Cesár Tovar (Trading Card DB)

September 22, 1968: César Tovar plays all nine positions, leads Twins to victory

This article was written by Mike Huber

Cesár Tovar (Trading Card DB)Since the beginning of professional baseball, players were assigned to and thus played a specific position. There have always been a few instances when players have switched (among the outfield or infield), but not until 1911 did fans see the true exception. The Philadelphia Phillies’ Jimmy Walsh was the first major leaguer to play all nine positions, but he did it over the course of the entire season.1

More than 50 years later, Oakland’s Bert Campaneris became the first player to play all nine positions in the same game, accomplishing the feat on September 8, 1965, in a game against the California Angels. The A’s were defeated by the Angels, 5-3, as Campaneris was 0-for-3 with a walk. Minnesota’s César Tovar did them both one better, by playing all nine positions in a game in which his team earned the victory, against the Oakland Athletics.

It was the last home game of the 1968 season for the Twins. A modest crowd of 11,340 fans came through the turnstiles at Metropolitan Stadium for the Sunday afternoon affair. Minnesota had a record of 74-81 and after this game would be on the road for its final six contests, destined to finish the season without a winning record. It was time for a bit of celebration and fun. Tovar, finishing his third full season in the majors, was voted Most Valuable Twin for the second consecutive year by his teammates. He was going to play all nine positions for one inning each, beginning as a pitcher and moving through the field in order (catcher in the second inning, first base in the third, second base in the fourth, etc.). The Oakland A’s were in sixth place (78-77), and this was their final road game before they wrapped up the season at home. Blue Moon Odom got the starting nod for the A’s.

The only other player to man all nine positions, Campaneris, led off against Tovar and popped out to Twins third baseman Ron Clark in foul territory. Reggie Jackson struck out. Danny Cater walked, as Tovar had the fans cheering his “double and triple pumps.”2 This, however, resulted in a balk by Tovar, advancing Cater to second. When Sal Bando fouled out to first baseman Graig Nettles to end the inning, Tovar’s work on the mound was done. It had taken him 19 pitches to retire the side.3 None of the Oakland batters he faced had put the ball into play in fair territory. His one inning of scoreless pitching meant that his 0.00 career earned-run average is the lowest in Twins franchise history

In the bottom of the first, Tovar led off with a walk, becoming the first pitcher to bat in the leadoff spot for the Twins. After Clark was retired, Nettles was hit by a pitch. Bob Allison forced Nettles at second and Tovar went to third, but he was stranded when Rod Carew grounded out to first.

In the top of the second, the 5-foot, 9-inch Tovar semi-crouched behind the plate. According to Minneapolis’s Star Tribune, “the shin guards were too long for his stubby legs.”4 Rookie southpaw Tom Hall had entered the game to pitch in relief of Tovar. Hall had split seven previous appearances as a starter and reliever, but it had been six days since he last pitched. When Odom struck out to end the inning, Tovar was credited with a putout behind the plate. Five Oakland batters had settled in the batter’s box in the second and Tovar didn’t let a single ball by him

In the third, Tovar took over at first base while Nettles moved to center field. Campaneris flied out to Nettles (in one of only two games he ever played in center). Next up was Jackson, who pulled a pitch that first baseman Tovar snared and, from his knees, threw to the pitcher Hall covering first in time to get Jackson.

The scoreless tie ended in the home half of the third. Tovar singled to center and stole second. Odom set down Clark and Nettles on strikes, but Allison drilled a triple to right, plating Tovar with the go-ahead run

In the next three innings, Tovar moved around the infield. The Oakland batters could not get anything going, and Tovar had only one chance, retiring Bando in the fourth while playing second base

In the bottom of the fifth, Tovar led off for the third time but grounded out, third to first. Clark reached on an error by second baseman Dick Green. With Nettles batting, Clark took off for second and catcher Jim Pagliaroni threw the ball into center field. Clark motored to third on the error and was given credit for a steal of second. Nettles walked and Allison hit a comebacker to Odom on the mound. Clark broke for home and Odom threw the ball to Bando at third who tagged out Clark. Carew sent a single to left, and Nettles scored the Twins’ second run of the game.

Hall blanked the Athletics until the eighth inning. Only Jackson had notched a hit, a single in the sixth, but Hall then induced Cater to ground into a double play and the A’s did not capitalize. With one out in the top of the eighth, Dave Duncan, pinch-hitting for Odom, singled to right. Allan Lewis entered as a pinch-runner. Campaneris singled to right as well, allowing Lewis to get to third base. With Jackson now at the plate, Campy stole second base. Jackson then hit a comebacker to the mound, but Hall couldn’t make a clean play, and with the error, Oakland had loaded the bases with one out. Twins skipper Cal Ermer strode to the mound and motioned to the bullpen, bringing in Al Worthington to relieve Hall. The first batter he faced was Cater, who sent a sacrifice fly to center, driving in Lewis with an unearned run, preventing the shutout. Tovar made the catch in center and threw a perfect strike to third, preventing Campaneris from also tagging. Worthington then struck out Bando, preserving the Minnesota lead

In the ninth, with Tovar now in right field, the Athletics went three-up, three-down against Worthington. John Donaldson flied out to center, but Tovar let Allison make the catch. Tovar had starred in the 2-1 Minnesota win. At the plate, he was 1-for-3 with a walk. His stolen base in the third was his team-record 33rd successful swipe of the season. In addition to the assist he had in the third inning, Tovar made five putouts – one as a catcher, one as a second baseman, and three in the outfield.

Tovar’s teammates also had fun changing positions, and those keeping a scorebook had to stay on their toes. Allison went from left to center, back to left, and then back to center. Clark, Carew, and Hernandez each played shortstop, in addition to Tovar. Jerry Zimmerman started as the catcher and remarked after the game that he “finally made it to the ninth spot in the batting order.”5

After the game, the Twins organization presented Tovar with a color television set for his performance. Minnesota finished with a home record of 41-40. Although the fans enjoyed this final home game of the season, their annual attendance was just 1,143,257, their lowest in their first eight seasons in Minnesota.6

Tovar finished the 1968 season with a .272 batting average. Over his 12-year career, he played 943 games in the outfield and over 500 more as an infielder or designated hitter. This was the only game in his career in which he played as a pitcher, catcher, or first baseman.

Sparked by this victory, Minnesota went on to win its next three games, sweeping a series from the California Angels. Oakland and Minnesota closed the season with a three-game set played at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Oakland took two of the three games and still finished in sixth place, three games ahead of the Twins in the American League standings.



In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, the author consulted baseball-reference.com, mlb.com, retrosheet.org and sabr.org.





1 In his rookie season of 1910, Walsh played every position except pitcher, catcher, and first base. He ended his six-year career with only one appearance on the mound, pitching 2⅔ innings in an October 9, 1911, game against the Boston Rustlers, in which he allowed eight earned runs (for an ERA of 27.00). It was the last game of the season for the Phillies.

2 Dave Mona, “‘Utility’ Tovar, Twins Win 2-1,” Minneapolis Tribune, September 23, 1968: 29.

3 Ron Bergman, “Athletics Lose, Launch Final Homestand Tonight,” Oakland Tribune, September 23, 1968: 41.

4 Mona.

5 Mona.

6 Mona.

Additional Stats

Minnesota Twins 2
Oakland Athletics 1

Metropolitan Stadium
Bloomington, MN


Box Score + PBP:

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