SABR

Youngest minor leaguer?

By L. Robert Davids

This article was published in the 1972 Baseball Research Journal.

It is generally assumed that the youngest player ever to take part in a regular O.B. game was the present Tiger coach, Joe Schultz, who pinch hit for Houston at the close of the 1931 season shortly after his 13th birthday. Joe was the batboy for the Texas League club which was managed by his father, Joe, Sr.

There is a report, however, of a 12-year-old Negro boy taking part in a game in the Georgia State League on July 19, 1952. The youth, named Joe Reliford, was the batboy for Fitzgerald, which was playing and losing to Statesboro in the 8th inning 13-0. With the crowd yelling "put in the batboy", Manager Charles Ridgeway of Fitzgerald first consulted Umpire Ed Kubick, and then sent the youth in as a pinch hitter. Reliford grounded sharply to the third baseman. He then went to centerfield where he handled one grounder cleanly and made a sensational catch of a line drive.
 
The next day, after a league directors meeting, the umpire was fired and the manager fined and suspended for five days. Former major league pitcher Ace Adams, owner of the club, took over as manager. A few days later, the batboy, who incidentally broke the color line in the Georgia State League, was dropped.
 
Now, when it came to playing on a more regular basis, Bill Sarni was certainly one of the youngest. He was 15 when he caught 33 games for the Los Angeles PCL club in 1943. In 1951 he went up to the Cardinals.
This article originally appeared in the 1972 "Baseball Research Journal."
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