Intentionally Walking the Pitcher?

Last Monday night, HighHeatStats tweeted the following:

High Heat Stats@HighHeatStats 

Boxscore Trivia (difficulty 4 out of 5): what happened most recently in this 1995 game? …

In attempting to answer the question, I misread the boxscore and this conversation ensued:

intentionally walking the pitcher?

Hmm @dianagram wow did that happen? Not what I was looking for.

scratch that 🙂

But it got me wondering if there had ever been an intentional walk of a pitcher.  With the Baseball Reference Play Index Event Finder fired up, I found these nine occurrences since 1945 (as far back as the Event Finder goes, with the caveat that IBBs were not an officially-tracked statistic until 1955):

Date Batter Tm Opp Pitcher Score Inn RoB Out
1946-04-21 (1) Schoolboy Rowe PHI BSN Johnny Sain tied 2-2 b9 -2- 2
1947-08-15 Schoolboy Rowe PHI BRO Joe Hatten tied 1-1 b2 -2- 2
1947-08-15 Schoolboy Rowe PHI BRO Joe Hatten tied 1-1 b4 -2- 2
1947-09-20 (1) Fred Hutchinson DET CLE Bob Feller tied 2-2 b10 -2- 1
1957-05-12 (1) Mickey McDermott KCA @CLE Early Wynn ahead 0-2 t4 -23 1
1957-07-14 (2) Lou Sleater DET BAL George Zuverink tied 6-6 b9 -2- 1
1958-07-25 (2) Juan Pizarro MLN CHC Don Elston ahead 1-3 b6 -2- 2
1970-09-01 (2) Jim Kaat MIN @MIL Bobby Bolin ahead 1-2 t11 -23 1
2004-05-05 Brooks Kieschnick MIL @CIN Danny Graves tied 4-4 t9 -2- 1
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/7/2013.


Schoolboy Rowe could really handle himself at the plate.  As a 22-year-old in A-ball in 1932, he hit .295 and smacked ten homers in 112 at-bats, while also going 19-7 on the mound with a 1.094 WHIP.  In 1943, at the age of 33, he hit .294/.390/.510 in 59 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter, to go along with a .304/.385/.420 rate in games he actually started at pitcher.

In the 1946 Rowe IBB event, the next batter, Roy Hughes, was a career .278 hitter to that point.  Hughes was making his season debut in what would be his final year in the bigs.  He grounded into a forceout at third, sending the game to extras.  Rowe pitched all 11 innings, eventually losing 3-2.

Rowe’s two IBBs in 1947 came in the same game.  He had been hitting a robust .317/.369/.400 in 66 PAs for the season.  After the first IBB, rookie shortstop Ralph LaPointe came up.  LaPointe had a .212/.316/.242 line in the first 13 games of his young career.  He flied out to center, ending the second inning.  Two innings later, Rowe’s IBB was followed by LaPointe hitting a flyball to right, again ending the inning.  Rowe would again pitch a complete game, losing 8-1.

Fred Hutchinson was also a standout hitter in the minors, batting .349 with four homers in 361 at-bats.  His two-way skills on the field were best described here, by himself:

Playing outfield as much he pitched, he told The Sporting News, “When the war is over, I want a real try for about three or four years just to see whether or not I really can pitch major league ball. If I can’t pitch, and if I’m not too old, then I’d like to try it in the outfield. … I like to hit that ball, you know, but I like to throw it, too. It’s a lot of fun to fool a smart batter.”

Going into the September 20, 1947 contest, Hutchinson had compiled a .305/.340/.463 line with only six strikeouts in 100 plate appearances.   With opposing starter Bob Feller still on the mound in the bottom of the tenth inning on a 2-2 game, the Indians elected to walk Hutchinson with one out and a runner on secondDoc Cramer (batting .271 on the year) was sent up to pinch-hit for .215-hitting Eddie Lake.  Cramer reached on an error by 3B Ken KeltnerEddie Mayo then ended the game with a single to right, making a winner out of Hutchinson.

From 1948 to 1956, Mickey McDermott had established himself as a decent innings-eater and an adept batter.  In 1957, as his career was winding down and he found himself playing for his fourth different team in five years, he brought a batting line of .257/.312/.339 to the plate.  On May 12th, he made one of only four starts on the mound for the year, in the first game of a double-header. Manager Lou Boudreau batted McDermott eighth, in front of weak-hitting Joe DeMaestri.  Interestingly DeMaestri, who had compiled a career line of .238/.275/.323 prior to the ’57 season, was hitting .352/.426/.444 in his first 21 games of 1957 (but he HAD gone hitless in at least his last 15 ABs).  In the top of the fourth, down 2-0 with one out and runners on second and third, the Indians decided to have Early Wynn walk McDermott (even though Wynn K’ed McDermott the time before), to load the bases.   Boudreau moved to pinch-hit for DeMaestri with Irv Noren.  Noren had been part of one of those notorious Kansas City/Yankees trades of the mid-50s.

February 19, 1957: Traded by the New York Yankees with a player to be named later, Rip Coleman, Milt Graff, Billy Hunter, Mickey McDermott and Tom Morgan to the Kansas City Athletics for players to be named later, Wayne Belardi, Art Ditmar, Jack McMahan and Bobby Shantz. The New York Yankees sent Jack Urban (April 5, 1957) to the Kansas City Athletics to complete the trade. The Kansas City Athletics sent Curt Roberts (April 4, 1957) and Clete Boyer (June 4, 1957) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade.

Noren was trying to bounce back from a bad year in ’56, but was a career .278 hitter coming into the season.  In this particular at-bat, Noren grounded into a 3-6 forceout, scoring a run.  Vic Power ended the inning with a foulout, and McDermott tired in his half of the inning, getting pulled after yielding two singles and two walks, but still holding a 3-1 lead.  The Athletics went onto a 9-2 win.

