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Old 04-04-2009, 03:03 PM   #1
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Useless Baseball Trivia: the "Courtesy Runner"

Looking to refresh my memory on the whole designated runner (or was it designated fielder) suggestion that was proposed alongside the DH I came upon this little bit of trivia I didn't know before:

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Earlier in baseball history, teams would occasionally use "courtesy runners" as well as pinch runners.[citation needed] A baserunner that had to leave the game temporarily due to injury would be replaced by a courtesy runner.[citation needed] The courtesy runner could leave the game and re-enter later, or could be a player already in the game playing a different position.[citation needed] The player who had to leave the game was free to return to play.[citation needed] The last use of a courtesy runner in Major League Baseball was in 1949.[citation needed]
Pinch runner - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

EDIT: It was the DR, Charlie Finley's.
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Last edited by kq76; 04-04-2009 at 03:16 PM.
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Old 04-04-2009, 04:00 PM   #2
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I'd read about that before. Quite cool.
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Old 04-04-2009, 04:22 PM   #3
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Interesting. Today an injured runner is permanently pulled from the game, even if it's a relatively minor injury that he can walk or rub off.
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Old 04-06-2009, 04:51 PM   #4
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I've read in several different books references to Babe Ruth having someone run for him down to first base when he was too old and fat with the Boston Braves at the end of his career.
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Old 04-06-2009, 05:44 PM   #5
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Something similar to that was shown in the 1992 movie "The Babe".
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Old 04-06-2009, 05:56 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Hopcroft View Post
Interesting. Today an injured runner is permanently pulled from the game, even if it's a relatively minor injury that he can walk or rub off.
I do think that is a bit stupid really.
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Old 04-06-2009, 05:57 PM   #7
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I do think that is a bit stupid really.
So if a pitcher's arm tightens up and it takes an inning to get him loosened up again, he should be able to be put back in the game?
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Old 04-06-2009, 06:39 PM   #8
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Cool

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Originally Posted by PotatoPeeler View Post
So if a pitcher's arm tightens up and it takes an inning to get him loosened up again, he should be able to be put back in the game?
It does open up a can of worms, I know.

Just thought! Designated runners!
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Old 04-06-2009, 07:46 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PotatoPeeler View Post
Something similar to that was shown in the 1992 movie "The Babe".
I wish I could remember the specific books I read it in. One I think was by Bob Feller and I remember reading a bio on the Babe that talked a lot about his disillusionment with the Dodgers for not meeting promises to him for coaching and managing that I think talked about how the Babe's legs were so bad that he never had to run the bases anymore in Boston. I also don't think he's the only player who had this sort of arrangement back then, but again I can't think of the specific reference where I read that. Perhaps the Professor or one of our more astute baseball historians can confirm or deny this.
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Old 04-06-2009, 08:46 PM   #10
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Baseball allowed 'courtesy runners' pending the other team's consent until the late 1940s or early 1950s -- whenever they revised the official rules. 1950 or 1951 I think. So, yeah, it wasn't entirely unheard of for certain players to have this arrangement. I always think of the Monty Stratton story and how, when he returned to the Minor Leagues on his comeback trail, he was allowed a courtesy runner so long as he managed to get to first base himself. It was in the Major Leagues, too, though.
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Old 04-07-2009, 05:35 PM   #11
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Retrosheet has a listing of documented courtesy runners. Ruth doesn't appear on the list.
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Old 04-07-2009, 06:13 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CBL-Commish View Post
Retrosheet has a listing of documented courtesy runners. Ruth doesn't appear on the list.
I think we're talking about two different phenomenons here that may or may not be covered by the same rule. The retrosheet article seems to be talking about the "courtesy runner" as a guy who gives a mildly injured player a break for a single instance so that guy can get himself together and stay in the game.

I believe the Babe Ruth phenomenon is like The Professor says, where the opposing team agrees to allow a pinch runner designated for a particular player to help him get on base. And with a guy like Babe Ruth it would make sense for the opposing team to allow it because Babe was such a box office draw that both teams made money from having him in the game. So retrosheet may not be including those instances as it's either a different application of the rule, or an entirely different phenomenon in its own right.
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Old 04-07-2009, 06:46 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KurtBevacqua View Post
I think we're talking about two different phenomenons here that may or may not be covered by the same rule. The retrosheet article seems to be talking about the "courtesy runner" as a guy who gives a mildly injured player a break for a single instance so that guy can get himself together and stay in the game.

I believe the Babe Ruth phenomenon is like The Professor says, where the opposing team agrees to allow a pinch runner designated for a particular player to help him get on base. And with a guy like Babe Ruth it would make sense for the opposing team to allow it because Babe was such a box office draw that both teams made money from having him in the game. So retrosheet may not be including those instances as it's either a different application of the rule, or an entirely different phenomenon in its own right.
Actually, I think the Retrosheet collection covers most instances where "courtesy runners" were used, it certainly mentions most of the ones that I was aware of. I don't know about Ruth -- as I said, the Stratton example is the best example of a player having an "arrangement" of the courtesy runner that I know of. When I used the term ("arrangement") that is what I was thinking of, otherwise I am only familiar with the temporary injury/mishap usage (which was used in the Major Leagues)...very poor clarity on my part.

If the Babe had such an arrangement, it doesn't appear to have been documented in a Major League setting (or not one that Retrosheet has picked up on...) Is it possible that the folks are thinking of Sammy Byrd ("Babe Ruth's legs" -- as he was a regular pinch runner for the Babe in late innings) and confusing that with the concept of the courtesy runner?
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Old 04-07-2009, 07:06 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Professor View Post
If the Babe had such an arrangement, it doesn't appear to have been documented in a Major League setting (or not one that Retrosheet has picked up on...) Is it possible that the folks are thinking of Sammy Byrd ("Babe Ruth's legs" -- as he was a regular pinch runner for the Babe in late innings) and confusing that with the concept of the courtesy runner?
That's certainly possible. It sounds like the sort of thing Rob Neyer would have checked out in his last book and I was dissappointed he didn't. He debunked a lot of myths that frequently stemmed from just a slight twist to something that really did happen. I could easily see Babe Ruth getting run for late in the game being twisted into the Babe never had to run down to first base.
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Old 04-11-2009, 02:53 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cryomaniac View Post
I'd read about that before. Quite cool.
Actually, I came across this just last weekend. (evidently around the same time as the OP). i was doing some research on PR (particularly Finley's mid-70s craze with it)


Note: for times used as a PR for a season, 7 of the top 8 on the list were for the A's between 1974-78. (If I remember the list I was referring to was from the Hardball TImes, I'll see if I can get the right link for it tomorrow, if anybody cares)
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Old 04-11-2009, 02:58 AM   #16
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It does open up a can of worms, I know.

Just thought! Designated runners!

Hmm DR's would be interesting. THough if it ever came to be, I think it would probably best in a limited amount of times per game instance (i'd say twice would be best). Also, probably only one bench player can be listed as DR before the game. ANd if they get used in another capacity then the DR would be forfeited.

Just a thought.
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Old 04-11-2009, 03:03 AM   #17
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That's certainly possible. It sounds like the sort of thing Rob Neyer would have checked out in his last book and I was dissappointed he didn't. He debunked a lot of myths that frequently stemmed from just a slight twist to something that really did happen. I could easily see Babe Ruth getting run for late in the game being twisted into the Babe never had to run down to first base.
Well, if he did get a courtesy runner, it would have been after he got on base. The logistics to have a runner running down the line for a guy just doesnt seem feasible for a major league game, in my opinion.
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