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I think I've found the most interesting career stat line in baseball history

Wednesday 5/4/22

Or it is to me, anyway, and I could write a novel about this. The stat line belongs to Nate Berkenstock, a right fielder who played for the Philadelphia Athletics in the National Association. Berkenstock was also born in Philadelphia, and shares my birthday of September 17, in the year of 1832 and was the earliest born professional baseball player).


Think about that. Berkenstock would have grown up around family members who likely fought in the Revolutionary War, and he would have known many people who did, the same way that we know people who fought in Vietnam. A photo exists of him in his Athletics uniform, which is remarkable. Why? Because at the age of thirty-eight, in 1871, Berkenstock appeared in his only professional baseball game.


Well, after a fashion. He played amateur ball before then, when a professional league didn't exist.


How did this happen? Why did it happen? Consider the times and this man's life. The Civil War had ended six years prior, so he lived through that as a seasoned man.


Jump to the day before Halloween, 1871, and it's the championship game for the new professional league, between the Athletics and the Chicago White Stockings, at the Union Grounds in Brooklyn. The White Sox had been chased out of their home city by the Great Chicago Fire, and were playing all of their games on the road, in borrowed uniforms--seriously--because their gear got burnt up.


Meanwhile, the Athletics' regular center fielder, Count Sensenderfer--yes, really--was hurt. It was then that our man, Berkenstock, was summoned for glory, at the age of thirty-eight, after years of not playing ball. The normal right fielder was moved to center, and Berksenstock took up his old position among his former mates.


Unfortunately for him, the day did not go so well on the stat sheet. He was 0-for-4, with three strikeouts, the eternal possessor of a negative WAR. But fear not! The Athletics still won the championship, and if you go on baseball-reference, you'll see the amazing career stat line of this fascinating figure, which is comprised of exactly one professional game.


Berkenstock lived until February 1900--dying in the same city where he was born and played--just making it into the century that would see two world wars, a man on the moon, and the Beatles. Think of his life. Mind-blowing. And guess who happened to catch the final out of the game, clinching the championship? That's right! Berkenstock, baby.


This could all go into my multi-generational, historical novel about the Christmas tree in Boston that comes from Nova Scotia. I have to write one of those kinds of novels at some point, but I can do something with all of this.