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Obscure Baseball Figure Project

Posted by Steve Lombardi on February 10, 2011

Years ago, I read a fun book called Cult Baseball Players.  If you've ever read it, this next bit of news may interest you.  Heck, it may interest you even if you never read that book.

The good folks at Misc. Baseball are working on a "Favorite Obscure Baseball Figure Project." Here's what they wrote on that:

A little while ago I came up with the idea of asking various baseball fans to pick their favorite obscure baseball figure from the past. As the word “figure” indicates, the person doesn’t have to be a player; it can be anyone employed within the game itself, by a team or by a league, including umpires, coaches, scouts, and front office personnel (but not the media).

My idea is that time and a focus on sabermetrics and efforts to determine who should be in the Hall of Fame have left many uniquely interesting and/or appealing retired/deceased baseball people by the wayside. I’m asking for help in bringing to light some old baseball people who are worth remembering.

Obscurity is a little hard to define, but by definition it excludes anyone in the Hall of Fame. My general guideline is that if the typical enthusiastic but non-obsessive baseball fan either hasn’t heard of him or barely recognizes his name, he’s obscure. By “favorite” I don’t necessarily mean that you admire or like the guy, just that you think he’s interesting, compelling, or represents something important in baseball history.

It could be someone like Hal Chase or one of the Black Sox, who you don’t like at all, but are fascinated by. Some examples of good candidates for favorite obscure player are Art (the Great) Shires, Arlie Latham, Fats Fothergill, Kirby Higbe, Johnny Mostil, Chick Stahl, and Lou Sockalexis. Or, from the non-player ranks, George Moriarty, Nick Altrock, George Magerkurth, Chub Feeney, Art Fowler, and Dick Howser.

Sounds like fun, eh? So, anyone here come to your mind? Feel free to leave them in the comments section here - or at Misc. Baseball, if you prefer. And, if you want to contact the powers behind this project, they can be reached at: animus08 [at] yahoo [dot] com.

162 Responses to “Obscure Baseball Figure Project”

  1. Guest Pants Says:

    Here's my "All Obscurity" team, straight from my childhood.

    C - Don Slaught
    1B - Alvin Davis
    2B - Delino DeShields
    3B - Steve Buechele
    SS - Shawon Dunston
    LF - Kal Daniels
    CF - Chuck Carr
    RF - Felix Jose
    DH - Kevin Maas

    C - Mike Stanley
    1B/PH - Gerald Perry
    IF - Mike Gallego
    OF - Glenallen Hill
    OF - Roberto Kelly
    UT - Bip Roberts

    SP - Storm Davis
    SP - Oil Can Boyd
    SP - Jim Abbott
    SP - Sid Fernandez
    SP - Steve Avery

    RP - Steve Farr
    RP - Mike Schooler
    RP - Steve Olin
    RP - Kent Mercker
    RP - Alejandro Pena

  2. Arne Says:

    Thanks for all the responses already: I run the Misc. Baseball blog, and I'll be busy for a while getting all of the picks pasted in over there and putting in the relevant links. It's kind of a runaway train here that's overwhelmed the picks I've gotten by emailing people, but I appreciate it.

  3. Cheese Says:

    Benny Kauff:

    The 'Ty Cobb of the Federal League', never really lived up to it in the majors, but had a few good seasons.

    Turned down a bribe by Hal Chase and was also banned by Landis (who didn't by him, right!) after being acquitted of accepting stolen cars.

  4. Cheese Says:

    PS on Kauff,

    He is a beast in historical sims!

  5. Jeff J. Says:

    PPS on Kauff
    He doesn't even have a gravestone where he's buried 🙁

  6. Biff Says:

    Matt Alexander, who made a 9 year career as a defensive replacement and pinch runner. His numbers in the 4 years he played with the Bucs were pretty strange indeed.

  7. Luvtheobscure Says:

    I gotta go with Cesar (Coco) Gutierrez, a part time middle infielder with the Tigers and (I believe) the Mets. He went 7 for 7 in a game for the Tigers back in the early 70's. Nice to be known for something.

  8. Richard Chester Says:

    How about Ross Moschitto? He served as a pinch-runner and late game defensive replacement for Mickey Mantle in 1965. He appeared in 96 games with only 28 PA.

  9. Phil Haberkorn Says:

    Relief pitcher for the Cubs. . . . .
    Recorded 10 saves in a pennant-contending season. . . .
    His Uniform #42 has been retired, but not in his name. . . . . .
    Chuck "Twiggy" Hartenstein.

