Larry Yount’s unique, one-game career

By John Odell

Among the treasures of the Hall of Fame’s archives are our player files, which chronicle every player who ever entered a major league game (now numbering over 17,700). In addition, the player files also include Negro leaguers, women from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, umpires, managers, coaches, executives, exceptional minor leaguers (like Michael Jordan) and numerous others.

We add to the archive throughout the year, creating a new file each time a player enters a major league game for the first time. But perhaps no one has a more unusual debut than Astros pitcher Larry Yount, the older brother of Hall of Famer Robin Yount.

Larry Yount, you see, debuted in a game he never played in, and then never appeared again.

Drafted by the Houston Astros in 1968, Larry Yount received his promotion to the parent club in September 1971, his fourth season in pro ball. Uncle Sam, however, had just called on him to complete a week of military service, a common occurrence during the Vietnam War era. So after a week of no baseball at all, Yount finally ended up in the Astros bullpen. Maybe the layoff had an effect, and maybe not. We will never know.

On Sept. 15, Yount’s opportunity came. With the Astros trailing Atlanta 4-1 in the top of the ninth, Houston manager Harry “The Hat” Walker called Larry’s number. It was the perfect low-pressure situation to get a rookie’s feet wet. Only 6,513 attended the Wednesday night contest. The Astros were hovering around .500, some 10 games out of the NL West race, and Atlanta was also playing out the string.

As Yount warmed up, his elbow began to stiffen, but he buckled down and reported to the mound, where he was announced as the next pitcher. The pain, however, got much worse as he took his final warm-up pitches on the mound. Not wanting to risk his career in his debut, he called in the trainer, who took him out. Both surely expected that Yount’s turn would come again soon.

It never did.

Larry Yount returned to Spring Training the next year, where he was the last player cut, then returned to the minors, where he played until 1975. However, he never made it to the Show again. He pitched OK, just not well enough to be called up. His elbow was not permanently injured. “It was a non-event, a glitch that had no factor in what followed,” Yount explained later, without excuse. “I just never quite got the job done.”

For his efforts, Yount earned the distinction of being the only pitcher in major league history to “appear” in one game, never throw a single pitch, never face a batter, and never play again. However, because he was officially announced as the pitcher, he is in baseball’s record book, and he has a file in the Hall of Fame. You can look it up… at the Hall of Fame Library.

John Odell is the curator of history and research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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