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Ask Athlon Sports: Baseball History

Q: In the early days of baseball, it’s my understanding that a “courtesy runner” could at times take the base in the place of an injured player, although the injured player would remain in the game. It was the option of the opposing team to allow the courtesy runner, and to designate a slow player to take the base. I don’t believe the courtesy runner was entered in the box score. Who was the last courtesy runner in the major leagues?

— Edward Rhoades, Ramsey, N.J.

A: Edward, you really know your baseball history. There was such a thing as a courtesy runner, and it was distinct from the pinch-runner, which is obviously still in use today. Here’s the scoop from one of our favorite websites, “In the early days of baseball, when rosters were much more limited, there were courtesy runners in addition to pinch-runners. A courtesy runner was put in when the normal runner was temporarily incapacitated by an injury. A courtesy runner had to be agreed by the opposite manager, and his presence in the game was not considered as an official substitution. He could therefore be used again once his running duty was completed, or could be a player already in the lineup, and the player for whom he ran would usually return to the game in the next half-inning. In contrast with pinch-runners, courtesy runners tended to be slow baserunners. The last courtesy runner in a Major League Game was used in 1949.”

Charlie Miller, Editorial Director

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