  10. Phil Haberkorn Says:

    We would serenade this reliever from the bleachers back in the day when bleacher seats were $1 and there were no lights at Wrigley Field.
    "If the ball leaves the park
    And don't land 'til it's dark,
    That's Za-moray....."
    Oscar Zamora.

  11. Evan Says:

    Mike Brito.

  12. Gary W Says:

    The Littlest Angel, Albie Pearson, was a fan favorite at Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium when he played for the Angels. He was chosen to the All-Star team at least once. He retired at around 30 due to injuries.

  13. Doug Says:

    Joel Youngblood.

    Only player to play in two games, for two different teams, in two cities, on the same day. He also picked up a hit in each game, both off of future HOF pitchers.


  14. Spartan Bill Says:

    Blue Jays CF Rick Bosetti

    When the fans in the $2.00 seats in the Upper CF Bleachers at Tiger Stadium would trat him like any other visiting CF and yell "Bosetti Sucks", as he warmed up his arm between innings. he would turn to the crowd and direct them like a maestro.

    Using hand gestures, he was able to turn the simple chant where he was buld the chant up to a crescendo and then get us to stop at his cue. He would then applaud the crowd.

  15. Biff Says:

    The 2 White Sox pitchers that whittled away into obscurity, Britt Burns and his younger brother Mike Sirotka.

  16. Obscure Baseball Figure Project » Baseball-Reference Blog » Blog ... Says:

    Obscure Baseball Figure Project » Baseball-Reference Blog » Blog ......

    [...]In 1965, he struck out over one batter per inning pitched, posted an ERA under 4 and earned eight saves. Following this season, however, Murakami headed back to his original Japanese club due to contractual obligations, where he continued his succ...

  17. Jay Says:

    Duffy Dyer, okay backup catcher for the Mets and some other teams. Always loved the name.

  18. Tim Lee Says:

    "Super Joe" Charboneau

  19. John Autin Says:

    David @91 -- Wow, that Ron Wright game was really something!

    And that triple play was one of the odder ones I've seen described:
    -- April 14, 2002, Seattle at Texas, top of the 4th, runners on 1st & 3rd. Wright, the Mariners' DH, grounded back to pitcher Kenny Rogers, who got the forceout at 2nd. Ruben Sierra broke for home (I'd forgotten he ever played for SEA!), Texas SS A-Rod threw to the plate and they caught Sierra in a rundown, out 6-2-5-1. Wright tried to take 2nd on the play and was thrown out, Rogers to 2B Mike Young.

    I don't think I've ever seen a pitcher get 2 assists on the same play -- not to mention a putout!

    Other notes from that game:
    -- A-Rod drove in 5 with a pair of HRs, but the bullpen coughed up 8 runs in 3 IP and Texas lost this game, 9-7; they lost the next day 13-11, as the M's completed a 4-game road sweep in which they scored 38 runs.
    -- After setting the AL record with 116 wins in 2001, the Mariners were 9-3 after this game and reached 17-4 to open the season, giving them a mark of 133-50 (.727) since A-Rod's departure.
    -- Ruben Sierra had the second and last 5-hit game of his career.
    -- John Olerud went 4-4 with a walk.
    -- John Rocker finished the game for Texas.

    BTW, Ron Wright has the longest B-R bullpen page I've ever seen for a hitter who never reached base in the big leagues....

  20. The Favorite Obscure Baseball Figure Project, Part Two « Misc. Baseball Says:

    [...] These entries come by way of a post on the Baseball-Reference blog: [...]

  21. psychUMP Says:

    @ 12 His full name was Alan Mitchell Edward George Patrick Henry Gallagher! I remember Dalton Jones in 1969 or 70 hitting a grand slam homer but only got a single because he passed a guy on the bases! I think he was on the same team as a favorite "baseball hangman game" guy Ken Szotkiewicz who didn't even hit his sperm count in 1970.

  22. BalBurgh Says:

    @117, you stole my idea for Duffy Dyer, though I was going to list him because I somehow ended up with 5 copies of his 1972 Topps card.

    Next we can add Al "Two Wives" Martin, who briefly threatened to be a semi-credible replacement for Barry Bonds in Pittsburgh.

    Mario Mendoza isn't obscure for the line named in his honor, but is for the two innings he pitched for the Buccos. That happened the same year Tony Dungy briefly QB'd for the Steelers.

