Emil Matthew Verban was born in Lincoln, Illinois on August 27, 1915 and became a second baseman who played for the St. Louis Cardinals (1944–1946), Philadelphia Phillies (1946–1948), Chicago Cubs (1948–1950) and Boston Braves (1950). Verban batted and threw right-handed.
Verban was a second baseman noted primarily for his fielding with four National League teams from 1944 through 1950. Verban did not reach the major leagues until the age of 28, when he joined the St. Louis Cardinals. He distinguished himself in the 1944 World Series against the St. Louis Browns, batting .412 (7-for-17) and driving in the deciding run in Game Six as the Cardinals won, 4 games to 2. Browns owner Don Barnes had earned the ire of Verban after refusing his request for a better seat for his pregnant wife. After the final game of the series, Verban was quoted as saying, “Now you can sit behind the post, meathead”, in reference to Barnes.
His most productive season came in 1945, when he hit .278 and posted career-highs in runs (59), hits (166), doubles (22), triples (8) and runs batted in (72), and led the National League in games played (155) and fielding percentage (.978).
He made three consecutive appearances in the All-Star Game (1945–47) and in 1947, he became the first Phillies second baseman to start an All-Star game. A good contact hitter, from 1947-48 he led the league in at-bats per strikeouts (67.5 and 34.8).
In a seven-season career, Verban posted a .272 average with one home run and 241 RBI in 853 games.
Verban’s fateful moment came in a game on September 6th, 1948 between Verban’s Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds. Going into the top of the 7th inning of the first game of a doubleheader, Verban had recorded 2,592 career at-bats without hitting a home run. With the Cubs trailing 1-0 to the Cincinnati Reds, ironically the team that had originally signed him, Verban hit a game-tying solo home run on an 0-1 pitch with two outs.
What makes this unique is that no player in the history of the game had ever gone as many at-bats as Verban had without hitting a home run, and no player has done so since.
What makes Verban’s lone home run all the more remarkable is who he hit it against. It was a twist of fate that Verban’s home run would come against the team that originally signed him in 1936, but never gave him a chance to play. But more unusual was the pitcher who gave up the blast. It was none other than Johnny Vander Meer, the only pitcher in Major League Baseball history to throw no-hitters in consecutive starts.
In 1975, a group of Chicago Cubs fans based in Washington, D.C. formed the Emil Verban Society to honor him. Verban was picked as the epitome of a Cubs player, competent but obscure and typifying the work ethic. The Society became an immediate hit, its membership swelling to 700 with plenty of dignitaries
Verban initially believed he was being ridiculed, but his ill feeling disappeared several years later when he was flown to Washington to meet President Ronald Reagan, also a society member, at the White House.
Verban died on June 8, 1989, at the age of 73. He is burid at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Lincoln, Illinois.