You've probably heard about Adam Greenberg by now. Never considered a hot prospect, Greenberg nevertheless reached the majors seven years ago, with the Cubs ... and in his first action, as a pinch-hitter, he got hit in the head by a pitch -- the first pitch -- and, suffering from various symptoms in the following months, never played in the majors again. Greenberg did continue playing baseball, most recently with Bridgeport in the independent Atlantic League; last season he posted a .393 on-base average and scored 82 runs in 106 games (which is really good).
This year, though, a Cubs fan began militating to get Greenberg one more shot, however brief ... and, somewhat incredibly, it actually worked: the Miami Marlins have signed Greenberg to a one-day contract and, as Joe Capozzi writes in The Palm Beach Post, Greenberg's probably going to play Tuesday night against the Mets (if just briefly):
"We will try to put him in in the middle of the game and see how that works,’’ Guillen said.
Guillen said Greenberg likely would be lifted after the at-bat and he wasn’t sure if Greenberg would even run the bases.
"They told me to give him one at-bat. That’s what they want," he said.
Guillen also said he will manage the game like he does any other game — to win. That’s why he said Greenberg likely would be used without the game on the line.
"I expect the team to treat this kid well. I expect his teammates for one day to respect him and enjoy the couple of minutes he is going to be with us. .. Just in case somebody out there feels a little bit uncomfortable, they’re more free to talk to me about the situation.
"I will respect everybody’s opinion in this clubhouse but I don’t think it’s going to kill anyone to take one at-bat away from somebody.’’
Obviously, this is a stunt. It's not likely to draw many extra fans, but will generate at least a modicum of goodwill for a franchise that's run a deficit in that area this season. And as I wrote when it looked like Roger Clemens might make an appearance for the Astros, there's a long history of such things. In that piece, I focused on pitchers, but they haven't been the only ones. Here's a short (and less than complete) history of personnel stunts in the majors ...
In 1911, Charles Victor "Victory" Faust got into a couple of games with the New York Giants. Faust wasn't any sort of baseball player, but initially wormed his way onto the club as a sort of mascot. The roster rules were loose in those days, and eventually Faust convinced manager John McGraw to let him into a game. Faust's story is one of the best, and you really should read it.
Altrock wouldn't pitch again, but he would hit ... three times: in 1929, in 1931, and finally -- at the age of 57 -- in 1933. That last appearance made him the first five-decade man in major-league history, as he'd made his National League debut in 1898.
Charley O'Leary played for the Tigers and (for one season) the St. Louis Cardinals in the Dead Ball Era. One of Ty Cobb's favorites, O'Leary was considered a master at tagging sliding baserunners. In 1934, he was in his first year as a coach with the St. Louis Browns ... and for their last game of the season, just two weeks before his 59th birthday, the Browns activated O'Leary. He batted for the pitcher in the middle of the game, singled, and scored a run.
You know the story of Eddie Gaedel, I'm sure (but if not, here it is). Gaedel, of course, stood 3-feet-7 and made a single pinch-hitting appearance for the Bill Veeck-owned St. Louis Browns in 1951. Wearing a tiny jersey with 1/8 on the back, Gaedel walked on four pitches and was immediately lifted for a pinch-runner.
In 1965, 58-year-old Satchel Paige came out of retirement to sign a contract with the Kansas City A's, and pitched three innings against the Red Sox.
In 1976, 50-year-old Minnie Miñoso came out of retirement and actually started three games as the White Sox' Designated Hitter. In his first appearance, on the 11th of September, he went 0 for 3. He started again the next afternoon, came up in the second inning, and drove a single into left field. Miñoso went hitless in his next two at-bats, and was finally bumped in the ninth for a pinch-hitter with the game tied 1-1. (The White Sox finally won in the 10th, with future Hall of Fame reliever Rich Gossage going all 10 innings for the complete-game victory.)
Miñoso then rested for a few weeks before starting once more on the 30th and went 0 for 2. So ended that stunt, just another in the long history of now-White Sox owner Bill Veeck's
crazy unorthodox ideas.
In 1980, Miñoso did it again, this time with the express aim of becoming the second player to get major-league action in five different decades, as he'd debuted in 1949, then played in the 1950s, '60s and 70s. This time, Miñoso merely pinch-hit in two games at the very end of the season, going hitless. In the process, he also became the third-oldest player to appear in a major-league game, topped only by Altrock and Paige.
Of course, we might continue in this vein for a while. Was Pete Rose Jr.'s short stint in the majors a "stunt"? Yeah, probably, as the 27-year-old non-prospect got into 11 September games with the '97 Reds, who were well out of contention. Was Joe Nuxhall's debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 1944 a stunt? Yeah, probably, as Nuxhall was all of 15 years old. But teams in 1944 were really desperate for anybody who could fit into baseball spikes and wasn't eligible for the military draft. Nuxhall threw reasonably hard, and maybe somebody thought he could really pitch (he couldn't, but did return to the majors eight years later).
Other stunts include deserving major leaguers who did things they didn't normally do. Babe Ruth, after nine years off, took the mound as a starting pitcher in 1930, did it again in 1933 ... and came away with two complete-game victories. In the last game of the 1952 season, Stan Musial pitched to a single batter: Frankie Baumholtz, Musial's closest competition (but not nearly close enough) for the National League batting title (Baumholtz reached on an error).
Bert Campaneris (1965), César Tovar (1968), Scott Sheldon (2000) and Shane Halter (2000) all played all nine fielding positions in major-league games.
All of these were stunts, in the sense that their teams deployed these players with zero hope of actually winning baseball games as a result of the deployments, neither at that moment or at some point in the future.
However, I will note that it's been roughly a dozen years since we've seen anything like this. There's more scrutiny than ever before, the stakes higher, and so it's more difficult for management to justify doing things that a) won't help win games, and b) might be criticized by the knights of the keyboard and the mavens of the microphone.
One of the things that makes baseball so wonderful are the stories, though. And while you might think the Marlins have done a great number of things wrong over the years, I hope you'll agree that this things is a big bowl of right.
Welcome back to the major leagues, Adam Greenberg. And thank you, Miami Marlins, for adding to the lore.