Remember how they kept score at baseball games in the 1940s? Okay, I do not remember the 1940s. I do know that according to SABR researchers a scorekeeping curiosity that happened at Hadlock Field on April 26, 2014 was last seen in the late 1940s. That is right, some 70 years ago. The occurrence is so rare the Official Rules of Baseball do not even address it.
What happened? Good question. Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), the Eastern League Official Scorer and the Sea Dog manager all have a little different take on it.
Here are the actions that led to the scoring quandary.
A game for the record books
In Portland, Maine on April 26, 2014 the game had entered the fifteenth inning. It had a number of elements that would qualify it as a memorable game. It was a classic rivalry -- the Red Sox double A team (Portland Sea Dogs) against the New York Yankees double A team (Trenton Thunder). The Thunder's switch pitching Patrick Venditte took the mound in late innings. He pitched first left handed then right handed then left handed to eight batters. The scoring had stayed close on both sides. The bullpens had been stretched to the limit. The Sea Dog manager, Billy McMillon, decided to save his pitchers. At the top of the 15th McMillon put in outfielder Peter Hissey who is listed as the winning pitcher.
This is where the problem began. To make this pitching switch happen, McMillon moved players around a la national league style. Third baseman Carlos Rivero moved to left field to replace Hissey who is now pitching. Stefan Welch went into the game at third. McMillon explained to the umpire that Welch would be entering the game in the pitcher's spot and Sean Coyle would continue to DH. While the Sea Dogs were playing defense, this posed no problem.
However, in the Official Rules of Baseball, Rule 6.10 (b)(14) states that if a pitcher is replaced with a position player, the designated hitting rule is terminated for the remainder of the game. Coyle can no longer be the DH.
When Coyle came to bat, he entered the game as an inappropriate batter. The Thunder coach did not object. Coyle finished his at bat and the pitcher proceeded to pitch to the next batter. There was no longer any way to protest this illegal batter.
The question remains, how do you officially record this for the history books? After all, the rule book is silent on this action.
- According to SABR researchers, back in the 1940s, the official scorer refused to put the improper batter in the box score to avoid having the home team fined. Well, that took care of that.
- MLBAM put Coyle back in pitch-hitting for Welch.
- The Eastern League Official Scorer listed Welch as the batter and credited him with the actions taken by Coyle -- an at bat and a strike out.