The 10 Best and Worst One-Game Careers in MLB History

Ryan WinnAnalyst IJuly 5, 2009

Throughout baseball's rich history, there as always been one goal for every young boy to have picked up a bat or a ball—make it to "The Show."

"The Show" is, among baseball players and purists, code for Major League Baseball.

Although there are three other professional levels in baseball, making it to the big leagues is the gold standard for baseball success. Of all the players that have made it to their ultimate goal, 1,480 have appeared in only one game.

This list takes a look at who made the best, and the worst, of their one shot at glory.

The Best

5. PH Dutch Schirick, St. Louis Browns—Sept. 17, 1914

0/0, 1 BB, 2 SB

Even though he had only one AB and never played defense, Schirick earns his spot in history not because of his glove, arm, or even bat—he should be remembered for his swift feet.

In the middle of a 12-2 loss to the Washington Senators, Schirick was given a chance at his one and only MLB plate appearance.

He drew a walk, but that wasn't enough for him. He proceeded to steal second base, and then made his way over to third.

His two steals in that game gives him the most steals out of anyone with a one-game career, and his effort to make the best of his chance earns him a spot on this list.

4. RHP Chris Saenz, Milwaukee Brewers—April 24, 2004

6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K

Called up from AA to make an emergency start against the division rival St. Louis Cardinals, Chris Saenz did everything his big-league ball club could have wanted him to do and more.

Things got off to a strong start for Saenz, as he struck out leadoff hitter Bo Hart swinging. After loading the bases with two walks and a single, Saenz got a break when Edgar Renteria hit a home-run ball—only it went to the deepest part of the field for the third out.

After the scary start, Saenz settled down and went through the next 14 batters without allowing a hit. He didn't do anything flashy, and he didn't show dominating stuff—he just pitched efficient baseball.

With a two-run lead and the tying run at the plate, Saenz forced an inning-ending—and perhaps career-ending—double-play for his last pitch of the game.

He later suffered a sever arm injury, forcing him to have Tommy John surgery in September of 2004. It just so happened to be the last year on his contract, and he was unceremoniously non-tendered, and he hit the free-agent market.

Saenz then signed with the AA-affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but he walked 31 batters in 46 innings, leading to his release. He is still looking for a team to give him another shot.

3. 3B Ed Irvin, Detroit Tigers—May 18, 1912

2/3, 2 3B, .667 BA, 1 E

While the NFL strike is well documented, the players strike that took place in MLB in 1912 is by far the more interesting.

When Ty Cobb was suspended for jumping in the stands and attacking a handicapped fan who was yelling racial slurs in New York, the members of the Detroit Tigers protested by refusing to play.

As the Tigers headed into Philadelphia to play the A's, manager Hughie Jennings was ordered to fill out a replacement team. He did so by fielding eight replacement players from a neighborhood in North Philadelphia.

Irvin was one of those eight, and he was the only one to make the best of his time.

In an expectantly woeful effort, the Tigers lost their first game against the A's, 24-2. Irvin was the only one of the replacement players to field a hit, and, in fact, he recorded two triples.

While no other players recorded a hit, two members of the coaching staff, Deacon McGuire and Joe Sugden, were forced to play, and each recorded a single.

His fielding, according to replacement pitcher Allan Travers, was not as good as his hitting.

"I was doing fine until they started bunting." said Travers. "The guy playing third base had never played baseball before."

The regular Tigers returned for the next game, and Irvin's career was effectively ended.

2. RHP Kid Keenan, Cincinnati Kelly's Killers—Aug. 11, 1891

CG, 6 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 5 K

Of the 78 players whose only game pitched was a complete one, Kid Keenan has to be the unluckiest.

Despite going the distance, striking out five batters, and working out of jams to make sure none of the runs scored would be on his hands, Keenan wound up on the losing side of the equation. 

Playing his first major league game at just 16 years old, Keenan seemed poised to have a major league victory under his belt before becoming an adult. His surrounding teammates seemingly wanted anything but that to happen.

While Keenan did not give up an earned run, a whopping total of nine runs were scored while he was still in the game.

Perhaps Kennan should have seen it coming. When the season reached its conclusion, eight players had committed over 20 errors, with their shortstop, Jim Canavan, accounting for 85.

Cincinnati lost to the Boston Reds, 9-3, and Keenan's sparkling, complete game landed him in the "L"column.

1. RF John Paciorek, Houston Colt .45's—Sept. 29, 1963

3/3, 4 R, 2 BB, 4 RBI

John Paciorek, called up for the roster expansion in September of 1963, got his one chance to play with the best on the last game of Houston's disappointing, 66-96 season. He was placed in right field, and he forced the 3,889 Houston faithful to learn who he was.

Batting in the seventh spot in the lineup, Paciorek stepped up for his first professional at bat in the bottom of the second, facing off against Mets pitcher Larry Bearnarth. He drew a walk, his first of two, and was promptly driven in by John Bateman's triple into right field.

In his next AB, it was Paciorek's turn to drive in the runs.

With his team down 4-2 in the fourth, Paciorek put a single into left field, driving in two runs, tying the game.

The addition of the 18-year-old sparked the Houston club to the most runs scored all season, as Pacioreck would go on to drive in two more runs and score three more times in a 13-4 blowout victory.

Despite his sparking 1.000 batting average in his MLB career, Paciorek could never reach the pinnacle again. After having back surgery in 1964, his batting average never reached near .300 in his next six years of minor league baseball, with his best season being with the Single-A Reno River Sox, a year in which he hit .275 with 17 home runs.

