The 1963 All Rookie Colt .45 Lineup Game

The Colt .45s' All-Rookie Team Back row: Brock Davis (LF), Aaron Pointer (RF), Jimmy Wynn (CF) Middle row: Glenn Vaughan (3B), Sonny Jackson (SS), Joe Morgan (2B), Rusty Staub (1B) Front row: Jay Dahl (P), Jerry Grote (C) (c) Houston Astros

In late 1963, the two-year old Houston MLB franchise found itself in a position that would become even more familiar as the years of trying to field a winner grew in numbers. Late September in Houston is deep into football season. A baseball club that’s finishing near the bottom doesn’t draw very well at the gate against the competition from professional, college, high school, and kiddie game football in the State of Texas as the clock ticks closer and closer to October.

So, in what seemed like a good promotional idea to pique the interest of the curious fans, and maybe give people a glimpse of better days to come, the Houston Colt .45s decided to promote a game on September 27, 1963 that would feature an all rookie starting lineup against the club’s even more hapless expansion club brothers, the New York Mets.

The starting lineup for Houston read like this: (1) Sonny Jackson, SS; (2) Joe Morgan, 2B;  (3) Jimmy Wynn, CF; (4) Rusty Staub, 1B; (5) Aaron Pointer, RF; (6) Brock Davis, (LF); (7) Glen Vaughan, 3B; (8) Jerry Grote, C; & (9) Jay Dahl, P.

Six other rookies would also enter the game before Carl Warwick broke the theme in the bottom of the 8th at old Colt Stadium in a pinch-hitting role as the first veteran player to enter the game.

It was a fun experiment, but the major hopes for victory and a big crowd got snuffed out pretty early. Only 5.802 fans showed up to watch as New York jumped to an 8-0 lead through the first three innings. The Mets won the game by a final score of 10-3.

For an account of how the game played its way to the door, let’s go back and follow the action through the eyes and words of Houston’s greatest sportswriter. Here’s how Mickey Herskowitz covered the game for the Houston Post:

Mets Wallop Colt Rookie Lineup, 10-3
by Mickey Herskowitz
Houston Post, Saturday, September 28, 1963

Houston’s team of tomorrow found the going rather rough in the here and now Friday night. The New York Mets, the big bullies, whomped them, 10-3, in the opener of the season’s final series at Colt Stadium.

As promised, Manager Harry Craft started an all rookie line-up, and he stuck by it through thin and thinner. Fifteen Colts saw service before a non-rookie, Carl Warwick, entered the game as a pinch hitter in the eighth. The Mets took advantage of Houston’s youth, as the saying goes, to pound five pitchers for 15 hits and make life easy for Lefty Al Jackson.

Carl Warwick: 1st vet in game as 8th Inning pinch hitter.

Nevertheless, the night was an historic one for the Colt .45s.

Chunky Jay Dahl, a 17-year-old southpaw from California, became the youngest pitcher to start a game in the majors since Joe Nuxhall made his wartime debut for the Redlegs in 1945, at 16. Von McDaniel was a mature gentleman of 18 when he made headlines for the Cardinals in 1957, fresh out of high school in Oklahoma.

Dahl, the first of three rookie southpaws to perform for the .45s, gave his all, and the Mets took it. They scored three in the second — with the help of two errors — and five more in the third, strafing Dahl and Danny Coombs for seven hits. That gave New York an 8-0 lead at the end of three, and a crowd of 5,802 faithful Colt fans settled back to a long, quiet evening.

One of the highlights of the game came in the next inning, when the Mets seemed headed for another big rally. But with runners at second and third and one out, Lefty Joe Hoerner struck out Tim Harkness, and the crowd appreciated it. They cheered loudly, and a moment later the inning was over.

You could forgive the Colt rookies if they were a bit jittery Friday night. Five of them had never played pro ball before this year, and three of them were starting for the first time in a major league game, sort of. It may be stretching a point to say that Dahl had a major league lineup behind him. And if you wanted to be unkind — and why not? — you could say it was doubtful that he had one facing him.

The Colts started their greenhorn squad for the novelty of it, and out of curiosity, and just possibly for the sake of a little publicity. There was no reason to be disappointed, except, that this ended Houston’s four-game winning streak.

Ol’ Casey Stengel didn’t exactly play fair. He started his best pitcher, Jackson, who is even tough on adults. Al wasn’t at his sharpest Friday night, but the Colts could do little with the several chances they had.

Joe Morgan Tripled in 9th.

Jackson gave up 11 hits, and at least one Colt reached base in every blessed inning. But he struck out eight, and Houston left 12 bodies on base. Al more or less coasted to his 13th victory against 17 defeats. Rusty Staub scored the first Colt run in the fourth and drove in the second an inning later, and then Joe Morgan tripled home the last one in the ninth. There were .45s at first and third when Jackson retired the next three hitters to end the game.

Jim Wynn and Aaron Pointer were the only Houston starters old enough to vote Friday night. When the rookie Colt pitchers got in trouble it was Staub who walked over to give them a comforting word, as befits a veteran of 19.

Dahl, Coombs and Hoerner — all southpaws — went the first six innings, before rookie right-hander Jim Dickson came on. Dick Drott pitched the ninth, giving up the final Met run. Hoerner, 24, and up from San Antonio, did a fine job in his three-inning chore, blanking the Mets on two hits and striking out two.

The average age of the Houston team that took the field Friday night was 19 years and four months, a fact that has been rather widely advertised. So it was duly noted in the press box that when Rod Kanehl replaced Frank Thomas in left field in the eighth, it lowered the Met average to 32 years and four months.

The fact that the Colt rookies failed to win did not exactly ruin the night. They provided some sort of thrill on almost every play as typified by Brock Davis in left field. He overran one base hit and dropped a fly ball for an error, then made two spectacular catches, one facing the wall in left center and another into the Houston bullpen.

