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The short, odd Yankees career of Elmer Bliss

Like Babe Ruth, Bliss played both pitcher and outfielder in his major league career, but that is where the similarities end.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Elmer Bliss was a pitcher. Or at least, that’s what he was when the Yankees acquired him in 1903.

The Pennsylvania-born Bliss first started appearing in minor league baseball as a 26-year-old in 1901. That year, he pitched in 16 games with the Utica Pentups and a team that’s just listed as Cortland/Waverly on Baseball-Reference. He pitched in 60 games across the next two seasons with Utica when the New York Highlanders picked him up.

Bliss made his major league debut on September 28, 1903 against the Detroit Tigers. In the penultimate game of the season, he came in for fellow debutante Eddie Quick, who gave up five runs (two earned) in just two innings. Bliss allowed just one unearned run as the Highlanders won 7-6. They won the following day as well and finished the season 72-62.

After his fairly successful debut, you would think Bliss would get another chance on the mound to start next season. It was 1904, so exact call-ups and roster changes aren’t exactly known, but Bliss did not reappear in the majors until May 1904.

Bliss made his season major league appearance coming in for the late innings of a game against Cleveland on May 11, 1904. Except he played the outfield. Bliss played one inning in the outfield and got one at-bat.

That was it for his career in the bigs. After his pretty good debut, Bliss made one appearance in the outfield and then never played major league baseball again.

There isn’t a ton online about Bliss other than his stats, so why he played one game in the outfield but never pitched again seems rather inexplicable. He played in the minors through 1910 and seemingly was only a pitcher.

The most logical explanation was that it was baseball in 1904 and they were probably less rigid about positions. They could very well have just needed someone to fill in the outfield for an inning and just decided to use a random pitcher in the bullpen.

The more perplexing thing is why Bliss never pitched in the majors after his first game. He wouldn’t be the first or last to have a solid first game but never play again. However, the Highlanders saw fit to bring him back for another year and have him on the roster. Maybe he suffered some injury in that game in 1904.

If he didn’t suffer an injury in that game, Elmer Bliss’ career is one of the more inexplicable ones in Yankees history.

Sources

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/blissel01.shtml

https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=bliss-001elm

https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/NYY/1903.shtml