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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.

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.

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Transcription

Phantoms who never were

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 went 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 with the 1919 Chicago White Sox,[4] having been signed in December 1918,[5] but he suffered an arm injury falling down a flight of stairs while working as a census taker,[6] and was sent to the minor leagues in May 1919.[7] It is unclear whether he was on the team's active roster. Stewart went on to be an umpire in the National League and an ice hockey referee in the NHL.
  • First baseman Jeff Jones of Harvard was briefly with the 1920 Philadelphia Athletics in early July, but did not play before being assigned to the minor leagues.[8][9] He was recalled by the A's in late July, but again did not make a major-league appearance.[10][11] 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[12] made the major league roster of the 1927 New York Giants out of spring training, but the Giants did not use him before they optioned him to the minor leagues.[13][14] In 1933, his brother Mel Almada became the first Mexican to play in the majors.
  • Minor league pitching legend Jake Levy[15] was reported in at least one contemporary account to have signed with the 1927 New York Giants in mid-September,[16] 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.[17] However, whether Levy spent any time at all on a Giants' active roster is a matter of dispute.
  • Al Olsen[18] 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.[19][20] 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."[21] 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[22]—though Culberson himself swore 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).[23]

1950s

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;[24] 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.[25] 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 the few individuals to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.
  • Bruce Swango was a high school pitcher signed by Paul Richards for the Baltimore Orioles for $36,000 in 1955. He was required to be placed on the Orioles' 25-player active roster because of the bonus rule at the time. He never appeared in an MLB game during his two months with the ballclub before being released.[26][27] He spent the remainder of his professional baseball career in the minors.[28]

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

  • Outfielder Luke Wilcox[76] was briefly called up by the 2000 New York Yankees, July 13–16,[77][78] but did not appear in a game. He wore number 50 with the Yankees.
  • Catcher César King[79] spent five days on the 2001 Kansas City Royals active roster, May 19–23,[80][81] without making an appearance.
  • Pitcher Jeff Urban[82] was on the 2003 San Francisco Giants active roster on April 26–30 and again on August 1–2. He did not make an appearance during either stint.
  • Catcher David Parrish,[83] son of Tiger great Lance Parrish, was called up by the 2004 New York Yankees for three days without making an appearance, after regular catcher Jorge Posada was hit in the face with a ball during a game. Parrish wore number 57 during his short stint as a Yankee.
  • Pitcher Cory Morris[84] was on the active roster of the 2006 Baltimore Orioles on April 9–12, without making an appearance.
  • Catcher Tim Gradoville[85] was on the 2006 Philadelphia Phillies active roster for 18 days in September without making an appearance.
  • Pitcher Tim Lahey was on the active roster of the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies for the first six days of the season without making an appearance. Lahey spent his entire six-year minor league career pitching for the Minnesota Twins organization. However, in a five-month period from December 2007 to April 2008, he was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the Rule 5 draft, sold by the Rays to the Chicago Cubs, released by the Cubs, signed by the Phillies (where he was briefly on their active roster), and then returned to the Twins under conditions of the Rule 5 draft. Lahey managed to do all this without throwing a regular season pitch for anyone other than Minnesota farm teams.
  • Pitcher Luis Muñoz[86] spent two games on the active roster of the 2008 Pittsburgh Pirates in July without making an appearance. His fate was probably sealed before he arrived, with Pirates general manager Neal Huntington saying of his call-up to the majors: "I would not anticipate Luis being here for an extended period of time. It was a step short of desperation."[87] Two days after his arrival, Munoz was removed from the Pirates roster and designated for assignment. He was eventually sent to the farm system of the Seattle Mariners.

2010s

Shawn Zarraga was briefly on the active roster of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016.

