Herb Washington

Positions:
Bats: R Throws: R
Height: 72 Weight: 170
Born: Friday, November 16, 1951 in Belzonia, MS USA
Died: in ,
Debut: 4/4/1974
Last Game: 5/4/1975
Full Name: Herbert Lee Washington

Herb Washington. The only “Designated Runner” in MLB History. No at Bats. No appearances in the field. Only non-pitcher to have more game appearances than at bats.
Washington’s 1975 Topps baseball card is the only baseball card ever released that uses the “pinch runner” position label.

In 1974, Washington was tapped by Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley to become the team’s “designated runner”. Finley and Washington worked out a one-year $45,000 contract with a $20,000 signing bonus. The contract had an unusual clause requiring Washington to grow facial hair before the beginning of the season. Washington had difficulty growing a full mustache, so he used an eyebrow pencil to simulate full facial hair.

Despite having no professional baseball experience, and having last played baseball in high school, Washington was a member of the Athletics 1974 World Series championship team. Finley announced that he would utilize Washington as a “designated runner” and that he did not expect Washington to develop other baseball skills. Washington received coaching on baserunning from Maury Wills. Though Washington’s teammates recognized his speed, he received a mixed reception from them because of his unusual background. Reggie Jackson said, “He’s a great athlete, but he’s not a baseball player.” Pitcher Rollie Fingers said that he thought the idea was “a little crazy” but that Washington “could run like crazy”. Bert Campaneris said that the team could count on Washington to steal a base when needed.

Before the 1974 World Series, team captain Sal Bando said that he did not think Washington should be used in the World Series, noting that Washington might not have a second chance to make up for any mistakes committed during the series. Appearing as a pinch-runner for Joe Rudi in game two of the World Series, Washington was picked off first base in a crucial ninth-inning situation by Dodgers reliever Mike Marshall.

Early in the 1975 season, Washington was released. Before the season, the Athletics had acquired Don Hopkins, a pinchrunning specialist who could also appear in the outfield. The Athletics also had acquired a second pinchrunning specialist, Matt Alexander, just before Washington’s release.

Washington played in 105 MLB games without batting, pitching, or fielding, playing exclusively as a pinch runner. He had 31 stolen bases in 48 attempts and scored 33 runs during his short career. Washington is one of only seven players to have more game appearances than plate appearances, presumably excluding starting pitchers who played primarily for the American League, and relief pitchers.

Washington’s 1975 Topps baseball card is the only baseball card ever released that uses the “pinch runner” position label.