I own a Baseball Encyclopedia. Sometimes I flip through it, scanning random entries, soaking in the stories told by columns of numbers. Players who played just one game are of particular interest to me.
A long time ago I found Linwood ‘King’ Bailey’s name. Since then I have spent hours imagining what his day in the big leagues was like. Linwood was 24 years-old when he played his lone major league baseball game for the Cincinnati Reds. The date was September 21, 1895.
Back then playing in a major league baseball game was very different than it is today. The game had more grit and less glamor. King Bailey, a six foot lefthander from Virginia, started the game on the mound for the Reds versus the Louisville Colonels. He pitched eight innings, giving up 13 hits and 5 earned runs while picking up the win.
At the plate he went 2 for 4 with a single and a double. He knocked in a run, scored two runs, and stole a base. That is an eventful day.
The life of a ballplayer was not extravagant at that time. Baseball was obviously not Bailey’s primary job. His reason for never playing again is unknown. Maybe he had a successful career in another vocation, or maybe a health issue forced him from the field, or maybe he didn’t enjoy the game. Somewhere out there a written record of his life might exist, but it is not easy to find. The final chapter in his story is known, he died in 1917 in Macon, Georgia.
In my mind I’ve pictured what League Park II looked like in Cincinnati. The Reds came into the game with a 60-60 record, in 9th place in the league. The lowly Colonels had a 33-91 record which put them in 12th (last) place. Both teams were just finishing out their seasons, hopelessly behind the league-leading Baltimore Orioles ( who were sitting at 80-42).
King Bailey made the most of his cup of coffee. In my mind that day will always be interesting. The game has looked different. I know he hit one double, but what did it look like? Some days he rips a double down the rightfield line in his first at bat. Some days he pops the ball up to right center and it finds open spaces. Some days one of the outfielders loses the ball in the sun. I wish I could find a boxscore. . .
* Thanks to www.baseball-reference.com for help with the statistics and details that were hazy in my mind.