Preston: Batters who hit cleanup in their first major league game

From SABR member J.G. Preston at The J.G. Preston Experience on March 23, 2013:

A while back I was researching Don Mincher to write his obituary for SABR‘s 2013 Emerald Guide when I noticed he batted cleanup in his first major league game on the opening day of the American League’s 1960 season (the National League had started six days earlier). It occurred to me that getting to be the alpha-dog cleanup hitter in your big league debut would be rare. It didn’t occur to me until now to check just how rare it is. And it is really rare.

But I assumed that making the kind of impression it would take to bat cleanup at the very beginning of your career would be a sign of such overwhelming excellence that the player would be destined for stardom. Mincher, for instance, played in two All-Star Games and finished with 200 career home runs. I figured that would be near the low end of career performance for first-game cleanup hitters. Instead I was overwhelmed with the…well, I hate to say “mediocrity,” since anyone who makes it to the major leagues is pretty damn good at baseball…but the undistinguished careers of so many of the players who were in the fourth spot in the batting order in their very first game.

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Originally published: March 23, 2013. Last Updated: March 23, 2013.