May 13, 2021

Ohtani: First Player In 105 Years To Start A Game On The Mound & Leadoff Next Game

Tuesday, May 11: Shohei Ohtani started the game on the mound for the Angels (7-4-1-1-10, 88) before playing right field for the rest of the game. He watched the bullpen give the game away in the eighth. Houston scored four times and won 5-1.

Wednesday, May 12: Ohtani (DH) led off and went 0-for-4 in a 9-1 loss to the Astros.

Ohtani is the first player to start a game on the mound and leadoff in the next game since Ray Caldwell of the Yankees did it on July 25-26, 1916.

July 25, 1916: Took the L in a 13-8 loss to the White Sox (5-9-9-5-0). Batted 9th, went 1-for-2, one walk, and one run scored.

July 26, 1916: Led off, played entire game in center field (0-for-4). Yankees lost 1-0. White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte (who had started the previous day and lasted only nine batters (1.1-1-2-4-0)) pitched a complete-game one-hitter: 9-1-0-1-6.

Caldwell also led off and played center on July 27 before tossing a complete game on July 29 (though he batted 9th). 

Fun Fact: Caldwell began the 1919 season pitching for the Red Sox, but was traded to Cleveland in August. He struck by lightning in the ninth inning of his Cleveland debut, on August 24, 1919. Caldwell regained consciousness and finished the game. He threw a no-hitter 17 days later (September 10, against the Yankees).

The incident did not merit much coverage in The Sporting News. In the August 28 issue, Cleveland writer Henry Edwards's column was on page two, with Caldwell's experience receiving a perfunctory mention in 10th paragraph of the 14-paragraph report. Edwards spent more time describing the storm.
Lightning Drops Him In Box

The game was almost over when a thunder storm blew by and before players or spectators could scurry to cover there came a series of lightning flashes and terrific sky cannonading. The bolts flashed here and there, causing much excitement. There was a blinding flash that seemed to set the diamond on fire and Caldwell was knocked flat from the shock of it. His fellows rushed to him, fearing he might have been killed, but he struggled to his feet and after "frisking" himself to see if he was all "there," pitched what was left of the game, which was finished before the rain became a downpour. 
Eric Chesterton ( provided more info in 2020:
Caldwell cruised through 8.2 innings, giving up only one run on four hits, and he stood on the mound in the top of the ninth inning about to seal a 2-1 win for his new team -- and get the game in before the forecasted summer evening thunderstorm rolled in. Light-hitting shortstop Joe Dugan stepped to the plate, representing the potential final out of the game.

What happened next is a matter of some dispute, but two things we know for sure: A bolt of lightning struck somewhere within the confines of League Park, and it knocked Caldwell out cold. Some reports say the lightning struck an iron rail near the press box and made its way down to the field and out to the mound. . . .

Caldwell [believed the] bolt entered him through the metal button atop his cap. He said the experience felt like someone hit him on the head with a wooden board. After the game, he claimed to have discovered a burn mark on his chest, which he attributed to the lightning strike. . . .

[A]fter about five minutes of extremely justifiable panic, he came to.

Caldwell didn't come out of the game to recover from the shock or seek medical attention, though. No. He had business to attend to -- namely getting Dugan out and ending the game. And that's just what he did, quickly inducing a ground ball to third base.

Chad Osborne wrote an account of the game for SABR's Games Project

The lightning, the Cleveland Press reported, had knocked off Indians catcher Steve O'Neill's mask and hat, as well as Harry Davis's navy blue A's cap. Davis was coaching third base for Philadelphia.

"We all could feel the tingle of the electric shock running through our systems, particularly in our legs" umpire Billy Evans said.

Davis, the Press reported, "got a second shock, for Cy Perkins came up to feel Harry's head and see if he was hurt. The lightning had charged Davis' hair with electricity and his whole frame tingled when Cy touched him."

Teammates also claimed to have felt an "electrical current" from lightning hitting the metal spikes on their shoes.

Still alive and recovering from the jolt, Caldwell picked himself up from the dirt. . . . One of his teammates touched him "on the head and leaped into the air. He said the pitcher seemed to be crackling with electricity," a wire-service reporter wrote.

Is this possible?

"When lightning strikes the ground, the current flows across the surface, creating a step voltage. Someone standing with their feet apart can have current go up one leg and down the other," Joseph Dwyer, a lightning researcher and professor of physics at the University of New Hampshire, said in an email interview on May 12, 2016. "I would think such a large current through the legs could explain the numbness afterward." . . .

Newspaper reports say lightning danced along the ballpark rails near where some fans were sitting and jumped toward the pitcher’s mound.

"Lightning certainly can travel along metal railing," Dwyer said, a phenomenon he called side flashes.

"When lightning strikes, there is often tens of thousands of amps of current and very large voltages," the professor said in the email interview. "If some of this current goes into a metal conductor such as fences or railings, the current can travel long distances, causing sparks to other objects along the way."

Even pitchers. . . .

After the game, Caldwell told the Cleveland Press that the lightning strike "felt just like somebody came up with a board and hit me on top of the head and knocked me down."

He assessed the damage and found that he had slight burns on his chest. Speculation was that lightning had hit the metal button on his cap, "surged through his body, and exited through his metal spikes."

This, like a direct strike on a person, is unlikely, said Dr. Mary Ann Cooper, founding director of the African Centres for Lightning and Electromagnetics and professor emerita at the University of Illinois at Chicago, in an email interview on May 11, 2016.

"Lightning only goes through the body for perhaps three to four microseconds before it flashes over the outside, and that's not long enough to cause internal burns," Dr. Cooper said. "It would be nice to know what the chest burns looked like. Was there a linear burn down the middle or sides of the chest where there would be sweat lines that lightning turned into steam, causing burns? Was it where metal was? Did he have a necklace with a cross on it, so that there was a cross shape burned in?"

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great story about Caldwell, but...
Might I suggest a blog rebranding at some point. Given your predilection for vaguely titillating 50+-year-old book titles (J of S?), and your frank bromance with Asian 2-way superstars, perhaps

The Story of O