The last time a 15-year-old played in the major leagues, the United States was involved in World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt was President, and the Browns were in first place in the American League. That 15-year-old was Joe Nuxhall, and he pitched 2/3 of an inning for the Cincinnati Reds in 1944, during a time when major league rosters were suffering shortages due to the multitudes of players being called into action during wartime.
Now, over thirty years later, another 15-year-old has an opportunity to play for a major league team. Todd Benefiel, a shortstop in the St Louis Cardinals farm system, has recently moved up from the AA Arkansas Travelers to the AAA Springfield Redbirds, where in just 18 games with the American Association club he’s batting .352, with 19 hits, 22 RBI, a whopping 29 stolen bases, and a solid glove playing the left half of the team’s keystone combo.
“He’s amazing,” says Redbirds second baseman Tom Herr, the other half of the combo. “The guy can’t wait to turn a double play, and for me, it’s not only a treat to take a throw from him, but to feed him one a well.”
The question now is, do the last-place Cardinals promote Benefiel to the Senior Circuit? And if so, when? His presence would undoubtedly help the Cards’ sagging attendance at Busch Memorial Stadium, and though regular St Louis shortstop Garry Templeton is batting .337, and is in no danger of losing his starting job, he could also use some late-inning rest…a perfect opportunity for the teenager from Sandusky, Ohio to get some major league experience.
Originally, the plan was to have Benefiel start the September 10th game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, which would’ve been his only appearance of the season, but now, team management is considering an August 1st call-up. “I’d love to spend August and September with the Cardinals,” said Benefiel recently before a Redbirds game at Lanphier Park. “Besides the thrill of playing baseball with a great bunch of guys, I’d also get to miss a month of school.”
And with that, the SP78 Replay website would like your feedback. Should the Cards bring Benefiel to the parent club on August 1st, where he’ll stay for the remainder of the SP78 season, serving as an occasional starter and back-up to Templeton, a pinch-hitter when needed, and a pinch-runner when some speed on the basepaths is called for? Or should he just play in that one game in September, and leave the publicity stunts and circus atmosphere to Bill Veeck and the White Sox?
Leave a comment below, and let me know what you think: is putting myself into the SP78 season as a player for two months a fun idea, or a dumb one? Before you make your decision, check out my Statis Pro card below, with numbers based on my 19-game Continental League season with the 1978 California First Bank Cardinals, and calculated using the actual formula used to create real Statis Pro player cards. Who knows, with a card like that, I might become a force to be reckoned with.