November 18, 1896: Bill Hughes
Often, when a player makes their MLB debut in their early 20's and is sent back to the minor leagues, their career fizzles out in short order. Getting just one game in the major leagues and facing the prospect of having to climb all the way back there is too much for most. Bill Hughes reacted the opposite way of most "Cup of Coffee Club" members, fighting and clawing his way back, never to reach the majors again.
Hughes would play 20 seasons in the minor leagues, finally retiring after the 1939 season at age 42. He would amass a 270-212 record with a 3.51 ERA in over 4,000 innings of work. His travels saw him put on 11 different uniforms. In all that time in professional baseball, just one appearance came on baseball's biggest stage.
In just his second season of professional ball, Hughes was recalled by the Pittsburgh Pirates to On September 15, 1921, the 84-54 Pirates hosted the 75-64 Boston Braves in front of 5,000 fans at Forbes Field. Twenty-game-winner Wilbur Cooper started the game on the mound for Pittsburgh, but he didn't last long. After five innings, allowing four runs (just one earned), Cooper was out of the game, replaced by Jimmy Zinn. After Zinn's one inning of relief, he made way for Hughes, who was making his big-league debut.
With his team already down, Hughes pitched the top of the seventh and eighth innings, allowing just one earned run on three hits and struck out two. After facing 11 batters, Hughes' day was done and soon too was the Pirates' day. In a game that took just over 90 minutes, the Braves had defeated the home team, 6-3. Hughes left the ballpark that day with a 4.50 ERA and that's where his career ERA would forever rest.
Though he spent the next 18 years in the minor leagues, he was never able to get back and prove what he could've done if given another chance on a big-league mound. Instead, he became one of the most prolific minor leaguers to ever pitch. His one day in the majors served as something of a footnote on his long professional baseball career. In other ways, it was the highlight of a career, which at the time, was just two years in the making.