“Perfect: The Rise and Fall of John Paciorek, Baseball’s Greatest One-Game Wonder” by Steven K. Wagner
Baseball, professional, biography, Colt .45s
March 31, 2015
4 of 5 stars (very good)
Most baseball fans, even those who follow the game closely, will not be familiar with the name John Paciorek. Some may have heard of his brother Tom who had a long career in Major League Baseball. John, on the other hand, had a Major League career that lasted exactly one game – but it was as good a game as one could have. Playing for the Houston Colt .45s, he had three hits, two walks, three runs batted in, scored four runs and made a handful of plays in right field without an error.
The game took place on September 29, 1963, the last game of the season between the ninth-place Colt .45s and the tenth-place New York Mets. This game, and John Paciorek’s subsequent back injuries that were severe enough to keep him from playing in another Major League game, is captured in this book by Steven K. Wagner. Wagner decided to pursue this writing project after reviewing the statistics of other players who appeared in only one Major League game and he unofficially declared John Pacioriek’s appearance to be the greatest one-game career in the history of the Major Leagues.
Not only does the reader relive the game through play-by-play quotes from Hall-of-Fame broadcasters Lindsay Nelson and Ralph Kiner, the reader will also read about how John Paciorek became a star athlete in high school, his short time in the minor leagues after signing a contract with the Colt .45s and then being brought up at the end of the season by the major league club. This part of the book, as well as the chapters on his subsequent surgery for his back problems and attempts to come back from the surgery, reads like a typical sports biography with information gleaned from research and interviews.
Wagner also writes about side stories from that otherwise ordinary game between two struggling teams. That day also marked the end of Stan Musial’s career and two other players who would lose their lives during the following off season, Ken Hubbs and Jim Umbricht. There are also tributes to other one-game career players, including Aubrey Epps who almost matched John Paciorek as he had three hits, three runs batted in and one run scored. Epps, a catcher, also committed two errors in his one Major League game and recorded six putouts. His story was even more tragic than John Paciorek as he was stricken with pneumonia during that off season and never made it back to the “show.” Overall, this is a decent book that readers who enjoy reading about relatively unknown players or about baseball history will want to add to their bookshelves.
I wish to thank Mr. Wagner for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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