Wednesday night, Joe Girardi did a couple of extraordinary things: He played Vernon Wells at third base, and he batted his pitcher eighth. Here at Baseball Nation, we applaud extraordinary things. So let's all pause for seven seconds of this.
Anyway, in the wake of Girardi's unorthodox (though hardly unprecedented) lineup order, a friend points out with erstwhile White Sox pitching great Gary Peters:ML: In 1966 while your record was only 12-10 your ERA was incredible... 1.98 and this was two years before the so called "year of the pitcher." How in the world could you lose ten games with an ERA like that?
GP: "Our offense wasn't very good, we just had trouble hitting the ball. I know we were shut out a lot that year. You can't worry about those things, all you can do is go out there and do your best one game at a time."
ML: Speaking of hitting you certainly weren't an "automatic out." You had nineteen home runs and 102 RBI's in your career. There were times when Manager Eddie Stanky actually hit you 6th or 7th in the batting order ahead of guys like Al Weis, Wayne Causey, Tim Cullen and J.C. Martin. I know you were proud of that but I wonder if that caused bad feelings or embarrassed the guys hitting below you?
GP: "I don't think Eddie was trying to embarrass those guys, I think he was trying to ignite them. Eddie was that type of manager, that was his style. He intimidated a lot of players but I always got along good with him. I think Eddie just wanted to try to get those guys to start doing better."
Wow, that's an interesting way to motivate your struggling hitters! Just make two or three of them bat after the pitcher!
Oh, except it happened exactly once. The relevant portion of Gary Peters' career splits:
Peters started 285 games, and batted other than ninth exactly once. I looked it up. In the first game of a doubleheader on the 26th of May in 1968, Peters batted sixth against the Yankees in the Bronx. Stuck behind him: catcher Duane Josephson, future Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio, and second baseman Tim Cullen. At the time, it's true, those latter three fellows all had terrible statistics. But it was the Year of the Pitcher, and Peters' good-hitting seasons were in the past. Also, that was the only game all year in which the White Sox' starting pitcher didn't bat ninth.
So what was Stanky up to? The next day in the Times, Leonard Koppett sort of explained it:
In the first game, the newsworthy item was that manager Eddie Stanky placed Gary Peters, his starting pitcher, sixth in the batting order. Three weeks ago in Chicago, Peters had beaten the Yankees with a grand slam home run.
So there you have it. It happened once, because of a manager's semi-random hunch. If he was trying to motivate his other hitters, he thought it was a good idea just this once.