Recently, the New York Mets welcomed to their active roster Michael Conforto. Conforto was the 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft. Much heralded he spent just a brief period of time in the lower minors before his call-up in July, 2015. So what is so special about him? Well it turns out he was the 1,000th player to appear in a game for the Mets. This got me to thinking about a special group of players who belong to the Cup of Coffee Club (CCC). To be a member of the CCC you had to appear in just one Major League game. Of the approximately 20,000 players who appeared in a Major League game approximately 950 of them are members of this club. I was surprised when I discovered that there were so many members of this club. Clearly I cannot tell each of their stories. However, my research has uncovered some very unusual stories which I will tell now.
On July 9th, 2005, Cubs skipper Dusty Baker told Adam Greenberg to pinch-hit. He was just called up from Double-A ball. The pitcher was the Marlins’ Valerio de los Santos. The first pitch he saw was a 92-mph fastball. The ball was inside and as he turned away it struck him in the back of his head. Greenberg suffered a mild concussion, which led to years of vertigo and headaches. The next season he batted under .200 in the minors and was released by the Cubs. He labored in the minors for the next few years. At this point in time he seemed headed to the CCC. From 2009 to 2012, Greenberg set out to get out of the CCC by honing his skills with the independent Bridgeport Bluefish. In 2011, Greenberg and de los Santos faced each other for the first time since that fateful pitch in 2005; the at-bat ended with Greenberg reaching base with a single. A successful online petition drive in 2012 led to a one-day contract with the Marlins. He had one at bat for the Marlins and struck out on three pitches. Yes, he was no longer a member of the CCC.
Here are two of the worst offensive one-game performances by two members of the CCC. Ron Wright’s day resulted in 6 outs for his 3 at-bats. His first career at-bat ended with a strike out. His second at-bat resulted in a rare triple-play. In his third at-bat he hit into a double play. His only game resulted in a career worse average of 2 outs per at-bat. This brings us to the 19 year old Ed Cermak. His 4 at-bats resulted in 4 strike outs. Today, the term Golden Sombrero would apply but in 1901 it was probably just called A Day to Forget. He never would, though, seeing as it would be the only Major League memory he’d have.
Now for a one-game success story. On the final day of the 1963 regular season, John Paciorek had a hell of a career. The 18-year-old playing for the Houston Colt 45s had a perfect day at the plate: three-for-three, two walks, three RBIs and four runs. Nagging back injuries meant he’d never have a chance to blemish that perfection. You could say he is a Hall of Fame member of the CCC with a perfect 1.000 batting average and a perfect 1.000 on-base average.
Sometimes bad luck can detour even a top-rated prospect. This brings us to Ralph Gagliano. Drafted by the Indians in 1964, Gagliano was a bonus baby. Gagliano tore knee ligaments during his first spring training, sending him to the DL until he was finally activated on the first day of September. His only game appearance was as a pinch runner. Gagliano’s next two-and-a-half years were spent in the military during the Vietnam buildup. By the time he was ready to return, the game had passed him by.
A stunt arranged by Bill Veeck was to add to the roster of the St. Louis Browns a 3 foot 7 inch midget, Eddie Gaedel. He made one plate appearance in his career and walked on four straight pitches. It happened in 1951 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the American League.
It is a dream of every Little Leaguer to someday be in the Major Leagues. At least every member of the CCC had their dream realized.