He was able to live vicariously through his family, as his brothers Tom and Jim each had extended careers, but his one turn in the major leagues, as short as it may seem, puts him in the limelight as the greatest one-game career in MLB history. 

The Worst

5. RHP George Goetz, Baltimore Orioles—June 17, 1889

9 IP, 12 H, 4 ER, 2 K; 0-4, 4 K

While George Goetz's pitching line was just good enough to earn him a victory in his only game over the Louisville Colonels, he earned his spot in infamous lore.

His nine innings pitched was actually not good enough to earn him a complete game, which was not too shocking at the time. His performance at the plate is considered bad in every time period, however.

Each of the four times he stepped to the plate, Goetz went down on three strikes. His four strikeouts is a category-high, and that is reason enough to put him on our list.

4. RHP Chris Haughey, Brooklyn Dodgers—October 3, 1943

0/3, 0 BB, 3 K; 7 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 10 BB

Like many people in this time, Chris Haughey made his MLB debut when the regular players were shipped off to WWII. What seperates him from the rest that not just that he only played one game—it's that he did so poorly.

On his 18th birthday, and the last game of the 1943 season, Haughey was set to take the mound against the Cincinnati Reds. 

His performance on the mound was erratic at best with his category-high 10 walks, and a poor performance from his defense extenuated his poor play by plating three unearned runs, and the Dodgers ultimately lost, 6-1.

If Haughey wanted to help himself at the plate, he didn't show it. Haughey struck out each time he stepped up to the plate, the ultimate form of batting futility.

Haughey ended his one-game career with a .000 BA with three strikeouts and a 3.86 ERA.

3. P Lewis, Buffalo Bisons—July 12, 1890

3 IP, 60.00 ERA, 13 H, 20 ER, 7 BB, 1 K

Prepare yourself for smallest player bio of all-time, as this pitcher for the 1890 Buffalo Bisons must have entered the witness protection program following his performance.

He is known only as Lewis, and it's not known how old he was, what hand he used, or if he was human or an actual bison.

His statline, however, speaks volumes about his abilities as a baseball player.

He did have a hit in his five plate appearances, but after walking seven, giving up three home runs, and 20 runs—all earned—in just three innings of work, he made his mark.

Needless to say, his Bisons lost to the Brooklyn Ward's Wonders, 28- 16.

2. RHP Chris Mabeus, Milwaukee Brewers—May 29, 2006

1.2 IP, 21.60 ERA, 4 H, 4 ER, 3 WP

It's not often a relief pitcher can have the wheels come off so badly that he is deemed useless on the major league level afterward, but Chris Mabeus pulled it off in his first and only stint.

Coming in for the bottom of the seventh inning, Mabeus breezed through this first three outs, surrendoring only one walk in a scoreless inning. He even struck out the first batter he face in the eighth before the wheels came off.

Mabeus gave up a basehit, followed by a home run. He proceeded to walk the next batter, then advance him to second on a wild pitch. He wasn't done yet, as he threw yet another wild pitch to advance the runner to third.

After he eventually walked the batter he threw so wildly against, Mabeus saw a run score off a fielders choice ground ball.

However, he let the ball slip yet again, and the runner moved over to third before being driven in on double to the left-field corner.

Mabeus had watched four runs score, three pitches escape the catcher, and the deficit balloon to 10 before he was pulled.

Little did he know that when relief pitcher Joe Winkelsas replaced him, he would never play in the majors again.

After his debacle against Pittsburgh, Mabeus reviewed his short MLB career, and he is now retired from the game.

1a. Joe Cleary, Washington Senators—Aug. 4, 1945

0.1 IP, 189.00 ERA, 5 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 1 WP

Filling in for players departed for WWII, Cleary came in during the fourth inning of game two of the Senators' double-header with the Boston Red Sox.

That was the only highlight of his day.

Cleary faced only nine hitters, and he allowed eight of them to reach base, seven of which were allowed to cross home plate. The awful performance set a MLB record for the highest ERA for a player with a recorded out.

However, as woeful as it may appear, his play did pave way for one of the strangest, yet most inspiring, one-game careers in history.

Needing someone—anyone—to replace Cleary, the Senators turned to Bert Shepard.

Shepard pitched five innings, gave up one run, and struck out two. His statline doesn't seem impressive until you consider one amazing fact:

He played with one leg.

Shepard served as a fighter pilot serving in the war, and he had his leg amputated after his plane was shot down in Germany. After returning to the United States, Shepard was focused on resuming his baseball career.

Despite being a career minor leaguer, Shepard impressed Senators owner Clark Griffith enough to be hired as a pitching coach for the 1945 season. Desperate for fresh pitchers in their fourth consecutive double-header, the Senators sent Shepard out to pitch.

All of a sudden, his stats seem a little better, no?

They certainly dwarf those of Cleary, who, after his early exit, would be the last Ireland native to pitch in a major league game.


    Pitcher Pukes 2x on Mound and Finishes Inning 🤮

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    Pitcher Pukes 2x on Mound and Finishes Inning 🤮

    Scott Polacek
    via Bleacher Report

    Baez Leaves Game with Arm Injury

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    Baez Leaves Game with Arm Injury

    Tim Daniels
    via Bleacher Report

    MLB Players Honor Their Dads on Father's Day

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    MLB Players Honor Their Dads on Father's Day

    via MLB

    Longoria (Hand) Expected to Miss 6-8 Weeks

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    Longoria (Hand) Expected to Miss 6-8 Weeks

    Adam Wells
    via Bleacher Report