Baseball History 1- Frank Baumholtz

This is one reason why I love baseball…

Due to many obligations, my seventeen year old son and I had not seen much of each other for the past several days.  So, as I was doing some mindless tasks, he joined me in my home office to talk baseball.

The name “Stan Musial” came up.

I’m a life-long Yankees fan, but I hold a special place in my heart for Ted Williams and Stan Musial as they were my father’s and my uncle’s favorite players when they were growing up.  I enjoy talking about these legends from baseball’s past.

Since the Internet is never far from my son’s hands, he started looking up Musial’s statistics.  In doing this, he discovered that Musial pitched one game in the big leagues, but he had no pitching statistics.

“How could that be?” he wondered.

This led us to two of the greatest baseball web sites: baseball-reference.com and retrosheet.org to find the answer.

And that led us to Frank Baumholtz and a great baseball story that had been unknown to me until tonight.The story is worth sharing.

First, though, a little background:

Frank Baumholtz was a great collegiate athlete who starred at Ohio University.

After college, Baumholtz served with distinction in World War II.

After the war, in 1946 and 1947, he played professional basketball in the NBL and the BAA, two precursor leagues to the NBA.

Of course, he also played professional baseball.  In 1946, he starred in the Minor Leagues and in 1947, he reached the Major Leagues.

In  1947, his rookie season, Baumholtz, a left-handed hitter, playing for the Cincinnati Reds, led the National League in plate appearances with 711.  Playing mostly in center field, he had a solid season batting .283 with 5 home runs and 45 runs batted in.  His final statistics listed him among the league leaders in hits, doubles, and triples – not a bad rookie year!

Baumholtz played for the Reds until he was traded to the Chicago Cubs during the 1949 season.  It was with the Cubs that he had his greatest season in 1952.  That year he hit .325, good enough for second in the National League.  Baumholtz played with the Cubs through the 1955 season.  In 1956 and 1957, Frank Baumholtz played for the Philadelphia Phillies. His career ended after the 1957 season.  In 10 big league seasons, Baumholtz had a lifetime batting average of .290.

But the great baseball story in Frank Baumholtz’s career came in 1952 on the last day of the season when he was the only player in baseball history to bat in a Major League game against Stan Musial.

As noted, in 1952, Frank Baumholtz had his greatest season.  As the season wound down, he battled with the great Stan Musial for the league’s batting crown.  As late in the season as September 20, just one point in batting average separated the two men with Musial at .333 and Baumholtz at .332.

To make matters even more interesting, Baumholtz’s Chicago Cubs were scheduled to end the season against Musial’s Cardinals in St. Louis.  While both teams were out of the pennant race by that time, there was some potential drama in this series as it was likely to determine the N.L.’s batting champ.

Going into the last game of the season, Musial’s batting average stood at .336.  Baumholtz entered the game at .326.  The batting title was all but assured to go to Musial.  Still, the players, and their managers had a little fun in store.

That day, Baumholtz was scheduled to bat second in the Cubs lineup against the St. Louis pitcher Harvey Haddix.

The game began with Haddix walking Tommy Brown, the Cubs shortstop and lead off hitter.  That set into motion a series of interesting events.

Eddie Stanky, the Cardinals’ manager, promptly went to the mound and brought Stan Musial in to pitch to Baumholtz sending Haddix to the outfield.  Musial was a left-handed thrower.  Early in his Minor League career he had been a star pitcher, once winning as many as 18 games in a single minor league season.  A shoulder injury, though, ruined Musial’s dreams of being a big league pitcher.

As they saw Musial warming up on the mound, Frank Baumholtz and the Cubs must have been surprised.  By this time, Musial was a star, one of baseball’s greats.  He had won the NL MVP three times at that point and was a nine-time All-Star.

In 1952, alas!, baseball, and sports in general, weren’t quite as serious as they are today, or so it seems.  I sense there was a level of fun or frivolity that today’s players and fans wouldn’t quite understand or relate to.

As Musial warmed up, Phil Cavarretta, the Cubs manager came out to talk to Baumholtz. He suggested that Baumholtz bat right-handed against the lefty throwing Musial.  When Baumholtz stated that he had never batted right-handed in his life, Cavarretta suggested that he didn’t have any guts if he wouldn’t try.

As such, Musial, an outfielder, pitched to the lefty-swinging Baumholtz, who just that once, stood in as a right-handed batter.

Baumholtz swung at Musial’s first offering and reached base on an error.  Musial then returned to the outfield.  Haddix resumed pitching and the game continued uneventfully to close the season.  The Cubs won the game 3-0.  Musial, going 1 for 3, ended the season batting .336.  Baumholtz went 1 for 4 to finish at .325.

This was the only time that Stan Musial pitched in a Big League game.  Because his only appearance resulted in a batter reaching on an error, his career pitching line stood at:

0 innings pitched, 0 hits, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 0.00 ERA.

It’s statistics like this that make fans, even today, search old box scores for stories and find gems like this.

It’s baseball that still has that special way of bringing fathers and sons together, even on a busy evening, to talk,  discover fun facts, and make their own memories.

***

Much of the source material for this article came from:

The SABR Bio Project – http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/b0f456b2

The BR Bullpen – http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Frank_Baumholtz

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch – (Check out the Photo of the at bat on this link!) – http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/birdland/one-and-dunn-the-day-musial-played-pitcher/article_ad9bfb6e-5c82-5c20-a12b-4eaa84f6a456.html

and the aforementioned Baseball-Reference and Retrosheet.

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