Saturday, August 24, 2013

One Game Wonder - Tony La Russa

This post, and a few others as this might be a recurring theme, is partly inspired by the bizarre week David DeJesus had. In a nutshell, for those who don't know, DeJesus played for three different teams this week. He was traded from the Cubs to the Washington Nationals, made a pinch hit appearance and was then placed on waivers by the Nats. Now when I thought of this idea for a post, I thought DeJesus would be a "One Game Wonder" for the Nats, but he ultimately played in 3 games while the Tampa Bay Rays waiver claim was worked out.

According to the Cubs all-time roster on, there have been exactly 100 players in Cubs history to be one and done for the team. Not one season, but just one game. I'm not sure how accurate the record keeping is from waaaay back because most on the list are from the end of the 19th century and start of the 20th. In fact, the Cubs have only had 10 players since the late 1960's appear in just one game. Apparently these more recent Cubs teams are big on second chances...

I'll probably have trouble finding images to use for my ATCRCS set, especially the older guys. But I was lucky with this one so we'll start off with the most famous name in the group:

I don't remember La Russa the player because his one game for the Cubs, which also happened to be the last of his career, came five years before I was born.

Following the 1972 season, La Russa was traded from the Braves to the Cubs for pitcher Tom Phoebus. On April 6, 1973, La Russa made his only Cubs appearance as a pinch runner against the Montreal Expos. With the Cubs down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Joe Pepitone led off the inning with a single. Cleo James came in to pinch run. Ron Santo followed with a ball hit to second baseman Ron Hunt that was booted for an error. La Russa pinch ran for Santo. With runners now on 1st and 2nd, Glenn Beckert drew a walk to load the bases.

At this point, with the bases loaded and no outs, the Expos do a double switch bringing in Cy Young runner up from the previous season, eventual Cy Young runner up for that season and future Cy Young winner the next season, Mike Marshall at pitcher and Coco LaBoy at third base.

Marshall proceeded to walk Randy Hundley, allowing the tying run to score and moving La Russa up to third. The next batter, Don Kessinger hit a foul pop out down the left field line. With the pitcher now due up, Cubs manager Whitey Lockman replaced pitcher Bob Locker with Jim Hickman as a pinch hitter, who struck out.

According to the box score, the Expos did some more defensive repositioning before Rick Monday stepped up to the plate. Monday would draw a walk-off walk, scoring La Russa from third for the game winning game. If you only get to play one game with a team, that's probably one of the better ways to do it.

La Russa spent the rest of the season with Triple A Wichita before his contract was sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He bounced around a bit in the minors between the Pirates, White Sox and Cardinals but never made it back to the Major League level as a player.

And as I'm sure we all know, he went on to become a probable Hall of Fame manager, with 3 World Series championships and 4 Manager of the Year awards.

I doubt future One Game Wonder write-ups will have the kind of "success" that La Russa had but it will be interesting looking into each of these games.

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