The day the Giants were second for just about everybody
by Bob Timmermann
Back on this day in 1954, the New York Giants set an NL record by using five second basemen in a 13-inning, 2-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field. I would consider this to be the most second basemen used in a game because the manager actually wanted to use them.
The AL record is six by Oakland back on September 19, 1972 in a 15-inning game when Oakland manager refused to let his second baseman have an at bat in the game. Catchers Gene Tenace and Fred Haney played second in that game. Dick Williams and his second basemen in Oakland had ... issues.
But in 1954, Giants manager Leo Durocher kept trying to pull off the magic strategic move and ended up looking like a genius. Eventually.
Davey Williams started the game for the Giants and he stuck around until the eighth inning. The Giants were down 1-0 and had runners on second and third with two outs against Reds starter Art Fowler. Durocher sent up Dusty Rhodes to pinch hit and that worked as Rhodes singled in the tying run. Bill Taylor followed as a pinch hitter for catcher Wes Westrum and was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
In this day and age, most managers would have called on another pinch hitter as starting pitcher Johnny Antonelli was up. But not Durocher. He let Antonelli hit. And Antonelli flied out to end the inning.
Billy Gardner became second baseman #2 in the game in the ninth. Gardner, a rookie, had just celebrated his 27th birthday the day before. But he wouldn't stick around long in the game. Billy Hofman pinch hit for Gardner in the 10th when the Giants loaded the bases with one out. Hofman grounded into a force out at the plate and Reds reliever Frank Smith then struck out the next batter, Antonelli (again!), to end the inning.
Hofman was second baseman #3. In the top of the 13th, Hofman singled to lead off the inning and moved to second on an error by left fielder Jim Greengrass. Durocher called on seldom-used rookie Joey Amalfitano, on the roster solely because of the size of his signing bonus and was playing in just his fourth game all year, to pinch-run for Hofman.
Antonelli was still in the game (the New York Times reported that the temperature toward the end of the game was near 115). Reds manager Birdie Tebbetts brought Greengrass in to have a five-man infield against an expected bunt. Antonelli didn't bunt and instead hit a roller toward second baseman Rocky Bridges, who couldn't handle it, and everybody was safe. Whitey Lockman hit a sacrifice fly to score Amalfitano with the go-ahead run.
In the bottom of the 13th, Antonelli went out again, but Durocher had another problem. He needed a new second baseman. Amalfitano had not yet played a game in the field. Durocher opted to put Amalfitano at third base and moved Hank Thompson over to second (he had one game there previously) as second baseman #4.
Ted Kluszewski led off with a walk for the Reds. Bob Borkowski sacrificed Kluszewski over. This brought up Bridges and since he batted right handed and might actually hit the ball to third base, Durocher switched Thompson and Amalfitano on the infield and Amalfitano became second baseman #5 (the New York Times article said there were only four as the reporter obviously lost count).
Bridges flied out to right and Andy Seminick finally made Durocher look like a genius as he grounded out to third to end the game.
I wondered why Antonelli was left out to pitch 13 innings in 100-degree heat. As best as I can tell, Durocher must have felt his bullpen was worn out. The Giants had used three pitchers in a 12-inning 1-0 loss the day before. And two days earlier, the Giants and Reds had played a doubleheader in which the Giants used seven pitchers, including another seldom-used bonus baby, Paul Giel.
And besides, this was 1954. Men were men. If you went to the mound, you finished what you started! The Giants had just 45 complete games in 1954, third highest in the league, but the top two totals were 78 (Phillies) and 63 (Braves). And the Giants had two pretty good relievers in Hoyt Wilhelm and Marv Grissom.
Amalfitano would eventually play in 643 games in the majors and appear at second base in 400 of them. Thompson would play second base seven times in 1955 and then never again. Gardner would play 840 games at second. Hofman played second just 86 times in his career. All of Williams' 481 appearances in the field in his career would be at second base.