What’s in a name? I began thinking of my name – Travers – because on Thursday, May 24, the Examiner ran a piece, written by Dave Kindred of The Sporting News, that references events of May 18, 1912. Those events have personal resonance with me because of my name. Read on.
Earlier in that 1912 season, Detroit’s Hall of Fame outfielder Ty Cobb, a man with a hair-trigger temper, went into the stands at the Polo Grounds to attack a heckler. The heckler, it turns out, had no hands.
“I don’t care if he had no feet,” was Cobb’s response when asked about it. Nice, but an aside. American League President Ban Johnson decided to suspend Cobb. The part that always befuddled me about this is that his teammates decided to protest the suspension by not playing in the May 18 game at Philadelphia. Cobb was hated by his teammates, but he was on his way to a .410 average in 1912, so his value to the club must have overridden emotions about his behavior.
Detroit manager Hughie Jennings, rather than forfeit the game to Connie Mack’s A’s, signed the baseball team from a Philadelphia seminary school to play that single contest. Their pitcher was a future clergyman named Aloysius Joseph Travers. They used to call people Aloysius in those days, but you can call him Al. I call him Travers. Same spelling as my last name, but no relation. I think.
Big Al went the distance against a line-up that included the “$100,000 Infield” of Stuffy McInnis at first, Eddie Collins at second, Jack Barry at short, and Frank “Home Run” Baker at third. Predictably, Travers lost. He gave up 24 runs, the modern Major League record.
Hopefully, he was a better pastor than he was a pitcher.
Cobb was re-instated, the seminarians went back to the seminary, and the rest of the season was played out in formal fashion.
In 1974, the second and only other guy named Travers ever to play in the big leagues came along. His name is Bill Travers, and if my Internet family tree search is correct, he is related to me.
Travers was a pretty fair pitcher, really. I took note of him because of the family name, and darned if he did not make the 1976 American League All-Star team for Milwaukee.
The next year he had an elbow injury and slumped. His season hit its nadir on the dog day of August 14 at Cleveland’s luxurious “Mistake by the Lake”, Memorial Stadium. In what one can only imagine to have been the most desultory of baseball games, the going-nowhere Indians beat the going-nowhere Brewers, 14-5. The Brew Crew was low on pitchers, there bull pen depleted. Travers was allowed to stay in the game and give up all 14 runs! This means that, since 1900, the two pitchers who gave up the most runs in a single game, in order, were the only two pitchers in baseball history named Travers.
At the time, I was a youth pitcher named Travers growing up in Marin County. The August 15, 1977 Independent Journal, despite rumors, did have a sports section in those days. This was the height of the free sex hot tub era (like I ever saw any of this fabrication). Their headline said, “If your name is Travers, don’t try pitching.”
Now you know the rest of the story.
Eventually, I did sign with the St. Louis Cardinals and play a couple years in the minors, including a stint with Oakland. I never did match my namesakes in runs-allowed in any game. I also never did get to The Show. In Aloysius’ case, he was a circumstance, but Bill deserves credit. He pitched nine years and was a legitimate Major League pitcher, although at 6-4, 187 pounds I suspect he could shower in the barrel of a .22.
Aloysius died in 1968, but Bill still lives in Foxboro, Massachusetts, where I suspect the residents cannot drive to and from their homes a day before or after Patriots games due to the bad road planning in and around Foxboro Stadium. I attempted to contact him, but “cousin Bill” apparently wants to be like Greta Garbo and be left alone.
I suppose being part of the greatest one-two same-name run-allowing combo in history is enough publicity for anyone. I wish I coulda made it a trio thing, but you know what they say: “Two’s company, three’s a crowd.”
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism