 3 as second and third baseman, did not bat as pitcher

6/28: Eric Sogard: 1 for 3 as third baseman, did not bat as pitcher

6/30: Eric Sogard: 2 for 4 as third baseman, did not bat as pitcher

7/05: Eric Sogard: popped up as pinch hitter and as third baseman, did not bat as pitcher

8/12: Andrew Romine: 1 for 3 as shortstop, flied out to end game

9/24: Sergio Alcantara: 0 for 3 as second baseman, did not bat as pitcher

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FINAL NUMBERS

By my criteria, Alcantara became the 24th position player to pitch for the Cubs. They have done so in 37 appearances, in 32 distinct games.

They have pitched 36 total innings, during which they allowed 25 runs, all earned, for an ERA of 6.25.

Of the 45 hits they gave up, 13 were home runs.

They walked 12 and struck out 13.

In 26 of the appearances, nearly three quarters, the position player gave up no runs. He allowed 1 run 3 times; 2 runs, 5 times; 3 runs, twice; and 6 runs, once.

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