Spector pulls off jack-of-all-trades feat

By GLENN MILLER
Roy Hobbs Baseball
RHWS 33

Al Spector Photo courtesy of Carroll Wood Carroll Wood played 9 positions in 7 innings.

On Aug. 11 in a park in St. Louis, a 75-year-old Roy Hobbs Baseball player named Al Spector did something that only 5 big-league players have ever done.

Ever.

Those 5men were between the ages of 23 and 31 when they played all nine positions in a game. And Bert Campaneris, Cesar Tovar, Scott Sheldon, Shane Haller and Andrew Romine needed 9 innings to play 9 positions. Spector did it in 7 innings.

Oh, and Spector is more than twice their ages at the time they made baseball history.

Oh, and another thing — Spector has had both hips replaced.

“That makes it all the more amazing,” said Carroll Wood, who manages Spector’s team.

Spector played 9 positions in 7 innings in a game shortened because of the 10-run mercy rule. Spector played all 3 outfield positions in the seventh inning of a game in a 60-plus age division.

About a month after his rare baseball achievement, Spector was still reveling in it.

“That was a treat,” Spector said.

The nine positions in one game wasn’t a spur of the moment lark. Spector and Wood had been talking about it for a few years.

But it wasn’t easy, as anybody who has been in St. Louis in August knows. Wood said the heat index that day was more than 100 degrees.

“While people decades younger than him didn’t even consider going outside the air conditioning,” Wood said in an email.

The heat and humidity didn’t stop Spector. Nothing can apparently stop Spector. Not even Missouri’s summer heat and humidity and artificial hips and being so old. He was born in the first half of the 20th century.

And there he was two decades into the 21st century, donning shin guards, a chest protector and face mask to catch in a hardball game.

Like many Roy Hobbs players Spector grew up often participating in a playground, pick-up version of baseball that goes by names such as “work-up” or in St. Louis as “rounds.”

“It was part of our local culture,” Spector said.

In parks without adult supervision back in the day, two or three kids would bat. If the batter made an out, he headed to right field. Then as another batter made an out, a player would rotate to center and then to left and then the infield and eventually to hit again.

In the terminology of one version, players worked their way around the field and played every position on the journey. It made for well-rounded players.

As a boy, Spectator played a St. Louis version of the game, little suspecting that eventually the versatility he developed on playgrounds would come in handy decades later.

At University High School in St. Louis, Spectator played first base and catcher. In Roy Hobbs play, his normal position is third base. As an American Legion player, Spector caught. One of the pitchers he caught then was Ken Holtzman, who later went on to a long big-league career, most notably with the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s.

Spectator’s 9-position game came in a local Roy Hobbs league for a team called the St. Louis Patriots.

The around-the-diamond adventure began on the mound. Displaying Greg Maddux-like efficiency, he breezed through the first inning on 6 pitches. Then in the second inning the former high school catcher donned the gear.

In the following innings he worked his way around the infield. With the game slated to end after 7 innings, Spector started the seventh inning in left field and then after an out and moved to center, and then out to right field to round out the day.

Mission accomplished.

What would Cesar Tovar or Bert Campaneris say about this?

We don’t know that but for Spector it “felt really good.”

Maybe 2021 Roy Hobbs World Series players can ask him about the achievement. Spector has been a fixture in Fort Myers nearly every fall since 1999. He estimates he’s missed only three or four World Series in all those years.

Is Spector willing to give it another try, to once again play all 9 positions in a game?

“I would love to do it again,” Spector said. Maybe next time he will play all 9 positions in a 9-inning game.

And, ideally, it won’t be in August in St. Louis with the heat index more than 100.

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