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A Silly Performance

ERIC: Dagoberto “Bert” Campaneris was born in Pueblo Nuevo, Cuba on March 9, 1942. Although a smallish shortstop, he made a real splash in his major league debut on July 23, 1964 by clubbing two homers in his first game with the Kansas City Athletics. In 1965, he led the American League in hits (177), steals (62), and at bats (642). However, the A’s were not very good that year, finishing the season with a record of 59-103, 43 games behind the pennant-winning Twins.

We’ve already profiled the A’s Hall of Shame owner Charles O. Finley on this blog post. Finley, who was always looking for gimmicks to try to put fans in the seats of Municipal Stadium, came up with a doozy for a game against the California Angels on September 8, 1965. Finley decided to honor Campaneris with an “appreciation night.” However, this “appreciation night” was going to have a very special twist: his gifted young shortstop was going to play every position on the diamond, one inning at a time, through the entire game. By the end of the ninth inning, Campy would have played every position for a full inning.

Campaneris began the game at his natural position, shortstop, in the first inning. He got an assist on a pick-off while playing second base in the second inning. He played third base in the third inning, and then moved to left field for the fourth, where he snagged a fly ball. He caught another in center field in the fifth inning, but muffed a third fly ball in right field during the sixth inning. He spent the seventh inning at first base, where he made a put-out on a pop up. He had saved the two toughest positions—pitcher and catcher—for the eighth and ninth innings.

Campaneris took the mound in the eighth inning and then proceeded to wow the crowd by pitching ambidextrously, using his right arm for right-handed hitters and his left arm for left-handed hitters. He allowed two walks, one hit, and one run.

That left an inning at catcher as the only remaining position for Campy to try. Campaneris donned the tools of ignorance and went behind the plate for the ninth inning. With two outs, the Angels tried to take advantage of Campy’s lack of experience and tried a double steal. Second baseman Dick Green took Campaneris’ throw and whipped it back to the erstwhile catcher. The base runner crashed into Campaneris in an effort to jar the ball loose. Campy held on to the throw, keeping the score tied at 3, but the collision sent him to the hospital for x-rays.

Sadly, Campaneris missed the end of the game on his “appreciation night.” The game dragged on into the 13th inning, when the Angels plated two to win the game 5-3. Campaneris did not get back from the hospital in time to see the end of the game. He ended the contest with a 0-3 performance, one walk, one run scored, five put-outs, and an assist. It was a remarkable—but silly—performance.

Three years later, on September 22, 1968, Venezuelan-born Cesar Tovar of the Minnesota Twins, known as “Mr. Versatility” for his ability to play so many different positions, matched Campaneris’ feat. Ironically, when Tovar took the mound in the first inning, the lead-off hitter for the A’s was none other than Campy Campaneris. Tovar induced Campaneris to pop out to open the game. The irony was undoubtedly not lost on Campaneris. Tovar, who had a remarkable night that night, even struck out future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson on a nasty screwball. Tovar made a diving stop to save a run at first base in the third inning. He had a single, scored a run, and stole his 33rd base of the season that night.

Since Tovar, two other players, Scott Sheldon of the Texas Rangers and Shane Halter of the Detroit Tigers, both matched Campaneris’ dubious feat by playing all nine positions during one baseball game. Both Sheldon and Halter did so during the 2000 season.

Thus, four men have accomplished the same silly distinction by playing all nine positions for an inning in one major league game. It was yet another of the stupid ideas foisted upon the National Pastime by one of its worst-ever owners, Charlie Finley. Not to take anything away from the versatile men who accomplished this feat, but one can’t help but ask why it was necessary.

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