The Unlikeliest Way to Score from First Base

You, being an internet-reading baseball fan who even occasionally ventures into FanGraphs’s Community Research articles, have almost certainly heard of Enos Slaughter, and not just because of his multiple appearances in crosswords. You also may know that he is probably best-known for his Mad Dash, in which he raced home from first base in a World Series game on what was charitably ruled a double, but what many observers believe should have been ruled a single[citation needed]. Scoring from first on a single — I bet that’s pretty rare, right? After all, one such case of it got its own Wikipedia page!

Well, according to Retrosheet, a runner scored from first on a single 16 times last year (not counting plays on which an error was charged). It’s already happened at least once this year. So if we’re talking about unlikely ways to score from first base, this doesn’t really qualify as “rare.”

You know what is rare? This is rare.


You must watch that clip, but if for whatever reason you can’t, here are the key factors of the play in question:

  • The batter made an out
  • No error was charged on the play
  • The runner from first base scored

I looked through Retrosheet to find further examples of this happening and it gave me only six possibilities. One was A.J. Pierzynski’s mad dash in the above video. One was Randy Velarde scoring from first on a Jason Giambi sac fly, but that just appears to be an error in Retrosheet, as the game log clearly states that Velarde had advanced to third on the previous play. This leaves four examples of someone scoring from first on an out. All four of those plays have something else very distinctive in common. Even better is that one of them involves the career-defining story of one man’s mad dash, kind of like the Enos Slaughter story above.

Even though you are a baseball-savvy internet person, you may not remember 1962 Mets first baseman Marv Throneberry. But if you have heard of him, you probably remember him from one anecdote. Via Wikipedia:

In one famous story, on June 17, Throneberry hit a triple in a game against the Cubs, but was called out after Ernie Banks took a relay throw and stepped on second base. “Didn’t touch the bag, you know, Dusty,” Banks told umpire Dusty Boggess. According to the legend, Throneberry was called out at second and manager Casey Stengel came out to argue the call, but was told by the umpire “Don’t bother arguing Casey, he missed first base, too.” (In another version of the story, Stengel was told this by his first-base coach.) The next batter, Charlie Neal, hit a home run, prompting Stengel to come out of the dugout following him and pointing at all four bases. Throneberry’s mistake proved costly, as the Cubs won the game 8–7.

According to both Retrosheet and Baseball-Reference.com, this story isn’t quite right. Had the appeal been at second, he would at least have been credited with a single. But alas, it appears the appeal went to first and so he just plain made an out. But there’s more: here’s what b-r says happened on the play:

Flyball: 1B/Out on Appeal; Woodling Scores; Thomas Scores

Of note for this article is that Frank Thomas scored from first on the play, and so yes, technically, he scored from first on a play in which the batter made an out*. In the other three examples of someone scoring from first on an out supplied by Retrosheet, we find that the batter was actually out on appeal. Technically speaking, these three cases fit our three requirements, but they clearly deserve an asterisk of some sort.

*Yet somehow Throneberry was awarded two RBI on the play

There are rare events in baseball, and then there are events that are so rare that Retrosheet has only seen them once. Congratulations, A.J. Pierzynski — you’ve accomplished something that no one else in at least the last 60 years has.




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The Kudzu Kid is a mathematician and avid baseball fan.


2 Responses to “The Unlikeliest Way to Score from First Base”

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  1. Eric Maddy says:

    You note “*Yet somehow Throneberry was awarded two RBI on the play.” This is the correct ruling, of course; the fact that he was called out on appeal doesn’t negate the RBI, as the runners advanced as a result of Throneberry’s ball-in-play and not as a result of an error, FC, etc.

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  2. Bill but not Ted says:

    Good stuff

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