Thursday, November 8, 2007

Tools of Ignorance, Gloves Like...Foxes?

Is there any baseball jargon for shortstop? I couldn't think of anything.

Anyway, as the title of this post suggests, I decided to keep the multiple positions theme going with a twist. I wanted to look at guys that spent both time behind home plate and at shortstop. In order to find players with at least multiple games at both positions, I set the Play Index to output players that spent at least 1% of their career in the field at catcher and 1% of their career in the field at shortstop. This has the effect of editing out most players that spent one only game in their career at shortstop and the majority of time behind the plate and vice versa (I'm looking at you, Brad Ausmus and Lenn Sakata). I also only looked at the years since 1901 since players in the nineteenth century jumped all over the place. I guess not wearing gloves anywhere meant you didn't have to be particularly skilled at any specific position or something. I may have missed some guys, but I don't really intend to get a complete list. I'll leave that to the very neat Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers that probably has it somewhere already. :)

Here's the guys I found. I hope this is at least somewhat interesting.
  • Sport McAllister (1896-1903) - McAllister fits the definition of a super-utility player as he spent time at every position in his career. Primarily a right fielder (123 games), he also spent 83 games behind the plate and 62 games at short. He spent the first half of his career with the woeful Cleveland Spiders (to be fair, they were good in all the seasons no one remembers they existed) and the second half, with the exception of a bizarre three-game stint in 1902, playing for the Detroit Tigers.
  • Charlie Dexter (1896-1903) - A utility man for the Louisville Colonels, Chicago Orphans and Boston Beaneaters, Dexter played at least forty games at every position except pitcher and, weirdly, left field.
  • Art Hoelskoetter (1905-1908) - Yet another infielder type for the St. Louis Cardinals, he was one of three main catchers for the 1908 team after bouncing around the infield (including 16 games at shortstop in 1906).
  • Moe Berg (1923-1939) - A polymath and spy, Berg debuted as a shortstop but after 84 games converted to catcher and caught in 529 games during his career. In six games at short in 1927, he made six errors in 29 chances, giving him an ugly .793 fielding percentage.
  • Bobby Bragan (1940-1948) - A shortstop converted to catcher during World War II, Bragan spent 140 games behind the plate and 415 at short. Initially adamantly opposed to playing with Jackie Robinson, Bragan later became friends with him and went on to develop many players' skills as a coach/manager, including Hank Aaron and Maury Wills.
  • Mike Sandlock (1942-1953) - Another shortstop converted to catcher, Sandlock spent 31 games at short and 64 games behind the plate before dropping out of the league in 1946. Seven years later, however, he resurfaced on the Pirates, catching in 64 games to end his career.
  • Don Zimmer (1954-1965) - Zimmer spent about nine hundred games in the field at third base, second base and shortstop prior to 1965. In that year, the final season of his career, he was bizarrely moved to catcher for thirty-three games and only allowed five passed balls.
  • Ron Brand (1963-1971) - Brand did the opposite of Berg and Bragan - he converted from catcher to shortstop. After catching 340 games over six seasons, he spent forty-one games as a shortstop in the final two seasons of his career.
  • Marty Martinez (1962-1972) - Another career utility player, Martinez spent 157 games at short and thirty behind the plate during his time in the big leagues.
  • Dave Roberts (1972-1982) - No, not the speedy outfielder. This Dave Roberts spent most of his time at third base but mixed in 152 games behind the plate and forty games at short into his career.
  • Dave Cochrane (1986-1992) - A lighthitting utility player, Cochrane spent almost equal time behind the plate and at short in his career, 43 and 39 games, respectively.
Like I said above, this is by no means an exhaustive list. It merely is a collection of guys that spent a fair amount of time at shortstop and as a catcher and who seemed interesting. There aren't many players anymore that play shortstop and catcher.

For what it's worth, the last player to catch and play short was Brad Ausmus (1 game at shortstop) in 2005.

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