The Idle Thoughts of the First Pitcher to Ride a Bullpen Cart in 2018

Mickey Haefner, man.

*****

That left-handed knuckleballer. Hit Ted Williams with a pitch in a tune-up game before Teddy’s only World Series. Williams said his arm “swelled up like a boiled egg,” whatever that means, then went just 5-for-25. All singles. Red Sox lost in seven. Thanks to ol’ Mickey.

*****

It wasn’t his idea to have the Red Sox scrimmage against the American League All-Stars while the National League had their best-of-three playoff to decide their World Series representative. Still. How did Ted Williams not have him killed? How did Mickey Haefner survive long enough to make history?

*****

*****

Paul Lukas admitted the bullpen historical record is imprecise. He also wrote that a 1950 newspaper report mentioning a “little red auto” was the first known instance of a report on bullpen vehicles. Then you found it: Chicago Tribune, July 6, 1950. You trust Lukas. You trust the Tribune. Cleveland 5, White Sox 2. Cleveland didn’t need a reliever that day. White Sox brought in Haefner first. Might as well figure it was Mickey freakin’ Haefner.

*****

That game was in Cleveland. The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball, 2d ed. sounds trustworthy and regal. Said Cleveland GM Hank Greenberg came up with the whole bullpen cart idea.

*****

Mickey damn Haefner.

*****

Ted Williams. Of course bullpen history involves him. First trendy “Williamsburg” was in Boston. Fenway. 1940. Moved the right-field fence in 20 feet for him. Moved the bullpen in front of the bleachers.

*****

He was chauffeured at the 1999 All-Star Game by the guy who used to drive the Red Sox bullpen buggy. Vehicle. Auto. Cart. Whatever.

*****

Al Forester. Said the Red Sox started their cart in August 1960. Only drove one Yankee — Luis Arroyo — before the Yankees said they didn’t want their pitchers driven.

*****

Lee Smith bought the Red Sox cart.

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Yankees are so fussy. Didn’t want to ride in what I’m guessing was a hearse in 1951 neither.

*****

What did Mike Flanagan say? “I could never play in New York. The first time I ever came into a game there, I got in the bullpen car and they told me to lock the doors.”

*****

And then there was Dick Stigman. Said, “Nobody ran in from the bullpen. I don’t think we could’ve made it. We all smoked.”

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We don’t smoke and I heard it’s safer in New York now, so…

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They might still have rats, though. Yankees used a Datsun in the 70s, but rats chowed down on the engine cables. Real shame, that.

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The dude who won the 1980 Yankees car in a contest was still a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Good.

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Do I have to tip the driver?

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Should have taken an Uber…

*****

Speaking of cheap: Charlie O. Finley. Thank heavens he wasn’t my owner. Made all his Kansas City A’s pitchers ride in on a mule, at the very least on July 3, 1965. A’s used seven pitchers that night. Was a 3-2 game. Classic Charlie O.

*****

Speaking of mules… damn, this is taking forever. What should I have expected? Driving from the bullpen, down the warning track, to a base line…

*****

I should have been a farmer.

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That time, it was the cart before the mule!

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I hate myself.

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Lukas wrote that in the late 60s that Dodgers catcher Tom Haller drove Jim Brewer to the mound and somehow ran into him. But Brewer didn’t spend any time on the DL at any point from 1968 to -71 when he was teammates with Haller. Couldn’t have been that bad. It’s still weird there’s no footage of this. Shouldn’t it have been a staple of every sports blooper show? I loved those.

*****

Brewer died in a car accident when he was 49 years old.

*****

*****

What am I doing with my life? I play this sport and had to look up this bullpen cart history? How did I miss this? How did my peers miss this? Kevin McGowan told that podcast he didn’t realize bullpen carts were really a thing until recently. He thought it was just a joke from the movie Major League.

*****

McGowan is 26. Give him a break. Give yourself a break. So what if you were blown away when you saw the Mets bullpen cart while surfing for Mike Scott footage over the winter?

*****

I still think it’s CGI. It’s just so… out of place. How was this a part of my vocation and I had no idea? And then staying up all night doing the research… it all feels like some practical joke played on the young.

*****

*****

Gaylord Perry, man.

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He ended the fun. Killed bullpen cars.

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Mariners owner George Argyros turned the bullpen cart into a fireboat. It was built to resemble a real fireboat in Seattle. A boat that fought fires. Like how relievers were known as “Firemen” for putting out figurative fires. Clever stuff.

*****

Mean ol’ Gaylord Perry. Forty-four years old in 1982. Few wins away from his 300th career win. Referred to the fireboat as a “tugboat” and announced any Mariner who used it would be fined $100. So nobody rode it, and everyone assumed it was because it was lame, which it wasn’t.

*****

People blame closer Bill Caudill, because he stole the fireboat’s keys on Opening Night. But come on, he was like 30 years younger than Gaylord. Just trying to impress the old man who did not want any entertainment to derive from the bullpen. The bullpen was to be ignored…

*****

Caudill was innovative, though. First Scott Boras client. Co-created rally caps. In the majors, anyway.

*****

Perry got his comeuppance. Finally suspended for the first time in his long career for throwing a spitball later that season. When he got his 300th, the fireboat chimed in to remind him this wasn’t over. Or it was the U.S.S. Mariner that was situated behind the center-field wall. I’d like to think it was the fireboat.

*****

*ding* Cheater *ding* Cheater over here *ding* Destroyer of fun

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All downhill from there. No player would ever ride the fireboat.

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Was also the same year a Wisconsin state senator complained that the Brewers used a foreign car to ship their relievers to the mound. All they did was win the pennant! But when the fat cats in Meowshington get involved…

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Don’t get me started, me.

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At least the Brewers were the last to use a cart. >Made it through 1996 with some Harley-Davidson buggy. Any Brewer who hit for the cycle could have won it that year. Nobody did.

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I thought Phil Garner and Jesse Orosco were going to reboot Easy Rider.

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I should watch that movie. Is it on Netflix?

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Oh, I’m here.

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One small step for man…

*****

Wait, how many mound visits do we have left?
 
 
 
 
 


Uncited newspaper clippings from following:

  • Chicago Tribune, July 6, 1950. (“Haefner Gets Quick Ride”)
  • The Des Moines Register, July 5, 1965 (“A’s Lure 32,000…”)
  • The Journal Times, April 5, 1994 (Brewers manager Phil Garner…”)

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Bless his heart, Roger was reared in Brooklyn, New York. He co-founded and co-hosts the Good Fundies podcast and website. He's too busy and self-involved to hate your favorite team. @yayroger and @goodfundies on Twitter.

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