Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Player Profile: Jimmy Banning's Journeys through Fargo

James M. "Jimmy" Banning stood 5'6" and weighed 150 pounds, batting left-handed and throwing right-handed in a major league career that spanned three games. Yes, three - one game in 1888 and two in 1889 as a catcher for the Washington Nationals of the National League. He had five chances in the field with no errors, and just one at-bat and no hits.

The year before his major league debut, Banning played for the Fargo club in the 1887 Red River Valley League that also featured teams from Fergus Falls, Wahpeton, and Grand Forks.

Fast forward to July 18, 1891, after his major league "cup of coffee" and time spent with Detroit and Hamilton, Ontario of the International League. Banning appeared in a contest between Fargo and Grand Forks that was played at Devils Lake, ND. The game was notable for lasting a remarkable 25 innings. Even more noteworthy is the fact that after 25 innings, the score was Fargo 0, Grand Forks 0. The game was called so that the teams could catch the trains home. Darkness, too, may have been a factor in a time before stadium lights. Banning had 0 hits in 11 at bats in that game. (Obviously, none of the hitters had very much success, though.) Another unique note is the fact that three baseballs were used in the game. Normally, one baseball sufficed for an entire game! (Impressive considering that at the major league level today, any ball that hits the dirt when pitched is immediately exchanged for a fresh one.)

In 1897, Banning again appeared for Fargo in the new Red River Valley League. Although only 31-years-old at the time, the Forum reported that Banning wasn't as swift as he was in the past. Banning appeared in just a few games as a player for the Fargo team in 1897, and spent part of the season umpiring other league games.

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