Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"The Hat" fouled 13 in an at-bat

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

I’m not sure what the current major league record is for number of balls fouled off in an at bat . . . if that’s even an official stat.

But on July 1, 1949, Cincinnati Reds outfielder Harry Walker hit 13 foul balls off St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Ted Wilks in one at-bat that stretched for nearly 10 minutes.

The Reds were ahead 9-2 in the seventh inning, when “The Hat” stepped to the plate. At the time he was batting .261.

After letting a low pitch pass for ball one, Walker fouled off the next two pitches, before looking at a high pitch that was ball two.

He fouled off two more, then stepped back from ball three, a high inside pitch. He then fouled off nine straight pitches before smashing a double high off the screen in right-center field. It was reported that some of Walker’s fouls were hard-hit balls.

Later in the game rookie Lloyd Merriman was brought in to replace Walker in centerfield. The Reds beat the Cards 10-2.

The at-bat might not have taken so long if Walker had not, after every pitch, stepped out of the box, taken off his cap, smoothed back his hair and replaced his cap, according to a contemporary account.

Maybe that's how he got his nickname.

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