Futility Player (1929)

“Damon Runyon says the Cubs constitute the ‘most futile outfit’ ever to enter a world series. In short, Connie Mack put in utility men against Joe McCarthy’s futility players.” Journal and Courier (Lafayette, IN), October 16, 1929, p6

  • NOTE: There was a widely-circulated story in 1943 about a young man who wrote to Casey Stengel, then managing the Braves, looking for a tryout. He supposedly described himself as a pitcher and “a first class futility player.” There are scattered other uses of the term — and even more of “futility infielder” —  before the appearance in Bill James’ 1983 Baseball Abstract cited in the Dictionary. Perhaps the most notable of these was Don Gile, a first baseman and catcher for the Red Sox who described himself as a “futility player” in the middle of 1962, his only full season in the majors. Gile was hitless in his first 34 at bats that year before getting his first hit in the first game of a doubleheader on the last day of the season. He got two more hits in the nightcap, including a walk-off two-run homer, and never played in the major leagues again.

Previous earliest use (Dickson Baseball Dictionary, 3rd edition, 2009):
“The term was coined by Bill James (Baseball Abstract, 1983). “