A Short Cup of Coffee

This article was written by Leon Uzarowski

This article was published in the 1976 Baseball Research Journal


There is an expression in baseball that refers to a player “having a cup of coffee” in the majors. The inference is that he was with a team such a short time about all he had time for was a cup of coffee.

In that parlance, the “shortest cup of coffee” is appearance in one official box score. This has happened to no fewer than 588 players in the period 1900 to 1973, and some interesting circumstances are involved in a number of these one-game appearances.

Probably the most recognizable of these one-time wonders is Walter Alston, the highly successful manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. On September 27, 1936, he was a late inning substitute at first base for Johnny Mize of the Cardinals. He made one error in two chances and was fanned by Lon Warneke of the Cubs in his only time at bat.

Cal Ermer, who managed the 1967-8 Twins, also played in just one game. He went to bat three times with no luck as a member of the 1947 Washington Senators.

The most publicized one-game performer was Eddie Gaedel, the famed midget batter signed by Bill Veeck. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the American League, Veeck hired the 3’7″, 65 lb. Gaedel for $100 and insured him for $1 million. Although he entered a major-league contest for strictly publicity purposes, Gaedel is probably the most famous player from the inept 1951 St. Louis Browns.

Eddie, however, was not the only non-professional to achieve instant big league status. In 1912 Ty Cobb had been suspended prior to a game between Detroit and Philadelphia. In protest the Tiger players staged a strike, refusing to play the scheduled game. Faced with the possibility of forfeiting the contest which would also result in a $1,000 American League fine, Tiger manager Hugh Jennings had contracts drawn for eight St. Joseph’s of Philadelphia college players and one sandlotter to replace the regular Tiger team. The game, naturally, was a mockery as the A’s pounded the one-day pros with a lopsided 24-2 score. Al Travers, -throwing for Detroit, gave up 14 earned runs, 10 unearned runs, 26 hits, and 7 walks. Somehow he managed to register one strike out.

Inept pitching has a way of magnifying itself when confined to a single game. Marty Walker, a native of Philadelphia, starting his first game for the 1928 Phillies promptly gave up two hits and three walks and then walked to the showers and hasn’t been heard from since.

In 1918 Harry Heitman, a 20-year-old righthander for Brooklyn, gave up four hits, retiring just one batter in his initial major league start. After the game he ran down to the recruiting station and enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

Elmer Hamann was brought in as a relief thrower for the 1922 Cleveland Indians. Six batters later his major-league career came to a close. Elmer’s pitching statistics – three hits and three walks.

Some moundsmen stayed around longer but wished they hadn’t. Joe Cleary of the 1945 Washington Senators struck out one batter for his only out. He was reached for five hits and three bases on balls to produce a gaudy 189.00 career ERA.

And those who dared to linger longer than one inning were tortured more severely. Hanson Horsey, a classic baseball name, couldn’t make a career of it. Pitching for the Reds on April 27, 1912, Horsey was belted by the Pirates for 14 hits in 4 innings. One of those hits was a triple by Chief Wilson, who went on to hit a record 36 that season.

Similarly, Hank Hulvey was given a chance by Connie Mack to face the Yankees on September 5, 1923. The minor league veteran pitched 7 innings and his only claim to fame was that he gave up Babe Ruth’s 230th career home run.

Another one-time hurler used by Connie Mack was Arliss Taylor, an obscure lefthander from Pennsylvania. Taylor started against the Indians on September 15, 1921. He gave up 7 hits in two innings but he did fan one batter. The name of the victim was Joe Sewell, the toughest batter to fan in major league history.

Monty Swartz of the 1920 Cincinnati Reds had the unusual distinction of pitching in only one game, but it went 12 innings. He pitched the complete game, and lost.

Of course, not all one-game hurlers lost. Dave Skeels, a 17-year-old starting pitcher for the 19 10 Tigers, gave up 8 runs but managed to record a win. Doc McMahon yielded 14 hits in 9 innings but was victorious for the Red Sox in 1908. And Ray Brown of the 1909 Cubs pitched a 5-hit, 9-inning win, and then disappeared from the major league scene.

