You’re familiar with the story of Adam Greenberg, even if you’d completely forgotten about it until just now. Greenberg made his major-league debut in 2005, and he was hit in the head by the very first pitch that he saw. Greenberg sustained a concussion, and until 2012, that represented the entirety of his big-league career. Eventually, there was a petition to get Greenberg another major-league at bat. The Marlins signed Greenberg to a contract toward the end of 2012, because if there’s one baseball organization that badly wants people to like it, it’s the Miami Marlins. The friendly, lovable, PR-conscious Miami Marlins.
With the Marlins, Greenberg doubled his career playing time. On the one hand, it was a great gesture on the Marlins’ part, as they signed Greenberg and allowed him to pinch-hit in a home game on October 2. On the other hand, it was an awful gesture on the Marlins’ part, as they forced a cold and unprepared Greenberg to pinch-hit against the eventual NL Cy Young winner before thousands upon thousands of viewers in person and on TV. In his second big-league plate appearance, Adam Greenberg faced one of baseball’s best-ever knuckleballs. The results were predictable.
Greenberg, of course, was thankful, and gushed over the amount of energy in the building when he came up. He didn’t care that he struck out, and he was greeted warmly in the Marlins’ dugout. Last December, Greenberg signed a minor-league contract with the Orioles, so he intends to remain a professional baseball player. The whole thing was gimmicky but neat, with something gained and nothing lost.
But this isn’t actually about Adam Greenberg. Rather, this is about the people who used to be his company. For a time, Greenberg had one big-league plate appearance, and he was hit by a pitch in it. Now he has two big-league plate appearances, and one hit-by-pitch. Three other players own the same career batting line. But six players own Greenberg’s original, pre-Marlins batting line. Throughout baseball history, no longer counting Greenberg, six players have batted once, and gotten drilled.
For most of them, you have to go way back. Ham Wade batted and got hit in 1907. That was so long ago that people would go by “Ham”. Charlie Faust batted and got hit in 1911, and Faust was a delusional team mascot who shortly thereafter died in an insane asylum. Harvey Grubb batted and got hit in 1912. Cy Malis batted and got hit in 1934. Fred Van Dusen batted and got hit in 1955. That was Van Dusen’s only appearance in any game, and he was actually in attendance for Greenberg’s at bat against R.A. Dickey, because I guess this is a strong enough link to justify bringing people together.
But we also have the case of John Rheinecker on June 28, 2006. Rheinecker is now the only player in baseball’s modern era to have batted once and gotten hit. Rheinecker, of course, was a pitcher, and he racked up a number of major-league innings on the mound, but his one plate appearance is a tale of misfortune and woe.
It was an interleague game, and though I couldn’t track down any quotes, the Rangers’ pitchers would’ve been preparing by taking batting practice, and in my experience American League pitchers love taking batting practice. Generally, pitchers love to hit, and though I’m guessing, Rheinecker was probably excited for the opportunity. Rheinecker was drafted 37th overall in 2001 as an arm, but at Gibault High School, he was both a hell of a pitcher and a hell of a hitter. Based on educated guesswork, he was the best hitter on his team in his senior year. Rheinecker knew how to handle the bat, and he was probably looking forward to getting a chance to do it in the majors.
Rheinecker didn’t bat once in the minors. He finally got a chance that June 28, facing Noah Lowry and the Giants. It was just Rheinecker’s seventh-ever game, so he probably still had some rookie adrenaline. The top of the second ended with Rheinecker standing on deck. In a scoreless game, he led off the top of the third. He took the first pitch for a called strike. The second pitch hit him. Rheinecker proceeded to first base, without having taken a hack. He’d later advance to second, but he wouldn’t score.
Rheinecker probably thought he’d get another chance, since to that point he’d kept the Giants off the board. The first four batters in the bottom of the third reached base, then the fifth hit a grand slam. When it was Rheinecker’s turn to bat in the top of the fifth, he was pinch-hit for by Jason Botts. Rheinecker abandoned any thoughts of hitting again that day. He wouldn’t hit again, ever.
That was the Rangers’ last trip to an NL ballpark in 2006. He wasn’t on the team for their first trip in 2007, or for their second. Rheinecker wouldn’t appear in the majors after September 28, 2007. All that remained for him were three rehab innings in 2008 in the low-level Arizona League. Then Rheinecker’s career was effectively finished.
John Rheinecker, in his younger years, was a terrific hitter. He was better as a pitcher, but like most pitchers, he probably enjoyed the idea of hitting. As a big leaguer, he had the chance to hit one time. He didn’t take a single swing, and he got hit by the second pitch. John Rheinecker’s career OBP is 1.000. So at least he has that going for him, which is nice.
In an odd bit of coincidence, Rheinecker batted once and got hit, and his career ended after a procedure to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome. Noah Lowry hit Rheinecker, and his career ended after a procedure to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome. Both players made their final big-league appearances late in the year in 2007. John Rheinecker and Noah Lowry are linked in more ways than you thought. If you ever gave thought to linking John Rheinecker and Noah Lowry, which you almost certainly didn’t.