Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester will never be known as Babe Lester. Unlike a left-handed Red Sox pitcher from long ago named Babe Ruth, the left-handed Lester is a hapless hitter.
To be fair, as a pitcher in the American League he gets very few at-bats, which helps explain his 0-for-31 career as a hitter in eight seasons. Lester has never had more than seven plate appearances in a season.
Nearly 100 years ago, Ruth was a pitcher who also hit and, boy, could he hit. In 1915, he hit .315 with 10 doubles and four homers in 92 at-bats.
Lester’s woes, though, got me to thinking about the worst hitting pitchers of all time. Yes, I do have too much free time. Anyhow, as other people work on world peace and a cure for dandruff, I looked up stuff on Bob (Don’t Call Him Babe) Buhl.
Buhl was a very good pitcher who had a long career in the majors but when he died in 2001 at the age of 72, this was the New York Times headline: Bob Buhl, 72, Braves Pitcher Who Was Hapless As A Hitter.
What a way to be remembered.
Buhl won 166 games in a 15-year career that ended in 1967. He had 10 seasons when he won between 11 and 18 games. The 6-foot-2 right-hander won 18 games in the 1956 and 1957 seasons for the Milwaukee Braves. He was a two-time All-Star and six times finished in the Top 10 in the National League in earned run average and his .720 winning percentage (18-7) in 1957 was the league’s best.
But it was hitting, or lack of hitting, that set Buhl apart. Buhl was 0-for-70 for the Cubs in 1962. In other words, or numbers, he was 0-for-1962. If one includes the end of the 1961 season and the start of 1963, Buhl endured an 0-for-87 stretch.
When he was with the Braves, Buhl was part of a pitching staff with good hitters. Ace Warren Spahn hit 35 homers in his career. Lew Burdette, the team’s No 2 pitcher, hit .242 with three homers in 1958, when the Braves won the pennant.
“I wouldn’t compete with them with the bat,” Buhl said, according to his New York Times obit. “They were both good hitters, and I was probably the worst in baseball. They’d laugh at my hitting.”
Over 15 years, Buhl compiled an .089 average season. His best season was 1958 when he hit .200.
When baseballnation.com compiled a list in 2011 of the 10 worst hitting pitchers of all time Buhl didn’t make the cut.
The website’s choice for worst of all time was Ron Herbel, who was 0-for-47 in 1964 and 1-for-49 in 1965 and 1-for-38 in 1966.
To me, though, Bob Buhl will always be No. 1.
The Times concluded its obit with a quote from Buhl and I’m going to do the same. Here is Buhl’s quote: “No one remembers that I was a good bunter.”