MLB

When Bobby Douglass decided to pursue a career in baseball

When Bobby Douglass decided to pursue a career in baseball

When Justin Fields broke Bobby Douglass’ record for most rushing yards by a Bears quarterback, it brought back memories of afternoons watching the Bears on TV or listening to Jack Brickhouse’s radio play-by-play, interspersed with an occasional , “That’s right, Jack,” by broadcasting partner Irv Kupcinet.

The Bears were far from impressive on the field in those days, and given their current media dominance, it’s surprising to remember that the team had home games locked out because they didn’t sell out.

Bears fans of the 1970s still have flashbacks of Douglass running in the wrong direction, desperately trying to avoid getting sacked.

Douglass played for the Bears from 1969 until 1975, when he was claimed off waivers by the San Diego Chargers in October. The Chargers then placed Douglass’ former teammate Virgil Carter off waivers.

In 1979, after his football career, Douglass was still struggling, this time considering a foray into major league baseball.

White Sox owner Bill Veeck decided to take a chance on the 32-year-old left-handed QB, who asked for a tryout, during which he impressed Sox VP Roland Hemond, manager Don Kessinger and the pitch Ron Schueler with a fastball that reached 95. miles per hour.

Sports pundits opined that Douglass should no longer throw a ball 60 yards. All he would have to do is throw it 60 feet. The question was whether he would be more accurate hitting a catcher’s glove than hitting a catcher’s hands.

Veeck said at the time, “If he throws the ball more accurately than he throws the football, he’s going to be in great shape.”

Veeck recalled to reporters that when he was working for the Cubs in 1936, Bears fullback John “Bull” Doehring tried out for the team in Los Angeles during spring training. But while Doehring could throw a ball 60 yards behind his back, he couldn’t get a baseball four feet from home.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

The White Sox announced on July 12, 1979 that they had signed Douglass and assigned him to the AAA Iowa Oaks, managed by Tony La Russa.

“We couldn’t have gotten Douglass at a better time,” La Russa said. “We just released Pablo Torrealba, and I told Roland I’d like another lefty in the bullpen.”

It wasn’t Douglass’ first brush with baseball. As a teenager in El Dorado, Kansas, he caught the attention of scouts with a 23-2 record in American Legion baseball.

Douglass did not have to wait long to make his debut. In a July 15 game against Denver in Des Moines, La Russa brought him in to relieve starter Bart Johnson in the seventh inning with the score tied 5-5, a man on second, nobody out and future baseball hitter Japanese Randy Bass on the plate.

The crowd of 1,885 patrons gave Douglass a standing ovation and cheered enthusiastically after he threw a called strike past Bass, but he walked Bass on a 3-2 pitch.

After retiring the next two batters, he gave up a walk to load the bases and then gave up a 3-run double.

In three innings of work, he gave up 5 runs, 3 hits and 8 walks.

After a solid outing against Oklahoma City on July 28, in which he pitched 2 innings and gave up just one unearned run, Douglass was placed on the temporary inactive list on July 1 August to August 11 so the team could take a look at the pitcher. Britt Burns. He then left the team on August 16 for business, organizing the development of an apartment project in Normal, Illinois, but returned the last weekend of August.

Veeck told the press, “I don’t think there’s a chance,” when asked if Douglass had a chance to be called up in September.

By then, Veeck had appointed La Russa to replace Kessinger as the Sox manager, and Douglass and new manager Joe Sparks could never get along.

Douglass was optimistic.

“It’s been a good experience. It’s been really nice, with the exception of not throwing another 15 or 20 innings. Even the ride has been nice.” He even said he might play winter ball.

In the end, Douglass’ professional pitching career totaled four games, no decisions, 7 innings pitched, 13 walks, no strikeouts, 6 hits, and a 9.00 ERA.

On the plus side, there were no boxes.





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