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John Gochnauer

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John Peter Gochnauer
born John Peter Gochnaur

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 9", Weight 160 lb.

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John Gochnauer was inspired by the performance of Germany Smith when Smith played in his hometown of Altoona in 1884. Gochnauer became a shortstop like Smith and became popular as a local semipro before moving to Brockton, MA at the turn of the century.

He played 3 games for Brooklyn in 1901, hitting .364. He then was the regular shortstop on the 1902 Cleveland Broncos and 1903 Cleveland Naps of the early American League. He formed the double play combination with Nap Lajoie.

Frank Scheibeck had been the team's shortstop in 1901, and when he hit .213 without impressing in the field, his time in Cleveland was over. Gochnauer took over in 1902 at age 26, and while he hit only .185 that year, he had a decent fielding percentage and was able to keep the job for a second year. In 1903, his 48 walks and sacrifice hits were among the league leaders (8th in walks). However, his 98 errors make him the last player to reach 90 in a season in the majors. It is apparently erroneously listed as a record in some sources, while it is 24 less than Herman Long and Billy Shindle had committed. Only Tom Downey had a lower fielding percentage among 20th century shortstops.

Gochnauer holds the record for most at-bats by a player who hit below .200 and never homered. On the other hand, his 48 RBI in 1903 is a record for a player with a career average under .200.

After retiring, Gochnauer played in the Pacific Coast League and then umpired for many years in the minors until he died in 1929.

In 2005, Congressman Rob Bishop, of Utah, in speaking to Congress about the Endangered Species Act, claimed that it was an inept act in the way that Gochnauer was supposedly an inept player. He said as follows:

"I would like to, Mr. Speaker, introduce you to a man by the name of John Gochnauer. John Gochnauer was the shortstop for the Cleveland Indians in 1902 and 1903. In 1902, playing full-time at shortstop for the Indians, he hit a paltry .185 and committed a whopping 48 errors in that position. Nonetheless, he came back the next year to play for them in 1903, where he once again, full-time player, hit .185, and this time set a major league record, which has yet to be broken, of committing 98 errors as shortstop, which means out of every five times, he touched the ball, he booted or threw it away once. The Endangered Species Act has established 1,300 species for preservation and has been able to preserve 12 of them, giving that act a batting average of .010, if you round up. Whereas John Gochnauer hit .185, the Endangered Species Act is hitting .009, which means the Endangered Species Act is the most inept program we have in the Federal Government. The Endangered Species Act is the John Gochnauer of Federal programs." Congressional Record, 9/29/05

While one can certainly disagree with Congressman Bishop both about the Endangered Species Act and about John Gochnauer, at least Gochnauer is being remembered, 100 years after he left the major leagues.

Sources include Mendoza's Heroes by Al Pepper

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