|Smead Jolley (1930-33) [of the Chicago White Sox] was one of the world's worst outfielders. Even Jolley agreed. He sealed his reputation by committing three errors in a single play. He was stationed in right field in a game against the Athletics in Philadelphia. Bing Miller smashed a single and, to the White Sox's dismay, it headed right for Jolley.
As expected, the ball rolled through his legs for error number one. Jolley whirled around to play the carom off the wall. To no one's surprise, the ball scooted back through his legs for error number two. Jolley could have stopped while he was ahead, but perhaps sensing immortality, he seized the moment to vault himself into the twilight zone of fielding. He picked up the ball and heaved it over the third baseman's head for error number three. Meanwhile, Bing Miller circled the bases.
Shockingly, Jolley's incredible feat never made it into the record books. The official scorer, refusing to believe that any major leaguer could commit such a fielding atrocity, charged Jolley with only two errors, thus robbing him of an officially recognized record as the worst single fielding play in baseball history.
Nevertheless, Jolley went on to distinguish himself when he was traded to the Boston Red Sox where he had trouble with Fenway Park. Some parks in those days had embankments against the outfield fences before warning tracks were installed. At that time, Fenway had a ten-foot incline in left field. To Jolley it was as awesome as Mount Everest. In frustration, the Red Sox coaches spent mornings hitting fungoes to left while Jolley practiced running up the hill to make the catch.
The next time Jolley started in left, he had a chance to show how he could handle the incline. In a game against the Washington Senators, a long fly ball was hit to left. Jolley took off, ran easily up the incline, turned around to make the catch and saw that he had overrun the ball. Jolley started back down the incline but tripped and sprawled flat on his face. The ball bounced near him and by the time Jolley staggered to his feet, the batter was standing on third.
At the end of the inning, Jolley returned to the dugout, cussing at his coaches. "Fine bunch, you guys," he complained. "For ten days you teach me how to go up the hill, but none of you has the brains to teach me how to come down!"
-- Bruce Nash & Allan Zullo
The Baseball Hall of Shame
The Baseball Hall of Shame 2, Bruce Nash & Allan Zullo
Copyright 1986 by Nash and Zullo Productions, Inc.
Published by Pocket Books (New York), 1986
available at AMAZON