Forty years ago today, the baseball world entered the Yount era. Well, sort of. On Sept. 14, 1971, Larry Yount (whose younger brother was—and still is—Hall of Famer Robin Yount) made his big league debut, except he never played in the game. It was also his last game, so it’s a damn shame he couldn’t play in it.
Regardless, 40 years ago today Larry Yount earned one of baseball’s oddest stat lines: He’s a pitcher with one game to his credit who faced zero batters in his only time on a big league mound. He didn’t appear in his only big league appearance.
An odd career line, to be sure. Most major league pitchers actually pitch in the major leagues, but Larry didn’t, which makes him special.
What happened? It’s pretty simple, really. The Astros inserted Yount as a relief pitcher to start the ninth inning against the Braves on Sept. 15, 1971. While warming up on the mound before the inning, Yount injured himself. Since he had already trotted to the mound and been announced as the new pitcher, he’s in the record books. However, due to his injury, he never pitched against a big league batter in the game.
That much isn’t unique. Other pitchers have recorded zero batters faced in games. Something similar happened just last month. Roy Oswalt was the scheduled starter against the Nationals, but had to be yanked before the game began. A month before that, on July 15, Oakland’s Joey Devine was pulled from the game he’d just entered before facing his first batter.
But Yount is special because his appearance he didn’t appear in turned out to be his only time in a major league game.
He joined the Astros minor league system as a teen, and in 1970 at age 20 had a very nice minor league season, going 12-8 with a 2.84 ERA with the Double-A squad. That same team had another 20-year-old hurler go 10-12 with a 2.89 ERA. That other player was Bill Greif, who pitched for six years in the bigs. So things looked good for Yount.
Young moved up to Triple-A in 1971 and had some trouble, with his ERA ballooning by two runs. His more important concern came off the stat line. In this Vietnam War era, he had to spend some time in the armed forces. Not much time, but a very poorly timed week-long stint. His week came toward the end of the minor league season, and during it he couldn’t pitch at all.
Right after he finished, the Astros wanted him on their big league roster. Well, he wasn’t fresh, but he certainly wasn’t going to tell them no. So instead, he injured himself on the mound on Sept. 15.
The team didn’t call on him the rest of the offseason and sent him back to Triple-A in 1972. There he continued to regress. He went 5-14 with a 5.15 ERA. In a different Triple-A city in 1973, he 3-12 with a 6.79 ERA. Things were clearly going backwards. Houston cut bait on him, and the Brewers eventually took a flier on him, but his days as a prospect were done. Now he was just organizational filler. After 1975, he wasn’t even that.
Forty years ago Larry Yount got his name in the record books, but in a very enigmatic way, as the pitcher who never threw a pitch.
Other baseball items also celebrate their anniversaries or “day-versaries” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in the bold if you just care to skim.
1,000 days since Dock Ellis dies.
3,000 days since Arizona releases Matt Williams.
3,000 days since Eric Byrnes hits for the cycle.
5,000 days since the Rangers sign Jeff Zimmerman from the Northern League’s Winnipeg squad.
7,000 days since Greg Maddux announces he’s broken off negotiations with the Cubs, saying, “I gave them two opportunities to sign me.”
9,000 days since Gary Carter’s worst game, going by WPA. He’s 0-for-5 with a striekout for a –0.417 WPA in the Mets’ 5-4 loss to the Expos.
30,000 days since Jimmie Foxx’s longest career hitting streak peaks at 22 games. He’s 27-for-76 with 17 walks and seven homers.
30,000 days since Charley Root, the winningest pitcher in Cub history, has his best day at the plate. He goes 3-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs in Chicago’s 10-7 win over the Phillies. He also fans once.
1876 Nick Altrock, five-decade player, is born.
1889 The Western League has a rare quadruple header. Sioux City wins all four games against St. Joseph.
1890 Cannonball Titcomb—I’m not sure what’s odder, his nickname or his last name—tosses a no-hitter.
1892 Hall of Fame manager Ned Hanlon plays in his first game.
1894 Hall of Fame shortstop Bobby Wallace makes his big league debut—as a pitcher. He’ll switch to the infield in a few years.
1901 Tiger outfielder Davy Jones makes his big league debut.
1904 The all-time cumulative franchise record for Cleveland hits .500 (269-269). It will stay above this marker for 11-13 years. (The franchise will bounce around .500 repeatedly from 1915-17).
1906 John McGraw, age 33, manages his 1,000th game. His record: 586-394.
1907 A fan fells umpire Billy Evans with a thrown bottle in a Browns-Tigers game.
1910 Skippers John McGraw and Fred Clarke manage their 200th game against each other.
1910 Roger Peckinpaugh makes his big league debut.
1911 Veteran Washington Senators manager Jimmy McAleer announces his resignation. AL president Ban Johnson will arrange for him to buy a portion of the Red Sox.
