One hundred years ago today Ray Jansen went four for five (all singles) in a losing effort for the St. Louis Browns. He never played another game in the Major Leagues. His .800 batting average is one of the highest for a player who showed up for only one game.
According to the info I can find on him, Jansen was a St. Louis local who was signed by the Browns to play third base for a game. He hit well, but made several errors (3) and never got back into a game. He played a couple of years in the minor leagues, then drifted out of baseball and died in 1934.
All this begs a question. Why did the Browns not give Jansen another chance? Anybody who goes four for five ought to have another chance to show what he can do. If he can’t play third base, then shift him to the outfield. In 1910 the minors were not attached to particular teams in the “farm system”, so it’s not that the Browns sent him to their minor league farm team where he failed. I remember Joe Garagiola once commenting that you could shake a tree and out would fall a glove, but a bat was hard to find. I suppose Jansen is an example of why the Browns were awful for most of their history.
Jansen is also an example of a type of player that you see more frequently than you might suppose. It’s the player that gets to a team, gets one chance, does OK (or even really good), then never gets another chance. There are a bunch of those and I’m not about to try listing all of them. Go through any baseball encyclopedia and you’ll run across them. I’m not talking here about the guy who gets up, gets hurt, and never recovers, but the guy who gets up, plays well, then falls into oblivion. I wonder why that happens. I also wonder why some guys who don’t do all that well keep getting more chances.
I went through a couple of baseball encyclopedias and found several of both types, but let me just take one example for you. Both these guys played on the same team at the same time. Both played for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1990.
Carlos Diaz was a 14th round draft choice who was a 25-year-old catcher in 1990. He played in nine games, all behind the plate. His fielding was OK with an error or two, no passed balls, and he allowed one stolen base and gunned down a second base runner trying to steal. He batted four times, sacrificing once. His average was .333 as he went one for three (a single). He scored a run and struck out twice. So he’s not Ray Jansen (and who is?), but one for three ain’t bad and he was a good enough backstop. As far as I can tell he wasn’t injured,but he never played in the big leagues again. You’d think he’d get another try, wouldn’t you?
On this same team was Tom Quinlan. Quinlan was a third baseman who got into one game in 1990, went one for two ( a single and a strikeout), and scored no runs. He didn’t get back to the Blue Jays in 1991, but was there in 1992 where he got into 13 games, hitting .067. In 1993 he was in the minors, in 1994 he surfaced at Philadelphia where in 24 games he hit .200 with a home run. Back in the minors in 1995, he made one last big league stop in Minnesota in 1996 where he went oh-fer in four games. Other than seeming to be available only in even-numbered years, it’s a nothing career. He hits (drum roll, please) .155 with a home run and 26 strikeouts. You’d think Diaz coulda done that.
Not being a Toronto fan, I’m not sure what was going on here, but I find it interesting that two players have essentially the same rookie season, albeit a short ones and one never got another chance, whereas the second player was given three more chances. I realize that five total at bats (1-3 for Diaz and 1-2 for Quinlan) don’t make for much of a sample size, but I can’t help wondering what was going on that led to the totally different outcomes.
Like Diaz ,I think Jansen deserved another shot. He didn’t get it, but he at least got to the big leagues. I nominate 30 September as Ray Jansen day for all baseball fans. Go, Ray!!!