May 16, 2009

Baseballs Only Designated Runner: Herb Washington

Herb Washington is the only player in baseball history to be used solely as a designated runner. It happened during the zany days of Charlie O Finley's Oakland A's Dynasty.

Charlie O believed a few extra wins could be had on the base paths. Those wins could be the difference in the standings & in the post season. He used six different players over the years as pinch runners, but all of them came to bat at one point or another, except for Herb Washington.

Washington had no pro baseball experience at all, which was criticized by the A's players. Washington was a track star, a four-time all-American that broke the world record in the 50 and 60 yard dashes. On the 1974 World Champion Oakland A's team, his official position was "designated runner." Washington had no baseball expierence, and didn't have much of a feel for the game. This upset the Oakland players, who felt the roster spot should have gone to a real baseball player. Washington had to learn how to take leads, & time pitchers. He made the opening day roster and ended up appearing in 105 games without ever batting or fielding. As a runner he stole 31 bases in 48 attempts, scoring 33 runs.

In Game #2 of the 1974 World Series at Dodger Stadium, Herb stepped in as a pinch-runner for Joe Rudi. It was the 9th inning & he was the tying run on 1st base with one out. After a long cat & mouse game, he was picked off first base by Dodgers' reliever Mike Marshall. It was Herb's only Series appearance. The A's won the Series 4 games to 1, the only loss coming on the day of the Washington pick off. It was their 3rd straight Championship.

Washington's 1975 Topps baseball card is the only baseball card ever to have "pinch runner" listed as a position. He was released by the A's in May, 1975. After baseball Washington became a sucessful buisness man owning several McDonalds in the Cleveland/Youngstown Ohio areas. Herb is now 58 years old.

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