If you are a fan of MLB Dirt–and of course you are, or you wouldn’t be here–then perhaps you have been digging Andrew Martin’s historical pieces as much as I have. Frankly, they are brilliant and totally deserving his @HistorianAndrew Twitter handle. As such, it is with some trepidation that I tread into his lofty wake to consider a historical moment myself. But the story seemed to write itself Monday night as I was watching the ESPN telecast of the Yankees – Twins game. I don’t remember how his name came up but for some reason, the broadcast team mentioned Tom Paciorek, a player who played for eighteen seasons but it most known as Hawk Harrelson’s broadcast partner, “Wimpy.” And that mention led Aaron Boone (I think) to mention Paciorek’s brother, John Paciorek, who only played one game in the major leagues. But what a game it was.
The game was played on September 29, 1963 and it was the next to last game of the season. The then Houston Colt 45′s were ending their inaugural year as an expansion team and were playing at home in Colt Stadium against the New York Mets, another expansion team that season. John Paciorek started that game in right field. How or why Paciorek was called up when rosters were expanded is a mystery. He was just signed as an amateur free agent that season when the fledgling team was trying to fill up its minor league rosters. Paciorek was just eighteen years old in 1963.
The mystery of his call up is due to what he was doing before he was called up. Playing Single-A ball in 1963 in his first stint in professional baseball, he only batted .219. 1964 was even worse as John Paciorek hit just a combined .135 for two different Houston Single-A outfits. Wikipedia tells us that he had back problems in 1964 and would have an operation after the season and would miss all of 1965. So why, then, was he called up? It doesn’t make any sense, does it? But it wouldn’t be a serendipitous story if any of this made sense.
So there he was in Houston playing the Mets and starting in the next to last game of the season. It was an inglorious season for both teams. The Colt 45′s finished with a 66-96 record under manager, Harry Craft. The opponents, the Mets, were finishing up one of the worst seasons in history as a team under Casey Stengel that finished 51-111. Craft penciled John Paciorek’s name in the lineup in right field, batting seventh.
The Mets started Larry Bearnarth. This little remembered pitcher had logged 58 appearances that season, but it was only his second start. It did not go well. Bearnarth retired the Houston club in order in the first, but ran into trouble in the second. After Rusty Staub started the frame with a ground out, Bearnarth walked the next batter. After a strikeout made it man on first with two outs, John Paciorek made his first plate appearance ever and walked. The Colt 45′s’ catcher, John Bateman, then hit a triple and Paciorek scored his first major league run. Bearnath got the last out but it was now 2-0.
The Mets got a run back in the top of the third on a Bearnarth triple followed by an Eddie Kranepool single. Bearnath had a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the third and the Mets rallied for three runs to take a 4-2 lead in the top of the fourth. But Bearnath could not hold the lead and in the bottom of the fourth, the Colt 45′s exploded. The Houston club hit three straight singles to start the inning and played station to station to load the bases. That brought up John Paciorek for the second plate appearance of his career.
Paciorek singled to drive in two runs. John Bateman then hit the fifth straight single of the frame to drive in another run and chase Bearnarth. Casey brought in Ed Bauta to pitch and Bauta then gave up an infield single. That was six straight singles and loaded the bases again. Paciorek was on third and scored on a sacrifice fly hit by Pete Runnels. By the time the inning was over, the Colt 45′s had scored five runs on seven hits to take the lead 7-4. To that point in John Paciorek’s career, he had two plate appearances with a walk and a single. He had scored two runs and had driven in two.
The Mets did not score in the top of the fifth but the Colts came roaring again in the bottom of the fifth. With Ed Bauta still on the mound, Bob Aspromonte led off the frame with a triple. The next batter popped up in the infield and that brought up John Paciorek. He singled to drive in Aspromonte and later scored as the Colts scored four more runs to take an 11-4 lead in the game. Paciorek was then two for two with a walk and had scored all three times and had driven in three runs.
Paciorek came to the plate again in the sixth against Grover Powell, the Mets’ fourth and last pitcher of the game. Paciorek walked and later scored the twelfth run. The new tally was four plate appearances, two walks, two hits, four runs scored and three runs driven in.
Paciorek’s last plate appearance of the game came in the bottom of the eighth. He singled off of Powell to make him three for three. But he was erased in a double play. And thus ended John Paciorek’s major league career. He made two putouts in right field for good measure.
The sum of Paciorek’s one game of glory was a three for three day with two walks, four runs scored and three runs batted in. The sum of his career was a 1.000 batting average, a 1.000 on-base percentage and a 2.ooo OPS. His WPA for the game was 0.201 and his one-game career garnered him 0.3 rWAR.
As mentioned earlier, John Paciorek had back troubles in 1964, played poorly and had his operation. He would go on to play four more seasons in the minors from 1966 to 1969. He quit baseball at the age of 24 after the 1969 season. His Wiki page states that he went on to be a school teacher in California after his playing days. One has to wonder if he ever regaled his students with his one glorious day in Major League Baseball. In the long history of the majors, nobody ever had a better one-game career.
Filed under: Baseball History Tagged: | Baseball History, Bob Aspromonte, Casey Stengel, Ed Bauta, Eddie Kranepool, Grover Powell, Harry Craft, Houston Colt 45's, John Bateman, John Paciorek, Larry Bearnarth, New York Mets, Pete Runnels, Rusty Staub, Tom Paciorek