April 19, May 7, and May 30, 1928 – those were the three dates when Paul Hinson played in the major leagues, each one of them for the Boston Red Sox. He was an infielder, though you wouldn’t know it from his statistical record. He never put on a glove in a big-league game. All he ever did was run the basepaths.
An initial look at box scores of the day shows that he made his major-league debut as a pinch-runner on April 19 – Patriots Day – in Boston, running for Johnnie Heving in the bottom of the eighth inning. Heving had batted for Slim Harriss and singled. Hinson scored as part of a four-run eighth that saw the Sox convert a 6-3 deficit into a 7-6 win over the New York Yankees. Red Ruffing shut down New York in the ninth. The Red Sox win knocked the Yankees out of first place for the first time since May 1926 (if one doesn’t count Opening Day 1928, when the only game played had the Sox temporarily in first, thanks to their 7-5 win over Washington).
On May 7 Hinson was again sent in to run, in the bottom of the ninth, this time running for catcher Charlie Berry, who had singled. Hinson was left on base. Boston lost that one to Cleveland, 4-2.
Hinson repeated as a pinch-runner for Berry in the ninth inning on May 30, after Berry pinch-hit a single for Pat Simmons. Again, Hinson was left on base. It was the second game of a doubleheader against Philadelphia and Boston lost both games. Our pinch-running specialist then walked off the major-league stage, never to be heard from again. We know he was an infielder, but he never had the chance to field. We know he batted right, but he never got a chance to bat. His batting average isn’t .000 – it just doesn’t exist. The same goes for his fielding percentage. He did score a run in the major leagues, however, and contributed to one Red Sox win in a decade in which the Red Sox had precious few. The 1928 Red Sox finished in their accustomed last place with a 57-96 record, 43½ games out of first place.
This is a bit of a tangent, but the all-time leader among Red Sox players for games played without even one at-bat is many more than Paul Hinson’s three. It is Bob Stanley, who from 1977 through 1989 appeared in 637 games without a single regular-season at-bat. He did go 0-for-1 in postseason play; he struck out in the ninth inning of Game Two of the 1986 World Series. The Red Sox won the game, and Stanley got the save.
Now, it’s not actually true that Hinson was never heard from again after his brief stint with the Red Sox in 1928. Boston sent him (and Joe Cicero and Arlie Tarbert) to Salem, Massachusetts, to play for Stuffy McInnis and the New England League’s Salem Witches, the team’s first official farm club. He got into 12 games at third base, but hit only .227 in 44 at-bats.
Then he headed west, back to Joplin, Missouri, whence he had come. In 1927 Hinson had played third base for the Joplin Miners for manager Marty Purtell. He’d hit .315 in 120 games, with eight home runs for the Class C Western Association team. Though the team had finished third, it won the playoff over Independence, four games to two. The Red Sox announced the purchase of his contract on September 14, 1927.
For 60 games in 1928 and 131 games in 1929, Hinson was the shortstop for the Miners. He hit .273 his first year back, with one home run, and .306 the second year, with two home runs. In 1930 he played third base for the Pueblo Braves in Class A ball, in the Western League, and hit eight home runs with a .307 average. In 1932 he played for Joplin again, in one of the more confusing scenarios of teams shifting around. The Joplin team – called the Miners – moved to Topeka and became the Jayhawks on May 7. The Independence Producers moved into Joplin on May 23 and called themselves the Miners – but then moved back to Independence on June 10, before then picking up again and heading to Kansas, becoming the Hutchinson Wheatshockers on July 20, two days after Topeka had disbanded. There’d been an opening in Hutchinson because the original Wheatshockers (who had moved in from Muskogee on June 8) had disbanded on July 18, too. The only two teams in the Western Association that hadn’t moved were the Springfield Cardinals and the Bartlesville Broncs, and Springfield beat Bartlesville five games to four in a nine-game playoff series. Got that?
And then, in 1933, Hinson played for two different teams back in the Western League: the Hutchinson Wheatshockers (who moved on July 7 to become the Bartlesville Broncs) and the Wichita Aviators (who had moved on June 6 to become the Muskogee Oilers – but then were evicted from their ballpark on July 31 and became a road team for the rest of the season, finishing in last place). Hinson hit .263, and his fielding percentage of .853 was subpar as well. These weren’t easy times during the Depression. After all the wandering he’d done over the last couple of years, at least he’d come back to finish his career at home with the Oilers.
James Paul Hinson had been born in Vanleer, Tennessee, on May 9, 1904, on a home dairy farm, to Tom and Daisy Hinson. The couple had three sons – Walter, Glen, and Paul (formally James Paul Hinson). Paul grew to a listed 5-feet-10 (he described himself as 5-feet-7 ½ on his player questionnaire) and weighed 150 pounds. He mostly grew up in Oklahoma – in fact, in Muskogee, where he eventually wound up his career in Organized Baseball. He went to the Washington School and then to Central High in that city.
After baseball Hinson became a surveyor, living in Muskogee and working for the Curry Engineering Co. He married Delmas Ramsey on April 5, 1945. Later in life, he became a policeman and retired as a policeman with the Muskogee force. Hinson died on September 23, 1960, with cause of death indicated as “maniac depressive psychosis.” His death certificate shows a suicide by firearm.
The author accessed Hinson’s player file from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the online SABR Encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com. Thanks to Rod Nelson as well. Some of this material was originally published in the book Red Sox Threads.