The last player to appear in a major league game before his 19th birthday was Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod debuted for the Mariners on July 8, 1994, 19 days before turning 19. Since then, just a handful of 19 year-olds have appeared, including such notables as Andruw Jones, Edgar Renteria, Adrian Beltre and Felix Hernandez. The Upton brothers, Justin and B.J., also both debuted just prior to turning 20 (does anyone know if any other brothers have debuted as teenagers?)

But, teenagers weren’t always so scarce. During World War II, and in the bonus baby days of the 1950s and 1960s, there was a relative abundance of teenagers in the majors, with some teams sporting several on their rosters. And, it wasn’t just 19 year-olds - Joe Nuxhall famously debuted as a 15 year-old and a number of 16, 17 and 18 year-old players have also had major league playing time.

With that preamble, I’m following up an earlier post on the oldest batter vs. pitcher matchups with this post, highlighting the youngest such matchups.

The youngest batter vs. pitcher matchups I can find in the game-searchable era are these ones, with both batter and pitcher under 19 years of age. The chronological list shows the first matchup for each pair, with the youngest matchup in the list in bold face type. You can click the game and player links for more information.

Game Combined Age Batter Team Age Pitcher Team Age
1936-09-13 36.184 Bob Feller CLE 17.315 Randy Gumpert PHA 18.234
1936-09-13 36.184 Randy Gumpert PHA 18.234 Bob Feller CLE 17.315
1944-09-19 36.096 Cass Michaels CHW 18.199 Carl Scheib PHA 17.262
1957-08-21 37.145 Mike McCormick NYG 18.326 Bob Miller STL 18.184

The 1936 Feller/Gumpert matchup was Feller’s famous 17 strikeout game. Both pitchers also pitched complete games in that tilt, obviously the youngest pair of pitchers to accomplish that feat. Feller, of course, would become an all-time great, while Gumpert went on to a respectable journeyman career that included one all-star game appearance.

The youngest ever matchup was Cass Michaels and Carl Scheib in 1944, although both had debuted the prior season, Scheib doing so at age 16. In 1945, Michaels would be the White Sox regular SS at age 19. Both would go on to journeyman careers lasting until 1954.

In the 1957 game, Mike McCormick got the win in 8.2 innings of relief of starter Stu Miller who allowed 2 HR, a walk and a hit batsman in his first 5 batters. The batting matchup shown here occurred in the 7th inning, after the Cardinals’ Bob Miller relieved Hoyt Wilhelm. Both players would pitch into the early 1970s, with McCormick getting two All-Star nods, plus the 1967 NL Cy Young award.

To fill out this list, I’ve found batter-pitcher combinations where combined age was under 38 years. Here are those games, chronologically.

Game Combined Age Batter Team Age Pitcher Team Age
1944-08-26 36.167 Tommy Brown BRO 16.254 Andy Hansen NYG 19.278
1944-09-16 37.077 Granny Hamner PHI 17.143 Andy Hansen NYG 19.299
1945-06-10 37.167 Cass Michaels CHW 19.098 Billy Pierce DET 18.069
1945-08-06 37.154 Cass Michaels CHW 19.155 Art Houtteman DET 17.364
1953-07-21 37.152 Ted Kazanski PHI 19.177 Joey Jay MLN 17.340
1958-09-28 37.354 Lou Klimchock KCA 18.348 Stover McIlwain CHW 19.006
1963-05-02 37.247 Ed Kranepool NYM 18.175 Chris Zachary HOU 19.072
1974-06-16 37.328 Robin Yount MIL 18.273 David Clyde TEX 19.055

Somewhat surprisingly, only one 1944 Brooklyn Dodger appears. That team featured no fewer than 8 teenagers, 4 pitchers and 4 position players. Plus, they had two other 20 year-old pitchers. Tommy Brown debuted as a 16 year-old in early August 1944, ten days later becoming the Dodgers regular shortstop for the remainder of the season, the youngest ever to play regularly in the majors. Brown played in 9 seasons but was limited by his career .916 fielding % as a shortstop (league average for SS at the time was .953).

Andy Hansen, who was matched up with both Tommy Brown and Granny Hamner, would stick with the Giants for 6 seasons before joining Hamner in Philadelphia, where Hamner earned All-Star selections in 3 successive seasons in the early 1950s. Hamner also had an older brother, Garvin, with the two brothers, aged 17 and 21, forming the Phillies starting middle infield on opening day 1945, and through the first month of that season.

The Tigers debuted two teenage pitchers in 1945. Billy Pierce would go on to become a 7-time all-star, winning over 200 games in an 18-year career that included World Series appearances for the White Sox and Giants. Houtteman would pitch for 12 seasons, garnering one all-star selection.

