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The saddest major league career

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Andy O’Connor got one major league start, and it was not great.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

After a couple year in minor league ball, Andy O’Connor made his major league debut for the New York Highlanders late in the 1908 season. There’s not a ton of information that can seemingly be found online about O’Connor, but what happened in his only start is the only one of its kind in Yankees’ history.

The 24-year old was listed as having played for the Syracuse Stars in 1906-07 and for a team in Easton, PA in 1907 as well. In 1908, he was likely playing for the Trenton Tigers when a very bad Highlanders team brought O’Connor in.

The 1908 Highlanders came into October 6th with a 51-99 record, and were in last place by 13 games, never mind the 37 they were behind the first-placed Detroit Tigers. The disastrous managerial tenure of Kid Elberfeld was days away from ending, and the Yankees were on the path of what is probably the worst season in team history.

O’Connor was given the start on October 6th against the Red Sox in what was the Highlanders’ fourth to last game of the season. In the bottom of the first, O’Connor gave up a run. The following inning, he gave up five.

A couple things probably came together and ensured that O’Connor remained in the game for quite a while. For one, it was 1908. Pitchers just stayed in games longer, even when it wasn’t going great. Two, the season was almost over and the Highlanders were not good. As bad as giving up six runs in two innings is, why waste another pitcher in what already was a dumpsterfire of a game in a dumpsterfire of a season.

So, O’Connor remained in the game. For six more innings.

Andy O’Connor’s final line for his major league debut, is eight innings pitched, allowing 11 runs on 14 hits and seven walks. The Yankees were on the road and lost in the regulation nine innings, meaning technically O’Connor threw a complete game. Going by Baseball Reference WAR, he managed to accumulate -0.4 in just eight innings pitched.

Not even was it a bad day on a individual level for the starter, it was also the Highlanders’ 100th loss of the season, one of just two times that’s ever happened.

O’Connor didn’t appear again in the 1908 season, and wouldn’t play in the major leagues again. He played for several minor league teams in 1909 and his career seemingly ends after a season with the Lynn Shoemakers in 1910.

That means O’Connor’s one career appearance was a complete game. If you’re wondering how often that’s happened, the answer is actually a surprisingly large amount of people.

There are 26 players that have thrown a complete game and then never pitched again. Less surprising is that the vast majority were around the same era as O’Connor. Only 12 people have done it since O’Connor, and the most recent was in 1944.

However, this is the only time in Yankees’ history this has happened. For a variety of reason, it will probably be the only time it ever happens.

Sources

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/o/o'conan01.shtml

https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/NYY/1908-schedule-scores.shtml

https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/NYY/1908-schedule-scores.shtml

Data courtesy of the Baseball Reference Play Index