Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Adam Greenberg and Novelty At-Bats in the Majors

Adam Greenberg, a once promising prospect, made his big league debut with the Cubs on July 9, 2005. He was hit in the back of the head by a Valerio De Los Santos fastball in his first at-bat and sustained a concussion. The after-effects dampened his major league hopes as he suffered from headaches, vertigo and vision problems for nearly two years. He eventually returned to action in the independent Atlantic League, but was never considered a serious candidate for big league reinstatement--until recently.

Thanks to an on-line campaign labled "One At Bat," the Marlins--in the midst of one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history--signed Greenberg to a 1-day contract as a pinch-hitter. The Cinderella story ended anticlimactically as Greenberg struck out on three pitches from Mets' knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. But the 31 year-old Greenberg received a warm ovation from an appreciative crowd and got to live out his big league fantasy if only for a day.

Greenberg's plate appearance calls to mind various other novelty at-bats from the past.

In 1935, a nightclub entertainer named Kitty Burke was allowed to bat against Paul "Daffy" Dean of the Cardinals during an oversold game at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. After grounding Dean's underhand toss back to the mound, she disappeared back into the crowd where she came from.

In perhaps the most bizarre episode in diamond history, a 3-foot-7, 65-pound circus performer named Eddie Gaedel was sent to the plate for the St. Louis Browns during the 1951 slate. Looking to boost sagging ticket sales, owner Bill Veeck allowed Gaedel to pinch-hit for Frank Saucier while wearing the number 1/8 on his jersey. Gaedel drew a four pitch walk from Tigers' hurler Bob Cain then was immediately replaced with a pinch-runner.

With the White Sox out of playoff contention and well-below the .500 mark during the 1980 campaign, Minnie Minoso became the third oldest player (at 54 years of age) to appear in the majors when he entered the last two games of the season on October 4th and 5th. He failed to reach base safely in 2 pinch-hitting assignments, but established himself as just the second player in history to make a major league appearance in five decades.

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