A History Of Pulling Double Duty

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Calling Houston Astro Jake Elmore a "utility man" may be an understatement. (Pat Sullivan/AP)
Calling Houston's Jake Elmore (left) a "utility man" may be an understatement. (Pat Sullivan/AP)

Houston Astros shortstop/second baseman Jake Elmore already fills two jobs, but he wasn’t starting at either position on Monday. And as the Astros fell behind to the Texas Rangers by 13 runs in the third inning, it became clear Elmore was going to need to take on a third job … and then a fourth.

Elmore was recruited out of high school as a catcher, but he had never played the position in the bigs. He got his chance when Astros catcher Carlos Corporan left the game with a concussion.

“I told them I could catch two weeks ago,” Elmore said afterward. “Hopefully I did all right.”

Elmore did just fine. He put in four innings behind the plate with no major mishaps before he was called on to pitch, another job he had never performed in the MLB. He pitched a scoreless inning, retiring three Rangers in order with 11 pitches. The Astros lost, but the night will live on in the record books as just the 14th time a player has pitched and caught in the same game in Major League history.

Some have pointed out that Negro Leaguer Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe got his name by doing this sort of thing. But Radcliffe is best known for performing his duties in consecutive games of a doubleheader during the Negro League World Series, not during the same game.

Pitching and catching in the same game would be like an NFL quarterback who suddenly takes to punting. Oh, wait … that happens from time to time, usually on third downs. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is so good at it that in 2012 Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko joked that he was second on the team’s punting depth chart behind the quarterback.

OK, so maybe pitching and catching in the same game would be like a 44-year-old hockey coach who had never played goalie minding the net during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals?

Except that’s happened, too, in 1928 when the New York Rangers' goalkeeper was hit in the eye with a puck.  Teams back then didn’t carry an extra goalie, and the rules stated that opponents had the right to veto substitutions.  So, when Montreal refused to agree to any substitute goalie except the Rangers head coach, Hall of Famer Lester Patrick laced up his skates. Patrick blocked every shot but one, and the Rangers went on to win the game and the series.

The fact is, we all have to wear a lot of hats. We can only hope we do half as well pulling double duty as "Double Duty" Radcliffe, or Tom Brady, or Lester Patrick, or Astros shortstop/second baseman/catcher/pitcher Jake Elmore.

This program aired on August 21, 2013.

Karen Given Executive Producer/Interim Host, Only A Game
Karen is the executive producer for WBUR's Only A Game.



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