“The Worst Bone Play Ever Made in Baseball”

16 May

The Pacific Coast League pioneer and all-star self-promoter Mique Fisher spent his later years as a near-constant source of material for west Coast sports writers.

In 1937 William Lair Hill Gregory, who wrote for The Portland Oregonian for nearly 60 years wrote about a play in 1904 that Fisher called “the worst bone play ever made in baseball;” it involved pitcher James Marcellin St. Vrain, and happened when Fisher was managing the Tacoma Tigers to a pennant; winning both halves of the 1904 Pacific Coast League season:

“On the Tigers was a southpaw pitcher named Jimmy St. Vrain.  In a close game one day, St. Vrain singled and with two outs was on second.  The batter lashed a line drive out of the shortstop’s reach, but right over St. Vrain’s head.

“’What did that left-hander do when he should have been scoring the winning run,’ complains Mique, ‘but reach up and catch the ball! Of course he was out…hit by a batted ball.’”

Jim St. Vrain

Jim St. Vrain

St. Vrain is also known for another boneheaded play alleged to have happened during his brief, 12-game career as a pitcher for the Chicago Orphans.  The story was first told The Detroit Free Press in 1906 by Tigers outfielder Davy Jones, who had been St. Vrain’s teammate in Chicago; Jones later told the same story to Lawrence Ritter in the great baseball book “The Glory of Their Times.”  The version in the book—aided by another 50-years of telling the story, and more colorful—is included below.

 “He was a left-handed pitcher and a right-handed batter. But an absolutely terrible hitter — never even got a loud foul off anybody.

“Well, one day we were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates and Jimmy was pitching for us. The first two times he went up to bat that day he looked simply awful. So when he came back after striking out the second time Frank Selee, our manager, said, “Jimmy, you’re a left-handed pitcher, why don’t you turn around and bat from the left side, too? Why not try it?”

“Actually, Frank was half-kidding, but Jimmy took him seriously. So the next time he went up he batted left-handed. Turned around and stood on the opposite side of the plate from where he was used to, you know.  And darned if he didn’t actually hit the ball. He tapped a slow roller down to Honus Wagner at shortstop and took off as fast as he could go … but instead of running to first base, he headed for third!

“Oh, my God! What bedlam!  Everybody yelling and screaming at poor Jimmy as he raced to third base, head down, spikes flying, determined to get there ahead of the throw. Later on, Honus told us that as a matter of fact, he almost did throw the ball to third.

“‘I’m standing there with the ball in my hand,” Honus said, looking at this guy running from home to third, and for an instant there I swear I didn’t know where to throw the damn ball. And when I finally did throw to first, I wasn’t at all sure it was the right thing to do!'”

Davy Jones

Davy Jones

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5 Responses to ““The Worst Bone Play Ever Made in Baseball””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “Baseball will be in Utter Disrepute” | Baseball History Daily - September 18, 2013

    […] and friend of Ehret left the American Association’s Columbus Senators to join the Egyptians and Jim St. Vrain, after being released by the Chicago Orphans, signed with Memphis despite being the property of the […]

  2. “Demoralizing a Successful Organization For the Sake of a Few Unimportant, Mediocre Ball Players” | Baseball History Daily - September 19, 2013

    […] Jim St. Vrain, recently released by the Chicago Orphans and under contract with the Tacoma Tigers in the Pacific […]

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    […] league at bat and scored a run on a home run hit by another player making his debut; Leftfielder Davy Jones.  Gertenrich was 1 for 2 before being removed in the fifth inning of a 5 to 4 […]

  4. Jim Delahanty’s Idea | Baseball History Daily - October 10, 2014

    […] I were you,’ said Davy Jones, ‘I’d hire a mule to kick me three of four times, and maybe I’d hit 1000 per […]

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    […] Boston on account of paying no heed to the manager’s advice about overloading their stomachs.  Frank Selee was just as much of a stickler in this line as was Harry Wright, and both were remarkably […]

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