Spencer Torkelson and the Worst Debuts in Detroit Tigers History

Mar 17, 2021 - Spencer Torkelson hits a foul ball. Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 17, 2021 - Spencer Torkelson hits a foul ball. Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /
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Worst Detroit Tigers Debut Number 7 – Allan Travers

Detroit Tigers
DETROIT, MICHIGAN – A view of the statue of Hall-of-Famer Ty Cobb. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Baseball lends itself to fantasy in film. A ghost tells a man to build a baseball diamond in his corn field. A young boy breaks his arm and can suddenly throw 100 MPH. A Golden Retriever becomes the star of a little league team. A random college student gets plucked off the streets to pitch in a big-league game. Except, that last one actually happened. The story of Allan Travers is worthy of a movie, but here’s the short version.

In 1912 the famously irascible Ty Cobb took it upon himself to enter the stands and beat the tar out of a heckler. This led to his suspension, which in turn caused most of the Tigers to strike until Cobb was reinstated. American League President Ban Johnson threatened to fine Tigers owner Frank Navin $5,000 for every game the Tigers forfeited, so manager Hughie Jennings scrambled to find anyone who could play.

This is how Allan Travers, a 20-year-old assistant manager for the St. Joseph College varsity baseball team, ended up pitching in a Major League Baseball game. And the results were what you might expect. Travers pitched an 8-inning complete game, giving up 26 hits, 7 walks, 1 strikeout, and 24 runs (14 earned). He still holds the record for most earned runs allowed in a single game. Travers never played another game, and went on to become a Catholic priest.