May 26, 2011
Wilson Valdez was not the first position player on the Phillies to pitch in a game. The most recent was Tomas Perez, who did it in 2002. But it’s been a while since a position player got a W. 66 years, in fact, and the circumstances were quite different though the opponent was the same.
Jimmie Foxx was one of the greatest power hitters in baseball history, hitting his 500th by the time he was 32 years old. The first baseman was called up by the Philadelphia Athletics in 1925 and spent 11 years in Philly before being shipped to Boston. By the early 1940s, he was well past his prime, and probably would have been out of baseball if not for the fact that most of the remaining ballplayers not at war were scrubs (He didn’t go to war because of a sinus problem). And so he kicked around a few years longer, and in 1945 the Phillies decided to honor their longstanding tradition of hiring Hall of Famers once they were well past their primes. The Phils were mired in yet another last place finish (Between 1919 and 1947 they were last or next to last 24 times), and would finish 52 games out of first. On August 19th, the Phils faced off against the Reds in a double header. Manger Ben Chapman realized he didn’t have any fresh arms to pitch the 2nd game. The following is from a Boston Globe article in 1980 via Seamheads:
In 1945, when he was 37, Foxx had slipped badly and was hanging on by his fingertips with the Phillies. One day, Ben Chapman, Phils’ manager, came to Jimmie.
Chapman told Foxx, “We’re desperate. Would you mind getting yourself into shape to pitch? We don’t have anyone who can get the ball over the plate.”
Foxx’s answer, according to Arthur Daley’s book, Kings of the Home Run: “I couldn’t go nine innings under any conditions, I’m not even sure I could get anyone out.”
And Chapman’s response: “Just hang in there as long as you can. If by some miracle, you could last five innings, that’s all I’ll ask. I’ll take you right out.”
Foxx did better than that against the Cincinnati Reds: at the end of five innings, he had a no-hitter. So of course Chapman left him in the game.
But, Daley wrote that “in the sixth, Jimmie’s arm was as dead as a dinosaur, and he felt just as heavy. The Reds nicked him for a hit and that was it. He [Chapman] yanked Foxx while he was still a winning pitcher and brought in a reliever to preserve the victory.
In fact, that’s not quite true. Foxx stayed into the 7th, and gave up 4 hits before being yanked with two outs in the 7th (Interestingly, the losing pitcher for the Reds that day was named Howie Fox). Andy Karl came in to get the save.
You folks who watched that game last night, don’t ever forget it. If precedent holds, we won’t see another one until 2067. Here’s the box score to the Jimmie Foxx game.