Lou Sleater was a swingman for most of his early career, before settling into the bullpen in 1955 at the age of 28.  As a hitter, through 1956, he had compiled a .197/.228/.224 line in 79 plate appearances.  On May 30, 1957 Sleater launched his first career homer, a tenth-inning walkoff game-winner versus Wally Burnette.  It was only the second extra-inning walkoff homer hit by a pitcher in Play Index history (1945 forward).

In the July 14 game, the Tigers rallied in the bottom of the ninth to tie the score on a one-out double by Reno Bertoia.  The Orioles elected to have reliever George Zuverink intentionally walk Sleater to set up the double-play/force possibility, and pitch instead to a normally terrific but at that point slumping Harvey Kuenn (.255/.330/.366 to that point in the season).  Kuenn never did hit Zuverink well, and this time he fouled out.  The following batter also fouled out, but the Tigers eventually won the game in 10.

Juan Pizarro had an 18-year career in the bigs, but he was only 21 and in his second season in the Majors in 1958.  He was pretty decent with the bat too, compiling a .250/.263/.361 line in his rookie season (1957).  He happened to be making his 1958 season debut on July 25th, and pitched a complete game nine-hitter.  Trailing 3-1 with two out and a runner on second in the sixth inning, the Cubs had reliever Don Elston walk Pizarro.  For what its worth, Pizarro had singled off of Elston the last time they faced each other back in ’57.   Behind Pizarro was the leadoff man Casey Wise (and why he was batting leadoff would be a question for sabermetricians to lose sleep over).  Wise came into this game batting .077 (1-13) for the year, after a rookie 1957 campaign that saw him amass a line of .179/.256/.226 in 118 plate appearances, including .179/.236/.239 when batting leadoff.  Anyhow, in this game, Wise hit a flyball to center, ending the inning.  The Braves won the game 4-1.

Jim “Kitty” Kaat was a 25-year Major Leaguer who won 283 games and was also a 16-time AL Gold Glove winner (every year from ’62 to ’77).  Kaat had some pop in his bat too, cranking out 11 homers and 28 doubles in just under 800 at-bats from 1959-1969.  He even posted a .615 OPS in 1969.  He was having a bit of a down year at the plate in 1970 (.197/.260/.212) prior to the September 1 game of note.  In the game, Kaat was called on to preserve a 1-0 lead with two out and runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth.   Ted Kubiak singled off of him to tie the game, and Kaat continued to pitch in the extras.

In the top of the 11th, with the Twins already having taken a 2-1 lead with runners on second and third with one out, the Brewers had reliever Bobby Bolin walk Kaat to load the bases for Cesar Tovar.  They wanted/needed a double play in the worst way.  Tovar didn’t get doubled up that often, usually less than ten times per year, and he had the speed for 11 triples and 24 stolen bases to that point in 1970.  Tovar foiled the Brewers’ plan with a two-run single to left, and the Twins eventually scored six in the frame, for a 7-1 win.

It took another 34 years for a pitcher to be intentionally walked, and Brooks Kieschnick got the honor/respect.  Kieschnick was quite the stud/enigma during his career, beginning with his college ledger:

During his time with the Texas Longhorns, Kieschnick won the Dick Howser Trophy (bestowed annually to the national college baseball player of the year)[4] in 1992.[5] He won the award again in 1993, thus becoming the only player to win the honor twice.[6] In his three years with the Longhorns, Kieschnick batted .360 and slugged 43 home runs and 215 runs batted in, in addition to having a 34–8 win–loss record and a 3.05 ERA.

He was drafted by the Cubs as an outfielder in 1993 and finally got his call to The Show in 1996.  He got a little playing time in ’96 and ’97 (compiling a .235/.321/.395 line) before spending ’98 and ’99 back in the minors.  He made the Majors as a 1B and PH for a cup of coffee in 2000 with the Reds, moved onto the Rockies for a few ABs in 2001, and then back to the minors.  It was at that point he switched over to pitching full-time.  When he got back to the Majors in 2003 with the Brewers, he made three starts in left field, four at DH and relieved 42 times from the pen.

In 2004, he was the rare “reliever/pinch-hitter”.   Coming into the May 5 contest, he was hitting .313/.353/.500 in 17 PAs.  In his last at-bat against the Reds on April 28, he hit a pinch-hit single.  The Reds remembered that as the top of the ninth unfolded in a 4-4 game.  With one out and a runner on second, Cincinnati had its reliever Danny Graves walk Kieschnick.  The only prior time Graves had pitched to Kieschnick (2001), Kieschnick hit into a double play.  The Reds chose to instead pitch to Scott Podsednick

After hitting .309/.387/.500 in the first 22 games of the 2004 season, Podesdnik was just beginning to start the slump that defined a disappointing sophomore campaign after finishing second in the NL Rookie of the Year vote in 2003.  Blessed with great speed (he was 14-for-14 in steal attempts coming into the game), he wasn’t much of a double play threat, but Graves got him to rap into a 4-6-3 inning-ender.  The Reds would win the game with a walkoff homer in the 10th from pinch-hitter Juan Castro.

And that’s the last time a pitcher has received a free pass . . . nine times in nearly 70 seasons, and only seven pitchers have gotten such a ride.  Let’s hope its not another 30 years before we see the tenth instance.


4 thoughts on “Intentionally Walking the Pitcher?

  1. I suspect I’d the event finder went back further, you’d find quite a few more, seeing as how arguably the greatest hitter of all time spent most of the late 1910s as a fairly good pitcher.

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