The Strangest Career (and Worst Start) In Tigers History

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I came across this tweet yesterday in reference to a major league game played on May 18, 1912 between the Tigers and the Philadelphia A’s. I read it and delivered this response:

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And check it out I did. Gary Livacari at SABR has a very informative post about how it came to be that Travers ended up in a major league game. It, I kid you not, involves Ty Cobb assaulting a person who was handicapped with the president of the American League watching.

That aside, this 24 run affair from Travers is incredible. Now 1912 is 101 years ago and the records from that era are a bit spotty. No box score has survived for posterity so I only have some limited information about what happened.

Travers threw an 8 inning CG. He allowed 26 hits and 7 walks and struck out just 1. He allowed 24 runs but only 14 were earned thanks to a terrible defense. His ERA was 15.75. Now that isn’t the worst ERA you’ve ever seen in one appearance, but it’s bad.

Obviously 24 runs is an MLB record and only 19 pitchers have ever allowed 14 ER or more in a single appearance. Only one has allowed more than 26 hits in an appearance. Only 20 have ever walked 7 or more and struck out 1 or fewer.

Just days after his 20th birthday, Travers was put into a major league game he had no business being in and got toasted big time. We often see a reliever or a starter have a very short outing that results in a 27.00 ERA or something, but they get outs in their next appearance and the numbers balance out. But Travers never got the chance and his only major league appearance stands as a preposterously awful affair.

Granted, I’d take one MLB appearance no matter how terrible over no MLB appearances, so I don’t feel too bad. It’s just pretty remarkable that a situation unfolded in which a major league pitcher was allowed to give up 24 runs in an outing and that remains his only trip to a big league mound.

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