Pittsburgh Pirates One Game Wonders

In the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise, since they first set foot on the field of Bank Street Grounds in Cincinnati to play their first game as a member of the American Association on May 2,1882 until they played their last game this past September 28,2011, they have used 1814 different players. Of those players 96 of them took the field once for the team and then never appeared in a game for Pittsburgh again. Some you may have heard of because they were recent such as pitchers Chris Jakubauskas, Ty Taubenheim and Anthony Claggett. Some you may know because they had a long career in other places such as Miguel Batista or Hall of Famer Dazzy Vance. Others like Bobby Lowe and Gus Weyhing were great 19th century players who made a brief stop in the Steel City before continuing their career elsewhere and another that most people know would be current coach Jeff Banister, who got his one game in during the 1991 season and hasn’t left the organization since then.

The rest of the list are names that are lost to almost everyone. A few of them could have claimed to have been a member of a World Series champion such as Gary Hargis who got to pinch run one game for the 1979 Pirates or pitcher Harry Camnitz, the brother of Howie, who got a late season relief appearance with the 1909 Pirates. Another with that claim would be Kid Durbin who also appeared on the 1909 Pirates. He played 32 career games over three seasons and while he wasn’t very good it is a surprise he couldn’t get a major league job after 1909 because the other two seasons he played in the majors were with the 1907-08 Chicago Cubs, who also won the World Series. The guy was the ultimate good luck charm. Pitcher Charlie Wacker threw two innings on April 28, 1909 and then returned to the minors where he had a 78-59 record in six seasons

Some of the one game wonders could have claimed to play for the worst team ever in franchise history, the 1890 Alleghenys. As they went through players all seasons trying to find something to work, they compiled a 23-113 record. They gave an amazing total of six players their only game in major league history and a permanent spot in the baseball encyclopedia. The names of the players doomed to play their one major league game with one of the worst teams in baseball history were, in alphabetical order, Fred Clement, Fred Hayner, Frank McGinn, Phil Routcliffe, Fred Traux and George Ziegler, who has the claim to fame of the last name alphabetically in Pirates history.

Another three players can say they played for arguably the best team in the franchise history, the 1902 Pirates team that went 103-36 and won the NL title. Two of them were catchers, Mike Hopkins, who went 2-2 in his career and Lee Fohl who went 0-3 but drove in a run. Unlike Hopkins, who has no other baseball records listed besides his one Pirates game, Fohl played 11 seasons in the minors and also made the majors again in 1903 with the Reds. Bill Miller played his only major league game on August 23rd and got five at bats in while playing right field. The Pirates lost 9-8 but Miller drove in two runs and despite all the scoring he didn’t record a single fielding chance all game.

Four players could have claimed to have played for the first team in franchise history back in 1882. Morrie Critchley pitched for the Alleghenys during their first week in the majors and threw a shutout, then never played for them again. He in fact pitched just four more major league games and lost them all. Russ McKelvy at age 27 took his place in right field and played his last major league game in late August while a local 20 year old college kid named Ren Wylie played his only major league game earlier that month in center field. Another local player, a Pittsburgh native named Jake Seymour took the mound for his major league debut on the last day of the season, allowed 13 runs but pitched a complete game and was never heard from again in the majors.

The team has had numerous pitchers who pitched one inning and sometimes couldn’t even get out of that. Besides the two recent members of this club, Jakubauskas and Claggett, they had Lloyd Johnson, a 23 year old lefty who pitched the last inning of the fourth game of the 1934 season. He pitched 12 seasons in the minors winning 97 games but never made the majors again. Dennis Konuszewski pitched his one inning for the 1995 Pirates on August 4th and five batters into his outing he was pulled with just one out and a career 54.00 ERA. Hard to believe but there is a worse performance in this group. Clise Dudley, who retired just one of the eight batters he faced in his 1933 appearance for the Pirates and five of them would score, leaving him with the worst ERA in franchise history at 133.00 in 1/3 of an inning.

