Texas Rangers' Sheldon plays all nine positions

Utility player

Posted: Thursday, September 07, 2000

CHICAGO -- Scott Sheldon gives new meaning to the term ''utility player.''

Sheldon became only the third player in major league history to play all nine positions in one game Wednesday night. Even more impressive, he managed the feat in only five innings, not coming into the game for the Texas Rangers until the fourth inning.

''Somewhat, but I don't know so much the history of it,'' Sheldon said after Texas' 13-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. ''To know only two other guys have done it, that kind of doesn't sink in.''

Bert Campaneris of the Kansas City A's (Sept. 8, 1965) and Cesar Tovar of the Minnesota Twins (Sept. 22, 1968) are the only other players to play all nine spots. No one in the NL has ever done it.

Sheldon only had one ball hit at him all night, fielding a single in right field, and he didn't make any errors. He struck out the only batter he faced, getting pinch-hitter Jeff Liefer to whiff on a changeup that was clocked at 67 mph.

''Did we get an out? Thank you,'' Sheldon said, smiling, when someone made fun of his pitching skills. ''I wasn't trying to throw hard. I was just trying to throw strikes and get out of there.''

Though Liefer knew Sheldon had been moving around the field, he never thought he'd see him on the mound.

Texas manager Johnny Oates warned Chicago manager Jerry Manuel before so no one would be embarrassed.

''It's definitely an odd thing to do,'' Liefer said. ''I don't understand the logic behind it.''

To Oates, though, the logic was simple. Sheldon is a utility player by trade, starting at four different positions so far this year and making two appearances as a catcher.

After he played Sheldon at eight spots in a game against their Triple-A club in spring training -- Sheldon didn't pitch -- Oates decided he would try it during the regular season.

''Here's a guy that's spent I don't know how many years in professional baseball and has gotten a couple of cups of coffee,'' Oates said. ''For a guy that doesn't have a lot of major league service, he can say how many thousands of men have played professional baseball and only three have done it?

''It's something to be proud of.''

Oates had originally targeted the Rangers' next homestand to do this. But after the White Sox scored 10 runs in the first two innings, he figured this was as good a game as any.

''I thought it was the perfect night to do it,'' Oates said.

Sheldon entered the game at catcher in the fourth inning, moving to first base in the fifth and second and shortstop in the sixth inning. Things picked up speed in the seventh, when Sheldon started in right and then moved to center.

He began the eighth inning in left field, went to the mound after the first out and then took third after striking out Liefer to complete the feat.

''I think it's impressive,'' White Sox catcher Charles Johnson said. ''I didn't really know it until I saw him come to the mound and went, 'Why did he come to the mound?' I realized he was playing all nine positions. I think that's something we all wish we could do.''

While a few fans figured out what Sheldon was doing, most in the crowd of 15,622 probably didn't realize they were watching baseball history. There was no announcement over the public address system, and the Rangers didn't make a big deal by giving Sheldon a game ball or anything.

That's OK, Sheldon said. The only fans that truly mattered knew what was happening -- Sheldon's parents, Richard and Marilyn, are living in Croatia right now, but they were in Chicago for this series and were at the game with his wife, Carrie.

As he left the field, Sheldon found his parents and wife and gave them the thumbs up.

''It went by so fast, but there are so many memories I'll take from this,'' Sheldon said. ''I had a blast.''



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