1913 The Tigers take Harry Heilmann from Portland of the Northwestern League in the Rule 5 draft.
1915 The Yankees take Urban Shocker in the Rule 5 draft from Guelph of the Canadian League.
1916 Zack Wheat hitting streak peaks at 29 games thanks to an inside-the-park grand slam.
1920 George Sisler gets his 1,000th hit in his 750th game.
1920 Pie Traynor makes his big league debut.
1921 In his only major league appearance, A’s pitcher Arlas Taylor strikes out Joe Sewell. Though Sewell averages only one K per 63 AB in his career—by far the hardest player to fan in history—he’ll be the only player Taylor ever fans. The Indians win 17-3 as the A’s staff combines to walk 16 batters.
1921 Babe Ruth belts his 55th home run of the year, breaking his own record.
1922 Butch Henline becomes the first NL player of the 20th century to belt three home runs in one game.
1923 200-game winner Earl Whitehill makes his major league debut.
1923 Donie Bush plays his last game.
1923 Sad Sam Jones wins his 100th game. He’s 100-88 on his career right now. He’ll go 129-129 in the remainder of his career.
1924 Frank Chance dies, as many beanings in his playing days led to headaches and serious brain problems—sometimes even brain surgery.
1926 Bob Meusel of the Yankees hits three RBI sacrifice flies in one game, which the Yankees win, 6-4, over the Indians.
1927 Tris Speaker gets his 300th career sacrifice hit, something only 11 men ever did—but four of them started on the 1919-20 Indians.
1928 The Cardinals strand 29 runners in a doubleheader against the Phillies.
1929 Ray Schalk plays in his last game.
1930 Cardinal pitcher Flint Rhem, scheduled to start tomorrow against the Dodgers, disappears in Brooklyn.
1932 Giants purchases Paul Richards from Minneapolis of the American Association.
1935 Jimmie Foxx belts his 300th home run.
1936 A back injury forces Johnny Allen to leave the game despite pitching five hitless innings.
1937 Goose Goslin plays first base for the only known time.
1938 Lloyd Waner and Paul Waner belts consecutive home runs off Cliff Melton in the fifth inning against the Giants. In the same game, Mel Ott is HBP three times and draws a walk in his other plate appearance.
1938 Gaylord Perry is born.
1941 After 16 scoreless innings, Brooklyn ends up beating the Reds 5-1 (17) in Cincinnati. Paul Derringer ties his personal best for most innings pitched. His line: 16 IP, 14 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, and 3 K.
1946 Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Gordon gets his 1,000th hit in his 997th game.
1946 Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn belts his only grand slam. It comes in a pinch-hit role.
1946 Dale Mitchell makes his big league debut.
1947 Red Ruffing plays his final game.
1947 The Giants release Mel Ott.
1950 Red Munger gets the CG despite not being the official starter for the Cardinals. Scheduled starter Cloyd Boyer has a Larry Yount moment of his own, and is injured while warming up. Munger goes the distance pitching in relief—well, sort of in relief.
1950 Ted Williams returns to the Red Sox after suffering an injury in the All-Star Game two months earlier.
1952 The Boston Braves play their last game in Braves Field, losing 8-2 to the Dodgers.
1952 The New York Times publishes material from the Soviet Union that claims the Russians invented baseball.
1957 The Indians lose in 16 innings to the Indians 5-4 on a walk-off error. Ouch.
1957 Yogi Berra gets his final sacrifice hit. He’ll play about 650 more games.
1959 Speedster Snuffy Stirnweiss dies at age 39 when he’s on a train that falls into Newark Bay when the drawbridge is left up. Wow.
1959 Mickey Mantle homers from both sides of the plate for the seventh time in his career.
1960 Willie Mays legs out three triples in one game, going 5-for-6 in a 8-6 San Francisco victory over Philadelphia.
1961 The Yankees break the 1947 Giants record for home runs by a team in one season.
1961 Sudden Sam McDowell makes his big league debut.
1962 Sam McDowell has to leave the game with two broken ribs. He broke them by throwing too hard (!!!).
1963 Carl Yastrzemski’s career-best hitting streak maxes out at 16 games. He went 20-for-55 with four doubles, but only two RBIs.
1963 Rico Carty plays in his big league debut.
1964 Harmon Killebrew plays in right field for the only time, lasting a third of an inning.
1964 Sandy Alomar Sr. makes his big league debut.
1965 Bob Lee has the best one-game WPA performance by any reliever in Angels history. His line: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K for a 0.832 WPA.