The 1953 game was Joey Jay’s career debut.  Two months later, Jay would become the youngest pitcher to hurl a shutout, albeit a rain-shortened 7-inning one. Jay would go on to back-to-back twenty win seasons for Cincinnati, leading the Reds to the 1961 NL pennant with league-leading totals of 21 wins and 4 shutouts. The Phillies would stick with Kazanski for 6 seasons, long enough for him to crack the top 20 in lowest career OPS+ for non-pitchers (min. 1400 PAs). Among players with careers of that length for just one franchise, Kazanski jumps to 2nd lowest career OPS+, ahead of only Jim Levey, a shortstop for the 1930s Browns.

The Klimchock/McIlwain matchup was the second career game for both players, and the career finale for McIlwain. Klimchock would go on for 12 seasons as a utility player, only once exceeding 130 PA.

Ed Kranepool was one of the most precocious players ever, trailing only Phil Cavarretta and Mel Ott in games played up to the age 18 season. Zachary would have an undistinguished career in limited duty for 9 seasons. He is among the top 20 all-time in lowest W-L% and lowest ERA+ for a career (min. 100 games).

Highly-touted David Clyde took the loss in this 1974 game, evening his record at 3-3 after starting the season 3-0 on 3 impressive complete game triumphs. He didn’t know it then, but Clyde would not earn another W until 4 years later when he again got off to a fast 4-0 start before fading to an 8-11 mark for the 1978 season. A year after that, his career was over. Yount, of course, would fare rather better, joining Feller from the first list in the HOF.

To finish off the batter-pitcher matchups, here are the youngest to appear in the post-season and All-Star Game.

Combined Age Game Batter Team Age Pitcher Team Age
Post-season 41.315 2007-10-15 Justin Upton ARI 20.051 Franklin Morales COL 21.264
World Series 42.209 1914-10-13 Les Mann BSN 21.329 Herb Pennock PHA 20.245
All-Star Game 44.018 1960-07-11 Ron Hansen BAL 22.097 Mike McCormick SFG 21.286

Most everyone is familiar with Joe Nuxhall‘s pitching debut at age 15. Here are some other precocious accomplishments that may be less well known:

Youngest to Start 1956-09-30 Jim Derrington CHW 16.305 Career debut. Took the loss.
Youngest to Pitch CG 1943-10-03 Rogers McKee PHI 17.017 Only career start. Got the win.
Youngest to Pitch 9-inning Shutout 1961-06-16 Lew Krausse KCA 18.052 Career debut
Youngest to Record Save (modern definition) 1936-06-21 Randy Gumpert PHA 18.150 Herb Pennock may have been younger in 1912.
Youngest with Base Hit (and extra-base hit) 1944-08-03 Tommy Brown BRO 16.241 Career debut
Youngest to Score Run 1944-08-03 Tommy Brown BRO 16.241 Career debut
Youngest with RBI 1944-08-18 Tommy Brown BRO 16.256
Youngest with HR 1945-08-20 Tommy Brown BRO 17.257

Youngest to appear in various opening day roles:

Appearance 1945-04-17 Putsy Caballero PHI 17.163
Start 1945-04-17 Granny Hamner PHI 17.356
Base Hit (and RBI) 1963-04-09 Rusty Staub HOU 19.008
Run 1937-04-20 Bobby Doerr BOS 19.013
Homerun 1975-04-08 Robin Yount MIL 19.204
Pitch 1945-04-17 Carl Scheib PHA 18.106
Starting Pitcher (and CG) 1966-04-12 Catfish Hunter KCA 20.004
Winning Pitcher (and Shutout) 1981-04-09 Fernando Valenzuela LAD 20.159

Youngest to appear in various post-season roles:

Appearance (and start) 1924-10-04 Freddie Lindstrom NYG 18.318
Base Hit 1924-10-05 Freddie Lindstrom NYG 18.319
RBI 1924-10-06 Freddie Lindstrom NYG 18.320
Run 1924-10-07 Freddie Lindstrom NYG 18.321
Homerun 1996-10-17 Andruw Jones ATL 19.177
World Series Homerun 1996-10-20 Andruw Jones ATL 19.180
Pitch 1967-10-08 Ken Brett BOS 19.020
Starting Pitcher (and CG) 1913-10-09 Bullet Joe Bush PHA 20.316
Winning Pitcher 1998-10-01 Odalis Perez ATL 20.112
World Series Winning Pitcher 2002-10-20 Francisco Rodriguez ANA 20.286
Shutout 1966-10-06 Jim Palmer BAL 20.356

Note that Andruw Jones’ 1996 post-season included home runs in 3 consecutive ABs (4 PAs) spread over the two games shown.

Youngest to appear in various All-Star Game roles:

Appearance (and pitch) 1984-07-10 Dwight Gooden NYM 19.237
Start (and Starting and Winning Pitcher) 1959-08-03 Jerry Walker BAL 20.172
Base Hit (and extra-base hit) 1955-07-12 Al Kaline DET 20.205
Run 1948-07-13 Richie Ashburn PHI 21.116
RBI 1955-07-12 Hank Aaron MLN 21.157
Homerun 1969-07-23 Johnny Bench CIN 21.228

Does anyone have any anecdotes, or other related games or accomplishments?

 

 

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