Quick, name the only professional baseball player to never spend a day in the minor leagues and never get a professional at bat, but played in over 100 major league games. The answer is Herb Washington. Before baseball Washington was one of the most celebrated sprinters in collegiate history. He was a four-time All American and set numerous world records. Enter one Charlie Finley and the 1974 Oakland A’s. Finley was always one for promoting his team and what a better promotion than to bring the most famous sprinter in the world that the time to be the A’s official “Designated Runner”.
What ensued was possibly one of the quirkiest careers in all of baseball history. Washington would go on to appear in 92 games in 1974, stealing 29 bases and getting caught 16 times. He would also score 29 runs that season as well. One month into the 1975 season he was released, but only after appearing in 13 games and racking up 2 stolen bases and 4 runs. He finished his career with a stat line of 105 games, 31 stolen bases and 33 runs scored. All while never getting one single at bat.
Don’t feel bad for Herb though, his off field career really took off from that point. He would return to international Track and Field competition until 1976. In 1980 he moved to Rochester, NY where he opened up several McDonalds restaurants in inner city Rochester. He would become one of the most successful African-American restaurateurs in national history. At one point he would have more McDonalds franchises than anyone in the US. He would go on to becoming the Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. To top it off in 2005 he founded the Youngstown Steelhounds and became one of the first African American owners of a professional ice hockey team.
Washington’s 1975 Topps card is still the only in Topps history to ever have the label of pinch runner as a player’s position. It certainly is one of the craziest stories on professional baseball history, and for that alone deserves to be in any personal collection. I couldn’t find any certified autographs of Washington, but his cards go for about $1 for both the regular and mini of the 1975 set.