    Joe Foy just randomly from the Senators in their final season, at the same time Curt Flood was there.

    And finally Mark Smith because of his time with the Pirates in the late 90s. He was a big kid everyone wanted to see do well. I remember him coming up with a clutch two-run single to win a game somewhere along the line, but the breakout never quite came. He actually kept at it for a number of years and has a story far more common than those of the folks we normally think about. This guy could be the poster boy for remembering that even the 'worst' major leaguer is a pretty special athelete, and even a few partial seasons at the league minimum isn't too shabby. I hope he made a nice life after baseball.

  23. Phil in Indiana Says:

    REPLY TO POST 94 FROM 704_BRAVE: ("...Anybody have the story on Dick Kokos? A couple of good years with the St. Louis Browns in late 40s - early 50s. Then never to be heard of again...")

    Was he any relation to a Mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana back in the 30s?
    Maybe you've seen, there's been a lot of stuff in the news and the global internet this week concerning the controversy over naming a government building in honor of the mayor, Harry Baals.
    I wonder if the ball player had to take the same kind of ribbing they're giving good ol' Harry this week.....

  24. andyr Says:

    #108 Richard Chester- Ross Moschitto is a great example of how the Yankees' farm system deteriorated after they stopped paying bonuses for youngsters. Another great name from the early CBS years was Dooley Womack- pretty good short man for a couple of years... also can't forget Roger Repoz and Thad Tillotson...

  25. Phil in Indiana Says:

    REPLY TO POST 112 BY GARY W:....thank you for mentioning Wrigley Field in your submission about Albie Pearson. No doubt some people among the younger visitors here might be confused.
    There were two Wrigley Fields, one in L.A., and that's where the Angels first played before moving to the Big A in Anaheim. The Cubs held spring training out there, and Mr. Wrigley wanted them to be "accustomed" to their home field in Chicago on Opening Day. It worked out great, they lost about as often either place.
    Too bad the historical preservationists weren't as active back then and somebody might still be using that park, but after all, it was just another hold ball park in those days, and you can't have old decrepit ruins getting in the way of all the glamour and progress out there. The west coast Wrigley was the site of the original "Home Run Derby" TV show.
    If you want "obscure," who was the announcer on Home Run Derby?

  26. Ken Howard Says:

    How about Paul Hines. The first player to win the triple crown. He put up decent numbers in his career.

  27. Richard Chester Says:


    His real name was Kokoszka.

  28. wboenig Says:

    Cecil Travis, subject of the book "Cecil Travis of the Washington Senators: The War-Torn Career of an All-Star Shortstop"

    Synopsis: A three time All-Star, Cecil Travis was coming into his prime and already well on his way to a Hall of Fame career when he was drafted for World War II in 1941. He would spend the next four years in the 76th infantry division. When he finally returned to the game, in 1945, Travis was no longer the dominant player he had been. In the three seasons that followed his return-the last three seasons of his career-only once did Travis play in more than 75 games, and his offensive numbers plummeted. Yet his pre-war accomplishments were such that he finished his 12-year career with a .314 batting average and baseball maven Bill James put Travis atop his list of players most likely to have lost a Hall of Fame career to the war.

    (Disclaimer: I have no connection to this publication and do not stand to make any profit from its sales)

  29. Mike Lyons Says:

    Many people remember Phil Linz, the utilitly Yankee infielder famous for the 1964 "Harmonica" incident. (If you're not familiar with that, Google it)

    However, few know this story: In 1965, (I believe) Linz fouled a ball into the
    stands at Yankee Stadium and hit his mother in the head! In those days of
    low player salaries, Linz was smart enough to turn the incident into cash by appearing (with his mother), on the TV quiz show, "I've Got a Secret".

    Contrast this with the reaction of Oriole's player Jay Gibbons, who, in 2006, after fouling a ball off his own wife, threatened to sue the league and the team.

  30. Steve Lombardi Says:

    Lou Klimchock!

  31. Jimbob Says:

    I always have liked Johnny Dickshot

  32. Spartan Bill Says:


    Back then TV game shows didn;t pay well either. A friend of mines Father worked for the production company that taped What;s My Line and to Tell the truth. I would be surprised if that appearance by Phil Linz and Mom got them $100 to split between them.

  33. Rick Agran Says:

    Bill Sharman,Brooklyn Dodgers... later as HOF Basketball player... thrown out of only game from the bench.

