For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: April 15, 2024 10:09 am PDT

The Stud 400 has a soft spot for players who break the mold. If someone can flourish outside of their comfort zone or challenge perceived norms successfully, that’s a good way to land somewhere in the countdown.

Today, we have three players who fit that description and each one found their niche in history in different ways. Jim Thorpe is known primarily as perhaps the greatest Olympian of all time and someone who revolutionized football, but did you know that he played six years of Major League Baseball even though it wasn’t close to being his best sport?

Ray Schalk is another star who fits that groundbreaking category. Essentially, his career can be described as taking Jason Kendall and dropping him in the Dead Ball Era.

Rocky Colavito also shows up in this week’s Stud 400, but not for his famous hitting exploits. Colavito actually played with the Yankees at the end of his career and was called upon to pitch by manager Ralph Houk. Colavito hurled 2 2/3 scoreless innings as the Yankees fought back from a 5-0 deficit to beat the Tigers with Colavito picking up the win along the way. So here’s to the mold breakers; The Stud 400 sees you and appreciates you as we take a look at this week’s entries into the countdown.

But first, here’s look at the previous five entries as we count down the 400 greatest moments in Major League Baseball history:

But first, here’s look at the previous five entries as we count down the 400 greatest moments in Major League Baseball history:

365. Wayne Gretzky buys the Honus Wagner T206 (1991)

364. Pudge Rodriguez sets record for games caught (2009)

363. Dummy Hoy retires (1902)

362. Juan Marichal vs. Warren Spahn (1963)

361. Mickey Mantle sent to the minors (1951)

And now, here’s Episode Nine of The Stud 400, featuring artwork by Will O’Toole.



Ray Schalk revolutionizes catching (1912)

It’s not often that fans contemplate the origins of many of the game’s plays and styles, but at some point, what is routine today, was revolutionary in eras past. Schalk debuted as a 19-year-old catcher in 1912 and over the course of his Hall of Fame career, simply revolutionized the position. In a time where catchers were stodgy fellows who simply camped behind home plate, Schalk played the position as an extra infielder. A fantastic athlete, Schalk is credited with being the first catcher to back up first on grounders and third on throws from the outfield. He was the first base-stealing catcher, swiping a whopping 30 bases in 1916, a record that stood for catchers for 66 years. Schalk still holds the record for career double plays turned as a catcher with 222 and is second in career assists at the position. Schalk was also the catcher for the 1919 White Sox, but was not involved in any way in throwing the World Series. Essentially, Schalk was playing catcher with a modern style in the Dead Ball Era decades before it became commonplace.    


The Bloody Sock Game (2004)

With the Red Sox still battling The Curse of The Bambino, things were beyond bleak when they fell behind the Yankees three games to none in the 2004 ALCS. Two extra inning wins kept the Sox alive, but the Yankees still needed just one more win to oust their hated rivals. In Game 6, the Red Sox had ace Curt Schilling on the mound, but he was pitching on a bum ankle. Schilling and Red Sox doctor Bill Morgan had agreed on a radical surgical procedure that would temporarily bind Schilling’s ankle tendons into place and possibly allow him to pitch again. Before Schilling threw his first pitch in the bottom of the first inning, the television cameras picked up blood soaking through his white sock from the incision as he warmed up in the bullpen. Schilling pitched seven innings, allowed just four hits and one run as the Sox tied the series. They went on to win Game 7 and ultimately their first World Series since they sold babe Ruth to the Yankees.


Rocky Colavito gets a win (1968)

Rocky Colavito remains one of the most beloved Cleveland Indians sluggers of all time, but one of his great feats came as a member of the Yankees at a position he only played once before in his career. During his final season, Colavito signed with the Yankees and upon arriving to the team, told manager Ralph Houk that in case of an emergency, and only an emergency, Houk could use him on the mound. Colavito had one of the strongest throwing arms in the game’s history and had pitched one hitless three-inning stint a decade before. Remembering the conversation, Houk called on Colavito to come out of the bullpen on August 25, 1968 against the Tigers. Colavito came in in the fourth inning with the Yankees down 5-0. He pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings while the Yankees rallied for six runs. When they held on for the win, Colavito picked up the victory. He remained the only position player to pick up a win until Chris Davis did so in 2012. Over his two pitching stints, Colavito faced 23 batters and allowed just one hit.


Jim Thorpe signs with Giants (1913)

One of the greatest athletes in American sports history, Thorpe is widely known for his heroic performance in the 1912 Olympics and his Hall of Fame football career. However, he also had a six-year career in Major League Baseball. After controversy arose around Thorpe previously being paid to compete, he was declared a professional by the International Olympic Committee and stripped of his Olympic medals and records. With his amateur status gone, Thorpe became a baseball free agent, which was exceedingly rare at the time. He received offers to sign with multiple professional sports teams and chose to sign with the defending World Series champion Giants. Although he didn’t see much playing time (289 games in six years), he remained an attraction both during the season and on barnstorming tours in the offseason.


Heinie Zimmerman/Eddie Collins World Series rundown (1917)

Heinie Zimmerman doesn’t often come up when mentioning scapegoats like Steve Bartman, Bill Buckner or Fred Merkle, but until the play was mostly forgotten by history, Zimmerman was known for what the media portrayed as a bumbling attempt that cost the White Sox the 1917 World Series. A third baseman, Zimmerman found himself in a rundown, and ultimately a footrace, with Eddie Collins, one of the best baserunners in the game. In Game 6 of the World Series, Zimmerman was playing third and Collins was caught off the base on a comebacker. On a return throw to third, Collins turned and saw nobody covering home. With Collins making a run for the plate, Zimmerman gave chase, just a step or two behind. Accounts say that Zimmerman whiffed on a few attempts lunging out to tag Collins, who slid safely into home ahead of Zimmerman, who jumped over the prone Collins. Zimmerman was painted by the media as being at fault for allowing the run to score, even though Giants manager John McGraw said the pitcher or first baseman should have been covering the plate. Zimmerman even had to defend himself as accusations came that he allowed Collins to score on purpose.

Rocco is a baseball writer with too much time on his hands who lives in the dusty corners of Baseball Reference. He was one half of the battery for the 1986 Belleville Recreation Farm League Champion Indians. He likes early 20th century baseball nicknames, pullover polyester jerseys and Old Hoss Radbourn. He works as a College Athletics Director and his second book was released in April of 2021.

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