2020s

  • Infielder Jeison Guzmán was added to the major league roster by the Kansas City Royals on August 11, 2020, and was optioned on August 14, without appearing in a game.[115] He remained in the Royals organization during 2021, then in played in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization during 2022 until being released mid-season.[116] Guzmán retired from baseball on May 22, 2024.[117]
  • 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 from the Brewers’ 40-man roster on September 14.[118]
  • 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. On May 8, 2021, De La Cruz was recalled to the majors, but was again optioned down on May 10 without making an appearance.[119]
  • Pitcher Steven Fuentes† was promoted to the major leagues by the Washington Nationals on April 20, 2021, but was optioned down on April 30 without appearing in a game.[120] On October 13, Fuentes was outrighted off of the 40-man roster.[121]
  • Outfielder Corey Bird was promoted to the major leagues by the Miami Marlins on July 28, 2021, but was designated for assignment on July 30 without appearing in a game.[122] After temporarily retiring after the 2021 season, Bird signed with the Charleston Dirty Birds of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball in June 2022 but later retired once again.[123]
  • Catcher Gianpaul González was promoted to the major leagues by the Cleveland Indians on August 31, 2021, but was optioned down on September 2 without appearing in a game.[124] González was later designated for assignment and removed from the 40-man roster.[125]
  • Pitcher Miguel Romero† was promoted to the major leagues for the first time on September 8, 2021, by the Oakland Athletics,[126] but was optioned down on September 21 without appearing in a game.[126]
  • Pitcher Jeff Singer was selected to the major league roster by the Phillies on April 12, 2022,[127] but was designated for assignment on April 13 without appearing in a game.[128]
  • Outfielder Donovan Casey† was promoted to the major league roster by the Nationals on April 15, 2022,[129] but was optioned down to Triple-A on April 20 without appearing in a game for the big league club.[130]
  • Catcher Ronaldo Hernández† was promoted to the major league roster by the Red Sox on April 19, 2022,[131] then returned to Triple-A the following day without appearing in a game.[132] He was also recalled by the Red Sox for their game of August 1, but again did not appear, and was optioned back to Triple-A the next day.[133]
  • Catcher Alex Hall† was summoned from High-A to the major league roster by the Brewers on June 2, 2022, in an emergency situation as primary catcher Omar Narváez tested positive for COVID-19 two hours before the Brewers' game against the Padres. Hall was called up because he played for the closest minor league affiliate to the Brewers, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.[134] He was designated for assignment the next day.[135]
  • Infielder Will Toffey† was promoted to the major league roster by the Phillies on July 13, 2022,[136] but was designated for assignment, cleared waivers, and was returned to Triple-A the next day without appearing in a game.[137]
  • Pitcher Carlos Espinal† was selected to the major league roster by the New York Yankees on August 1, 2022, but did not make an appearance before being sent down to the minors the following day. He was removed from the 40-man roster on August 8.[138]
  • Pitcher Parker Bugg† was promoted to the major league roster by the Miami Marlins on August 14, 2022,[139] but was designated for assignment two days later without appearing in a game.[140] Bugg was outrighted Triple-A and elected free agency following the season.
  • Pitcher Connor Grey† was promoted to the major league roster by the Mets on August 22, 2022, but was optioned back to Triple-A five days later without appearing in a game. He was designated for assignment on September 1, 2022, and outrighted to Triple-A three days later.[141]
  • Pitcher Chris Muller† was promoted to the major leagues by the Tampa Bay Rays on May 12, 2023, but went unused out of the bullpen before he was optioned back to Triple-A Durham on May 15.[142] He was released by the Rays on May 29.[143]
  • Pitcher Sean Reynolds† was promoted to the major leagues by the Miami Marlins on July 7, 2023. He went unused out of the bullpen was optioned to Triple–A on July 10.[144]
  • Pitcher Norwith Gudiño† was promoted to the major leagues by the Boston Red Sox on July 22, 2023, as the 27th man for the team's doubleheader. He went unused out of the bullpen and was returned to Triple–A the next day.[145] He was removed from the roster on July 25,[146] and released on July 31.[147]
  • Pitcher Josh Simpson† was promoted to the major leagues by the Miami Marlins on September 12, 2023. He went unused out of the bullpen and was optioned to Triple–A on September 17.[148]
  • Catcher Carlos Narvaez† was promoted to the major leagues by the New York Yankees on April 29, 2024. He went unused off of the bench and was optioned down to Triple–A on May 2.[149]
  • Pitcher Bradley Blalock† was promoted to the major leagues by the Milwaukee Brewers on May 20, 2024. However, he went unused out of the bullpen and was optioned down to Double–A on May 24.[150]

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 April 2024, there are over 1,500 batters and over 700 pitchers listed.[151]

Other players who had notable experiences similar to phantom ballplayers include:

Not officially on a major-league roster

  • The Sporting Life of February 24, 1906, reported that pitcher Jimmy Whalen[152] sent in a contract to the New York Highlanders,[153] although it is unclear if Whalen made the team's active roster once the season was underway. Whalen never appeared in a major league game, although he won over 250 games in the minors.[154]
  • Journalist Arthur "Bugs" Baer claims that he was on the Detroit Tigers team for their game of May 18, 1912, against the Philadelphia Athletics, but wasn't put in the game.[155] Most of the Tigers roster for that game consisted of players who were playing their first and only major league game: the Tigers had gone on strike, and an emergency squad of replacements had been hastily recruited from local amateurs, along with Tigers coaches, to allow the Tigers to field a team.
  • Pitcher Brian Mazone was to start a game for the 2006 Philadelphia Phillies on September 5,[156] but the game was rained out and the Phillies did not activate him to their roster. He spent the rest of his career, which ended in 2010, in the minors.[157] "That's a tough thing to shake", Mazone said. "I was getting called up by the Phillies in 2006 to make a start [replacing Randy Wolf], and the game got rained out and they sent me back down without activating me. Randy came up to me here and apologized. Not that he did anything wrong, he just felt bad."[158]

Passing phantoms

Some players have gone years between first being listed on an MLB active roster without playing (thus becoming phantoms), and eventually appearing in an MLB game (thus losing phantom status). Examples include:

Marcus Walden was first listed on an MLB active roster in April 2014, but did not make his MLB debut until April 2018.

Rookie cards

Makers of baseball cards have issued major league rookie cards featuring some players who never actually played in MLB. Two known examples are listed below. Starting in 2005, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) required card manufacturers to limit rookie cards to players already added to an MLB active roster, or players who appeared in an MLB game during the prior season.[168] Note that card makers also issue cards of "future stars", "top prospects", or similar wording, which are not rookie cards and are speculative in nature.

Special circumstances

  • Pitcher Larry Yount, older brother of Hall of Famer Robin Yount, suffered an injury while throwing warmup pitches after being summoned as a reliever during a September 15 game for the 1971 Houston Astros.[175] He did not face a batter and did not appear in any other MLB game. Under MLB rules, Larry Yount is credited with an appearance in that game because he had been announced, despite not actually playing in the game.[176]

See also

References

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Further reading

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