Strange But True: Baseball’s Craziest Race

During the winter of 1913-1914, John McGraw, manager of the New York Giants, recruited a group of major leaguers for an exhibition tour. One of the players was John “Hans” Lobert, probably the fastest base runner of his time. He had been clocked going around the bases in 13 4/5 seconds, which would be excellent time even today.

One day the teams played at Oxnard, California. Of course, touring teams were a great attraction and the stands were filled. Many fans were in the outfield, some of them local cowboys mounted on horses.

Before the game the mayor of Oxnard challenged Lobert to a race. “Who do I run against?” Lobert asked.

“How about racing a horse around the bases?” the mayor answered.

Lobert refused at first, but McGraw convinced him to go through with it. A lot of money was bet on the outcome. It was agreed that Lobert would run inside the base paths while the horse ran outside them.

Lobert got off to a fast start and beat the horse to first base. The cow pony was right behind him on the outside. Lobert gained speed rounding second, but the horse turned sharply and began to crowd into Lobert’s area. Lobert was forced to break stride. Between third and home the horse passed Lobert and won the race by a nose.

Lobert wanted the horse disqualified for not living up to the rules of the race.

From The Giant Book of More Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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