The CNCMSBL attracts guys of all ages. Our 18+ division has its share of 18 year-olds and our 50+ division has guys in their 70’s. Almost all of us have one thing in common, we’ve loved the game since we were kids.
There are some guys who were so good that they were ready to break into the major league even before they were old enough to vote!
Leading off, we’ll start with an obvious phenom. It was July 19, 1936 when a 17-year-old Bob Feller got his first appearance at the major league level.
The day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, December 9, 1941, Feller put aside his 3-C draft deferment status and enlisted in the US Navy. With this selfless act he became Major League Baseball’s first player to enlist in World War II, and in the process, gave up nearly four seasons of baseball in the prime of his career.
May 1, 1925, the 17-year-old Foxx would enter the game against the Washington Senators as a pinch hitter, and he began his Hall of Fame career with a single.
Known as Double X, Foxx would go on to establish himself as one of the most feared sluggers in baseball history, amassing 534 home runs and 1,922 RBI over 20 seasons. He was a three-time MVP and won the NL triple crown in 1933.
When Derrington was 13, he pitched alongside his father in semi-pro baseball. As a 16-year-old in 1956, he was named Los Angeles City player of the year during a season where he recorded a microscopic earned run average of 0.23!
The White Sox signed him at the end of the ’56 summer with a $78,000 signing bonus.
He is the youngest pitcher to ever start a major league game. He did so on September 30, 1956, two months prior to his seventeenth birthday!
Making his big league debut on April 27, 1926, Mel Ott struck out in his only pinch-hit at-bat. Having just turned 17 the previous month, Ott would play 22 seasons in his Hall of Fame career.
Although only 5’9″ and 170 pounds, he led the league in home runs six times, was an All-Star for 11 consecutive seasons, and was the first National League player to surpass 500 career home runs.
You may also know him from Leo Durocher’s famous line “Nice guys finish last.” As Leo tells it, … just at that point, the Giants, led by Mel Ott, began to come out of their dugout to take their warm-up. Without missing a beat, I said, “Take a look at that Number Four there. A nicer guy never drew breath than that man there.” I called off his players’ names as they came marching up the steps behind him, “Walker Cooper, Mize, Marshall, Kerr, Gordon, Thomson. Take a look at them. All nice guys. They’ll finish last. Nice guys. Finish last.”
No list of MLB youngsters is complete without 15-year-old Joe Nuxhall. I can’t imagine anyone will ever come close to Nuxhall’s record of pitching 2⁄3 of an inning for the Reds on June 10, 1944 at the age of 15 years, 316 days. The war made for a lot of strange things in MLB baseball.
Nuxhall ended up having a good career in the majors, including 2 All-Star appearances, until he retired after the 1966 season. After retiring as a player, he became a radio broadcaster for the Reds from 1967 through 2004.
El Marciano (The Martian)
Although not in the major leagues yet, the New York Yankees did sign a 16-year-old phenom from the Dominican Republic for $5 million dollars in July of 2019. All you have to do is type Jasson Dominguez into Google to see the hype.
Finally, if you’re wondering who the kid in the photo at the top of this article is, that’s Mike Trout pitching for his high school team.