You could probably make the argument that Mark Lemke wasn’t even a mediocre baseball player. You could probably also say that he is simply a footnote in the annals of Major League Baseball. However, I recall Lemke for providing me and other baseball fans with a great 10 days of entertainment during the 1991 World Series, arguably the greatest Fall Classic of all-time.
By most offensive metrics, Lemke wasn’t even close to being a mediocre hitter. For his career, the second baseman, hit .246 with an on-base percentage of only .314 and a career OPS+ of 71, 29 points below the average hitter. Lemke was decent in the field though, and probably rates as better-than-average, this is partly what made him a regular in the Atlanta Braves lineup from 1990-1997.
Lemke’s claim to fame came in the 1991 World Series. The series pitted the Atlanta Braves against the Minnesota Twins in a battle of teams that went from last place to first place that season. The Braves boasted a great young pitching staff headlined by Tom Glavine, Steve Avery and Greg Maddux while the Twins had the star power of Kirby Puckett, Jack Morris and Kent Hrbek. They also featured the mullet of Dan Gladden.
In 1991 regular season, Lemke hit .234 with 2 homers and 2 triples all season. In the World Series though he turned into an absolute beast. The consistently light-hitting Lemke went off on Minnesota pitching to the tune of a .417 batting average, a .462 OBP and a staggering 3 triples in the seven game classic. In game three of the series, Lemke hit a game-winning, walk-off single that prevented the Braves from falling into a 3-0 series hole. Throughout the epic series, Lemke came through time-after-time and his legend grew in Atlanta.
Lemke’s main career accomplishment, aside from his World Series performance, was that he somehow had 3,664 plate appearances in his career and was never hit by a pitch. Not once. Lemke played in 1,069 games and was not hit by a pitch once. That’s a big league record. Guessing he stood off the plate a little bit.
When his days a second baseman came to an end with the Boston Red Sox in 1998, Lemke signed with an Independent League team and learned how to throw a knuckleball. Seriously. As a IL knuckleball pitcher, he had an ERA of 6.68 and threw dozens of wild pitches. The dream was over.
Lemke currently does some radio and television work for the Braves.