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August 30, 1895: Phil Wisner & Fred Buckingham

On the same date 124 years ago today, Washington Senators teammates Phil Wisner and Fred Buckingham made their only career appearances in the major leagues. Wisner, a shortstop from Washington, D.C. was playing for his hometown team. Major League Baseball as we know it had not yet been created. It was simply the National League in 1895, still six years before the American League would form and create the modern major leagues.

Wisner never ended up getting to bat, because statistically, he was one of the worst fielders in league history. Four balls were hit to him at shortstop and he made errors on three of them. The not-so-crafty shortstop looked like the shortstop in your beer league softball game that has had three too many. He was replaced in the field before he ever got a chance to bat. Given the short leash he already had, it wasn't hard to see why he was never given another chance.

Buckingham started the game against the St. Louis Browns as the teams prepared to do battle for the second time that day. In the first game of the doubleheader, St. Louis edged out Washington, 6-5. Buckingham was done no favors by his shortstop, Wisner, whose errors cost the team several runs. By the time the pitcher was pulled, he had allowed five runs, just two of them earned, in three innings of work.

The Browns won the second game, 5-4, giving them two one-run victories within hours of one another. In a pair of matchups not even a mother could love, the Browns improved to 33-73 on the season while the Senators fell to 31-65, 32.5 games back of the first-place Baltimore Orioles, the franchise that would eventually become the New York Yankees.

Both Wisner and Buckingham slipped into obscurity after their lone major-league appearances in 1895. Without minor leagues in those days, it's impossible to know how long their baseball careers continued on factory or semi-pro teams, but it likely wasn't long. Wisner died at 67 in Washington, D.C., where he was born and had made his one major-league appearance. Buckingham, a Yale graduate, outlived his counterpart, and passed away in 1948, two months shy of his 73rd birthday.

Dual "cup of coffee" stories coming on the same day is rare and worth celebrating. For as quickly as each could be called into major-league service, they could be dispatched, never to be seen or heard from by the baseball world again.


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