There have been only two left-handed fielders to play shortstop for at least part of an inning in the history Major League Baseball. Those men are:
- Hal Chase, who played two games at shortstop for the 1905 New York Highlanders and recorded three putouts in three chances.
- Nino Escalera, who played shortstop against one batter (Stan Musial!) in the Cincinnati Reds’ game against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 22, 1954. Escalera didn’t have any fielding chances in that apperance, but he was out there manning the hole.
There have been a few other left-handed fielders credited with playing shortstop, but most of them fall short on further examination.
The man with the most uncertain claim to having played shortstop as a lefthander is Hall of Famer Wee Willie Keeler, who is credited with two SS appearances with the New York Giants in 1893. But with little game log information available for those pre-1900 seasons, it’s not clear if Keeler ever took the field at shortstop.
It’s more certain that the following men did NOT take the field at shortstop, even though they’re often listed as lefthanders at the position:
- Lou Gehrig: On July 14, 1934, the day after injuring his back in a game, Gehrig drew the start at shortstop and led off as the Yankees batted in the top of the first against the Tigers in Detroit. After gutting out a single, the Iron Horse was done, as manager Joe McCarthy lifted Gehrig for a pinch runner. Gehrig’s streak of consecutive games played lived on, and his name made it to the scorecard as a shortstop — even though he never took the field.
- Royle Stillman: Stillman spent six road games leading off for the 1975 Baltimore Orioles as the shortstop. But in each case, manager Earl Weaver pulled Stillman in favor of 8-time Gold Glover Mark Belanger when the O’s took the field in the bottom of the first. It was a way for Weaver to keep Belanger’s light bat (.228 lifetime batting average) out of the lineup for at least one turn.
- Tom Chism: Weaver was up to his old tricks on September 13, 1979. That night, he wrote Chism in as his starting shortstop and slotted the rookie first baseman in the number-two batting slot. But Weaver replaced Chism with starting SS Kiko Garcia as the Orioles took the field in the bottom of the first.
- Mark Ryal: Taking a page from Weaver’s strategy book, California Angels manager Gene Mauch wrote Ryal’s name into the starting lineup as the leadoff hitter and shortstop for a tilt on the road against the New York Yankees on September 4, 1987. Ryal flew out to centerfield against Bill Gullickson in the top of the first, and Mauch lifted him for starter Dick Schofield when it was time for the Angels to flash their leather in the bottom half.
So, all in all, there haven’t been any true shortstops who threw lefthanded in the entire history of Major League Baseball. You might be wondering, then …
Why Aren’t There Any Lefthanded Shortstops?
There aren’t any lefthanded shortstops in the majors mostly because there aren’t many southpaws at the position in the lower levels of the minors, college ball, or even high school and below.
And the basic reason for that is because coaches steer lefties away from the left side of the infield — both shortstop and third base — based on the premise that it’s tough or impossible to throw to second or first from those positions with your left hand.
Indeed, throwing from the left side of the diamond while facing the action at the plate requires the fielder to step toward second or third. That’s the natural motion if you’re throwing with your right hand, but throwing with the left generally involves a pivot away from the action so that the fielder can set up for a powerful right-leg step to propel his throw.
No doubt that many talented athletes in the majors could make it happen on a regular basis, but the best lefthander would always be a step behind the best righthander when it comes to making throws. Most coaches and players choose to skip the hassle.
What About Left-Handed Hitters?
While there haven’t been any true left-handed fielders among MLB shortstops, several accomplished glovemen at the position did bat from the left side. Some of those include:
A few of the best include:
So there have been some left-handed shortstops in the majors … but only at the plate!
(Find out more about the history of each player through the links to their Baseball Reference pages included above.)