Nine For Nine

Tomorrow is the 45th anniversary {error corrected} of Bert Campaneris playing all nine positions as his Kansas City Athletics lost to the Los Angeles Angels that day, 5-3 in 13 innings. Besides the fact that the anniversary of this feat of fun is Billy-Ball column worthy, it was repeated in the minors yesterday.

Mariners prospect Leury Bonilla played all nine positions Monday afternoon in Double-A West Tenn’s season finale, homering and pitching a scoreless inning as the Diamond Jaxx blanked the Chattanooga Lookouts, 8-0. Bonilla is officially listed as a third baseman, although he played every position at one point this season, including two other pitching appearances.

Bonilla began the game in center and played left and right over the first three innings. He moved to second in the 4th, shortstop in the 5th, third in the 6th, and first in the 7th. He caught in the 8th and had his best outing of the year on the mound, striking out one and allowing one hit in the 9th to finish off the shutout. He needed only 10 pitches to finish off Chattanooga. Bonilla previously had pitched a scoreless inning June 17 after allowing five runs in a frame May 11. Bonilla, who apparently is no relation to former big leaguer Bobby Bonilla, who expressed displeasure nine times per game, finished 1-for-3 with two RBI, including his seventh homer of the season in the 1st.

But back to Dagoberto who on September 8, 1965 was the first major leaguer to accomplish this enneadic feat. Campy was one of those players who you just enjoyed watching play the game, perhaps with the exception of the 1972 American League playoff game when Detroit pitcher Larrin LeGrow hit Campaneris with a pitch and Bert responded by throwing his bat at LeGrow.

Campaneris homered off of the Twins’ Jim Kaat on the first major league pitch he ever saw and then later in that game, on July 23, 1964, he homered again off Kaat to become the second player in history to hit two home runs in his first major league game (Bob Nieman in 1951 was the first. Mark Quinn (1999) and J.P. Arencibia (2010) have done it since). But power wasn’t his strength; he was all about speed.

He was nicknamed the “Road Runner” not because he yelled, “Beep-Beep,” but because he led the AL in stolen bases six times starting in 1965 when he led the league with 12 triples and 51 stolen bases. He had speed, he was a good athlete, and he was very popular. Add hose factors to the fact that he played for Charles O. Finley, one of baseball’s great promoters, made Campy the perfect candidate to pay all nine spots in the same game.

The 1965 Athletics were not a good ballclub. They finished 10th going 59-103 and they had fan support that reflected their record. That season they finished 10th in attendance drawing 528,344 fans. Don’t blame Kansas City fans for their lack of attention to the Athletics. Over a 13-year time period, the Athletics lost 100 games four times and were never a .500 ballclub. Holy Pittsburgh, Batman!

They finally got to move in 1968 after last drawing a million fans to Municipal Stadium in 1956. When Finley succeeded in moving to Oakland, Missouri State Sen. Stuart Symington called Oakland, “The luckiest city since Hiroshima.”

On September 8, 1965 Finley decided to honor Campaneris, and attract some buzz by having Campy play all nine positions in one game, a feat never before performed. So in front of 21,576 fans, Campaneris manned his usual position at short to start the game. In the 2nd, he moved to second, and in the 3rd, he moved to 3rd.

The 4th, 5th, and 6th innings saw him play left, center, and right field respectively. His 6th inning error in right led to an unearned run for the Angels. The 7th inning was his turn to play first base.

In the 8th inning not only did Campaneris pitch, but he threw right-handed to right-handed batters and left-handed to left-handed batters. In one inning of work, the ambidextrous pitcher allowed one hit, one run, walked two, and struck out one. Campy got Jose Cardenal out on a pop-up to second. He then walked Albie Pearson and Jim Fregosi. Joe Adcock singled home a run and then Bobby Knoop struck out into an inning ending double play. He never pitched in another MLB game and retired with a 9.00 ERA (he also never played first, rightfield or caught another game).

In the 9th, Campaneris moved behind the plate and as Rob Neyer points out, Campy actually began his minor league career as a catcher. Yet, it was at catcher that Campaneris encountered a problem. With the Angels leading 3-1, Ed Kirkpatrick led off with a single. He then stole second and Tom Egan drew a walk. Kirkpatrick advanced to third on a shot to centerfield and then as Dean Chance struck out, Egan raced to second but Kirkpatrick was thrown out at the plate. Campy was sent flying and shortly after sent to the hospital for X-rays. It was just as well; he had run out of positions to play.

Campaneris and his nine innings, nine-position day was done. At the plate, Campaneris batted leadoff and walked his first time up. He then stole second and scored on an Ed Charles double. He finished the day 0-for-3.

The other major league players who have played all nine positions in one game are Cesar Tovar for Minnesota on 9-22-1968, Scott Sheldon for Texas on 9-6-2000 and Shane Halter for Detroit on 10-1-2000.