1910: Ray Jansen, Superstar


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!!!


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9 Responses to “1910: Ray Jansen, Superstar”

  1. William Miller Says:

    In the immortal words of Smokey Robinson, I second that emotion. I love these obscure guys, too. It reminds us that baseball is made up of real people who end up with random luck, like most of the rest of us.
    Nice post, Bill

  2. vterranova Says:

    Carlos Diaz. Take a look at his minor league record and you’ll see why he never got another whiff. .219 with no power at all.

    Looks like Jansen started out as a second baseman, then switched to the outfield and that game with the Browns was his first and only game at third base. His last year shows he played 50 games at SS. We can only wonder at what that must have looked like? He hit only .270, with no power at all in the low minors, never getting above A ball.

    I think this time the Browns did get one right.

  3. verdun2 Says:

    So Diaz in the big leagues was a fluke. Thanks for that info. As I said, I don’t follow Toronto, but saw the big league stats and wondered what happened. He and Quinlan are but two of a group of these kinds of players. Thanks for filling in the holes.
    As for Jansen, I think I might have given him another shot. The Browns finished last in 1911 with three of their starters (plus the catcher-a position Jansen didn’t play) hitting less than .250.
    Thanks for reading. (BTW you have your own site? I’d like to read it if you do.

  4. vterranova Says:

    Thanks for the kind words. No, I don’t have a site. I was the kind of guy who use to memorize the record book and the SN Baseball Register as a kid, and dreamed of playing center field for the Yankees one day when Mantle couldn’t any longer.
    Always appreciate those like yourself who write well and do a great job of exploring the nooks and crannies of baseball and its lore. So much of the past gets forgotten that the field for research is always an open and fertile one.
    Having found your site, I check in every day to see what new delicacy you’ve prepared.

  5. verdun2 Says:

    Thanks for the kind words. When you were dreaming of being Mantle, I was praying to be Jackie Robinson.
    You ought to get your own site, you obviously know your stuff.

  6. William Miller Says:

    We interrupt this love-fest to tell Verdun2 the happy news that the baseball website called Baseballisms has included his Opening Day story in their new collection “Tales From Opening Day.” Congratulations, V! Check it out.

  7. vterranova Says:

    William/Bill,(If I may call you that?)
    I certainly will do so right after I post this and welcome both of you to contact me directly anytime you so desire. It’s always great to talk baseball with knowledgable fans like yourselves.
    By the way Bill. Who’d you want to be?

  8. William Miller Says:

    Hi vterranova, you can call me Bill. I’d be happy to talk to you. I’m on Facebook, Twitter (Raindog63), and my email is wmiller6381@gmail.com
    Get in touch however you prefer, and I’ll certainly get back to you. Regards, Bill

  9. verdun2 Says:

    Keeping on with the love fest. I want to thank you, Bill, for bringing my blog to the attention of the editor of “Tales from Opening Day”. I’d offer you a share of the royalties, but I understand there aren’t any. 🙂
    Thanks again,

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