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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Man With the Infinite ERA

Most of these were achieved very early in baseball history, with several in the 1800s and a big burst of action between the wars. Then we see a big dropoff, with only five added to the club since 1950. Initiation is getting even rarer: After a drought of almost 50 years, Zach Weiss added to the collection in 2018. His outing was shortly followed up by an unsuccessful pitching cameo from Washington Nationals outfield Geraldo Parra.

Childers, I think, is the most interesting of the bunch, mostly because he’s almost completely unknown. Baseball is notorious for being a sort of repository of history, of statistics dating back generations, records meticulously kept. But nobody knows much about Childers.

Searching the Louisville newspapers during the 1895 season turns up nothing. The invaluable Baseball-Reference unhelpfully gives his date of birth as ‘unknown,’ although they have somehow managed to place his hometown as St. Louis. We don’t know which inning he pitched. We don’t even know which hand he threw with (I like him, so I’m going to go ahead and declare him an honorary lefty).

For most of the players in the list — let’s take Weiss, who pitched for UCLA and spent six years in the minors, as an example — we have a full record of their minor league journey, their trials and travails as they slowly ascended the bitter escarpment of professional sport. These are players who, despite their failure to make an impression at the very top, have made themselves known to the sport beyond that failure.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 31, 2021 at 06:14 PM | 3 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: era

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   1. BaseballObscura Posted: April 03, 2021 at 07:05 PM (#6011453)
Hey, I know about about the mysterious Childers. I wrote a blog post about his appearance and the hunt for his identity a couple years ago.

Essentially, he was a St. Louis amateur named Bill Childers, who was either recommended by Louisville catcher "Tub" Welch, a St. Louis native, or had petitioned Louisville manager John McCloskey for a trial. There was a pitcher named Childers pitching for the local Willows in summer of that year, so it is likely him.

There is a player named W. M. Childress playing for a Kennett, MO club in 1897 who could be our guy and in ​1898, a pitcher named Childress, reported to have been a star in the Texas League was playing for a local St. Louis semi-pro outfit alongside Welch, so this is likely the same guy, but I have not found a corresponding Texas League player with a similar or matching surname.

As of yet no further connection has been made. There is a William M. Childress who lived in St. Louis and would be the right age to be the ballplayer, but nothing connects him to baseball.
   2. The Honorable Ardo Posted: April 03, 2021 at 07:36 PM (#6011458)
I'm sure there's a joke to be made about Billy Sunday having an infinite ERA.
   3. The Honorable Ardo Posted: April 03, 2021 at 11:06 PM (#6011494)
How about this: Want proof saves are a misleading statistic? Sunday had an infinite ERA, but accumulated thousands of saves.

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