day 47: goch

Today is 47 days, which is five days and six weeks of the omer: hod she’b’malchut.

Today, cosi reviya. I have not one, not two, but three guest posts. These three authors separately asked me to write and each chose Day 47. I figured it could be really instructive for the day’s sefirot. So, first check out posts by Jason Epstein, Eric Feld, and Jenna Shaw. And then, as always, come back.

Since we are more than yotzey for today on #47, I thought I’d continue in my quest to fill in some gaps. One is a player from the earliest days of baseball. And then another is a player who wasn’t one of the greats. So I have chosen today to highlight shortstop John Gochnauer, widely considered one of the worst professional baseball players of all time.

It’s actually kind of an achievement to be the worst of the best. If you’re too bad, you don’t ever make it to the majors. Of course, the game was different when Gochnauer started his career at the very end of the 19th century. As one writer notes, “If a guy could hit and run, he could play. Now people realize that even half that many errors will hurt their team, even if they are a 1.000 OPS guy.”

In three seasons with the Brooklyn Superbas (later, Dodgers) and the Cleveland Blues (later, the Team-that-Shall-not-be-Named), Gochnauer played 264 games, batting .187, hitting nary a home run, and committing 146 errors — including 98 of those in 134 games in 1903.

Almost 20 years ago, it was baseball historian Mike Attiyeh who gave Gochnauer his dubious honor; the original article is to be found in the internets only pasted into a thread here.

Gochnaur is the worst major league performer ever. Few have been worse than Gochnaur with the bat, and fewer still might have been worse than Gochnaur in the field, but none combined the two-way futility quite the way Gochnaur did.

After a merciful retirement, Gochnauer became an umpire (the next step for someone who knew from errors?), and then a police officer. He died at age 54 from pneumonia.

A conclusion: “He was a better friend and bartender than a baseball player.”

And Attieyh: “A life-long bachelor who spent 35 years around the game of baseball, Gochnaur left behind six siblings, a score of nephews and nieces, plenty of appreciative ball players and citizens, and a woeful major league ledger.”

There are worse things to be said about a life. And so, let’s dive deep into the humility of hod and count Day 47 in honor of this king of errors.


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