One Game Wonders: Part Two

As mentioned in a previous article, the Pittsburgh Pirates have had 1814 players play for them during the course of their 130 season history. Of those player, 96 of them played just one game. If you saw today’s “This Date” article, you would’ve seen the brief bio on catcher Aubrey Epps who is among those 96 players who played just one game. Epps is unique on that list because he is the only player among the group to collect three or more hits. In that one game Epps played he also drove in three runs but he isn’t the only player to drive in that many runs in his only game with the Pirates.

On October 3,1943 Pirates shortstop Tony Ordenana batted leadoff and played his only major league game. It was the second game of a doubleheader and the last game of the season. If those circumstances sound familiar, it was under the same situation that Epps played his only major league game. Ordenana drove in two runs in the second inning, then another in the fifth. They would turn out to be the only runs the Pirates scored during their 11-3 defeat. Tony was a Cuban born player who was known for his speed and defense but his hitting left something to be desired. He was a .250 hitter in the minors who never homered over a ten season pro career.

The Pirates have had three one game players finish their Pirates career with a 1.000 batting average. Jeff Banister, the current coach being one of them. For him, it was his only major league game. For Onix Concepcion, it would be the last game of his major league career. He played 389 games for the Royals from 1980-85, spending the 1986 season in AAA. The Pirates signed him as a free agent just prior to the start of spring training in 1987. He made the opening day roster and in the 9th inning of game one, as a pinch hitter for Rafael Belliard, Concepcion hit a line drive single to right to put runners on 1B and 2B with no outs and the Pirates down 3-1. Onix would strain his left hamstring running down to first base and be replaced with a pinch runner. He went on the DL the next day, played six rehab games with Harrisburg(AA), was eventually put on waivers and then released, never to play another pro game again.

Then there is the curious case of Mike Hopkins. He caught for the Pirates on August 24,1902 during a doubleheader in Cincinnati. He went 2-2 at the plate with a double and he threw out the only runner that tried to steal off him. That is it for his pro career. He has no known minor league experience and never played in the majors again. It turns out he was actually a good friend of Honus Wagner who accompanied the team on the road trip. The 29 year old got into the second game of the doubleheader after starting catcher Chief Zimmer left the game and that is how his major league career came about and why his name will forever be included in the baseball encyclopedia. It’s good to have friends in high places.

In the history of the Pirates, eight players have had a 1.000 batting average including Evan Meek with his one hit. Only one other one besides Hopkins actually had two(or more) hits. Ed Holley, a pitcher for the 1934 Pirates went 2-2 with two doubles in his five games with the team. Epps is the only player ever for the Pirates to finish with a .750 average.

The Pitchers

Also in today’s “This Date” article I mentioned Jesse Jefferson. He started and won his only game in a Pirates uniform. Just how rare is that you might ask?

The Pirates have used 810 pitchers over their existence, 60 of those pitchers had just one appearance. Of those 60 just 18 of them were the starting pitcher in the game. Of those 18 gentlemen, just four, including Jefferson, walked away as the winner.

Morris Critchley started on May 8,1882 for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys and beat Cincinnati by a 2-0 score to help Pittsburgh split the four game series. He threw a complete game seven hit shutout. A month later he was released without pitching another game and another month later his major league career was over after he went 0-4 in four starts for the St Louis Brown Stockings. This game was just the fourth game in franchise history meaning this feat was accomplished only three more times over the next 19,791 games.

Next up was Alex Jones who pitched his game on September 25, 1889. The 19 year old pitcher won an 8-5 game over the lowly last place Washington Nationals. Jones not only threw a complete game but he also struck out ten batters in his major league debut. He would next pitch in the majors in 1892 and did not quite have the success he did in his opener. Over three seasons he went 6-15 pitching for four different teams with his last appearance coming in 1903 for the Tigers.

Then we have Gus Weyhing who pitched his only game with the Pirates on May 21,1895 He too beat the Washington Nationals in his only game. Weyhing only pitched three games during the 1895 season and he pitched very poorly. He had a 20.00 ERA in two starts for the Phillies prior to joining the Pirates and he allowed seven runs in his only game with Pittsburgh but his offense helped him with ten runs. He was one of the numerous pitchers who was hurt by the new rules for them that started in 1893, including the new pitching distance and the fact the pitchers now had to throw from one spot(see article for details). Weyhing had a 200-140 3.34 record at age 26 through 1893 and a 64-92 5.07 record after the new rules.

From 1895 until the current day, just Jesse Jefferson has started and won his only game in a Pirates uniform. An interesting fact is that of those 42 guys that made their only appearance as a reliever, none of them picked up the win so these four guys are the only Pirates pitchers to also win their only game with the team.

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About 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.
  • Lee Young

    good stuff john….i remember a few of those guys.