clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

White Sox Feats of Strength: Bud Clancy's zero-chance game

New, 183 comments

In 1930, first baseman became the first of his kind to go an entire MLB game without a putout, assist or error

Over at ESPN.com, Jayson Stark is at his Jayson Starkest, putting together his annual list of "Strange But True" MLB trivia from 2015.

There are a few references to the White Sox -- they were one of three teams to pitch two position players in a game, and Chris Sale suffered one of the more unusual injuries by breaking his foot jumping off his truck, to name two of them. There could be more, as Stark says he'll have the second part coming today.

But this one involving the other Sox caught my eye ...

And how did this happen? The Red Sox also played a game on July 5 in which their first basemen somehow made it through all nine innings without recording a single putout. It was the 17,867th game in Red Sox history. It was the first in which their first baseman didn't record at least one out. So want to guess what happened in their very next game? The first ball put in play was (what else?) a 3-unassisted. What else?

... because the first of its kind had been on my White Sox Feats of Strength list for quite some time.

On April 27, 1930, the White Sox defeated the St. Louis Browns, 2-1. It was just the seventh game of the year for the Sox, so it had no major implications. What it lacked in stakes, however, it made up for with some random-assed MLB history. From the Chicago Tribune recap:

A modern baseball record was set in the game. Bud Clancy did not have a putout at first base. This never happened before in the history of the major leagues as now organized. The records show only one other instance of a first baseman playing through a regulation game with no putouts. A.B. McCauley did it in 1891 while playing for the Washington club in the old association.

First things first, though:

Who was Bud Clancy?

John William Clancy was Illinois-born (Odell, 1900) and raised (attended St. Viator College in Bourbonnais), and he came to be one of many light-hitting first basemen employed by Charles Comiskey. He first surfaced in 1924 as a late-season injury replacement for Earl Sheely, who was one of the few reliable players the Sox had after the Black Sox scandal ruined everything. Sheely hit .309/.394/.418 and averaged 94 RBIs as the full-time starter from 1921 through 1926, making it difficult for Clancy to unseat him.

But Sheely finally gave way in 1927, following a so-so April by going hitless in May (0-for-21). Manager Ray Schalk eventually shifted Sheely to the bench over the course of those weeks, and Clancy ended up holding the job for two years, hitting a relatively empty .284 before he moved to the bench to make way for other auditions.

First base was a revolving door during that time, with Comiskey churning through five different starters over a seven-year period before Zeke Bonura calmed things down. And if you believe the Tribune story about Clancy's release on Jan. 22, 1931, Clancy was "never acknowledged to be the regular first baseman" in the first place.

But while Clancy had to back up other obscure figures like Art Shires and Johnny Watwood, at least he found a way to make MLB history during one of his starts.

Even if that history literally didn't involve him.

How'd it happen?

There are no official play-by-play accounts for games in 1930, so we have to piece it together. The box score shows eight strikeouts -- four for Tommy Thomas, four for Hal McKain. It also notes that Lu Blue was caught stealing, so now we're up to one-third of the 27 outs that Clancy played no part in recording.

The Tribune's recap is the only one with detail about the rest of the game, and going through it, I count two fielder's choices and two popouts to infielders, which almost gets us halfway there.

Then we go back to the box score, where we see five putouts for Carl Reynolds in center field and two for Johnny Moore in left. Assuming those are all flyouts, that gets us to 20, leaving these seven unaccounted for:

  • Three putouts for third baseman Willie Kamm
  • Three putouts for shortstop Ernie Smith, or
  • One putout for second baseman Bill Cissell (depending on which one covered second on the stolen-base attempt).

While we lack detail on those outs, we do learn from both the Tribune and Sporting News that Clancy set the record let the record find him thanks in large part to Cissell, who booted a routine grounder by Ski Melillo leading off the eighth inning. Melillo went to third on a single to put runners on the corners with nobody out, setting up a potential tie game and extra innings, which would force Clancy to have to avoid more chances.

McKain made sure he'd only need to withstand 27 outs, escaping the jam by getting a popout and two strikeouts, and then stranding two more in the ninth with a popout to short and a game-ending flyout to Reynolds in center. By not allowing a second run to cross the plate, McKain also ensured that the game-winning RBI would go to none other than Clancy, who smacked a run-scoring single in the fifth.

Since then, only two other first baseman have played an entire game without a putout and an assist -- the Cubs' Ripper Collins (June 29, 1937) and Oakland's Gene Tenace (Sept. 1, 1974). While Ortiz avoided recording a putout, he did take part in a 3-1 groundout, so, y'know, big deal. He's no Bud Clancy.

Is it a feat of strength if the player technically didn't do anything?

Let's let Aristotle answer that one:

"What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do."

More White Sox Feats of Strength: