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Three Hits and Out for Paciorek

He had a one-day career as an 18-year-old with the Colt .45s, but he made the most of it.

September 19, 2003|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

John Paciorek remains the greatest one-day wonder in Major League Baseball history, chuckling about that fact Thursday afternoon as the 40th anniversary of his one and only game with the Houston Colt .45s approaches.

On Sept. 29, 1963, on the final day of the season, an 18-year-old Paciorek singled three times, driving in three runs, walked twice and scored four runs in an otherwise forgettable 13-4 victory over the New York Mets at Houston.

On that day, there were already signs that the end was near for Paciorek, whose ailing back brought him to Houston to see a team doctor after a painful season in the minor leagues.

"I was in town to get my back looked at and they wanted to field an all-rookie team, so they asked me if my back was good enough for me to play," Paciorek said by telephone from his home in San Gabriel. "It made me a legend, I guess, but I didn't realize it at the time. People do approach me about it sometimes."

Casual baseball fans should recognize his name, if for no other reason than he's the brother of former Dodger player and Chicago White Sox broadcaster Tom Paciorek. More dedicated fans, those perhaps with a copy of the "Baseball Encyclopedia" on their bookshelf, know what a rarity Paciorek is.

Others have gone one for one or two for two during their short major league careers, but no other player in history had a single-game performance like the one Paciorek had 40 years ago this month.

"I'm the only one who went three for three for a 1.000 batting average in his only major league game," Paciorek said. "I also walked twice for a five for five for a 1.000 on-base percentage. It's a unique situation."

His one day in the big leagues is not something he dwells on because, as he said, "I was out of baseball, well, the majors, at 18."

The Colt .45s, who were later renamed the Astros, invited him to spring training in 1964, but he was in no condition to play. Paciorek underwent back surgery later that year and never again played in the major leagues.

He bounced around the minors but finally called it quits in 1969. In time, he graduated from the University of Houston and became a teacher.

Today, Paciorek, 58, teaches physical education at a small private school in San Gabriel. He has been there 28 years, still a fan of baseball, although it might be more appropriate to call him a student of the game.

"I think about batting and throwing all the time," he said. "I got these videotapes on Albert Einstein's theory of relativity [recently], and all I could think of was how it related to baseball."

Paciorek said he also studies hitters, marveling at the greatness of Barry Bonds and fretting over the struggles of Shawn Green and his Dodger teammates.

"Barry Bonds could hit any pitch out of any ballpark," Paciorek said. "To me, he's the greatest hitter who ever lived."

Of Green, he said, "Shawn Green moves toward the plate too much and has a bunch of distortions in his swing. He looks a little like Ted Williams, but he stands up straight. Barry Bonds has a low center of gravity."

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