January 27, 1947: Tim Plodinec
If you went by the lack of pictures available from his playing career, you'd assume Tim Plodinec, in fact, had never played in the major leagues. However, on one afternoon, he did get the ball for the St. Louis Cardinals. His team walked into Dodgers Stadium on June 2 and he was on the roster, ready to pitch if needed.
He was never even supposed to be in that situation. St. Louis had taken a flier on him in the 33rd round of the 1968 Amateur Draft and he had progressed better than expected. After playing college ball at the University of Arizona, Plodinec spent his first two professional seasons between Rookie League, Single-A and Double-A. After going 6-13 with a 3.47 ERA in Single-A Modesto in 1969, he struggled mightily at Double-A, posting a 15.75 ERA in just four innings of work split across three appearances.
Plodinec got a more extended try at Double-A the following year where he improved slightly with a longer leash. He went 1-2 with a 5.52 ERA in 31 innings of work with the Arkansas Travelers. The righty started 1971 in Double-A and started to look like he actually might be a viable bullpen arm at the big-league level. He went 8-8 with a 2.09 ERA in nearly 100 innings and promptly was called up to Triple-A where he was a disaster.
He racked up just two innings in four appearances and pitched to a 40.50 ERA. However, in 1972 once again he showed improvement. His hot start in Triple-A that season is what earned him a call up to St. Louis. So it was with that recent run of success behind him that Plodinec found himself walking into Dodger Stadium as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.
In front of more than 31,000 fans in Los Angeles, the Dodgers scored five unanswered runs after falling behind 1-0 early on. Tommy John was on the bump for L.A. while Reggie Cleveland opposed him for the Cards. Plodinec came out of the bullpen with his team down 5-1 and with runners on second and third. Swiftly, Manny Mota singled off him, which scored a run and put runners on the corners.
Plodinec folded under the pressure and threw a wild pitch, which allowed a run to score and Mota to move up all the way to third. Steve Garvey then singled to left to score Mota. Plodinec had entered in a tough situation with two outs and he had been unable to stop the bleeding. Duke Sims followed with a single before Bill Russell mercifully lined out to left field to end the inning. The disaster Plodinec had inherited got even worse under his watch.
He allowed three earned runs, just one of them attributed to him since he inherited the first two runners. In just ⅓ innings, though, that ballooned his MLB ERA to 27.00. Quickly, he was sent back down to Triple-A Tulsa where he spent the next year and a half. In 1974, the Cardinals were no longer interested in him and he signed with the Montreal Expos. They sent him to Double-A Quebec. Though he went 14-5 with a 3.40 ERA, the fact he didn't get called up told him it was probably time to call it quits.
After seven professional seasons, ⅓ inning of worth spent in MLB, he hung up his cleats at just 27 years old. He was a flash in the pan, but at the end of the day, he got one experience very few get. He got to dig his cleats into the mound of a major-league game and despite the results, there are few feelings in the world you can imagine being better than that.