Obit of the Day: Short Career Leads to Long Softball Game
Marv Rotblatt pitched in 26 games in his short major league career. He debuted on July 4, 1948 for his hometown team, the Chicago White Sox. Facing the Detroit Tigers he threw two innings, surrendering one hit. He would have six more appearances that season and then head back to minors until 1950.
He played with the Sox through the 1951 season, after which he was traded - to the minor league Seattle Rainiers. Instead of heading to the Pacific Northwest, Mr. Rotblatt joined the Army and never returned to baseball. He would retire with a 4-3 record and a 4.82 ERA.
And there would end his story.
But Mr. Rotblatt’s name survives - 405 miles northwest of Comiskey Park at a small liberal arts college that he never attended. In 1967 on the 100th anniversary of the founding of Carleton College (Northfield, MN), a group of students decided to play a marathon softball game of 100 innings.
The game was organized by the Marvin J.* Rotblatt Memorial^ Softball League. According to stories the league was named for the mediocre pitcher because one of the league organizers had his baseball card. Eventually the league disbanded but the game became known simply as “The Rotblatt” and has been played for 47 years - with an inning added each year. (There are also unusual rules including only hitting one handed - because you are to carry a drink in the other.)
Mr. Rotblatt did visit the college and play in the game, hitting a homer in at least one plate appearance.
Marv Rotblatt, namesake of what Sports Illustrated called “the world’s longest intramural event,” died on July 16, 2013 at the age of 85.
Random note: In 1988, Mr. Rotblatt was briefly in the news for his own death, which was fictional. Dr. Harold Klawans, a Chicago neurologist, collected a list of case studies and published them under the title Toscanini’s Fumble. To ensure patient confidentiality, Dr. Klawans changed the patient names to those of former major league baseball players. One case study featured “Marv Rotblatt” who died from a brain tumor. The living Mr. Rotblatt sued Dr. Klawans…for “defamation of character or something.”
Sources: NY Times, baseball-reference.com, retrosheet.org, Carleton College Class of 1967 page (which features a great poem documenting the first Rotblatt), and the Chicago Reader
(Image of Mr. Rotblatt’s 1951 Bowman card, which served as an inspiration for the softball game named for the pitcher. Carleton College’s Class of 1967 has collected 8 of the cards which are worth approximately $300/card. Courtesy of carleton67.net)
* The “J” was an invention, I could find no record of Mr. Rotblatt’s middle name.
^ Mr. Rotblatt was very much alive in 1967 but “Memorial” adds gravitas.
Check out the Obit of the Day sports page for more great athletes.