September 6, 2013
Last Friday I was heading out of the office in Hood River, when I News Editor Kirby Neumann-Rea starting chatting with me about baseball careers. He had recently checked out a book from the library and was talking about how amazing it was that Hall of Famer Al Kaline was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 1953, went straight to the major leagues that same year and would go on to play 22 years for the same team. At the same time he wondered about players who had 1 game careers, and when he turned the page in the book, sure enough he found one. Some players like Kaline get decades in the spotlight, others get only one moment. That moment may be awful (like Ron Wright, who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, double play and triple play for the 2002 Seattle Mariners in his only career game) but they can always say they made “The show.” As Crash Davis put it in Bull Durham:
“Yeah, I was in the show. I was in the show for 21 days once - the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains.”
The younger brother of one of my best friends recently made his debut in High A-baseball after years of toiling in independent ball. It’s still a long way to the big leagues, but when a team you played for in the independent leagues folded mid-season because it couldn’t pay its players, High-A ball is a step up. And it means someone noticed you and decided you were worth a look. A few more looks, a few more miles on the winding road that is minor league baseball and you could find yourself in the show, even if it is for just one game. And regardless of what happens in that one game, you were a major leaguer, and no-one can take that away from you. Even if you are John Paciorek. Signed as an 18-year old by the Houston Colt .45s in 1963, he briefly appeared in the minors before making his debut in Sept. 29 of that year. Playing rightfield and batting seventh he destroyed New York Mets pitchers that day, recording three hits, walking twice, driving in three runs and scoring four more. And that was that. Paciorek never appeared in another major league game. He missed the following season with a back injury then toiled for five more years in the minors but managed a batting average of .209 and an on base percentage of .236. He was out of baseball at 24. For one day though he was perfect, sporting a career major league batting average of 1.000 ands an OBP of 1.000. Not bad for a one time appearance. According to a 2012 Sports Illustrated profile, he is now happily coaching and teaching in California, with no regrets about his short career. I’ve included the full list of one-time only players below. The pitcher list is a little odd, as it includes a lot of position players called in for mop up duty in blowouts. However, even those are noteworthy. Chris Davis leads the American League in home runs this year, but did you know he is also undefeated in his pitching career? Also, Larry Yount, the older brother of Hall of Famer Robin Yount, made only one appearance in his career, but got hurt during warm-up pitches, and thus is the only pitcher in major league history to make his only career appearance without actually facing a batter. You want the full list of one game major league careers? Of course you do! See below for the tables, via baseball-reference.com's fantastic play index. I warn you, they are long, and once you start googling some of the names on this list, you may go down a historical rabbit hole hole from which it could take days to climb out.