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Phantom ballplayer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Brian Jeroloman spent a month with the 2011 Toronto Blue Jays without appearing in a game.
Brian Jeroloman spent a month with the 2011 Toronto Blue Jays without appearing in a game.

A phantom ballplayer is either a baseball player who is incorrectly listed in source materials as playing in a Major League Baseball (MLB) game, often the result of typographical or clerical errors, or a player who spent time on an MLB active roster without ever appearing in an MLB contest during his career. Most of the first form of phantom players date from the 19th or early 20th century, with at least one showing up as late as World War II.

A modern-day phantom ballplayer is generally caused by the player being removed from the active roster by a subsequent action (such as being optioned to a minor league team) or the team reaching the end of their season, and the player not having later opportunity to play in a major league game. Many of these phantom players were September call-ups in backup roles.

Phantoms who never were

Pete Compton of the St. Louis Browns, now credited with the plate appearance of "Lou Proctor"
Pete Compton of the St. Louis Browns, now credited with the plate appearance of "Lou Proctor"
  • Edward L. Thayer supposedly played one game for the 1876 New York Mutuals; he was listed in The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball as having been born in Mechanic Falls, Maine.[1]:333 The player was actually George Fair, who adopted a pseudonym that, coincidentally, resembled the name of then-12-year-old Ernest Lawrence Thayer, who would later go on to become a poet and write "Casey at the Bat." (Some 19th and early 20th century players sometimes played under assumed names in an attempt to circumvent contractual obligations with another club.)
  • An outfielder named Turbot (no first name given) was listed in The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball as playing one game for the 1902 St. Louis Cardinals.[1]:339 In the 1971 anthology This Great Game, writer and humorist Roy Blount Jr. included him on his "all-time fish team" (as turbot is also the name of a fish) and bemoaned that Turbot had been dropped from the encyclopedia; "I don't know what happened to him, but we need him in the outfield."[2]
  • Lou Proctor was listed as playing one game for the 1912 St. Louis Browns, drawing a walk in his only plate appearance. He appeared in The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball as a pinch hitter named "L. Proctor".[1]:284 Research in the 1980s, however, revealed that the appearance belonged to the Browns' Pete Compton. According to legend, Proctor was a Western Union operator who inserted his name into the box score as a prank. However, whether Proctor existed—even as a prankish telegraph operator—is unknown.
  • A catcher named Deniens (no first name given) was listed in The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball as having played one game for the 1914 Chicago Chi-Feds of the Federal League.[1]:125 Later research showed that the game was caught by the Chi-Feds third-string catcher Clem Clemens — historians reading a handwritten scorecard of the game had incorrectly deciphered "Clemens" as "Deniens".

Real players who never played

Research by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) has identified over 400 players who appeared on major league rosters, but did not appear in a major league game, since 1884.[3] A number of examples are presented here.

Pre-1950

  • Pitcher Bill Stewart was on the roster of the 1919 Chicago White Sox,[4] but was sent to the minor leagues without playing for the team.[5] It is unclear whether he was on the team's active roster, as he had been injured the previous winter.[6] Stewart would go on to be an umpire in the National League and an ice hockey referee in the NHL.
  • First baseman Jeff Jones was briefly on the roster of the 1920 Philadelphia Athletics, but did not play. As with several other players of this era, it is not established if Jones was on the A's active roster during the season.
  • Outfielder Lou Almada made the major league roster of the 1927 New York Giants out of spring training, but was hurt as the season began, and did not reach the majors again. In 1933, his brother Mel Almada became the first Mexican to play in the majors.
  • Minor league pitching legend Jake Levy was reported in at least one contemporary account to have signed with the 1927 New York Giants in mid-September,[7] without getting into a game. Peter and Joachim Horvitz' The Big Book of Jewish Baseball list Levy's stint on the Giants bench as having occurred in 1932.[8] However, whether Levy spent any time at all on a Giants' active roster is a matter of dispute.
  • Al Olsen is an unusual example of a verifiable real-life person who did not play in the major leagues, but was included in official major league records for many years. Olsen, a career minor league pitcher, was credited as appearing in the first game of a doubleheader on May 16, 1943, as a pinch hitter (walking, and then stealing a base) for the Boston Red Sox against the Chicago White Sox. However, research by SABR in the 1980s showed that while Olsen had been with the 1943 Boston Red Sox during spring training, he was sent to San Diego of the Pacific Coast League before the 1943 season began.[9][10] Olsen pitched on May 15 for San Diego, and given wartime travel restrictions, could not have arrived in Chicago for the game the following day. Olsen himself said, "It wasn't me. I was a left-handed pitcher. I couldn't hit my hat. Besides, I never played a game in the major leagues."[11] The pinch hitting appearance probably, but not definitely, belongs to Leon Culberson; it also could have been Johnny Lazor, who wore uniform number 14, the same number Olsen wore in spring training. Official records now credit Culberson with the walk and stolen base[12]—though Culberson himself swears he did not play in what would have been his major league debut game (he was the starting center fielder in the second game of the doubleheader, thus his debut date is not in question).[13]

1950s

Bill Sharman, who was briefly on the roster of the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers
Bill Sharman, who was briefly on the roster of the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers
  • Outfielder Bill Sharman spent time on the roster of the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers when he was called up in mid-September;[14] he did not appear in a game. Sharman is often cited as the only player to be ejected from an MLB game without playing in one, when umpire Frank Dascoli cleared the entire Dodgers bench for arguing with a call at home plate on September 27, 1951.[15] However, Sharman was not ejected; those who had to leave the bench were still eligible to be brought into the game. Sharman is far more notable as a professional basketball player and coach than as a baseball player; he is one of only four individuals to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

2010s

2020s

  • Pitcher Justin Steele† was promoted to the major league roster by the Cubs on August 2, 2020, but was optioned down on August 6 without appearing in a game.[73]
  • Infielder Jeison Guzman† was added to the major league roster by the Royals on August 11, 2020, and was optioned on August 14, without appearing in a game.[74]
  • Catcher Patrick Mazeika† was added to the major league roster by the Mets on August 25, 2020, but was optioned the next day without appearing in a game. He was recalled on August 28, but was optioned down again on August 29, without making an appearance in a game.[75]
  • Pitcher Trey Supak† was added to the major league roster by the Brewers on August 31, 2020, but was optioned down the next day without appearing in a game. He was removed form the Brewers’ 40-man roster on September 14.[76]
  • Pitcher Jasseel De La Cruz† was promoted to the major leagues by the Braves on September 15, 2020, but was optioned down the next day without appearing in a game.[77]

denotes an active professional baseball player who could lose phantom status if he returns to the major leagues and appears in a game

Honorable mentions

Baseball-Reference.com maintains lists of players who have appeared in only a single major league game; as of July 2018, there are nearly 1,000 batters and over 500 pitchers listed.[78] This section includes some examples, along with several other notables.

Moonlight Graham was featured in the 1989 film Field of Dreams
Moonlight Graham was featured in the 1989 film Field of Dreams

Former phantom players who made MLB debut in subsequent seasons

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d Turkin, Hy; Thompson, S. C. (1956). The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball. New York City: A. S. Barnes & Company. LCCN 56-5560.
  2. ^ Doris Townsend, ed. (1971). This Great Game. Prentice-Hall. p. 242. ISBN 0139190767.
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  8. ^ Horvitz, Peter S.; Horvitz, Joachim (2001). The Big Book of Jewish Baseball: An Illustrated Encyclopedia & Anecdotal History. S.P.I. Books. ISBN 1561719730.
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Further reading

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