MLB History

MLB Power Rankings: The 15 Most Notable Position-Player Pitching Outings Ever

Josh SchochAnalyst IIIMay 20, 2011

MLB Power Rankings: The 15 Most Notable Position-Player Pitching Outings Ever

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    We all need to remember that MLB players are true athletes. With this being the case, some pitchers were the best hitters on their teams in high school, or even college. It is also important to bear in mind that some positional players did not always play there, they also played pitcher.

    MLB managers obviously prefer their pitchers to...well...pitch, and their position players to...well...not. It really is that simple.

    In some cases, however, managers will send out another player to pitch if the game seems out of reach, or if a staff is depleted and they need someone else to go.

    These rare cases have only occurred about 500 times in well over a century of Major League Baseball.

    With that being said, let's count down the top 15 pitching performances by position players in history.

    NOTE: PLAYERS MUST HAVE PITCHED IN NO MORE THAN 10 GAMES, AND PLAYED AT LEAST 80 PERCENT OF THEIR GAMES IN OTHER POSITIONS TO QUALIFY. THEREFORE, PLAYERS LIKE BABE RUTH AND RICK ANKIEL CANNOT BE ON THIS LIST.

15. Harry Hooper

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    Harry Hooper played in the MLB from 1909 to 1925. Hooper played for the White Sox and Red Sox in his years at right field.

    In 1913, Hooper was called to pitch for the Red Sox. Hooper went 2.0 innings without allowing a run. Hooper allowed only two hits and a walk in his MLB pitching debut. Hooper pitched well, having to face only seven batters, and forcing hitters to hit into two double plays.

    Hooper's pitching was pretty good, but the fact of the matter was that he did not face a high-powered offense in a day when pitching dominated the game.

14. Todd Cruz

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    Todd Cruz played in the MLB from 1978 to 1984, with an exception in 1981. Cruz played the left side of the infield for six teams.

    In 1984, Cruz was called upon to pitch by the Baltimore Orioles. Cruz came in for one inning, and he pitched a perfect inning. Cruz retired the side 1-2-3 in his only pitching appearance in his career.

    Cruz's only appearance was better than most pitchers can do, and it is definitely worth noting on this list.

13. Mike Benjamin

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    Mike Benjamin played second base, third base and shortstop for the Giants, Pirates, Red Sox and Phillies.

    Benjamin was asked to pitch an inning in a game in 1997 with the Boston Red Sox. Benjamin came in and had a 1-2-3 inning. Benjamin's perfect inning was incredible considering the was used to throwing across the infield to a first baseman instead of downhill to a catcher.

    Benjamin showed off his pitching arm in 1997, and his appearances was pretty impressive.

12. Nick Swisher

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    ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 20:  Nick Swisher #33 (R) of the New York Yankees talks with first base coach Mick Kelleher in Game Four of the ALCS against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Angel Stadium on October 20, 2009 in Anahe
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Nick Swisher is an outfielder who currently plays for the New York Yankees, and he was called upon to pitch in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays two years ago.

    In a game that the Yankees were losing 15-5 in, Swish came out and pitched the eighth inning.  Swisher got himself into a bit of trouble, but with two men on and no one out, Swisher struck out Gabe Kapler for the first out. Swisher proceeded to retire the next two Rays, too, and did not allow a run.

    Swish's strikeout was very impressive considering how he really only threw one pitch over and over again.

11. Mike Anderson

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    Mike Anderson played from 1971 to 1979 with the Phillies, Cardinals and Orioles. Anderson was actually a right-handed outfielder, but he was told he was pitching in a game in 1979 with the Philadelphia Phillies.

    Anderson pitched the last inning of a game, and he struck out two batters.  Anderson may have allowed two hits in his inning, but he did not allow a run, and he only faced the five batters.  Considering he only pitched once, he did really well with his two K's.

10. Matty Alou

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    Matty Alou was a first baseman and outfielder in most of his games from 1960 to 1974, but he was told he was taking the mound in a game in 1965.

    Alou came in the final two innings of a game with the Giants, and he did well. Alou allowed three hits and a walk in his two innings for a WHIP of 2.000, but he did not allow a run and he struck out three for a K/9 ratio of 13.5.

    Alou was a surprisingly good strike-out pitcher, and his appearance was very good for a position player.

9. Orth Collins

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    Orth Collins was actually a center fielder, but he became a pitcher in 1909 in a game with the Washington Senators.

    Collins came in to close out a game, and he showed off his stuff. Collins pitched a 1-2-3 inning and even struck out a batter. Collins retired the side in order at age 29, showing that he could have made a decent pitcher.