There was also a lack of hitting prowess in these one-game appearances. Most batters struck out in their only major league at bat. That is, with the exception of Tommy Patton of the 1957 Baltimore Orioles who struck out twice and Chris Haughey, a 17-year-old pitcher for the 1943 Brooklyn Dodgers, who fanned three times in three plate appearances. Chris wasn’t much better on the mound as he walked ten batters in the game.

None of the one-time wonders ever slammed a home run, but Ed Irwin, the famed sandlotter of the 1912 strike-struck Tigers, ran out two triples in that game against Philadelphia.

Fred Lindstrom’s son Charlie, in one at bat for the White Sox in 1958, knocked in a run with a triple, for a 3.000 slugging average.

There have been more than 20 batters who have achieved a perfect 1 .000 lifetime batting average. Most of them had one hit in one at-bat, but John Paciorek, an 18-year-old strong boy from Michigan, went three-for-three in the final game of the 1963 season for the Houston Colts. Paciorek also drew a pair of walks. John scored four of the five times he was on base as the Colts galloped to a 13-4 triumph over the New York Mets.

After that game Gus Maucuso wrote in the Houston Press, “Paciorek should be a cinch to make it as a big leaguer. He shows promise of becoming a great hitter. He swings the bat with authority and shows good speed in the outfield and on the bases, too.”

But in 1964 Paciorek was back in the minors where he remained until a back operation in 1967 ended his hope of ever appearing in the big leagues a second time. His younger brother Tom broke in with the Dodgers in 1970.

Twenty-year-old Ray Jansen of the 1910 St. Louis Browns also hit impressively. He went 4-for-S. All his hits were singles and he retired with an .800 lifetime major-league batting mark.

Pitcher John Kull, hurling for the 1909 Philadelphia A’s, achieved a 1.000 career batting average and a 1 .000 pitching percentage. He then quit while he was ahead. No sense improving perfection.

It’s easy to see why they call Philadelphia the city of Brotherly Love; 92 out of the 588 one-game major-leaguers appeared either for the A’s or the Phillies. They believe in giving everyone at least one chance. Washington is the most hospitable team in the American League, getting 55 players into a box score once.

Some one-day players had brothers of a more lasting quality. Note the following career games played on the major-league level by these brother combinations:

 

Games

 Name

 Games

 Name

1

 Frank Cross

 2,275

 Lafayette Cross

1

 Tommy Sewell

 1,902

 Joe Sewell

 

 

 1,630

 Luke Sewell

1

 Ralph Miller

 1,820

 Bing Miller

1

 Joe Evers

 1,762

 Johnny Evers

1

 Jim Westlake

 958

 Wally Westlake

1

 Ralph Gagliano

 656

 Phil Gagliano

1

 Dave Bennett

 182

 Dennis Bennett

 

Most of the 588 one-game players between 1900 and 1973 made it to the big leagues the hard way. They labored several years in the minors to get that “cup of coffee.” More than one-half made it as pitchers (316). There also were 66 catchers, 12 first basemen, 11 second basemen, 26 third basemen, 17 shortstops, 44 outfielders, and 96 pinch hitters or pinch runners.

The oldest one-game player was Art Jacobs, a 37-year-old pitcher making his debut with the 1939 Reds. He hurled one inning and injured his shoulder. Bill Bradford, 35, appeared for the 1956 Kansas City A’s.

There were several who were 17 when they made their singular appearance. Skeels and Haughey have already been mentioned. Jay Dahl, killed in an auto accident two years later, pitched in an all-rookie lineup for Houston on September 27, 1963. Mike Loan was 17 when he caught and singled in a game for the Phils on September 18, 1917.

Some of these youngsters should have been up for a soft drink, rather than a “cup of coffee.”

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