Was Jack Doyle the First Pinch-Hitter in Major League History?

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: Jack Doyle was the first pinch-hitter in Major League history.

Jack Doyle was born in Ireland in 1869. He came over to America and attended Fordham University. He first played professional baseball in 1889 and was still involved working as a scout for the Chicago Cubs at the time of his death in 1958.

Doyle has often been credited as being the very first pinch-hitter in Major League history (heck, his page on Wikipedia still cites him as the first pinch-hitter). Part of this has to do with the fact that Doyle was always sure he was the first pinch-hitter in Major League history, and would tell anyone who cared to listen.

His story is that while playing for Cleveland in June of 1892, he was called up to hit in the ninth inning while playing Brookyn. He responded with a game-winning single.

So is that the truth?

While part of that story is untrue (Cleveland did not win the game), it IS true that he DID pinch-hit in that game. And that WAS one of the earliest examples of a player being a pinch-hitter.

However, Mickey Welch pinch-hit for the New York baseball team (before they were called the Giants) in August of 1889.

Welch MIGHT not be THE first (as perhaps there was an earlier example that has been lost to history), but he certainly was before Doyle.

The legend is…


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

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