Way back in July 1980, the Boston Globe recalled that slugger Jimmie Foxx spent some time as a pitcher in his last season, 1945:
Foxx had slipped badly and was hanging on by his fingertips with the Phillies. One day, Ben Chapman, Phils’ manager, came to Jimmie.
“We’re desperate. Would you mind getting yourself into shape to pitch? We don’t have anyone who can get the ball over the plate.”
“I couldn’t go nine innings under any conditions,” Foxx replied, according to Arthur Daley’s account in his book, “Kings of the Home Run.” “I’m not even sure I could get anyone out.”
“Just hang in there as long as you can,” Chapman begged. “If by some miracle, you could last five innings, that’s all I’ll ask. I’ll take you right out.”
Foxx was unbelievable against the Cincinnati Reds. At the end of five innings, he was pitching a no-hitter. Chapman left him in.
“In the sixth,” Daley recounts, “Jimmie’s arm was as dead as a dinosaur, and he felt just as heavy. The Reds nicked him for a hit and that was it. He yanked Foxx while he was still a winning pitcher and brought in a reliever to preserve the victory.”
In August 2000, Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News added that “the last position player to be a winning pitcher as a starter was Hall of Fame slugger Jimmie Foxx. . . . Foxx went 6 innings, struck out six and gave up four hits, winning 4-2.”
And in 1991, a letter to the Sports Editor of the New York Times noted:
When the Yankees ran out of relief pitchers in the 14-5 rout by the White Sox on Aug. 6 and sent in shortstop Alvaro Espinoza to face the last two batters, they catapulted him into the pitchers’ section of the baseball encyclopedias, where he will find himself in some interesting company.
A number of batting greats (something Espy isn’t!) have taken a turn or two on the mound. Stan Musial, who pitched regularly (and well) in the minors for three years, threw an incomplete inning for the Cards in 1952. Ted Williams yielded three hits and one run in two innings in 1940. Jimmie Foxx (534 career home runs) pitched a perfect inning for the Red Sox in 1939 and then, winding up his career with the Phillies, threw 23 innings in 9 games in 1945, for a earned run average of 1.52 for his career.
Going further back, Ty Cobb gave up six hits and two walks in four innings in 1918 and pitched a perfect inning seven years later. Truly impressive was the St. Louis Browns’ George Sisler, a kind of Ruthian double-threat man who twice hit over .400 and yet managed to pitch 111 innings in 24 games between 1915 and 1928, posting an e.r.a. of 2.35 for his career.
LOUIS JAY HERMAN