Thanks to the movie Field of Dreams, Moonlight Graham has become infamous. Late in a 1905 game, Graham came in as a defensive replacement for the Giants. He then was left stranded on deck in the top of the ninth, and did not get the chance hit as the Giants finished off a win. That game ended up being the sole appearance of his career, and he famously never got a chance to hit in the major leagues.
Art Schult got over 400 at-bats in his career. His story does not exactly match up with that of Moonlight Graham. On another timeline, however, it very well could have.
The Yankees signed Schult out of Georgetown University ahead of the 1948 season. He spent the next three seasons playing in the Yankees’ minor league system, reaching as high as a brief stint in Triple-A in 1949.
In 1950, Schult was drafted to serve in the Korean War. He would miss all of the 1951 and ‘52 seasons while serving. He reported to spring training for the 1953 season, putting both Schult and the Yankees in a weird spot.
Schult was classified as a returning serviceman, which meant that due to a previous ruling, he was placed on the Yankees’ roster despite not having made it to the majors. Understandably, the Yankees wanted to send down him down. Schult hadn’t played in three years, but was a talented player who would want to play every day. He wouldn’t get that chance on the Yankees’ major-league roster.
On the other hand, Schult was due to make far more money in the majors than he would in the minors. He had a family to support. He refused to report to the minors, and the Yankees had no choice but to keep him on the roster.
Unsurprisingly, the Yankees rarely used Schult. He didn’t make an appearance in a game until May 17th, when he entered as a pinch-hitter in extra innings. He ended up coming around to score as the tying run on a two-run, game-winning Billy Martin single.
Three days later, he came in again as a pinch-runner, as he would again in the following two games. The story was the same in a few other appearances. In total, Schult played in seven games in 1953, all as a pinch-runner. He never got to come to the plate. He didn’t play in the field either. He literally only even pinch-ran for the Yankees.
Eventually, he agreed to a demotion to the minor leagues, but not before getting the Yankees, who had a pretty sizable lead, to give him part of a World Series share. Schult would play the remainder of the 1953 season in Double-A. Those seven games would stand as the entirety of Schult’s Yankee career. He played the 1954 season in their system, but was sold to a Pacific Coast League team before 1955.
In another universe, perhaps Schult’s baseball story ends there. He stalls out in the PCL or some other minor league and ends up retiring without recording a major league at-bat. Fortunately for him, that’s not where the story concluded.
The Reds acquired him and called him up for September in 1955. He stepped in for his first major league plate appearances on September 17th, coming in as a pinch-hitter. He drew a walk. Two days later, he recorded his first hit. Schult went on to appear in four other seasons in the majors, playing for the Senators and the Cubs in addition to Cincinnati.
Art Schult had a strange Yankee career, but it wasn’t unheard of. Had he never returned the majors, he still would have been some way off of Herb Washington’s 105 games without a plate appearance as a non-pitcher. Schult surely was happy that it never came to that.