One & dones: Pro sports' briefest careers
October, 2, 2012
By Jeff Gold | ESPN The Magazine
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesAs a Cubs rookie in 2005, Adam Greenberg was hit by the first pitch he saw. Until Tuesday night, he hadn't played an MLB game since.Adam Greenberg is already in "The Baseball Encyclopedia." All it takes is one plate appearance -- and that’s all he got. Greenberg’s major league debut came on July 9, 2005. In his first and only game with the Chicago Cubs, Greenberg was hit in the head by the very first pitch he saw -- a 92 mph fastball from Marlins lefty Valerio De Los Santos. Suffering from vertigo after the incident, Greenberg has never made it past Double-A since.
Until Tuesday night, that is. Greenberg recently signed a one-day contract with the Marlins and is expected to get his second plate appearance -- and first in more than seven years -- Tuesday night against the Mets.
Greenberg's comeback story got Playbook thinking: Who are other pro athletes whose time at the top of their sport was, shall we say, limited? Here's a look at four athletes from different sports who barely had a chance to shine.
Athlete: Miles Simon
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesMiles Simon got a sniff from the Sonics in the 2002 preseason.
What happened: Yup, that Miles Simon. Obviously, his college career was better than his pro career. After leading Arizona to the 1997 NCAA national championship (and being named Most Outstanding Player), Simon was drafted in the second round by the Orlando Magic. On April 2, 1999, Simon scored the one and only basket of his NBA career, against the Bulls. (Simon is one of 25 players since 1980 to make only one field goal or free throw in his entire career.)
Simon eventually played professionally in Italy, Israel, Venezuela and Turkey, and starred in the Continental Basketball Association for the Dakota Wizards. During the 2001-02 season, Simon was named CBA MVP after averaging 23 points and 5.1 assists per game and leading Dakota to the championship. And you thought the Wizards stunk at basketball.
Athlete: Will Cureton
What happened: In 1975, the Cleveland Browns were having a dreadful season. After losing their first seven games, head coach Forrest Gregg turned to Cureton to spark the team at quarterback. It would be the only game the Texas A&M-Commerce grad would ever play in the NFL. Cureton completed 10 of 32 passes for 95 yards, one TD and one interception in a 21-10 loss to the Lions on Nov. 8, 1975, for a QBR rating of ... not good. Cureton is the only QB in NFL history to start and play in his only game.
Athlete: Matt Tupman
What happened: Excluding players from 2012, Matt Tupman holds the distinction of being the most recent of the 36 major leaguers to get only one at-bat during his career. (Getting hit by a pitch doesn't qualify as an at-bat, so the list doesn't include Fred Van Dusen, the only other major leaguer since 1940 to be hit by a pitch in his one and only plate appearance.) Tupman made his at-bat count. Playing catcher for the Kansas City Royals, he came through with a ninth-inning single in a 9-3 win on May 18, 2008. Career average? 1.000. Go out on top, yeah? Things haven’t gone as smoothly for Tupman after his moment of greatness, however. Following the 2009 season, during which he played in the Diamondbacks organization, Tupman was suspended for a second positive drug test. He last played professionally in 2011 with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League.
Athlete: Ray LeBlanc
Getty ImagesRay LeBlanc led Team USA to the bronze-medal game in the 1992 Olympics.
What happened: LeBlanc was Team USA’s goalie in the 1992 Albertville Olympics, and his solid play (2.20 goals-against average, .943 save percentage) helped the Americans reach the bronze-medal game, where they lost to Czechoslovakia. Then the Massachusetts native embarked on his NHL career ... which lasted all of one game. On March 10, 1992, LeBlanc earned a 5-1 victory for the Blackhawks over the San Jose Sharks.
Most significant about his appearance was that it enabled Chicago to designate LeBlanc as the goalie it would expose in the offseason’s expansion draft. By choosing not to protect LeBlanc, the Blackhawks were then able to protect the other two goalies on their roster: Dominik Hasek and Ed Belfour. Good call.