Did you know that 3-time All-Star infielder Granny Hamner broke into the majors when he was 17 years-old, was one of the key players on the "Whiz Kids", had a brother (Garvin Hamner) who played in the majors, and threw a knuckleball? Baseball Almanac likes to take a look "beyond the stats" and we hope you enjoy the following historical baseball article about Granny Hamner:
HAMNER THE HAMMER
Granny Hamner was one of the National League's elite infielders from the late 40s through the mid 50s. As a member of the Phillies, he was the first player to start the All-Star Game at two different positions (in '52 at shortstop and in '54 at second base). Hamner was one of the only Phillies to figure out Yankee pitching in the 1950 World Series, hitting a robust .429.
By 1956, Hamner's best days were behind him. Plagued by injuries, Granville's average had slipped to .227 (from .299 two years before). With his team hopelessly buried behind powerhouse clubs like the Dodgers, Braves, Cards and Reds, Hamner began messing around with throwing a knuckleball.
And he got pretty decent at it. Good enough for manager Mayo Smith to use Hamner as a pitcher in three games, including one start. The Phillies weren't going anywhere, so what the heck…
In those 3 mound appearances, Hamner logged a 4.32 era in 8.1 innings of work. Not great numbers, but considering the fact that the entire Phils' staff era for the season was 4.20, they weren't bad.
The Phillies added some talented young players in '57 and were in the race until a late summer slump doomed them. Skipper Smith was trying to win the pennant and not as open to experiments, so Hamner only pitched one inning that year, a scoreless frame.
The former All-Star infielder's playing time steadily diminished and the Phillies traded him to the Indians in 1959 where he ended the first phase of his playing career with a .164 average in 27 games.
His days as a knuckleball pitcher weren't over, however. Charles Finley hired him in 1962 to manage the Kansas City A's Binghamton Triplets farm team. The club was terrible and badly in need of pitching help. After watching his staff get strafed on a daily basis, Hamner decided to trot out the knuckleball again to take some pressure off his beleaguered bullpen.
The results were surprising. In 22 appearances, knuckleballer Granny Hamner logged a 10-4 record and led the Eastern League in era. He even tossed a shutout.
Pitchers on the A's were also getting hammered so Charles Finley thought Hamner could repeat the magic at Municipal Stadium against major league hitters. The Richmond, Virginia native was reluctant to begin a second major league career; he realized that getting tough teams like the Yankees and Tigers out with his knuckleball would be a little bit more difficult than dispatching the heart of the Elmira Pioneers' line-up.
But Finley insisted and Granny Hamner was back in the majors. But not for long. Baseball stats guru Bill James says that Hamner:
…pitched a little bit, but very badly and then retired in embarrassment, over the objections of the A's management, who thought the 36-year-old Hamner was one of their best pitching prospects. Which, come to think of it, he probably was.
(Source: Bill James, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, Free Press Publishers, 06/05/2003, Page 639)
Hamner never pitched again professionally. He later managed other farm teams with varying degrees of success but never resorted to taking the mound in an effort to help out his pitchers. Too bad; it would have been interesting to see if he could have repeated his Eastern League mound success in subsequent seasons.
As they were, Granny Hamner's days as a knuckleballer were an interesting footnote to a fine career.
A Baseball Almanac exclusive written by Yahoo! contributor Chris Williams.
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