Get thee a denominator
By Jim Gates
Perhaps one of the most exclusive clubs in baseball belongs to a group of pitchers who each appeared in only one Major League game in his career, gave up at least one run but never recorded an out. Therefore, their ERAs are ?, also known as the lemniscate, the mathematical symbol for infinity.
Surely it must have been frustrating to have earned your big league cup of coffee but never to have achieved the basic arithmetic feature that every pitcher desires most — an out. Fortunately for us, the statisticians of the game have kept the data we need to track this select group, so without further ceremony, here is “The Brotherhood of the Lemniscate”:
Of the 8,188 players who have pitched in a Major League game (as of April 21, 2009, according to David Smith at Project Retrosheet) only 13 meet the criteria for this group. One of the interesting things about this list (as if we need to take this any further) is that two members (Bruckbauer and Hamann) were born in New Ulm, Minn. (population 13,500 in 2000). Such an august group needs a club motto, something to hang over its clubhouse door, so to speak, and a colleague of mine would propose the following: “He who lemniscates is lost.”
Ah, where would we be without such obscurities?
Jim Gates is librarian of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.