  34. Richard Chester Says:

    Branch Rickey and George Halas were obscure as players but they both became extremely famous for other reasons.

  35. Rick Agran Says:

    Bert Shepard lost a leg as WW 2 fighter pilot... as amputee,pitched 5+ innings in relief with 2 strikeouts in one game for Washington Senators in 1945.Monty Stratton got star treatment with movie starring actor Jimmy Stewart as major league pitcher who lost leg to hunting accident inspired to return to pitch at minor league level.

  36. Spartan Bill Says:


    Your post on Bert Shepard prompted me to look at the box score from August 4, 1945. Shepard actually relieved Joe Cleary, who holds the MLB record for highest career ERA with no minimum IP.

    Cleary allowed 7 ER in 1/3 IP and never appeared in another game. His lifetime ERA will forever be 189.00.

    On a positive note, his 27.00 K/9 will be tough to beat.

  37. bureaucratist Says:


    I'm not sure he counts as obscure, but I think Van Lingle Mungo trumps Urban Shocker in pure name terms. One of the reasons he's not obscure is Dave Frishberg's eponymous song. A lot of the players in that song fall into this category, my favorite would be Sig Jakucki. I don't know how many hours I spent listening to that song trying to figure out what he was saying when he said "Sig Jakucki."

  38. kds Says:

    Spartan Bill, remember that not all K's are outs, (WP or PB on strike 3 with 1st base open). You could have K/9 > 27. Many have 4 K's in an inning. The tough part would be never pitching another inning. Of course, you can strike out the side and allow many runs in an inning.

  39. Spartan Bill Says:

    That's why I said tough and not "impossible".

  40. Ken Howard Says:

    Here is another great name: Butterfly Dickerson.

  41. Ken Howard Says:

    I mean Buttercup Dickerson.

  42. Brendan Burke Says:

    I give you one of the few players whose B-R page is incorrect... Moonlight Graham and his one plate appearance. Yes, he did get one PA, it was a sacrifice fly.

  43. Mike Schilling Says:

    Ron Pruitt. The definition of the utility man: played every position besides pitcher and middle infielder. In 1982, he got into 5 games for the Giants as a September call-up. On the 30th he hit a 2-run walkoff bloop single to keep the Giants' pennant hopes alive, in one of the most exciting plays I've ever seen.

  44. Gary W Says:

    Reply to Phil in Indiana...
    Mark Scott was the broadcaster for Home Rum Derby.

    Another obscure figure was Rick Reichardt, a bonus baby with the Angels who was supposed to be the next Mickey Mantle. He was off to a great season in 1966 when he came down with a kidney infection, and had to have a kidney removed. He was never the same. He was out of the majors by 1974.

  45. ottoc Says:

    Ted Cox. He played five seasons in the majors, beginning with the Red Sox in 1977. His first seven plate appearances consisted of six hits and a walk.

  46. Rick Agran Says:

    Charley Lindstrom , son of HOF'er,Freddie Lindstrom,and Hal Trosky,Jr. played together last game of 1958 for Chi. White Sox. Catcher,Lindstrom's one ever game of major league play of 5 innings featured a triple in one official at bat,one run,one rbi,a walk and a passed ball. Trosky,also son of namesake,pitched his last 2 of 3 total mlb innings and got his only major league pitching victory.

  47. Rick Agran Says:

    Tony Horton ... though not totally obscure is often forgotten in the pantheon of characters who have played the game. Horton famously crawled back to the dugout on his hands and knees after being embarassed by Steve Hamilton's,"Folly Floater",a modern day "Eephus pitch" made famous by Rip Sewell.Horton's emotional state led to his retirement less than 2 months after this incident,but not before he hit for the cycle in a game.

  48. Guest Pants Says:


    Moonlight Graham couldn't have had a sac fly, because the rule didn't come into effect until 1908. Not only that, he would have recorded an RBI.

  49. Rick Agran Says:

    It is baseball lore perhaps that Billy Maharg who exposed the 1919 Black Sox scandal was in fact Moonlight Graham,as his last name is spelled backwards .Am open to new facts/feedback in this regard.

