“No, guys, I’m trying to tell ya, I’m not very good at baseball. No, stop laughing, that wasn’t a joke!”
~Reverand Aloysius Stanislaus Travers, 1912
Baseball is a paradoxical sport. It has the fewest physical demands, the least physical risk, yet the most high-profile injuries and steroid abusers. It’s suffered strike-shortened seasons, rampant cocaine use, and even Jose Conseco and lived to tell the tale. But, much like medicine, most things in America during the early 20th century were ridiculous. Baseball was no different. 1912 in baseball was full of only-decent-athletes, strange rules, and blatant bigotry.
Mainly the bigotry thing though.
That is how one of the biggest racist best baseball player of All-Time helped a future Reverend who couldn’t make it on an amateur baseball team start, and complete, a professional league game. Oh, he got absolutely rocked, absolutely rocked, but it’s still a nice story in America being crazy enough you know better than to fuck with us.
The Forest Whitaker Eyes.
Baseball in 1912 was quite different from how we play today. Bullpens were practically non-existent, and pitchers were expected to finish the games that they started. Also, there were no black people playing, but we’ll come back to that.
Okay we’re back to that. Ty Cobb was a man so racist that if you Google search “Ty Cobb is a racist” it comes back as, “did you mean to search for Just Ty Cobb?” So when a fan called Cobb “Half a nigger” (It’s okay if we use that term if we’re quoting something right? Isn’t that the transitive property of white people singing along to hip hop?) Cobb became incensed and charged into the stands to beat the ever-loving shit out of the guy. Here’s the thing, 1912 was fucked up. The reason why the fan heckled that was because he thought calling a white dude a black racial slur would piss Ty Cobb off, and the reason why it pissed him off was that Ty Cobb is racist.
Watch out, Mr. Robinson, it’s a Ty Cobb!
Oh, and we should probably mention that the fan who got his ass handed to him (figuratively) had no hands (literally). Because Ty Cobb was classy like that.
As a result of the whole, you know, beating on a cripple thing, Major League Baseball suspended Ty Cobb indefinitely. His team, the Detroit Tigers, decided to protest this decision by going on strike for the next game. Because goddamn it, 1912. Suddenly, the Detroit Tigers were minus exactly one “full baseball team,” and drastic, League of Their Own measures had to be taken. No, they didn’t get women to play, that’d be silly, there’s no women in baseball, no, they hired temporary players, but decided against anything prudent like “using minor leaguers” or “actually skilled players.”
Being told that he would be fined $5,000 for every game he was unable to field a team, Tigers owner Frank Navin made sure he could at least get nine bodies out on that field, since in 1912, $5,000 was roughly a billion dollars. Asthe next game was an away game in Philadelphia, they took to the streets to pull people from Northern Philly to play professional baseball for one game for the princely sum of $25 bucks. That doesn’t account for inflation so that seems like a really good deal- most of us would take that gig for $25 in 2011 American dollars, and that’s talking about currency that is being outpaced by Monopoly Cash.
And to the Banker goes to spoils.
Given the kind of money they had lying around, you’d imagine that they’d look for a starting pitcher who was more of a successful amateur athlete, and less of a violinist who wasn’t good enough to make his College baseball team. Instead, they handed the ball to a 20-year old Junior at St. Joseph’s College with the incredibly long name of Aloysius Stanislaus Travers, the assistant manager on his school’s baseball team because, again we can’t stress this enough, he tried out for them and couldn’t make the team. While the stress of putting together a team at the last second obviously was weighing on Frank Navin, he really half-assed the assembled team, as another temporary player of note was Billy Maharg, who you might know as one of the assholes who helped fix the 1919 World Series.
If you saw this man and your first instinct was, “Let’s give him a glove,” instead of, “God, look at that asshole,” congratulations, you are the Detroit Tigers.
Aloysius Travers, who thankfully decided to go by the name “Allan” because we did not want to type out his full name the whole damn article, not only pitched, he pitched a complete game. While you might assume that this is an impressive tale of perseverance, of the underdogs gutting out a victory when no one dreamed it possible, we should probably point out that the Tigers lost 24-2 and Travers gave up 26 hits.
Now, you migiht be wondering what’s so American about a pitcher (who probably was sober) pitching a really shitty game, and that’s a fair question. The reason why Allan Travers is so damn American is that he gutted out the entire losing effort, despite how ugly it was. It was like Vietnam before we started bitching out. Travers pitched a complete game. Other players in the field didn’t have to play the whole game, hell, Maharg only came in for two innings at third base. Yet, Travers (who had been instructed to throw “slow curves” and no fastballs so that he wouldn’t “get killed” by the batted balls) gutted out the game, facing fifty batters in eight innings. We hate math, but our computer has a calculator, so that means, to get the twenty four outs necessary for a full 8 innings, he needed to face more two batters with each out. We’re pretty sure Allan Travers is the reason why Little League games enforce a slaughter rule.
This guy? Not a professional caliber baseball player? Doesn’t add up.
But still, Travers gutted it out, and got paid to suck. There’s something noble in that. He ended the game with the following laughable stats.
Eight innings pitched, twenty-six hits, twenty-four runs, fourteen earned runs, an ERA of 15.75, a WHIP of 4.125, seven walks, three instances of breaking down and sobbing in the dugout and…holy shit really? One strike out. How much would it have sucked to be the one player who struck out against Allan Travers? You would never be able to brag about anything, no matter what you do from that point on. “I hit the game winning home run in the World Series.” Oh yeah? Well remember that time you got struck out by that 20 year old violinist who wasn’t good enough to play for a college baseball team? Burn. Face.
And really, that’s worth saluting. So here’s to the man with the silly name and no business on the baseball field. You may go down as one of the worst players of all time, but no one can take that strikeout away from you.
The player who struck out may or may not have been Adam Dunn…we’re just saying…
The picture of Ty Cobb is with Don Newcombe not Jackie Robinson.
Father Aloysius Travers, SJ, was my Religion class teacher at St. Joseph Prep in North Philly in 1962 and 1963. He was one of the kindest, intelligent, dedicated, and genuine individuals that it has ever been my pleasure to know. His in-depth knowledge of the Scriptures was surpassed only by his kind, engaging personality. It was one of the great joys of my life to listen to him recount the events of that day in 1912 when God permitted him to live out one of the great fantasies in his life…pitching in a Major League. baseball game!
The author of the article about Father Travers on this website has chosen to remain anonymous. His/her juvenile use of coarse language, expletives, and four letter words are totally inappropriate when describing this brief chapter in the life of such a kind and dedicated man. Sensationalism does not denote talent.