Bob Owchinko faced two batters in 1982, allowing a homer and double before being pulled and Jay Parker faced three batters in 1899, walking two and hitting the other. Both of them have an ERA listed as inf., which signifies runs allowed but no outs. Owchinko at least played in the majors prior to his outing and again afterwards but for Parker that was his career. Jack Mercer(1910),Dixie McArthur(1914) and Buckshot May(1924) each faced four batters in their career and all three struck out one and finished with 0.00 ERA’s while doing mop-up work in their only career game. McArthur however, did allow an unearned run in his outing. A teammate of May in 1924 named Freddy Sale also faced four batters in his only inning on June 30th but unlike the other three, he didn’t record a strikeout. His appearance was the same thing as the others, mop-up duty and his ERA also stands at 0.00 career.

Phil Morrison faced three batters, recorded two outs and struck out one batter in his only major league game on September 30, 1921, two days before the season ended. His claim to face was that he was the older brother of Johnny Morrison, who pitched for the Pirates from 1920-27 and won 89 games. Connie Walsh allowed one run in his one inning on September 16,1907 and on August 16,1930 in the first game of a doubleheader a 21 year old named Bernie Walter retired all three batters he faced in the 9th inning of a 7-5 loss. That wasn’t just his only major league game, it was his only professional baseball game.

Besides Hargis mentioned above, all of those position players got a major league AB but at least he can claim to be a member of the 1979 Pirates. Ralph Shafer was the original Gary Hargis. He pinch ran for the 1914 Pirates on July 25th, then returned to the minors to finish his career. At only 20 years old it was doubtful he expected that to be the end of his major league career.

Finally we have what I call the Moonlight Graham class. Most people have seen Field of Dreams but don’t realize there was a little stretching of the truth in that movie. Graham did play just one game and never got to bat but it wasn’t the last game of the season and he didn’t retire afterwards, he played in the minors for another three full seasons. The Pirates have had three such players in their history.

Arch Reilly played third base on June 1,1917 at the end of a 9-1 loss. He fielded his only chance cleanly and then never got to play again and like the fictional Moonlight Graham, he actually did retire from baseball that season.

Cy Neighbors played one game in left field for the Pirates on April 29,1908. Pittsburgh won the game over the Cubs 2-1, he never got a chance in the field and his major league career was done but he still had plenty of baseball left in him. He played in the minors until age 39 in 1920, playing a total of 1574 games.

Finally, Sam Brenegan got his only major league game in behind the plate on April 24,1914 but it was his own fault it was his only game in the majors. He came off the bench in the 6th inning to finish a game which was an 8-1 loss to the Cardinals at home. The unfortunate part for him was his only other mark on his stat sheet besides the one under games played was a passed ball. He supposedly got under the skin of manager Fred Clarke by not running hard after the passed ball plus a previous pitch that got away and despite the score, he was replaced in the field in the 7th inning and never played in the majors again. He played in the minors until 1919.

John Dreker

Author: John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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  • http://twitter.com/jfredland jfredland

    Dennis Konuszewski’s only MLB appearance was in a Friday night doubleheader in August ’95.  The next day was Picture Day at Three Rivers, and my friend and I got our picture taken with him.  I think that he was impressed that we knew who he was…

  • Anonymous

    No Wyatt Toregas mention?

    • Anonymous

      Toregas actually played three games with the Pirates so he’s like a grizzled veteran compared to these guys!

  • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

    Even sadder than one game wonders are the guys who never got into a game!  Pirates had one of those in the 90′s, can’t remember his name though!

    • Anonymous

      One of the best/worst one game wonder stories is Larry Yount, brother of Robin, who was injured throwing his warm-up pitches on Sept 15, 1971. He was pulled from the game before throwing a pitch, still was introduced so it counted as a game and he never made it back to the majors. He was just 21 at the time. That is as close as you can get to your dream without actually reaching it.

      Dodgers had John Lindsey in 2010 who played 16 seasons in the minors before getting called up. Was finally used as a pinch hitter on Sept 8 but when the opposing manager switched pitchers he was taken out too. Luckily for him he got to play again but that was some first game for him after waiting so long