These Major League Baseball players gave fans false hope. For one season, these players put up great numbers and rallied energy within their team. But when it was time for them to carry the momentum into the following season, they were just a shell of themselves. Here are the one-hit wonders throughout the history of MLB.
Shane Spencer The Playoff Beast
In his rookie year, Shane Spencer slugged away ten home runs in September, and three of those were grand slams. He proved his worth during the 1998 playoffs with a hitting percentage of .500 against the Texas Rangers. Spencer also hit two home runs against them. He and the New York Yankees went on to win the World Series.
Afterward, he never had numbers that jumped off the stat sheet. He hit 59 home runs and had 242 RBIs over six years of his career. Four more years with the Yankees and none of that postseason magic would return for Spencer. He would eventually retire in 2006.
Giles’ Outfield Collision Ended His Career Early
Before Marcus Giles found a stable home with the Atlanta Braves, he bounced back between the minor and major leagues. This went on from 1996 until 2003 when the Braves added him to the starting line-up at second base. Once there, Giles made his presence felt right away with an impressive 21 home runs, 49 doubles, and 69 RBI.
This led to his first all-star selection and top 20 finish in MVP voting. The following season, it looked like Giles was ready to keep the momentum until he had a collision in the outfield. This caused him to miss 50 games, messing up his rhythm. His numbers dropped drastically and by 2006, he was out of Atlanta. Giles retired from the game of baseball in 2007.
Wang Chien-Ming: Two Seasons And Done
Pitcher Wang Chien-Ming had two great seasons with the New York Yankees. From 2006 to 2007, he won 38 games and turned himself into the ace pitcher for the Yankees going into the 2008 season. However, outside of those two seasons, he didn’t have much to show for, and Chien-Ming gained a reputation for being inconsistent.
From winning 38 games in two seasons to only winning 16 over eight seasons, Chien-Ming had fallen off. He would never see more than 54 strikeouts even though he had 180 combined in ’06 and ’07.
Aaron Boone Walks Off
There are some athletes who will live forever thanks to a time-stopping play. Aaron Boone is one of those players. After a solid year with the Cincinnati Reds, Boone headed to New York to play for the Yankees. New York will always cherish Boone’s walk-off home run in game seven of the playoffs against the Boston Red Sox in 2003. That play sent the Yankees to the World Series.
He would never reach those heights again after he sustained an injury playing pickup basketball. It forced him to miss the entire 2004 season. It was his only all-star season. Four years later, Boone would retire. This goes to show, stick to your sport.
Career Defining Moment For Mitch
You know it’s bad when you’re remembered for the worst thing you’ve done even if you had some great stats. For Mitch Williams, this is exactly the case. In the 1993 World Series, Williams gave up a walk-off home run in game six against the Toronto Blue Jays. That aside, he had above average numbers for his career but could never stay consistent.
His only all-star year came in 1989 while pitching for the Cubs. That season he had 67 strikeouts and 36 saves in 76 games. But everyone only knows him for the mistake in ’93.
That One Year Anderson Went Crazy
Now, Brady Anderson wasn’t your typical one-hit wonder by the traditional meaning. In fact, he had a great career with the Baltimore Orioles. He just had a one-hit wonder type of season that would never be produced again. In 1996, Anderson hit an incredible 50 home runs. Previously, he had only hit 24 home runs during his 15 years in MLB.
That qualifies as a one-hit wonder season by rule. Anderson wouldn’t get close to those numbers again. After wrapping up his career in Baltimore, Anderson played one season with the Cleveland Indians before retiring from baseball.
Doyle Saved His Best For The World Series
Brian Doyle only played in 110 games from 1978-1981, and only managed to hit one home run in the regular season during his entire career. However, when the lights shined the brightest, that is when Doyle came alive. Specifically, during the 1978 World Series with the Yankees.
As a rookie second baseman, Doyle played in six World Series games. During that span, he batted a .438 average and had seven hits in 16 at-bats. He also managed to have no strikeouts and two RBI. After being traded to the Oakland Athletics his career dwindled once again and he retired after one season.
Hot Rookie, Not So Much After
When a college athlete wins the championship before entering the draft, it is believed that they will have similar success in the professional league. The Seattle Mariners drafted Dave Fleming during the third round of the 1990 draft. He didn’t make his debut until the summer of ’91 and his first full season wasn’t until 1992.
Fleming won 17 games that year and had a 3.39 ERA. That was good enough to earn him third place in Rookie of the Year voting that season. But like all good things, that play came to an end the following season. He just wasn’t able to keep up that play.
Rookie Of The Year To Utility
Much like others on this list, Jerome Walton had a great rookie season. He had 24 steals, 23 doubles, and 46 RBI’s in 116 games. That would be good enough to earn him the Rookie of the Year in 1989 with the Chicago Cubs. Three years later, he was forced to utility outfield duties.
