Three Balls in Play

28 Nov

Bill Speas played 22 seasons in the minor leagues.  At the height of his career he was numbered among the best fielders in the Pacific Coast League, and The Los Angeles Times said he had the best arm in the league.

Bill Speas

Born in Ohio, Speas began his career with Mansfield Giants in the Ohio-Pennsylvania League in 1906; there he was involved in one of the most unusual plays ever in a game against the Youngstown Ohio Works.

Speas, the Giants left fielder, told the story several times over the years.  Harvey Bailey was pitching for Mansfield; Youngstown had runners on first and second:

“The batter hit a long foul to right field, which the right fielder went after, unobserved by the umpire who was behind the pitcher.  He immediately threw another ball to the catcher which bounded over his head…the umps tossed out another ball to Bailey who made a quick heave to the batter, not noticing that his catcher was not in position.”

The batter singled to left field, where Speas picks up the story:

“I got it and threw it into the plate; only it hit the grandstand instead.  In the meantime the fielder had recovered the foul ball (and the catcher had retrieved the other ball) and the shortstop had one, running a man down between second and third, and the second baseman had the other trying to catch a man between first and second…everybody was running around I was almost sick from laughing out there in left field“

The umpire, who caused most of the confusion, and whose name is lost to history, eventually ruled the foul ball and the ball he threw over the catcher’s head out of play.  Youngstown went on to win the game.

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