Baseball has changed a lot since the 1975 World Series, when Carlton Fisk was waving balls fair and Luis Tiant was growing an awesome moustache. In those days, relief pitchers didn’t jog the 300 feet to the mound. Oh, no. They were shuttled out there in bullpen carts, cars or motorcycles, and each team had their own take on the theme.
Paul Lukas wrote the definitive article on the history of bullpen carts for ESPN.go.com in 2007. According to Lukas, the first team to employ a car to drive a hurler to the mound was the Cleveland Indians, way back in 1950. Reports described it as a “little red auto.”
In 1951, the Chicago White Sox began using one at Comiskey Park – along with a black Cadillac supplied by a funeral home for visiting relievers. The practice was abandoned by 1955 because “customers were firing all kinds of debris at the car.”
A similar fate befell a Chrysler LeBaron that the White Sox later used to shuttle pitchers to the mound. Pitchers wouldn’t ride in it, but nevertheless, the car still had to make a full lap along the warning track during a pitching change. Lukas quoted Chicago historian Josh Cohen: “The beer shower that the LeBaron received had to be seen to be believed – full $3.50 cups came raining out of the upper deck.”
Boston Red Sox – Circa 1975 to 1979 AMF Bullpen Cart
The Boston Red Sox Bullpen Cart is the prototypical bullpen cart you’ll see replicated in scale models available online. It uses a four-wheeled AMF golf cart as its basis, and it features a baseball-like cab, with red painted stitching. The “a-pillars” – for lack of a better term – are baseball bats, and the headlight nacelles are baseball gloves.
The Red Sox Bullpen Cart changed with the team uniform. From 1975 to 1978, the Red Sox had red hats, which is shown at the top of this article in 1977 with famous lunatic Bill Lee extricating himself from the cab. In 1979, the Red Sox went back to all navy blue, and the Bullpen Cart changed with the team.
New York Yankees – 1972 Datsun 1200
In the 1970s and early 1980s, the Yankees weren’t utilizing golf carts to get their relief pitchers out to the mound. They were running them out there in regular automobiles, doctored up with Yankee pinstripes and logos. The Datsun here was used for a few years, and was later replaced with a Toyota Liftback in 1980, which was eventually sold off in the classifieds of the New York Times. Word has it that the Yankees also used Dodge Omnis and Chrysler New Yorkers in the mid-1980s.
Seattle Mariners – Circa 1982 – MS Seattle Relief
If you’re going to name your team for your city’s nautical heritage, you should go all the way. By the early 1980s, the Seattle Mariners were an all-new team, only enfranchised in 1977. In order to capitalize on Seattle’s nautical history, and keep fans entertained who weren’t all that interested in the Mariner’s dismal 64-98 record, the team got creative. On opening night in 1982, it employed a tugboat for a Bullpen Cart. Named the ‘MS Seattle Relief,’ it’s shown here in the general vicinity of relief pitcher Larry Anderson. According to MarinersBlog, “…no Mariners pitcher ever rode in the Tugboat when he entered a game at the Kingdome, and the Tugboat was quickly put in dry dock.”
New York Mets – 1986
Ohhhhh, the 1986 New York Mets…The Mets had a Bullpen Cart not unlike that of the Red Sox and the Dodgers, but it had fallen into disrepair, with the headliner sagging and covered in a layer of dust. The logo had faded from the ballcap. No matter for Mets fan Eric Bennett. According to Jim O’Malley, writing on Mets360.com, “There is a reported incident at Shea Stadium that after the Mets won the division championship in 1986, Eric Bennett (a former stadium vendor) headed to the bullpen during the ensuing celebration on the field, hijacked the cart, and took it on a joyride around the outfield until the engine stalled.”
If only he had run over Mookie Wilson in the process…
Sugar Land Skeeters – 2012
Christopher Hill is VP of Business Development for the Sugar Land Skeeters, a minor league team outside of Houston. According to a story in the New York Times, Hill was looking for a few creative ways of putting butts in seats. He recalled the Bullpen Carts from the 1970s, and got in touch with Alex Restrepo, who found a bunch of old photos and proceeded to build a refreshed Bullpen Cart in about five months. The cart – made of fiberglass and wood – includes leather seats, neon lighting, a sound system and a bubble machine. (Ed note: the ‘hat’ portion of that cart looks a little off)
Football teams utilized similar carts in the 1970s. Dig the Saab 95 Wagon in the background, too.
Image Source: letsgosox.blogspot.com, espn.go.com, Sugar Land Skeeters