C H I C A G O, Sept. 7, 2000 -- Scott Sheldon couldn’t believe it when he saw
Texas Rangers catcher Randy Knorr shake his head, signaling Sheldon
to pretend he was brushing off a sign.
What was Knorr thinking? They didn’t have any signs. Heck,Sheldon barely had any pitches! He’s a utility infielder. Theclosest he’d ever gotten to pitching before was an inning or two inthe annual University of Houston alumni game.
So Sheldon just threw the ball, his almost-slow-motion changeupgood enough for a strikeout. Then he moved to third base — and intobaseball’s record books.
Sheldon, who’d played only 22 games in the majors before thisseason, became the third player in baseball history to play allnine positions Wednesday night. It was the only highlight for theRangers in a 13-1 drubbing by the Chicago White Sox.
“I had a blast,” Sheldon said. “It went by so fast, but thereare so many memories I’ll take from this.”
Bert Campaneris (Sept. 8, 1965) and Cesar Tovar (Sept. 22, 1968)are baseball’s only other true utility players.
Sox Built a Lead
Frank Thomas hit his AL-leading 41st home run, tying his careerhigh. Magglio Ordonez also homered as the White Sox scored sevenruns in the first inning, sending Rick Helling (14-11) to theshortest start of his career.
Helling gave up a whopping seven runs and five hits in just 2-3of an inning. He walked three and threw 41 pitches.
Charles Johnson and Greg Norton also homered for the White Sox,who maintained their 6½-game lead over the Cleveland Indians in theAL Central. Kip Wells (5-7), making his first start since beingrecalled from Triple-A Charlotte, gave up one unearned run and fourhits in seven innings.
Mike Lamb drove in Texas’ run with grounder in the third.
Going For All Nine
“After it got to be 10-1 … I thought it was the perfect nightto do it,” Texas manager Johnny Oates said.
“It” was Sheldon playing all nine spots and giving new meaningto the term “utility player.”
After playing eight positions in a spring training game —Sheldon didn’t pitch — Oates decided he was going to give Sheldon ashot at the real thing during the regular season. He’d played everyposition in the infield at some point this season, and Oatesthought next week’s homestand might be a good time to go for allnine.
Instead, he called Sheldon over in the third inning and told himto go for it.
“He deserves it,” Oates said. “For a guy that doesn’t have a lot of major league service, he can say how many thousands of menhave played professional baseball and only three have done it?
“It’s something to be proud of.”
Threw Three Strikes
Sheldon entered the game at catcher in the fourth, and moved tofirst base in the fifth. His quest picked up speed in the sixth,when he played second and shortstop. He played right and centerfield in the seventh.
He began the eighth inning in left field, and then went to themound after the first out.
“I was ready to face their lefty. I went back and put theweight doughnut on the bat, turned around and Sheldon’s out there,”pinch-hitter Jeff Liefer said. “I said, ‘Oh, man, I can only losehere, there’s nothing to gain.’
“We were aware he was moving, but it never crossed my mind hewould pitch.”
He did, and quite adequately, too. Of the five pitches he threw,three were strikes. He got Liefer to strike out swinging on achangeup that was clocked at a blistering 67 mph.
“Did we get an out? Thank you,” Sheldon said, smiling, whensomeone made fun of his pitching. “I wasn’t trying to throw hard.I was just trying to throw strikes and get out of there.”
Sheldon said he was so nervous after striking out Liefer that hedidn’t even wait for Oates to make it to the mound. He just flippedthe ball at the manager and ran to third, his ninth and final spotof the night.
“I think it’s impressive,” White Sox catcher Charles Johnsonsaid. “I didn’t really know it until I saw him come to the moundand went, ‘Why did he come to the mound?’ I realized he was playingall nine positions. I think that’s something we all wish we coulddo.”
There was no announcement of Sheldon’s feat, so few in the crowdeven realized what was going on. A couple of fans in the bleachersfigured it out, but there was no standing ovation and the gamedidn’t stop after Sheldon went to third base.
He didn’t even get a game ball to mark his historical day.
“I don’t need a game ball to remember this day. I’ll have filmof it,” Sheldon said, choking up.
And he’ll have the box score.
He fielded a single in right field, the only ball hit at him allnight, and was credited with a putout when he was catching. Hedidn’t make any errors.
“Somewhat, but I don’t know,” Sheldon said when asked if whathe’d done had sunk in yet. “Not so much the history of it, thatonly two other players have done it. That kind of doesn’t sink in.It’s mind-boggling a little bit to know I can do something likethat.”