One-Game Gamers

added 9/26/2008 by Gene Elston

Eddie Gaedel
(c) Nat'l Baseball Hall of Fame.

Without a doubt the most recognized one-game gamer in baseball history is Eddie Gaedel, who was the focal point of one of the greatest national stunts pulled off in baseball history. Baseball's well-known maverick Bill Veeck was at his best on August 19, 1951 when the owner of the St.Louis Browns celebrated the 50th anniversary of the American League with a doubleheader at Sportsmans Park against the Detroit Tigers.

At the time, the Browns were in last place, 37 games behind the co-leaders New York and Cleveland. Fans were given birthday cake and ice cream and other souvenirs as they entered the park. With aerial bombs exploding, a midget popped out of a paper-mache cake and wielding a miniature bat was a little fellow wearing a Browns uniform - that midget was the 3-foot, 7-inch, 65-lb. Chicago stunt man Eddie Gaedel.

To some of the 20,299 Browns loyalist in attendance the pre-game entertainment may have pleased most of them. But, as the old vaudeville saying went, "you ain’t seen nothin' yet".

In the bottom of the first inning of the second game field announcer Bernie Ebert stated, "For the Browns, wearing No. 1/8, Eddie Gaedel, now batting for Frank Saucier." (Saucier had started in right field in the top of the first).

Instantly, plate umpire Ed Hurley protested the move and insisted on seeing the contract manager Zack Taylor waved as he was called from the dugout. The umpire accepted the contract as valid - it was a one-game players contract calling for payment of $100. It was learned later that Veeck had admonished the midget, "if you so much as swing that bat at the plate, I'll kill you. No, I won't, but I can get the job done cut-rate because you wouldn't be hard to hide."

Gaedel proceeded to take a four-pitch base-on-balls from Tiger pitcher Bob Cain with Bob Swift catching on his knees. Gaedel, trotted down to first and was replaced by Jim Delsing. The midget, upon his arrival at first, reached up to give his pinch-runner an encouraging pat on the rump and retired amid cheers.

Eddie would die from a beating by muggers on a street in Chicago ten years later. Although American League president Will Harridge said Gaedel was not to be listed in the official baseball records - he's, in there!

GAEDEL, EDWARD CARL
B. June 8, 1925 Chicago D. June 18, 1961 Chicago
B/R T/L 1951 STLA 1G 1W

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Archibald Wright Graham is second on this list, even though it took a fantasy to return his one-game appearance with the New York Giants on June 19, 1905 back to the game. While the Giants were beating the Dodgers 11-1 at Washington Park in Brooklyn, Graham, a 29-year-old rookie, was called on by manager John McGraw to replace George Brown in right field in the late stages of the game. His major league record reads NO at-bats and NO chances in the field.

Graham was talented enough to reach the majors following a season with Scranton in the Class-B New York State League in 1904. But baseball was not his first love - he was a 1901 graduate of the University of North Carolina with a bachelor of arts and pre-med courses. He later put himself through the University of Maryland medical school by playing baseball. Thus his famous nickname, "Moonlight" Graham.

His death came in 1948 at age 72 and in 1989 his name returned as a major player - his life portrayed in the movie "Field Of Dreams", one of the greatest baseball films of all time. The fantasy film is set in an Iowa cornfield and is a testament to the magic of baseball. For this, Hollywood is congratulated for this timeless film that brought back memories of an era of old-time baseball and its players. And thanks to a superb performance by actor Burt Lancaster, Archibald "Moonlight" Graham was brought back to life.

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In 1962, the Houston Colt .45s signed 18-year-old John Paciorek, a 6-2, 210-lb outfielder out of St. Ladislaus High School in Detroit for a bonus of $100,000. He was told to report to Cocoa, Florida for spring training in February of 1963. In limited play in the spring, he was 2-for-7 at the plate and was sent down to Modesto in the Class-A California League where he hit nine home runs, drove in 49 runs with an average of .219. He was recalled by Houston in September and saw no action until the final game of the season when manager Harry Craft started the rookie in right field against the New York Mets, batting seventh.

John Paciorek
(c) Houston Astros

Paciorek would be the only rookie in Houston's lineup except for lead-off shortstop Glenn Vaughn who had seen action in eight previous games. In the second inning, Paciorek, making his major league debut, drew a base on balls and scored on a triple by John Bateman. In the fourth inning, Paciorek came to bat with the bases full and picked up his first big league hit with a single, driving in Rusty Staub and Bob Aspromonte. He would later score on a sacrifice fly by pinch hitter Pete Runnels.

With one out and Aspro on third in the fifth inning, Paciorek drove in his third run of the game with another single and scored his third run on pinch-hitter Bob Lillis' base hit. The rookie came to bat in the sixth and picked up his second walk and scored his fourth run on another hit by Lillis. Leading off in the eighth inning, he singled and was rubbed out on a double play off the bat of Dave Adlesh. Add it all up - playing in his first and only major league game, Paciorek stroked three singles, drove in three runs, walked twice, scored four times and did it all in five plate appearances - plus, two fine running catches in right field. The Colt.45s beat the New York Mets 13-4 with Jim Umbricht the winning pitcher. Not many fans saw the game on September 29, 1963 - 5,409 total, 3,899 paid - as John Paciorek had a perfect day in what was to be his only major league game.

Paciorek went to spring training in 1964 but played in only 44 games in the lower minors before undergoing back surgery. He was released following the 1967 season and invited to spring training by Cleveland in 1968 and released in 1969. Asked years later concerning his achievement he said, "I don't remember any interviews after the game, (how could anyone forget an interview by Loel Passe?) but the next day my name was plastered all over the news." John eventually entered the teaching profession at the Clairbourn School in San Gabriel, California, becoming a family man fathering four sons and four daughters.

