Opposing Starting Pitchers Born on the Same Date

More frivolity to lighten the mid-winter blues. As there seemed to be some interest in my Christmas post on teams of players sharing a common birthday, I’ll add this little study to the mix.

A few years ago, regular contributor Richard Chester alerted me to a claim on Twitter to the effect that there had been only a very small number of occasions (I don’t recall the exact claim) when opposing starting pitchers had shared the same birth date, as in same birthday and same birth year. Richard and I quickly debunked that claim, identifying a considerably larger number of such games, which were the subject of a January 2016 Quiz post. I’ve expanded that study since then and added a bit of narrative on the protagonists. So, if you missed the quiz, here’s another chance to indulge in this bit of trivia.  

If you’re wondering, I’ll get right to it and tell you that no opposing starters with the same birth date have faced each other on their birthday. In fact, opposing starters with the same birthday have faced each other on that birthday only once since at least 1908, on May 3. 2012 when 35 year-old Ryan Dempster faced 26 year-old Homer Bailey.

For starting pitchers with the same birth date facing each other in any game, I’ve found 19 pairs of pitchers and 46 total games since 1876. Nearly one-third of those games belong to just one of those pitching pairs, the matchup between AL aces Will Bill Donovan and Rube Waddell, both born on Oct 13, 1876. The complete list, with a short narrative for each, is shown in the table below.