1966 Carl Yastrzemski gets his 1,000th hit in his 893rd game.
1966 A’s manager Alvin Dark uses seven pitchers in his team’s 1-0, 11-inning win over the Indians
1966 In his big league debut, Orioles pitcher Tom Phoebus tosses a complete-game, four-hit shutout over the Angels.
1967 Willie McCovey legs out his only inside-the-park home run.
1968 Rollie Fingers makes his big league debut.
1969 Steve Carlton, then of the Cardinals, sets a new major league record by fanning 19 players in a game, but loses 4-3 to the Mets. This is in the midst of the Miracle Mets amazing pennant push.
1971 For the second time, Bert Blyleven wins a 1-0 complete game shutout. He’ll end up with 15, the most by any pitcher since Walter Johnson.
1971 Billy Williams hits his only pinch-hit home run.
1973 Dusty Baker of the Braves makes what The Sporting News calls “the greatest catch in Atlanta Stadium history.” He literally climbs the centerfield fence to rob Pittsburgh’s Richie Hebner of a home run.
1974 Horace Clarke plays his last big league game.
1974 After tossing 2,103 innings, Luis Tiant finally allows his first grand slam, which Gorman Thomas hits. It’s part of Tiant’s worst start. His line: 2 IP, 5 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 5 BB, 4 K, and a Game Score of 9.
1975 For the third time in nine days, a Phillies game ends with Dick Allen striking out for the final out. Philadelphia lost those games by two, three, and one runs.
1975 Paul Splittorff wins his 62nd game in Kansas City, which makes his the all-time Royals leader in wins.
1976 Rusty Staub gets his 2,000th hit.
1976 Jim Kaat loses his 200th game. His record is 246-200, and after this he’ll go 37-37.
1977 Tom Seaver wins his 200th game for a 200-113 career record. He’ll go 111-92 after this game.
1977 The Orioles forfeit when Earl Weaver removes the team from the field in the fifth inning, angry at a Marty Springstead call. Toronto wins.
1977 The Angels trade Dave Kingman to the Yankees.
1978 The White Sox finally win their first extra-inning game of the year, topping Seattle, 8-3 (10).
1978 The Dodgers become the first team to top 3,000,000 in attendance.
1979 Bob Watson hits for the cycle for the second time.
1980 Al Oliver gets his 2,000th his.
1980 Fernando Valenzuela makes his big league debut.
1981 The White Sox suspend team color guy Jimmy Piersall for making “derogatory remarks” about the player wives.
1981 Dave Bergman lays down a walk-off sacrifice hit as the Giants top the Braves, 6-5.
1983 Jon Matlack plays in his final game.
1985 Jose Cruz gets his 2,000th hit.
1985 Big Daddy Rick Reuschel completes his seventh straight start, his personal best. He’s 5-2 with 61.1 IP and an ERA of 1.17 (though with a half-dozen unearned runs for an RA of 2.05).
1986 Mike Laga does the unthinkable,hitting a foul ball out of Busch Stadium. The fans give him a standing ovation for his achievement. In the same game, when a sore-shouldered John Tudor has to leave after three innings, the Cardinals bullpen tosses 10 scoreless innings for a 1-0 win in 13 frames over the Mets. Ricky Horton pitches seven of those innings by himself.
1987 Keith Hernandez gets his 2,000th career hit.
1987 It’s a great day for pitchers making their big league debuts. Al Leiter, Jack McDowell, and John Burkett all first appear in major league games. They’ll combine to start 1,080 games, toss 6,928.1 IP and have a total win-loss record of 455-355.
1988 Davey Concepcion plays in his last game
1989 Randy Johnson makes his big league debut.
1991 Smoky Burgess dies.
1992 Jeff Bagwell enjoys his only five-hit game.
1992 George Brett reaches base due to catcher’s interference for the only time in his career.
1993 NL realignment is announced. They’ll have three divisions in 1994.
1996 The Orioles blast their 241st home run of the year, breaking the old team record set by the 1961 Yankees.
1996 Benito Santiago hits three home runs in one game.
1996 Texas retires Nolan Ryan’s number.
1996 Minnesota loses, dropping manager Tom Kelly’s record under .500 (781-782). It’ll stay under .500 for the rest of his career.
1997 Anaheim Stadium is renamed Edison International Field of Anaheim.
1998 Manny Ramirez hits three home runs in one game.
1999 Baseball approves the sale of the Reds to Carl Lindner for $67 million. That ends the Marge Schott era.
1999 Baseball owners vote to merge AL/NL administrative operations. NL president Leonard Coleman will announce his resignation at the end of the World Series.
2000 Todd Helton hits his 100th home run.
2002 Cliff Lee makes his big league debut.
2002 Troy Glaus hits three home runs in one game.
2003 Rickie Weeks makes his big league debut.
2003 Thousands of fans of Japan’s Hanshin Tigers jump into the murky Dotonbori River to celebrate their club’s Central League title. There’s a tradition of jumping in when the team wins a game.
2006 Scott Rolen has a career high seven RBIs in a game, going 3-for-4 with a double and two home runs.
2008 The Brewers fire manager Ned Yost.