Who’s on Second? Eight Men In!

The Oakland Coliseum was the site of one of the stranger games for the home team’s second basemen. (via Nathan Hughes Hamilton)

Most teams have a regular starting lineup, sometimes referred to as first-stringers. We also speak of second-stringers and sometimes third-stringers. But have you ever heard of a fourth stringer … or beyond? Well, if you were on hand at the Oakland Coliseum on September 19, 1972, you would have gone where no official scorer has gone before.

At that stage of the ’72 season, the A’s were in the driver’s seat in the race for the AL West Division flag. But first they had to fend off the surprising Chicago White Sox, the only other serious contender.

Baseball on the South Side of Chicago had been on a death watch. In fact, they had played parts of the 1968 and 1969 seasons in Milwaukee, sparking rumors of a permanent move. The 1969 and 1970 Sox teams had finished last in AL attendance (a mere 495,355 to witness a 56-106 season in the latter year).

The vastly improved 1971 team went 79-83 and finished third in the division. The traditionally punchless Sox actually had the AL home run king (Bill Melton), the first White Sox HR league leader ever. Attendance surged to 833,891.

Still, no one was predicting any pennants for the Sox in 1972. The Cubs were clearly the darlings of the Windy City, as they had been contenders, albeit disappointing, in preceding seasons. In 1972 the Cubs would finish far behind (11 games) the Pirates in the NL East, so with no wild card slot to play for, it was an uneventful September at Wrigley Field. On September 19, two games away from elimination, the Cubs played before 1,362 fans, the smallest turnout at the Friendly Confines in five seasons.

That the Sox would still be in the running by late September was a pleasant surprise, though the off-season trade for Dick Allen (sending pre-surgery Tommy John to the Dodgers) had created some cautious optimism on the South Side. Allen came through for his new team, leading the league in home runs (37), OBP (.422), RBI (113) and slugging (.603), which snared him the AL MVP award for 1972.

The Sox got off to a good start in 1972 (albeit a late one, as the season was delayed by a strike), and at the close of June they were 39-27. The A’s, who had won the division, the year before, were just a little bit better at 43-23.

Sox fans doubtless wondered if a July slump (14-16) meant the party was over, but the team recovered in August (18-9), so that at the dawn of September, the Sox were in the pennant race. Unfortunately, they went 8-10 through the 18th, and their chances dwindled day by day. On September 19, the Sox had 24 games left to play and a record of 79-62. The A’s were 84-57.

The games in Oakland on September 19 and 20 were the last contests between the two teams. After that, the schedule favored the Sox, as their remaining games included five against mediocre competition (two games with the Royals and three games with the Twins), and six against the hapless Texas Rangers.

Nevertheless, the season was winding down so it was all but imperative for the Sox to take two in Oakland. For the A’s, it was an opportunity to deliver a knockout punch. Consequently, Sox manager Chuck Tanner and A’s manager Dick Williams utilized their expanded rosters to make free-wheeling substitutions. This was the last season before the AL adopted the designated hitter rule, so pinch-hitting for pitchers was still a key part of strategy.

In fact, three A’s starting pitchers participated in the contest without taking the mound. Catfish Hunter appeared as a pinch-hitter and got a base hit. This is not as unlikely as one might think, as Hunter hit .219 in 105 at bats that season. He actually pinch-hit for a position player and got a single, but with an asterisk. He pinch-hit for outfielder Allan Lewis, who was characterized as a designated runner. In fact, Lewis only came to bat 10 times in 1972.

Vida Blue was utilized as a pinch-runner (for Brant Alyea in the 9th inning). Today a starting pitcher appearing as a pinch-runner is about as rare as a starter hurling a complete game, but it was not uncommon in days of yore.

Ken Holtzman made the last out of the game pinch-hitting for losing pitcher Gary Waslewski. This may seem like a curious substitution, but Waslewski’s career BA was .045, while Holtzman’s was .163. Also, Holtzman was an adept bunter (11 sacrifice hits in 1972), so a bunt single was a distinct possibility.

A’s starter Blue Moon Odom got off to a rocky start, as the Sox scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Unfortunately, Sox starter Tom Bradley could not hold the line, and was knocked out in the fifth inning in favor of Terry Forster, who had been a bullpen stalwart all season (he finished the year with 29 saves and a 2.25 ERA, in exactly 100 innings). Forster, though only 20 years old, was in his sophomore year with the Sox. Listed at 6’3” and 210, he was 13 years away from going down in pop culture history as “a fat tub of goo” (he put on 60 pounds) as described by David Letterman on his late-night TV show.

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Forster’s duration was a match for Bradley’s, as he pitched into the 10th inning with the score knotted at 5-5. Then Chuck Tanner emptied out the bullpen…Cy Acosta, Dave Lemonds, Moe Drabowsky, Vicente Romo, and a promising rookie by the name of Rich Gossage, who earned the win with 2.1 innings of scoreless relief.

The curious aspect of the A’s offense was that manager Dick Williams seemed dead set against letting his second basemen bat.

Don Mincher pinch-hit for starting second baseman Dal Maxvill in the bottom of the 2nd inning.

Ted Kubiak replaced Maxvill, but in the bottom of the 5th inning, Gonzalo Marquez pinch-hit for Kubiak.

Dick Green replaced Kubiak, but Pepe Mangual pinch-hit for Green in the bottom of the 6th.