Birthday Birth Year Pitcher Pitcher Games 
16-Jan 1891 Marv Goodwin Ferdie Schupp 1917-08-18 (1)
Goodwin and Schupp recorded their lone meeting in the first of three seasons that both pitched in the NL; it was Goodwin’s rookie campaign and Schupp’s career year, with a 21-7 record and 1.95 ERA for the NL champion Giants.
06-Mar 1986 Jake Arrieta Ross Detwiler 2012-06-24
Arrieta and Detwiler record their lone meeting in an inter-league game in Detwiler’s top season for starts and the only time he started more games than Arrieta. Detwiler’s one game 2018 season was an unusual one, with a 6 inning relief outing, the first such single game season in 75 years (following Chris Haughey‘s 7 inning relief stint on his 18th birthday in 1943).
09-Apr 1879 Doc White Happy Townsend 1903-08-16 (2)
White and Townsend started their careers as teammates on the 1901 Phillies, with both posting winning records. White would go on to post eight straight winning campaigns for the White Sox, while Townsend’s rookie year would be the lone winning season of his career. Townsend holds the AL record for lowest career W-L% (.248) in 100+ decisions, lower than the NL record holder Jim Hughey, whose .259 mark includes an unfortunate 4-30 record for the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.
15-Apr 1985 John Danks Aaron Laffey 2009-09-28
Danks started 20 games eight times in his career, while Laffey never did so. Their lone meeting was in the third season for both players, and the year Laffey posted his career high of 19 starts.
26-Apr 1972 Brian Anderson Francisco Cordova 1998-09-03 1999-09-14
The two meetings for Anderson and Cordero came in two of the three seasons that both pitched in the NL. Anderson’s 4.74 career ERA is sixth highest among left-handed pitchers with 200 starts; the top 14 on that list have all started their careers since Anderson’s debut season in 1993.
01-Jun 1869 Theodore Breitenstein Les German 1894-08-15 1895-07-17
The two meetings for Breitenstein and German came in two of the five seasons that both pitched in the NL. Breitenstein topped 400 IP in both of those campaigns, but still had a lot in the tank with another 1400 IP of mostly effective (107 ERA+) pitching still to come. In contrast, German was a spot starter who finished most of his games (80% of his career starts were CGs) but failed to top 200 IP in any of his six seasons.
31-Jul 1892 Art Nehf Erv Kantlehner 1915-09-24
The lone meeting for Nehf and Kantlehner came in Nehf’s rookie campaign and Kantlehner’s first qualified season. Kantlehner would pitch just one more season while Nehf enjoyed a 15 year career with over 2700 IP and a .605 career W-L%.
04-Aug 1962 Roger Clemens John Farrell 1990-06-03 1990-06-08
Clemens and Farrell posted their two meetings in consecutive starts, the first in the last game of a series, and the next in the first game of the return series.  Clemens got the win and Farrell the loss in both games.
11-Aug 1907 Bobo Newsom Gordon Rhodes 1934-05-18
Newsom and Rhodes met in the first of three seasons that both pitched in the AL. Had Rhodes not been included in the deal that brought Jimmie Foxx to Boston, these two might have been teammates on the Red Sox in 1936. Rhodes suffered the fate of a mid-season trade away from the 1932 world champion Yankees, while Newsom was the beneficiary of the reverse circumstance, joining the 1947 world champion Bombers and starting a World Series game (a forgettable 1.2 IP allowing 5 runs, all earned).
01-Oct 1894 Ray Kolp Duster Mails 1922-05-07 1922-07-02
Kolp and Mails met in the second of two seasons that both pitched in the AL. Kolp’s .778 W-L% in 1922 is the second highest qualified mark by a Browns’ pitcher; in contrast, Mails’s 5.28 ERA that year hastened his sale to the PCL’s Oakland Oaks after the season.
05-Oct 1871 Jack Fifield Roger Denzer 1897-05-28
Fifield and Denzer are probably the most unlikely pairing, with Denzer recording just ten starts in this season, the only one in which both played.
07-Oct 1939 John O’Donoghue Phil Ortega 1965-05-04
O’Donoghue and Ortega met in the first of three seasons that both recorded starts in the AL. O’Donoghue was an All-Star selection this season, despite leading his league in losses. Ortega’s black ink was also negative, leading the AL in ER allowed in this, his first season in the junior circuit.
13-Oct 1876 Bill Donovan Rube Waddell 1901-07-04 (2) 1903-06-05 1903-06-27 1903-07-04 (2) 1903-08-21 (1)
1904-05-26 1905-05-25 1905-06-13 1906-08-25 1907-06-18
1907-06-21 1907-08-14 1908-05-10 (1) 1908-09-06 1909-09-12 (2)
Donovan and Waddell lead this group in most games (15), most in one season (4), most in one series (2), and most seasons (8) and consecutive seasons (7) with an encounter. Their teams split these 15 games with identical 7-7-1 records.
19-Oct 1965 Mike Gardiner Dave Haas 1992-09-21
Almost as unlikely as Fifield and Denzer, this was the only season in which Gardiner and Haas both recorded starts, including just eleven by Haas.
07-Nov 1974 Kris Benson Glendon Rusch 2002-06-08 2003-07-09 2004-09-24
The first two meetings for Benson and Rusch came in appearances for the Pirates and Brewers, respectively; their rivalry was renewed the next year, after both had moved on to new teams. Rusch’s 5.04 career ERA is fourth highest among all pitchers with 200 career starts.
17-Nov 1933 Orlando Pena Dan Osinski 1963-05-26 1963-06-10
The two meetings for Pena and Osinski came in the latter’s first season with a start, and the only season that both reached double figures in games started. Both recorded over 300 relief appearances for their careers, with virtually identical ERAs (3.39 and 3.40) in that role.
24-Nov 1967 Cal Eldred Ben McDonald 1992-09-13 1993-09-17 1994-06-22 1995-05-03
Eldred and McDonald had meetings in four consecutive seasons; the last was the most unlikely, coming in a season in which McDonald recorded just thirteen starts and Eldred only four.
24-Dec 1974 Jamey Wright Kevin Millwood 2000-05-23 2005-06-16
Wright and Millwood had five seasons pass between their two encounters, the first an NL tilt and the second an inter-league matchup. Wright played for ten franchises and Millwood seven, with the two ending up as teammates on the 2007-08 Rangers.
31-Dec 1971 Brian Moehler Esteban Loaiza 1999-08-30 2000-05-30 2005-09-28
Moehler’s and Loaiza’s three encounters included two in the AL  (the first was a 1-0 shutout for Moehler on 130 pitches) and the third in the NL; the last two of these three seasons were the only times that both recorded 20+ starts pitching in the same league. For their careers, both recorded 750+ IP in each league, and both enjoyed better results in the junior circuit.

Eighteen of these 46 games have come since the 1990 season, though there have been none in the past six seasons. When might we expect the next one? Well, here are some possibilities, all of whom (except Henderson Alvarez) started at least one game in 2018:

  • Max Fried and Diego Castillo (born Jan 18, 1994) had similar roles last year as occasional starters, in Atlanta and Tampa respectively. While they remain in different leagues, meeting up as starters will be pretty unlikely.
  • Jorge Lopez and Brandon Woodruff (born Feb 10, 1993) were teammates in Milwaukee last season until Lopez was moved to Kansas City’s rotation. Now in different leagues, and with Woodruff only an occasional starter, this one is a long shot for now.
  • Marco Gonzales (born Feb 16, 1992) impressed in his first season as a regular last year, so should be back in the rotation this season. Jeff Brigham made his major league debut last year, but looks like he could still be a season or two away from making an impact. Put this one in the long shot category for now.
  • Henderon Alvarez and Anthony DeSclafani (born Apr 18, 1990) both have pedigree as starting pitchers, so if Alvarez can make it back to the show, this could be one of the more likely matchups.
  • Trevor Williams (born Apr 25, 1992) has two seasons under his belt in the Pirate rotation, while Luis Cessa is still trying to get established in a crowded Yankee staff. But, if they should end up in the same league at some point, this combination might be a possibility.
  • David Hess and Jalen Beeks (born July 10, 1993) both made their major league debuts last year in the AL East, so will at least get to see each other a fair bit if they make the big club again this season. Beeks was used mostly in relief last year, but he’s in Tampa now, so he might end up with some “opener” assignments if the Rays continue that strategy this year.
  • The threesome of Chris Stratton, Ryan Carpenter, and Drew Hutchison (born Aug 22, 1990) might have strength in numbers, but their chances look limited. Stratton started 26 games last year, but his 5.09 ERA suggests that his playing time could be reduced this season. Hutchison has a couple of prior seasons as a starter but has hardly pitched the last four years, and Carpenter has only had a cup of coffee.
  • Robbie Ray (born Oct 1, 1991) has two birth date mates (Connor Sadzeck and Lou Trivino), but chances for this threesome also seem remote. Sadzeck has only had a cup of coffee, while Trivino impressed as a rookie last year, but in relief (he was the 35th under 30 pitcher since 1901 with a debut season of 60+ games and ERA under 3.00; all of those seasons have come since 1952, including 23 in the past twenty seasons).
  • Adam Plutko and Brock Stewart (born Oct 3, 1991) are no longer youngsters and fringe players at best, so chances would appear remote. But, you never know.
  • Adrian Sampson (born Oct 7, 1991) has only had a couple of cups of coffee so far, and he is under contract to the Rangers. But, if circumstances should become more propitious, he could one day meet up with Braves’ fixture Mike Foltynewicz.
  • CYA winner Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove (born Dec 4, 1992) missed by a day in 2017, starting consecutive games in the same series. But, Musgrove is now in the NL, so their chances will be limited for the present.
  • Kendall Graveman and Mike Clevenger (born Dec 21, 1990) are a possibility, though Graveman is shelved for the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
  • There is speculation that Baltimore will move Miguel Castro (born Dec 24, 1994) to the rotation next season, where he would have the opportunity of meeting up with Fernando Romero, who debuted with the Twins last year and probably showed enough to get a second look this season.

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25 Comments on "Opposing Starting Pitchers Born on the Same Date"

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no statistician but
Guest
Ferdie Schupp—quite literally a name out of the past. When I was growing up his 0.90 ERA in the 1916 season was one of those figures to be remembered, like the Babe’s 60 HRs in 1927 and Jack Chesbro’s 41 wins in 1904. It eventually became obvious that only Ruth’s record was solid, and that soon was broken by Roger Maris. As for Schupp’s performance, once I discovered that he pitched only 140 innings that year, the aura was considerably lessened, and now, looking at much more complete data than I’ve considered before, I’m struck by the fact that what… Read more »
mosc
Guest

Need some weighted ERA+ by percentage of innings thrown by the league leader or something.
1913 Walter Johnson’s 259 ERA+ is especially nice because he lead the league in innings as well (along with most other things).
2000 Pedro Martinez had an even more astronomical 291 ERA+ but at 217 innings ranked 7th behind Mussina’s 237.2. Percentage wise, Pedro threw 91.3% of the league leader’s innings. Docking his ERA+ by that percentage he still would get 266 which is higher than Johnson.

I dunno, WAR kinda works better. ERA is a flawed number

mosc
Guest

I think Maddux’s strike shortened 94 actually wins this absurd stat because his league-leading innings of just 202 came with a 271 ERA+

mosc
Guest

The again, he also lead the league in ERA+ and innings the year before and after so it’s hard to call it a short season fluke. Man, that guy was good.

Doug
Guest

202 IP through 114 games puts Maddux on pace for 287 IP. Not saying he would have maintained a 271 ERA+ with that workload, but wouldn’t bet against it either.

Last pitcher with 287 IP was 34 year-old Bert Blyleven in 1985, with a 134 ERA+.

mosc
Guest

It seems far fetched but then again you’re only talking about another 85 innings to a guy who’d already thrown 202. Most of 1994 was already completed. If we include hist last 85 innings from 1993 or his next 85 innings from 1995, I don’t think that ERA+ is going to drop much.

