In the classic baseball movie “Bull Durham”, Crash Davis passes time on a boring minor-league bus ride by telling his young teammates about being in the big leagues…”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 all like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains”.
As a fan, you might feel sad for Crash because he’ll never get back to the show…or you’ll feel happy for him because he will always be a “former major leaguer”. Three weeks might not seem like much, but what about the hundreds of ballplayers who were only in the “show” for one game? With the help of baseball-reference.com, we took a look at the hundreds of players who fall into this category.
Amazingly, there are names on the list that most fans will recognize…
> Walter Alston – On September 27, 1936 he appeared in a game for the Cardinals and had one at-bat. He didn’t get back to the majors until 1954 as the Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He continued as the skipper of the team for 23 years and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1983.
> Jeff Banister – At age 27, he got one AB with the Pirates in July of 1991. He eventually became a minor-league Manager and a big league Coach before managing the Rangers from 2015-2018.
> Eddie Gaedel – Possibly the most famous (or infamous) name on the list, his appearance as a pinch-hitter for the Browns in 1951 was the brain-child of team owner Bill Veeck. You see, Gaedel was only 3’7″ tall and had a strike zone no Pitcher could find. Of course, Gaedel got a four-pitch base-on-balls in his only at-bat. His contract was voided by the American League the next day, but Gaedel is forever in the record books.
> Moonlight Graham – Another unforgettable baseball movie “Field of Dreams” has Burt Lancaster playing the part of “Doc” Graham. However, Archibald “Moonlight” Graham was a real person and he played in one game for the Giants in June of 1905.
While the list is extensive, an interesting question is “are there players who still have a chance to get off the list?”
> John Bormann – Got one AB with the Pirates in 2017 and is currently with Bradenton in the A+ Florida League.
> Vicente Campos – Another Pirate, he pitched in one game during the 2016 season and is now on the roster at AA Altoona.
> Kyle Lloyd – Pitched 4 innings for the Padres in July of 2017, he’s on the staff at Amarillo of the AA Texas League.
There are numerous others playing for Independent teams or toiling in the Mexican League and we wish them well as they continue the pursuit of no longer being a “one-gamer”.
Maybe the best story of all is that of Adam Greenberg. He was a Cubs prospect who got called up in the Summer of 2005. In his first at-bat, he was hit by a pitch in the head and suffered a compound skull fracture. After a lengthy recovery, he got back on the field and played in the minors from 2006-2011 with no particular success. Even though he had appeared in a big-league game, he never had an official at-bat, so in 2012 the Marlins signed him to a one-day contract and gave him the chance to have that precious at-bat. Now he has the opportunity to frame two major-league uniforms and put them up on the wall. Wouldn’t you?