On 44 occasions from 1919 to 2011, a pitcher has given up 14 or more runs in a start or appearance. 34 of 44 occasions were between 1919 and 1939, back in the golden ages of Baseball when men were men. One outing was a 7 inning Bob Feller appearance where he gave up 15 runs on 15 hits and 9 walks in 1938. Hall of Famer Red Ruffing (who made the Hall for being a Yankee, from what I can tell) gave up 14 runs (12 earned) in 8 innings in 1928. Pitchers gave up 14 or more runs 7 more times from 1940 to 1947.
And giving up 14 runs in an outing occurred on August 14th, 1977, August 3rd, 1998, and May 16th, 2011. Those three pitchers were Bill Travers, Mike Oquist, and Vin Mazzaro. Here are the stories of the men in the Club of 44.
Bill Travers was a 24 year old left-handed pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers whose main pitch was a forkball. In 1976, he was an All-Star, and finished the year with a 15-16 record and a 2.81 ERA in 240 innings (15 complete games/3 shutouts). In May 1977, he had a sore arm, got into a motorcycle accident in the same month (causing him to miss a few starts) and went on the disabled list with a sore elbow. He returned in July 1977 (after cancelling a surgery because he was cured by salt water swimming around Cape Cod, cool story bro) and was erratic over 20 innings with 9 strikeouts and 8 walks while giving up 9 earned runs. The August 14th start was his first start on 4 days rest since May 12th, 1977, as his last 3 starts came on at least a weeks rest and two of them were in the 2nd game of a doubleheader (two of the doubleheaders came on Tuesday).
Travers started the 2nd game of the doubleheader on August 14th, 1977. Game one saw the Indians pick up a 12-4 victory off a home run by Buddy Bell and a complete game 9 hitter by Wayne Garland. The Brewers used Jim Slaton for 4 1/3 innings and Bill Castro for the rest. The attendance for the doubleheader was 16540, a respectable midweek crowd at Kauffman Stadium, and a sparse crowd in Cleveland Stadium. Pitching for the Indians was Al Fitzmorris.
In the bottom of the 1st, Travers got Duane Kuiper, walked Buddy Bell, moved Bell to 2nd by throwing a wild pitch, got Designated Hitter Bill Melton, and then gave up a homer to Andre Thornton. He finished the inning by getting Ron Pruitt. 2nd inning, he gave up a home run to Ron Dade, walked Charlie Spikes (great Baseball name), Frank Duffy knocked in Spikes, Travers threw another wild pitch, Buddy Bell knocked in Duffy, Andre Thornton hit a triple and knocked in Bell and Bill Melton. The score after two? Indians 7, Brewers 0.
It could always get worse.
Travers pitched a scoreless 3rd, then gave up 2 runs in the 4th (9-1 Indians). Then he pitched a scoreless 5th, 6th and 7th. Bottom of the 8th, Indians 9, Brewers 3. Single to Kuiper, Single to Bell (Kuiper to 3rd), Melton struckout, Andre Thornton walked, Pruitt walked (run scores), Paul Dade with a 2-RBI double, Ray Fosse with a two-RBI single. Duffy with a double, moving Fosse to 3rd. With two outs and two on, down 14-3, Brewers manager Alex Grammas pulled Travers and brought in....
15 schrutebucks to the media member who can get McClure to remember Bill Travers tomorrow.
Bill Travers' line? 18 hits, 14 runs, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts, 2 home runs, 2 wild pitches, and 1 hit batter. 155 pitches (!!!!!). Travers tipped his cap and got cheered by the opposing fans and Grammas was booed. Travers insisted he wasn't trying to show up his manager by tipping his cap, saying he "deserved a cheer" for being out there so long. So Mazzaro could have handled his 14 run outing a lot worse after being pulled. Grammas explained that he couldn't have used a reliever earlier due to his pitching staff being hurt by doubleheaders. So he could only get Bob McClure in for the last out of the 8th. After all, Travers only gave up 9 runs through 7, he was good to go for the 8th.
Somehow, a pitcher plagued by elbow problems, who threw 155 pitches in his last outing, was able to return to action on August 21st in game two of a doubleheader vs. Chicago at County Stadium. Travers lasted 6 1/3 innings, giving up 4 runs, 6 hits, 2 walks, 1 strikeout, 2 homers, and another wild pitch. Travers was pulled after giving up a go-ahead two-run home run to Brian Downing.
After his 14 run outing, Travers finished the year 0-6 in 7 starts, giving up 29 earned runs in 41 innings. He walked 16 and struck out 15. He agreed to arm surgery after the season (presumably after ruling out salt-water cures for sore elbows). He indicated in January 1978 that he held a grudge against Grammas for embarrassing him and threatening his career. From 1978 onwards, Travers pitched in 101 games, making 91 starts with an ERA of 4.28. His last fulltime season was 1980 (at the age of 27) and he pitched 52 1/3 more innings at 28 and 30 for the Angels (he also got a 4 year contract from the Angels, back when teams were still trying to figure out free agency).
