September 2, 1981: Rick Engle
Thirty-eight years ago today, Montreal Expos pitcher Rick Engle took the mound against the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium less than 200 miles north from where he was born in Corbin, Kentucky. After having gone 6-7 with a 3.74 ERA, and despite issuing 69 walks to go with just 78 strikeouts at Triple-A Denver, Engle earned a September call up.
In front of just under 13,000 fans and with future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver pitching for the opposition, Engle took over for starter Stan Bahnsen to start the third inning. He got into trouble quickly, allowing a lead-off double to Dave Collins, followed by a Ken Griffey single and Dave Concepcion double. Before he could blink, the Reds had put two more runs on the board and had a 5-0 lead.
Engle settled down, striking out George Foster before coaxing a groundout from Dan Driessen and another strikeout from Ray Knight. He had pitched just well enough to earn another inning in relief. That fourth inning started off swimmingly, but swiftly fell apart. A Ron Oester fly out and Mike O'Berry ground out to third base made it two up, two down in the home half of the fourth. Then Seaver singled and the flood gates opened up.
Collins followed with a single and then Griffey walked to load the bases. Concepcion came through with a base knock, scoring two more runs and extending the Cincinnati lead to seven. Engle once again got Foster, this time via fly out, but the damage was done and his day was over. His final stat line stuck him with a gnarly 18.00 career ERA. He clearly wasn't able to shake that bad outing as he wasn't called upon for the remainder of the month.
He lasted just two more seasons in professional baseball, his confidence perhaps shattered by his one bad performance on baseball's biggest stage. Split between Double-A and Triple-A in 1982, he posted a 6.61 ERA in 95.1 innings. The Expos had seen enough, so he signed with the Baltimore Orioles in a last-ditch effort to keep his career afloat. However, after just 18.2 innings with their Double-A affiliate, Baltimore had seen enough as well. He walked 14 while striking out just seven and had a 7.23 ERA when he was released.
In yet another reminder that even the least successful big leaguers are a big deal somewhere, Engel is still the only MLB player to ever come from Clermont Northeastern High School in Batavia, Ohio.