While John's big league career lasted only one game, younger brother Tom Paciorek enjoyed an 18-year career in the majors, playing for the Dodgers, Braves, Mariners, White Sox, Mets and Rangers from 1970 to 1987. Baby brother Jim Paciorek had a 48-game major league career with the Brewers in 1987, batting .228. But, at family gatherings, John can still brag that he had a higher career batting average than his siblings - a 1.000 mark than can never be topped.

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Larry Yount was born in Houston, graduated from Taft High in Woodland Hills, California becoming the second 18-year-old righthander to sign out of that high school with the Colt .45s/Astros (Larry Dierker was the first when he was signed as a free agent on June 21, 1964). Yount, at 6-2 and 185-lbs, was drafted by the Astros in the fifth round of the June 1968 draft. (You football fans might be interested in knowing that famed quarterback Ken Stabler was their number two draft pick out of the University of Alabama). The Astros also selected three other future big-leaguers in the June draft - outfielder Rich Chiles, and pitchers Bill Grief and Ken Forsch.

Yount spent four years in the minors before his call-up to Houston in 1971. He would appear in only one game in the majors and it was the shortest and strangest in baseball history. It began and ended on September 15, 1971 at the Astrodome. He was warming up in the bullpen in the ninth inning with the Braves leading the Astros, 4-2. Felix Millan was waiting to step into the batter's box; Ralph Garr was on deck and Hank Aaron was in the hole. Manager Harry Walker was about to bring in Yount, which would be his major league debut.

Let’s pick up Larry‘s recollection in his own words:

"I had been serving in the military with the National Guard following our minor league season at Oklahoma City that ended in early September when I was called up to Houston. I hadn't pitched for about a week and while warming up in the bullpen, I felt something pop in my elbow. Being 21, I figured when I heard my name announced, adrenaline would take over and everything would work out. When I got to the mound, I took several warm up tosses before the pain in my right elbow proved to be too much."

So Yount made a decision. "I don't think many 21-year-olds in that situation would have the sense to do what I did. But I tried to be halfway smart about it and not screw up my arm for the future I decided not pitching was the best thing to do." Yount admitted the discomfort and was replaced by Jim Ray.

Yount would go into the record books as a one game pitcher without throwing a single pitch. When the 1972 season rolled around, he was as good as ever. At AAA Oklahoma City in 30 games, working 166 innnigs with 112 strike outs, he finished the season with only five wins and 14 losses and a 5.14 ERA. In March of 1974, the Astros traded Yount to Milwaukee for Wilbur Howard and, by 1974, he became an ex-pitcher.

Like John Paciorek, Larry Yount had a younger brother whose baseball career fared much better. Commenting on his brother, Robin Yount, who spent 20 great years with the Milwaukee Brewers and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999, Larry said with a smile, "I'm in MLB's minor league alumni, but otherwise I don’t have any direct involvement with baseball."

Larry is now a successful businessman with LKY Development Company in Scottsdale, Arizona. Robin and Larry are not the only Younts listed in "Total Basebal"l - the game's ultimate encyclopedia. There is Eddie who played with the Athletics in 1937 and Pittsburgh in 1939 and Herbert "Ducky" Yount with the Baltimore Terriers (Federal League) in 1914 - he too was a one-game pitcher).

Larry Yount Walter Alston
(c) Houston Astros (c) Nat'l Baseball
Hall of Fame

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The first major league was formed in 1871 and over baseball’s long history, there have been hundreds and hundreds of players in the record books with only one inning of service. In that opening season, the first one-inning player was Frank Abercrombie who played first base and went 1-for-4 at the plate with Troy, New York in the National Association. Some have been used as pinch-hitters or pinch-runners, some entered as a defensive replacement without a single chance. Most of the one-gamers have been pitchers with high ERAs such as Rex Hudson of the Dodgers on July 27, 1974, pitching two innings giving up five hits, two home runs, five earned runs for an ERA of 22.50. At the same time, there are those who pitched a perfect inning, as the Astros' Mike Mendoza did on September 7, 1979.

I’m sure most of you baseball fans remember how Walter Alston began his major league career. Alston, at age 24, was called up late in 1936 by the Cardinals and made his first-and-only appearance as a player replacing Johnny Mize who had been ejected for arguing. It was not a good debut. He was fanned by Cub pitcher Lon Warneke in his only at bat and made one error in two chances at first base. Alston would turn to managing in the minors and, following an outstanding record there, was hired as skipper of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953. For the next 23 years, he would win seven pennants and four World Championships for Brooklyn and Los Angeles.

Alston was not the only one to leave following only one game and pick up a new career. John Sanders made his one game appearance as a pinch runner for the Kansas City A's in 1965. He never played in the minors, but became the head baseball coach at the University of Nebraska. Tom Yewcic, after signing a bonus with Detroit in 1954, had only one at-bat with the Tigers then moved to the gridiron. He ended up as quarterback with the American Football League Boston Patriots from 1961 to 1966.

One of the strangest one-gamers occured on May 18, 1872 when the regular catcher for the Brooklyn Eckfords in the National Association was hit in the eye by a foul ball and knocked unconscious. When no other member of the team would catch, a fan in the stands volunteered and caught the remainder of the game against the New York Mutuals. The substitute catcher hit a double in two at-bats, scored a run, had three putouts and three errors. New York newspapers covering the game indicate that no one bothered to ask his name so he went into the record books as John Doe - a one-game gamer.

Gene Elston is the former play-by-play voice of the Houston Colt .45s and Houston Astros (1962-1986) and the 2006 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award given by the Baseball Hall of Fame. For more of Gene's remembrances and historical perspectives, visit Gene Elston's Corner.