Luke Appling wore out pitchers hitting six, seven fouls in a row

The figure quoted most often for Appling is 18 consecutive fouls in a single at-bat

Dear Matt: What is the record for the most consecutive foul tips in a major-league baseball game? Conceivably a batter could do this for days. I have personally seen seven or eight in a row, but the normally statistics-happy commentators never quote one in this area. Any ideas? — Dave Buerster, Escondido

Plenty. As usual.

I suppose major-league baseball had to draw the line somewhere, so one of the stats notable because it’s not accumulated is consecutive foul balls. (“Foul tips,” as a subset of “foul balls,” is too hair-splitting to be taken seriously. You’re lucky to be getting anything at all on the subject.)

Anyway, if we can’t reliably say how many, we can make a safe guess about who holds the record. Luke Appling, Chicago White Sox shortstop from 1930 to 1950. The Hall of Famer had exceptionally strong hands and wrists and a great eye. He routinely wore out pitchers on hot days hitting six, seven fouls in a row, waiting for a fat one. In frustration, Detroit pitcher Dizzy Trout once hurled his glove toward the plate, saying, “Can you foul off this one, Luke?”

The anecdotal figure quoted most often for Appling is 18 consecutive fouls in a single at-bat. One story claims 30, though not consecutively. Even if that’s some pitcher’s exaggerated memory, the fact that baseball mavens consider it within the realm of possibility tells you something about Appling’s skills. He had a habit of taking out his occasional displeasure with management by stepping up his foul-off rate. The White Sox estimated that he cost the team several thousand dollars a year in lost balls, and at one time considered taking the cost out of his paycheck.

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