It is probably better that most people overlooked Eugenio Velez's last at-bat of the baseball season.
Television sportscasters all but ignored the saga of the Dodgers utility player. His name appeared in a few news stories the next day, mostly near the end.
The focus instead was on Matt Kemp's attempt to become the fifth player in baseball history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a season.
And when the Dodgers slugger fell one home run short of that milestone, attention shifted to the playoffs, the big plays and the clutch performances that carried the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals into this season's World Series.
With the Fall Classic in full swing, it might be better to focus on the positive than on what happened to Velez.
"Of course it's strange," he said. "This has never happened in my life."
But in a sport that treasures its numbers, there is no getting around that Velez broke a long-standing record.
It just wasn't the sort of record people talk about.
The scorecard from that September night offers no hint of extraordinary circumstances. After entering the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, Velez hit the third pitch thrown to him ... straight to the Arizona Diamondbacks' second baseman.
The groundout marked Velez's 37th consecutive at-bat without a hit in 2011, a season's worth of futility for a guy who did not see much action. Add nine fruitless trips to the plate at the end of 2010, and the hitless streak equates to a record 46 at-bats.
The best he could say about his hitless streak?
"Many players were here."
In fact, 2011 was a banner year for frustration in baseball. Shortly before Velez broke the record -- which dated to 1909 -- Craig Counsell of the Milwaukee Brewers tied it at 45 before eking out a ninth-inning single in a game in early August.
Adam Dunn needed a technicality to avoid another piece of historic infamy. The Chicago White Sox designated hitter finished the season with a .159 batting average, which would have been a record low for the live-ball era except that he did not have enough plate appearances to qualify.
"My year is what it is," Dunn said near the end of the season. "Like I said, I'll talk about this up until our last game, and then I'll never talk about it again."
Baseball historians appear divided on the issue of "negative records," which for this story's purposes were vetted by the Elias Sports Bureau. Terry Cannon, executive director of the quirky Baseball Reliquary traveling museum, feels they befit a sport in which reaching base a third of the time equals great success.
"Baseball is a very harsh and, at times, unforgiving game," he said. "There's a lot of failure involved."
But when John Thorn and Pete Palmer compiled "The Baseball Record Book," they excluded negative records.
"They are not something you are trying to accomplish," said Thorn, the official historian for Major League Baseball. "I don't think they are a great thing for the sport to trumpet."
GOOD TO BE BAD
Any discussion of negative records must start with Bill Bergen, a catcher for the Brooklyn Superbas in the early 1900s.
If Babe Ruth was the Sultan of Swat, Bergen was the Wizard of Whiff.
In 1909, he went 45 consecutive at-bats without a hit. His .139 batting average for that season was also an all-time low. (Rob Deer hit .179 in 1991, setting the standard for ineptitude in the live-ball era.)
Bergen's epic struggles at the plate underscore the paradox of negative records -- you have to be pretty good to set one. Any player who fails spectacularly in one facet of the game must be talented enough in others to avoid a swift demotion to the minors.
"In the case of Bergen, he was a very competent defensive catcher," Thorn said. "The role of the catcher in that era was paramount."
Roger Craig holds a share of the National League record with 18 consecutive losses on the mound in one season. Yet he was a veteran with World Series experience who had the misfortune of being the best pitcher for the awful New York Mets of the early 1960s.
Even Mario Mendoza lasted almost a decade in the majors. He gave baseball the Mendoza Line -- a pejorative applied to any hitter falling below .200, though Mendoza hit .215 for his career.
"He actually had some good years and was a pretty competent player," Cannon said. "He just got stuck with that title."
As Velez neared his unfortunate record this season, the career .241 hitter tried to maintain perspective.
"I've worked a lot on my defense this year and I've made a lot of progress," he said. "Those are things that I can fall back on during tough times."
BEST OF THE WORST
Flip through the record book and you'll find plenty of examples of substandard play.
Tony Mullane let loose with 280 wild pitches in a career that spanned the late 1800s. Gus Weyhing, playing in the same era, hit 260 batters.
Dave Stewart was called for 16 balks -- almost one for every two starts -- while pitching for the Oakland Athletics during the 1988 season.
Even Hall of Fame players show up on baseball's least-wanted list.
Steve Carlton holds the career record for balks at 90, twice as many as the next closest pitcher. Reggie Jackson, known as "Mr. October," struck out an unprecedented 2,597 times.
At least some of these marks must be viewed in context. Players in the dead-ball era struck out far less often because they rarely swung for the fences.
As recently as the 1960s and early '70s, catchers and shortstops were often considered defensive specialists and weren't asked to produce much on offense.
Dave Campbell forged a career as a journeyman infielder despite hitting only .213 over more than six seasons. In 1973, he earned a share of Bergen's 0-for-45 record.
"In my case, it happened over a three-month period with three different teams," Campbell, who later became a sportscaster, said by email. "I was totally clueless about the streak."
It is hard to imagine baseball without numbers. No other game is so closely linked to mathematics, the box score as sacred as scripture. So where does the negative record fit in?
As Dunn said this season: "People constantly bring it up." When Counsell finished with his hitless streak, he hoped it would be just as quickly forgotten.
"It's been ugly," he told reporters. "It's been bad."
But some can see a positive to the all-time lows. As Campbell put it: "Obviously not a career to boast about, but six-plus years in the majors sure looks nice the first of each month when the pension check arrives."
At the reliquary, Cannon finds negative records almost endearing.
"It think a lot of people root for these guys," he said. "They are the underdogs."
Velez served as an example. Undaunted by a slump -- even a historic one -- he was determined to help his team any way he could. Before the last game, he said: "If I can't contribute with my bat, I have to contribute with my defense."
Unlike Dunn and Counsell, he did not have to answer daily questions from the media. Fans did not boo him on a regular basis. His negative record went by almost unnoticed.
When the season ended, the Dodgers demoted him to the minors.