February 7, 1957:
For nine years, Granny Hamner had been a familiar face to Phillies fans, serving as the shortstop of the 1950 Whiz Kids. Philadelphia fans quickly took to Hamner, admiring his powerful swing and aggressive style of play. In 1956, the attributes that had made him a fan favorite betrayed Hamner, as he seriously injured his shoulder while diving for a ball. Though his fielding remained consistent, the pain prevented the righthander from swinging an effective bat. An off-season surgery was deemed unsuccessful, and the three-time All-Star’s career was in jeopardy.
In an effort to remain on the field, Hamner made three pitching appearances in 1956, two in relief. Feeling comfortable with the idea, the career infielder opened 1957’s Spring Training penciled in as one of the twenty pitchers. Armed with a fastball, knuckleball and curveball, the Phillies’ new reliever was successful in his debut, pitching three innings and earning the win in an exhibition against the Yankees.
Though the initial signs were encouraging, the experiment didn’t last long. Granny Hamner made the 1957 Phillies as the starting second baseman, only pitching one inning in relief during the regular season. As expected, his swing remained hindered by the injury, and 1957 would be his last season as an everyday player.
Strangely, Hamner would pitch in the majors again, three years into his retirement. While coaching in the Kansas City A’s farm system, the 35 year-old was called to the big club after a rash of injuries to the pitching staff. He would post a 9 ERA after pitching four innings over three games.
Photo: AP Wirephoto