Last 11 games of ’93:
86.1 IP, 1.46 ERA
First 11 games of ’95:
81.1 IP, 1.77 ERA

’94 he was at 1.56

Yeah, doesn’t seem very “arbitrary endpoint” biased, the guy was just better than everyone else.

Richard Chester
Guest

A little off-topic but I also know of one battery with matching birth dates. Fred Sanford and Ralph Houk of the Yankees did it a few times in 1949, but not on their birthday.

I will be on vacation for a few weeks.

Paul E
Guest

Enjoy yourself. Time spent away from work is time well spent

Mike L
Guest

Nice work. A couple of fun facts about some of the less-than-stellar performers on the list. Brian Anderson, of the 6th highest ERA among left-handed starters, made about $23M for his career, won only 79 of the 245 games he started, and averaged 5.99IP per start. Glendon Rusch, who’s ERA was 4th worst of all starters, made $15.6M. In his 99 losses his ERA was….8.50!. 59 Wins in 220 starts, 5.80 IP/start. How did these two continue to get starts?

Dr. Doom
Guest
My smartaleck answer for the question of why Rusch continued to start: he pitched for the Brewers in 2002-03. He was not the worst pitcher on the team. In ’02, his ERA+ of 87 was second among Brewers starters. In ’03… well, he was bad in ’03 by ERA. But he still posted a SO:BB of 2.07, which was better than the league average of 1.94, so how much was bad luck? I mean, how much do you want to blame him for the fact that the Brewers primary infield starters had a combined Rfield of -41 runs, and the… Read more »
Mike L
Guest

Ah, thank you Doom, for the Brewers expertise. I checked up on 2003, which seemed particularly gruesome. 1-12 and a 6.42 ERA, ERA+ 67, WHIP 1.751. But FIP 3.87? Strange discrepancy? Your point about replacement level players is a good one, and it looks like they shifted him to the bull pen in the second half and he was actually reasonably effective there. But second fun fact. On April 8, he pitched 7 innings of no run, one hit ball–he had a game score of 80!.

Dr. Doom
Guest

Well, as I said: above average SO:BB, and his HR rate was pretty good, too – only about one event 50 PAs, which is really not bad, all things considered. A .386 BABIP is gonna hurt you, though. If you turn every hitter into George Brett on batted balls… yeah, that’s not going to end well for you. So I’m not shocked, honestly.

Paul E
Guest
Maybe he just hung around because he was left handed? God knows there’s a ton of useless LH pitchers out there just waiting to get called from the bullpen…..just like there seems to be an awful lot of LH pinch-hitters who don’t really hit (a la Danny Heep) – they just ‘bat’ LH, sit on the end of the bench, bat after a RH relief pitcher has been announced….. Or, maybe Rusch got LH batters out (he didn’t-splits are negligible) or GM’s thought he could get them out simply because there are an awful lot of LH batters who don’t… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest
I’m going to steal some space from Cursed Clevelander here to talk about the 1920 Indians, surely one of the most interesting teams to win the World Series. What most people remember, I’d guess, are the the tragic death of Ray Chapman and possibly the 31-victory season of Jim Bagby. Another fact might be the down-to-the wire pennant race with the soon-to-be dismantled White Sox and the upstart Yankees, suddenly a contender thanks to Babe Ruth’s 54 home runs. But this was also the team of Elmer Smith’s grand slam in the World Series, the first on record, and Bill… Read more »
CursedClevelander
Guest

Immediately thought of the 1920’s Tribe when I saw Duster Mails pop up, since it’s really the only noteworthy part of his career. He unironically called himself “The Great Mails” – and for one partial season, he was pretty darn great.

Dr. Doom
Guest
Unrelated Hall of Fame tangent: Welp… the site’s been quiet for a few days. Just wanted to note that Mariano is still at 100% with 156 precincts reporting. Fun fact: since it will only take 309 votes to be elected (Ryan Thibodaux’s estimate), Mariano is already over halfway to election. In the Mike Mussina camp, last year, he polled at 70% in the tracker, 47.6% private. His public number is (at present) 18.6% higher than last year. If his private share goes up by as much, he’ll get 56.4% of the private vote. If those numbers hold, and if private… Read more »
Bob Eno (epm)
Guest

Great post, Doom. You might want to check out the HoF thread that Doug began a month ago. Mike, bells, and I have been adding to it regularly, and your post and responses to it would fit there.

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