I’ve written previously about Moonlight Graham and other
players like him. I also updated that post when one of the subjects, Brian
Esposito, actually made several plate appearances during September of this
past season. So I’m going to go ahead and call this post part 3. A link to the previously updated post is here:
As most of you know, Moonlight Graham is one of the
principle characters in the book Shoeless Joe and the subsequent movie Field of Dreams.
He played in one game, but never got to bat. But he isn’t the only player
in Major League history that has happened to.
One of those players is the Chicago Cubs Chris Kitsos.
Chris Kitsos was signed as an amateur player in 1947 as a 19
year old by the Brooklyn Dodgers. He played the next 5 years with several
different Dodger minor league teams working his way up through their system as
a shortstop. Unfortunately for Kitsos, Pee Wee Reese was playing shortstop for
the Brooklyn Dodgers during this time period and there was no chance of Chris
moving into a major league role anytime soon.
Without any place to use Kitsos, the Dodgers left him unprotected
following the 1951 season. That December the Chicago Cubs selected Kitsos
during the 1951 minor league draft.
Chris Kitsos played the next two seasons for two different
teams in the Cubs minor league system, Springfield of the International League
and Des Moines of the Western League.
To start the 1954 season, the Cubs had two rookie shortstops
on their roster, Chris Kitsos and Ernie Banks. As we know, Ernie “Mr. Cub”
Banks was the starting shortstop and had a wonderful season finishing second in
On April 21st, 1954 the Chicago Cubs played the
Milwaukee Braves on the road in Milwaukee. The starting pitchers that day were
Johnny Klippstein for the Cubs and HOFer Warren Spahn for the Braves.
The Cubs took an early 2-0 lead over the Braves by scoring
solo runs in the 2nd and 3rd innings. The Braves
countered with two runs in the bottom of the third to tie the game. The Cubs
once again regained the lead in the fourth after a solo home run by Hank Sauer,
it would be the last runs they scored that day.
The Braves scored 3 in the fifth inning off an Eddie Mathews
homerun and 2 more in the seventh with a Joe Adcock homer.
With the score 7-3 Braves entering the top of the 8th,
Ernie Banks was due to lead off the inning. But Banks was 0 for 3 against
Spahn, including 2 strike outs and the rookie shortstop was pinch hit for by
Eddie Miksis. Miksis struck out.
In the bottom of the 8th, our hero Chris Kitsos
went into the game playing shortstop. The first batter, Johnny Logan, hit a
grounder to Kitsos. It was a routine 6-3 put-out. Following a second batter K,
Spahn hit a grounder to Kitsos to finish the inning with another 6-3 out.
The Cubs went 1-2-3 in the ninth. The Cubs lost 7-3 and
Kitsos never got to bat.
In fact he never played in a Major League game again.
Kitsos was returned to the minors where he played the next 6
years before finishing his career in 1959 with New Orleans of the Southern
Unofficially, Kitsos played 1618 games in the minors with 56
HR’s and a .255 average.
Chris Kitsos died in Mobile, Alabama on June 7, 2004 at the
age of 77.
Photos: Bing Image Search
Volume 2 – Don Larsen
Most people know of Don Larsen; they know he pitched for the
Yankees, and of course, most know that he threw a perfect game in the fifth
game of the 1956 World Series. But most people don’t really know much about the
totality of his career.
Don Larsen signed with the St. Louis Browns as an amateur
free agent and played his first professional season in 1947 with Aberdeen of
the Northern League. From 1947 to 1950 Don played for 5 different teams in the
Browns minor league system. He was 36-29 during that time.
Following the 1950 season, Don started active duty in the
military with the Army. Over the next couple years Larsen was based in Hawaii
and he played with the Army baseball team.
Don returned from active service before the 1953 MLB season
and made the St Louis Browns despite not having pitched with the franchise in
over two years.
During his rookie season Don pitched in 38 games, starting
22 of them. He went 7-12 for the last place 54-100 Browns. For the 1954 season the Browns moved to
Baltimore and became the Orioles. The change of scenery did little to help the
team or Don. The newly minted Orioles went 55-99 and Don led the league in
loses, posting a 3-21 record.
Following the 1954 season, Don was traded to the New York Yankees
in what would eventually become a 15 player trade after everything was
During the next five seasons with the Yankees, Don made 128
regular season appearances, starting 90 games. He was 45-24 with a 3.50 ERA. He
also appeared in four World Series during this time. He made 7 starts, going
3-2. Of course, Don’s most famous game happened during the 1956 WS. Don pitched
the only perfect game in post-season history against the Brooklyn Dodgers on
October 8th winning 2-0.
After a 6-7 1959 season, Don was traded to the Kansas City
A’s. One of the players the Yankees received in return was Roger Maris.
Don struggled in the 1960 season. He went 1-10 with a 5.38
ERA and spent some time back in the minors.
Over the next 6 years Don Larsen played with 5 different
teams including the Giants, White Sox, and the Astros.
After playing with Baltimore for the second time in his
career, Larsen was released by the Orioles on April 11, 1966. He signed with
Phoenix of the PCL and pitched the entire year in the minors.
For the 1967 season he signed with the Chicago Cubs. He pitched with the
Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs AA team before being called up to pitch with the Cubs
Don made three appearances for the Cubs. He pitched in
relief on July 3rd, 4th, and 7th. He was 0-0
in four innings. He had 2 walks, 1 K, gave up 4 runs, including a HR to Mack
Jones, and finished with a 9.00 ERA.
Don pitched the 1968 season with two different Chicago Cubs
minor league teams, but he never made a major league appearance again.
Don Larsen finished his major league career with an 81-91
record and a 3.78 ERA.
Don was never a HOF type pitcher. But for one day in October
of 1956 he was perfect, and for that he will always be remembered.
Sept 24th, 1957.
The Dodgers beat the Pirates 2-0 in front of 6702 people.
Roberto Clemente is batting seventh in the Pirate lineup
playing Centerfield. He goes 1 for 3.
Roy Campanella is batting seventh for the Dodgers, although no
one knows it; he is just 5 days away from playing in his last Major League game.
He goes 0 for 2 and is replaced in the fifth inning after a ground-out.
Don Zimmer goes 2 for 2, including a walk and a double.
Danny McDevitt pitches a complete game 5 hitter for the
Dodgers and gets the win. It would be the only game he ever won in Ebbets
It is also the last game the Brooklyn
Dodgers would ever play in Ebbets
Field. They would finish out the season with three more games in Philadelphia.
The next year they moved to Los Angeles.
53 years ago today.