8. Chili Davis

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    Chili Davis was an outfielder and designated hitter in over 99.9 percent of his games in his MLB career — spanning from 1981 to 1999 with five different teams — but he took the mound in a game in 1993 with the California Angels.

    Davis came into a blowout, and finished the game giving a show for the fans. Davis pitched the last two innings of the game, and while he did not strike any batters out, he was nearly perfect with there only being one mistake, in which he hit a batter.

    Besides one poorly thrown ball, Davis pitched incredibly well, not allowing any hits or throwing four balls to a hitter for a walk.

7. Honus Wagner

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    PITTSBURGH, PA- APRIL 10: A statue of Honus Wagner in front of the entrance to the PNC Park on April 10, 2006 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    The immortal Honus Wagner pitched in a total of two games in which he took a break from shortstop, right field and first base. Wagner played from 1897 to 1917 for the Louisville Colonels and Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Wagner pitched in one of his games in 1902 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wagner went 5.1 innings and finished the game. Wagner allowed only four hits, two unearned runs and two walks, while striking out five.

    Wagner's 5.1 innings in relief were absolutely unbelievable, and the Hall of Famer definitely belongs on here.

6. Josh Wilson

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    PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 27:  Josh Wilson #11 of the Arizona Diamondbacks bats against the Philadelphia Phillies during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on April 27, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Phillies defeated the Diamondbacks 8-4.  (Photo by
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Josh Wilson has played second base, third base or shortstop for seven different teams in five seasons. Wilson has pitched three times in his career, but the most impressive by far was in a game with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009.

    In the game with Arizona, the team was losing 13-5 against the Cincinnati Reds, and Wilson was called upon to pitched the ninth. Most of the Diamondbacks' fans had left, but for those who remained, they were given a show.

    Wilson came into the game and got the first batter to fly out harmlessly to right on a 89 mph pitch.  Yeah, Wilson hit 89 mph, a speed that some actual pitchers can't hit. Wilson walked the second batter, but he got the third to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the ninth.

    Wilson may not have had a 1-2-3 inning, but he only faced three batters because of his double play and high-speed pitches.

5. Jimmie Foxx

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    A Hall of Famer, Jimmie Foxx could do it all, including pitch. Foxx pitched a total of 10 games in his career, including nine with the Phillies in 1945. Foxx's best game was in August of 1945 against the Cincinnati Reds.

    Foxx actually started this game, and he went 6.2 innings, allowing only two runs on four hits and four walks. He struck out five on his way to his only win as a pitcher.

    Foxx is barely eligible for this list, but he is, and this start was notable indeed.

4. High Pockets Kelly

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    George Lange Kelly, more commonly known as High Pockets Kelly, usually played first base, second base or outfield, but he pitched in one game in 1917 with the New York Giants.

    Kelly did not start the game, but he went 5.0 innings pitched, scattering four hits and a walk and not allowing a run. Kelly struck out two in the last five innings of the game, and his performance actually gave him a win in relief.

    When a position player comes into a game, they usually are only in to kill innings, but Kelly kept the Giants in the game, and it was during his five innings that the team took the lead.

3. Fred Andrus

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    Fred Andrus only played two seasons in the MLB, in 1876 and 1884, but in 1884, he pitched a great game for the Chicago White Stockings.

    Andrus pitched a complete game in his only game as a pitcher, allowing only two earned runs.  Andrus struck out two and walked two. The surprising parts of this game were that he scattered 11 hits, allowing only two runs in his 9.0 innings pitched.

    In his only game as a pitcher, he went the distance and won the game.

2. Wade Boggs

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    Wade Boggs is in the Hall of Fame for his bat, and his 12-straight All-Star appearances, but he was an interesting pitcher as well.

    Boggs was told he was going to pitch in a game with the New York Yankees against the Anaheim Angels. He came in and pitched a shutout inning, but that's not what was impressive.

    Boggs threw 17 pitches in that inning, 16 of which were knuckleballs (and one fastball). Boggs' kunckleball has gone down in history as a legend, and it is definitely deserving of the number two spot on this list.

1. Jose Canseco

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    Jose Canseco is known for his steroids use, but he was a great hitter when he played outfield and designated hitter, and he had the most notable pitching performance by a position player ever.

    In a game against the Boston Red Sox in which his Rangers were being destroyed, Canseco asked manager Kevin Kennedy to let him pitch in the eighth inning. This would prove to be costly.

    Canseco blew out his arm in the game, and needed to undergo Tommy John surgery, meaning his season was done.

    Canseco blowing out his arm was a huge mistake, and it has become a reason that a lot of managers don't pitch their position players anymore, especially not All-Stars. Canseco's was easily the most notable, and that is why he is number one on this list for all the wrong reasons.

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