So the Colts still need one victory to surpass last year’s total, and they send Don Nottebart after it Saturday at 1:30 PM against New York’s Craig Anderson.

———————————————————————————————————————

Thank you, Mike McCroskey, for suggesting this game as a great subject for this column.

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8 Responses to “The 1963 All Rookie Colt .45 Lineup Game”

  1. Randy Says:

    So do I count 6 that truly were solid to great players. Is it a self-fulfilling prophecy or truth in hype ? Oh well, and to see these guys so young. On another “statistical” point of interest, one recent year the Univ of Houston’s baseball program had 13 players drafted in one year. I’m sure, I think. Don’t think ill of me if it is “only” 8 or 9.

  2. Mike McCroskey Says:

    Thanks for running this Bill, sure didn’t take you long to work it up. This game was on my mind earlier this year, as I believe the Astros fielded an all Rookie infield and pitching on at least one occasion. I was mentally projecting who the outfield might be in order to repeat this promotion. Probably could have beat the previous record of 5,000+ had the Astros tried it again.

    Another note is I enjoyed the player links. Did not know that Aaron Pointer was the brother of the Pointer Sisters soul group; and I had forgotten that this was Jay Dahl’s only big league apperance, that he was killed in an auto wreck 2 years later.

    Mike

  3. Wayne Williams Says:

    Bill: Re Joe Nuxhall: He didn’t start. On June 10, 1944, my 9th birthday, he entered the game in middle innings and did not start. As to the youngest to start a game, I believe it was Jim Derrington on Sept. 30 in either 1958 or 1959, and he was 16. He also is the youngest pitcher to get a hit. He played for the K.C. A’s. At least that is what he claims. I am on the road but when I get home I will send you the material that Derrington puts out. Wayne

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  5. Mike McCroskey Says:

    Here’s some info I found after reading Wayne Williams post. If Nuxall info is correct, then perhaps, Jay Dahl was youngest starting pitcher in NL history?

    “Jim Derrington is a 17-year-old whiz of a bonus pitcher . . .” – Sports Illustrated in April 1957
    Jim Derrington was the last major league player to break in at the age of 16.

    He was the youngest pitcher to start a game, at the age of 16, and may have been the youngest player in the American League to get a hit.

    He never played in another major league game after age 17; his minor league career ended when he was just 21. He had a serious arm injury in 1960 so he became a position player for Charleston that year. He learned to throw primarily off-speed pitches but was not as effective in 1961.

    He might have made his major league debut at an even earlier age, since he played semi-pro ball at age 13, but a rule at the time required him to play some American Legion ball before he could turn professional.

    After baseball he ran a TV/appliance store, managed a produce business and brokered produce. From 1995 on, he coached and managed in independent ball.

    One source: LA Times article June 29, 1991.

  6. Mark Wernick Says:

    This is an interesting Wikipedia entry on Jay Dahl. It contains much more detail about him than anything I’ve previously been able to find.
    Dahl was highly successful at every level in which he pitched, other than in that all-rookie game for the parent club when he was 17.

    Mark

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Dahl

    Jay Steven Dahl (December 6, 1945 – June 20, 1965) was an American baseball player who debuted in Major League Baseball at age 17 in 1963, then died just two years later in an automobile accident.

    Career
    Signed by the Houston Colt .45s directly out of high school in San Bernardino, California in June 1963, Dahl was sent to the Moultrie, Georgia Colt .22s of the Georgia-Florida League. Dahl dominated the league, with a 5–1 record and a 1.42 ERA—his only loss was a one-hitter, in his pro debut.[1] After making one start for the San Antonio Bullets of the AA Texas League (pitching four innings and allowing only three hits and an unearned run), he made his big-league debut on September 27, 1963 at Colt Stadium against the New York Mets. Dahl wasn’t the only rookie in the lineup for Houston that night; in fact, the entire Colts starting nine were first-year players (the only time this has ever been attempted by an MLB club):

    It was to be Dahl’s only major league appearance; as of 2010[update], Dahl is the most recent MLB player under the age of eighteen.

    In 1964, Dahl developed back problems and did not pitch at all, appearing in eleven games as an outfielder for Statesville, North Carolina in the Western Carolinas League. In 1965, Dahl was back on the mound, starting seven games with Carolina League’s Durham Bulls, then moving over to Salisbury, North Carolina of the WCL, where he had a 5–0 record.[3]

    Death
    At 11:24 p.m. on June 20, 1965, Dahl’s teammate Gary Allen Marshall was driving a GTO with two passengers: Dahl and 20-year-old Patricia Ann Troutman. Apparently traveling at a high rate of speed, the car hit a patch of sand on Lincolntown Road in Salisbury, skidded out of control for about 185 feet (56 m) and slammed broadside into a tree. Troutman was killed instantly, and Dahl died of extensive internal injuries about three hours later in Salisbury’s Rowan Memorial Hospital. Marshall survived the wreck but was blinded, also suffering a broken right arm and a broken right leg; he was later charged with manslaughter, but the charges were dismissed and he was allowed to return home to Hutchinson, Kansas.[4] (Marshall later moved to Dallas and joined the ministry, tending to the newly blinded; he died in 2008, at the age of 62.)[5]

    Earlier that day, Dahl had pitched the Astros into first place; in celebration of his 7–3 victory over Gastonia, North Carolina, the players were the guests that evening at a steak dinner at the home of G. M. Hamilton, Salisbury’s club president. Dahl and Marshall left after dinner and attended a movie with Troutman; they were returning her to her home when the crash occurred.[6]

    At the age of 19, Dahl is the youngest at death of any player in major league history.

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