Did a Dead Runner Once Score During a Baseball Game?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: A dead runner once scored in a baseball game.

Probably the best hint that a story you’re about to hear is false is if the identical story is told about people in entirely different places.

That’s one of the reasons (but surely not the only one) that the story of a game between two small Minnesota towns in 1903 is a tall tale.

The basic gist of the story is that the semi-professional baseball team from Wilmar, Minnesota was hosting their rivals from nearby Benson, Minnesota.

The score was 1-0 in favor of Benson going into the bottom of the tenth inning.

The Wilmar pitcher, Thielman, had pitched the entire game to that point and led off the tenth with a single.

The next batter, O’Toole (like any great tall tale, only last names necessary), hits a great drive to the outfield. The ball does not clear the fence but it is WAY back and O’Toole has plenty of time to run.

Thielman, though, has just pitched ten innings of baseball and is quite tired. Still, he pushes his body as fast as he can get it to go. However, rounding third, Thielman collapses. O’Toole is right on his tail and figures the only way they’re both going to score and win the game is if he basically carries Thielman across the plate.

And that’s basically what he does, pushing Thielman on to home in front of himself.

Wilmar has won!

But at what cost?

As it turns out, Thielman had had a heart attack at third base! He scored the tying run, but he was DEAD at the time!

It’s a great story, but it’s also pretty much hogwash.

There are no local newspaper accounts of the game from 1903, and the local papers DID cover local baseball games at the time. In a centennial history of Kandiyohi County (where both cities were), local historian Lefty Ranweller categorically denies the story, and really, with all that against it, I don’t know if we even need to go to the fact that…

A. It doesn’t sound believable


B. As mentioned before, the same exact story was told in the 1910s, only this time involving two CANADIAN baseball teams!

So yeah, I think it’s safe to say that this story is not true.

But it’s a great story!

It gives me an amusing visual…

Well, I didn’t say that YOU would find it amusing!

The legend is…

STATUS: I’m Going With False

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

Leave a Reply