But the Mike Oquist backstory has differences from the Bill Travers story. Travers was a 6'6" lefty and Oquist was a 6'2" righty. Travers' 14 run experience came at 24 and Oquist didn't make the majors until he was 25. Travers was traded out of high school and Oquist was drafted out of the fine educational institution known as the University of Arkansas. Oquist wound up having a career with 800+ innings in AAA and 500+ in the major leagues.
After leaving the Orioles and the Padres, Oquist signed with the Oakland A's. He put up a 5.02 ERA in 107 2/3 innings in 1997. As for 1998, it wasn't quite his year going into August 3rd, 1998. He had a 5.87 ERA through 21 starts, striking out 81, walking 51, and allowing 15 home runs. In his last start before August 3rd, he gave up 3 home runs to Nomar Garciaparra, Scott Hatteberg, and Mo Vaughn.
Mike Oquist was facing a Yankee lineup of stars (except for Chad Curtis). They were stacked enough to have their DH (Darryl Strawberry) hitting 6th. Pitching for the Yankees was 52 year old pitcher Orlando Hernandez in his rookie year. The A's lineup had mainstays of their peak years under Billy Beane (Giambi, Tejada) to go along with batting Bip Roberts 2nd for some reason.
Oquist gave up his first run quickly as a double by Derek Jeter scored Chuck Knoblauch in the 1st. He gave up 7 more runs in the 2nd off of RBI by Scott Brosius and Tino Martinez and home runs by Chuck Knoblauch and Paul O'Neill. Matt Stairs valiantly narrowed the margin to 8-1 in the bottom of the 2nd. Then the Yankees scored 5 more runs off of home runs by Knoblauch (again) and Strawberry and another RBI single by Tino Martinez. Then Oquist randomly threw a 1-2-3 inning down 13-1 in the 4th. Just because. The 14th run came in the 5th off of a run scoring on a double play.
Bill Travers was pulled in the middle of the 8th with one out left. Mike Oquist was more fortunate.
Oquist threw 5 innings, 115 pitches, 16 hits, 14 runs, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts, 4 home runs allowed.
Oakland Manager Art Howe said that Oquist was left out there due to a doubleheader being held on the next day. But that depends on if you think that "saving the bullpen" means 4 innings of relief work instead of 6 innings. Every drastic bit of shock caused by the immensity of the Travers outing was is everything the Oquist outing hoped to be. Oquist's outing wins on points for being 14 runs and 15 outs. Travers outing wins for being a display of what happens when you have a manager who thinks that it's acceptable to keep a starter out for over 8 innings despite arm problems and giving up so many runs. To our knowledge, Mike Oquist would still have dinner with Art Howe after Oquist joined Club 14. Not so much with Travers and Grammas.
Mike Oquist made 7 starts and 2 relief appearances in the rest of 1998. He pitched 44 1/3 innings, striking out 28, walking 13, and giving up 25 earned runs (an ERA of 5.08).
Who did Mike Oquist face for his next start? The Toronto Blue Jays. Oquist pitched 5 2/3 innings, leaving with a 3-2 lead (which was blown by Mike Mohler in the bottom of the 8th). Oquist made 24 more starts in 1999 before never pitching in the majors again.
As for Vin Mazzaro, we know the before and the of when it comes to his membership in Club 14. How about his day after?
Here's how the American League stacks up when it comes to plate appearances by LHB and RHB, because there is something interesting and relevant towards this series and Vin Mazzaro
Mazzaro's splits out of Omaha have LHB getting on far more often than RHB. His first start v. the Yankees seemed to involve trying to get Jeter and A-Rod while letting on most of the left-handed Yankees. His start v. Cleveland was an all-around disaster with big RBIs from Hafner (LH) and LaPorta (RH).
Mazzaro's splits and the extreme right-handedness of the Blues Jays suggests a unique opportunity for Mazzaro to surprise fans with a good outing. If Mazzaro can go into the 7th inning and give up only 2 or 3 runs, then that will set up the overworked relief staff well for the coming days and help get Mazzaro a longer look in Kansas City. He could fail, he could go 5 and get pounded. But at the same time, the stars are aligning in a way that could lead to his reputation being repaired.
Right now, the team he left at 20-20 is now 26-34. And now more than ever, live starting pitching is a priority for this team. Especially with the prospects running into problems in Springdale and Omaha. You never burn your bridges, and you never count someone out based on one night. Vin Mazzaro is 24 and he might be close enough to being good to have a spot in Kansas City for a few more years if he can perform and others don't.
14 runs earned is not the end of the world. Even Les McCrabb came back from 14 runs allowed in 1942 to pitch for the Philadelphia A's again, in 1950. Vin Mazzaro won't have to wait that long.
Vin Mazzaro has the opportunity to bury his last appearance in Kansas City, and he has the perfect team to face to move forward. Your move, Vin.