  50. Rick Agran Says:

    Inf-Of,John Miller obscure 60's player with unique distinction of only major league homeruns were on first at bat,and last at bat (Pinch-hit). Next- pitcher,Henry Mathewson produced 2 saves and a loss in 3 games... obscured by brother,HOF'er,Christy Mathewson. Next- Earle Mack produced a triple,a single,one rbi in 16 at bats,with a stolen base credited.Mack managed briefly in Pa.,obscured by father,HOF'er,Connie Mack.Next- brothers... 60's pitchers,Diomedes Olivo and Chi-Chi Olivo. Diomedes made his mlb debut at age 41.

  51. Rick Agran Says:

    As minor leaguer, does Michael Jordan rise to the level of obscure baseball player ? I'd vote yes on that.

  52. Mike Lyons Says:

    Regarding comment 144 from Gary W.

    Thanks for that reference! That show was a train wreck that you couldn't help looking at. Have there ever been more stilted, unnatural conversations than those? The Mantle/Mays episode was a classic.

  53. Skeeb Wilcox Says:

    Lorenzo "Rimp" Lanier. Possibly the "obscurest" of Pirates from years of being a fan. My cousin and I were walking along U.S. Route 19 in Ireland, West Virginia one late summer afternoon in 1971 when we saw a car coming up the road that just seemed a bit "unusual". There were five people in the car, an older man driving, four younger men...three in the back...with Pirates' uniforms hanging in the driver's side backseat window. I have always suspected that those were the first batch of 1971 September call-ups for the Bucs...of which Rimp Lanier would have been one. Since I-79 was not completely finished at that point and that U.S. Route 19 was the main link between Charleston and Pittsburgh and that scenario was a high probability of being true. Every time I see Al Oliver in person I ask him about Rimp...

  54. Phil in Indiana Says:

    Obscure players with an obscure connection:
    Bruce Kimm
    Paul Schramka
    Jim Tracey
    Fritz Connally
    Mark Guthrie
    What did they all do while in uniform for the same team (during different seasons)?

  55. Phil in Indiana Says:

    RE: my Post 154 trivia question, the answer is not some easy thing like "they all got a single," it is something "unique" to them, no other players did.

  56. Spindlebrook Says:

    @ 154 - They were all Cubs, right?

    Of those, Bruce Kimm was Mark Fidrych's personal catcher during Mark's heyday in Detroit. Plus, Fritz Connally's first two ML home runs were grand slams.

    Some more obscure Cubs: Gary Krug, Kurt Seibert, Steve Davis, Herman Segelke, Johnny Abrego, Steve Engel, Butch Benton, Mike Mahoney, Mike Sember, Laddie Renfroe, Joe Kraemer, Bill Johnson...

  57. CRTYonker Says:

    @ 154: They were all 7th round draft picks by the Cubs that played in the majors with the team.

  58. SJ Says:

    Jim "Pigpen" Dwyer. Was he really called Pigpen for any good reason?

  59. 704_Brave Says:

    @129 - Didn't Denard Span line a foul off his mother last season? She was sitting right near the dugout and when he fouled it off, he immediately ran over to see if she was ok...

  60. Phil in Indiana Says:

    Re: posts #156 Spindlebrook and #157 CRTYonker:.....yes, they were all Cubs, and if they were all drafted in the 7th round, that's nice, BUT that has nothing to do with what they did "while in uniform" for the Cubs. Just BEING in uniform is a clue.....

  61. John Autin Says:

    Re: the trivia question @154 from Phil in Indiana:

    All 5 players while with the Cubs wore numbers that have been retired, and each was the last to wear that number other than the player for whom it was retired.

    Bruce Kimm was the last Cub to wear Ron Santo's #10.
    Paul Schramka was the last Cub before Ernie Banks to wear Banks's #14.
    Jim Tracy was the last Cub before Ryne Sandberg to wear Sandberg's #23.
    Fritzie Connally was the last Cubs player to wear Billy Williams's #26.
    Mark Guthrie was the last Cub to wear the #31 that has been retired to honor both Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux.

    P.S. Both Guthrie and Kimm also wore other numbers with the Cubs.

    P.P.S. No, of course I didn't know any of this; I googled the 5 names together in quotes, and all 3 hits were about Cubs uniform numbers:

  62. Phil in Indiana Says:

    To John Autin: YOU WIN THE CIGAR ! ! ! ....except that we're in the non-smoking section of this website.
    Interestingly, your google searches took me to the website where I researched this information. I didn't realize it would be that easy.
    I did not include 42 for Bruce Sutter, since the Cubs never actually retired it for him and MLB retired it for Jackie Robinson, but the google search would probably have linked it, too.