Tim Cullen replaced Green, but Dave Duncan pinch-hit for Cullen in the bottom of the 9th inning. Duncan stayed in the game as catcher, and Gene Tenace, the starting catcher, doffed the tools of ignorance and took over at 2nd base. When Tenace came to the plate in the bottom of the 10th, he was the first second baseman to come to the plate for the A’s. For all practical purposes, the A’s had employed a DH for the first nine innings.

In the bottom of the 14th inning, Larry Haney pinch-hit for pitcher Joel Horlen, (who had pitched for the White Sox from 1961-1971). In the top of the 15th, Haney took over at second base and Tenace moved to right field. This was the only time Haney ever played second base during his career; mercifully, his infield skills were not put to the test.

In truth, second base had been something of a problem position for the A’s throughout the 1972 season. Cullen, Kubiak, and Maxvill were notoriously weak hitters, and veteran Dick Green, the best option, had missed most of the season due to back surgery.

If you weren’t counting, the A’s employed 6 second baseman in the September 19 contest. The Sox added 2 more for a grand total of 8, a record number of second basemen in one contest.

The starting second baseman for the White Sox was Mike Andrews, who went 1 for 4 with a run batted in and a run scored. His sub, Jorge Orta (8th inning) hit a home run in the top of the 15th to give the Sox the lead and, as it turned out, the win. So the Sox second baseman had the last laugh, even though they were a distant second in number of personnel.

Of course, then as now, with expanded rosters in September, wholesale substitutions are more likely. When the smoke had cleared in Oakland, the A’s had employed 30 men. The Sox had utilized a “mere” 21 players in earning the victory.

Unfortunately for the Sox, Wilbur Wood’s knuckleball wasn’t working the next night (he pitched an astounding 376.2 innings in 1972), and they lost (6-3) to the A’s, so they had gained no ground and were two games closer to the end of the season. The Sox went 7-4 the rest of the season to finish 5.5 games behind the A’s.

A curious footnote to the September 19 game was written just a little more than a year later. Once again, Mike Andrews would make baseball history as a second baseman in an extra-inning contest in Oakland. This time the results were negative.

Batting just .201, Andrews had been released by the White Sox in mid-season 1973. Signed as a free agent by the A’s (skipper Dick Williams had also managed Andrews at Boston), he found himself the center of controversy after he committed two errors in the top of the 12th inning of Game 2 of the World Series in Oakland.

The replay showed that Andrews might have been victimized by a blown call on the second error, but that cut no ice with A’s owner Charlie Finley, who scratched Andrews from the World Series roster, supposedly due to a shoulder injury.

Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, no fan of Finley before the incident, interceded and ruled that Andrews must remain on the roster. Nevertheless, he did not play in the field for the rest of the Series, though he did appear as a pinch-hitter. In fact, that two-error appearance in Game 2 was his last appearance in the field in a major league game.

Sad to say, but this one rogue inning is what Andrews is remembered for today. His miscues might have cost the A’s the game, but were ultimately harmless, as the A’s defeated he Mets in 7 games. Even so, it was hardly a positive legacy for Andrews, whose salad days with the Red Sox (he was a rookie second baseman on the 1967 “Impossible Dream” team and an All-Star two years later) are rarely brought up.

Of course, Andrews’ last game was played in front of 49,151 and a national television audience. The September 19, 1972 game was played in front of 9,594 (surely fewer than that after 15 innings) and was only broadcast in the Bay Area and Chicagoland. The length of the game likely resulted in a progressively shrinking audience in the Bay Area, and given the two-hour time difference, only night owls and hard-core Sox fans were still tuned in at the end of the 4:51 game. Even the next morning’s readers of the Tribune and the Sun-Times did not know that history had been made the night before.

I’m sure the A’s and Sox weren’t intentionally trying to set a record for most second basemen in one ball game. It’s neither a positive nor a negative achievement, just a notable one – duly noted here for what it’s worth.

References and Resources

  • Rory Costello, SABR Bio Project, “Dick Green
  • Rory Costello, SABR Bio Project, “Allan Lewis
  • Richard Dozer, Chicago Tribune, September 20, 1972, “Sox, A’s in Extra Innings”
  • David Nemec and Pete Palmer, 1001 Fascinating Baseball Facts, Longmeadow Press (Stamford, CT, 1994)
  • Saul Wisnia, SABR Bio Project, “Mike Andrews
  • Baseball Almanac
  • Baseball-Reference

Frank Jackson writes about baseball, film and history, sometimes all at once. He has has visited 54 major league parks, many of which are still in existence.
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87 Cards
87 Cards

I have some notes from my journal about this game. 1. 54 different batters and 21 different pitchers were deployed for this game; this was a record until Sep. 15, 2015 Rockies at Dodgers (16-innings; 58 hitters and 24 hurlers) 2. The White Sox and A’s used nine pinch-hitters in the first nine-innings–this equals the record for a regulation game (done three-times, all during expanded-roster time; see the bottom of the page here http://www.baseball-almanac.com/recbooks/pinch-hitters-records.shtml though Baseball-Almanac does not recognize this Tanner/Willams accomplishment as noteworthy due to the extra-innings) 3. On September 19, 1972, the best Polish-born player ever, 37-year old… Read more »

87 Cards
87 Cards

I read my notes too quickly, amend number-two to read:

2. The White Sox and A’s used seven pinch-hitters in the first nine-innings.
The record is nine PHs for a regulation game—-done three-times, all during expanded-roster time; see the bottom of the page here http://www.baseball-almanac.com/recbooks/pinch-hitters-records.shtml


Love the pic of what the Oakland Coliseum view used to be like!