Tuesday, March 03, 2020

The Dodgers Lone Leap Year Ballplayer -- Ed Appleton

With the recent passing of Leap Day -- February 29th -- I thought it would be fun to take a look at the lone Dodger ballplayer born on that day. His name is Ed Appleton, and he was a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers during the 1915 and 1916 Baseball seasons.

Having been nicknamed Whitey, for whatever reason, Ed Appleton played much of his professional ball in various leagues in Texas. Which isn't surprising since he was born, raised and died in Arlington, Texas. His first taste of pro-ball was as a 19-year old with the Fort Worth Panthers of the Texas League in 1911 -- where he went a respectable 7-8, while allowing 3.67 runs every nine innings.

Four years later in 1915 he would find himself half-way across the country in Brooklyn, as a swing man in the Dodgers pen. He would start ten games (out of 34 appearances) and would prove to be effective -- recording an 3.32 ERA his rookie season. Unfortunately, he would run into some tough luck that year.

For instance, on June 11th, during a start against the Cincinnati Reds, he pitched a 14+ inning completed game, but would lose on a walk-off hit, 1-0 (boxscore). BTW, Appleton recorded a Game Score of 91 -- one of only five Dodger pitchers to have a 90+ Game Score as a losing pitcher (joining Sherry Smith, Jeff Pfeffer, Sandy Koufax and Rich Hill).

Then something really unfortunate happened. Ed Appleton got goofed on by an opposing manager -- no doubt taking advantage of the rookie. I don't know the exact date of this incident, but I do know that St. Louis skipper Miller Huggins (soon-to-be manager of the Yankees Murderer's Row before dying in 1929) played a vicious trick on the pitcher.

During the seventh inning, with two outs and a Cardinal on third base, Huggins called out to the impressionable rookie and said, 'Let me see that ball'. So, the 23-year old tossed it to him. Of course, nobody had bothered to call 'time', so Huggins dutifully stepped aside and let the ball fly past him. Naturally, the Cardinal runner on third base advanced to score a run.

Soon benches cleared and an argument ensued. But to no avail. The ball was still in play. The run had scored.

Embarrassment aside, Ed Appleton returned to the Dodgers the following season, but would pitch sparingly -- getting into only 14 games while recording 3.06 ERA. This would prove to be his last year in Major League Baseball. From here on out Ed would jump around from league to league -- the Pacific Coast International League, Texas League, Texas-Oklahoma League, East Texas League and the Texas Association. Following his post playing days he would become a Special Officer at the MKT Railway (Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad). On January 27, 1932 he would die of apoplexy at the age of 39.
(Photo via The Library of Congress, Bain Collection)

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