Walton would never get near those rookie year numbers again throughout his ten years of playing. His highest numbers feel to 14 stolen bases, 22 RBI’s, and only 16 doubles. He already had those numbers just midway through his rookie season.
Tough Road For Rhodes
Tuffy Rhodes had a great career in the Nippon Professional League in Japan that lasted for 13 seasons. He hit 464 home runs during that time. But he hadn’t had that kind of luck in the MLB. Rhodes first made his MLB debut in 1990, playing for the Houston Astros before moving over to the Chicago Cubs.
Rhodes’ 1994 season was an anomaly. He had three opening-day home runs and played 95 games that season. He also tallied up 17 doubles. Rhodes never got more than six doubles and three homers in any other season. He would end up being out of the league and heading overseas by the end of 1995.
The Next Big Thing
Did we say the next big thing? Well, that’s what the San Diego Padres thought Phil Plantier was going to be back in ’93. After a strong showing his rookie season with the Red Sox, he headed over to the Padres. Once there, he turned in great numbers: 34 home runs and 100 RBI’s in 462 at-bats.
Those stats were good enough to have him only behind Barry Bonds in home-runs-per-at-bats. In his final three MLB seasons, Plantier would only hit 21 home runs. Talk about a major drop off. He would retire in 1998.
Coming On Too Strong?
The St. Louis Cardinals gave pitcher Rick Ankiel a shot and boy did he impress. At the end of the 1999 season, Ankiel came alive. Through 33 innings, he pitched 39 strikeouts. 2000 was his first full season as a rookie, and Ankiel threw 194 strikeouts in 175 innings. That placed him second in Rookie of the Year voting.
That same fall, Ankiel would end up losing his touch during the playoffs, which is the worst time for that to happen. He ended up walking 25 batters in his first 24 innings of the 2001 season and was sent back down to the minor league. Ouch.
The Rookie Hamelin
You can’t make an entrance into the major leagues better than Bob Hamelin in 1994. Hamelin had 25 doubles and 65 RBI’s. Don’t forget about the 25 home runs he hit, which was solid, for a rookie. The man was on fire and beat out Manny Ramirez for the Rookie of the Year award.
As quick as he won that award, Hamelin’s career disintegrated. The very next season, he found himself in the minors. He went from 65 RBI’s to 25. One-hit wonder in the true sense.
This Rookie Had It
The theme appears to be that players have a great rookie season in the MLB, then drop off. Sadly, they are unable to sustain that high level of play once the adrenaline of making the big leagues wears off. This was also true for Kevin Maas. His 1990 season is one you shouldn’t forget. He was called up to the major league at the end of June and ended up hitting ten home runs in fewer than 80 at-bats.
Maas ended up finishing that season with 21 homers in 254 at-bats. The determination to continue his performance seemed to be there but it just never panned out for him. All of Maas’ numbers had declined by a great amount and by 1992, he was in the Minors.
The Sophomore Slumper
The sophomore slump is a term used in sports that describes most of what we’ve touched on here! It’s when a player regresses in their second season after having an incredible rookie year. Joe Charboneau is another prime example of this. Charboneau’s astronomical rookie season would be followed by despair.
After winning the Rookie of the Year in 1980 with 23 home runs and 87 RBI’s, Charboneau would be hit with the injury bug, injuring his back during spring training. He only played 70 games in the next two seasons.
Mark Prior didn’t have a sophomore slump. He did amazing in his second season. It was even better than his rookie year. The second overall pick of the 2001 draft put up great numbers his sophomore year. With 245 strikeouts and 2.43 ERA, he earned third in the CY Young award voting for best pitcher.
In a playoff game, Prior was facing a batter with a three-run lead against Florida. Steve Bartman took away a foul ball from Moises Alou. This led to Florida scoring eight runs that same inning. The Cubs went on to lose and Prior spent the next three seasons on the disabled list. He would never pitch again.
The Slump Is Strong With Morris
Warren Morris hit a game-winning home run for LSU in the College World Series back in 1996. In 1999, he arrived at the major league and instantly caught the attention of his teammates and fans. He hit 15 home runs and had 73 RBI’s. Don’t forget about his .288 batting average. Morris was able to finish third in Rookie of the Year voting.
In 2000, the slump came strong. His average went down to .259 and then in 2001, it also dipped to .204. Once 2003 was over, Morris was no longer in the Majors. That is what you call a disappearing act.
Contract Year For Garland
This might be a smart one-hit wonder. There are years when a player’s contract is about to expire and when that is the case, players tend to set-up their game. This is the time to show that they deserve more money or another shiny contract from another team.
After three years as a reliever with the Baltimore Orioles, Garland had an opportunity to prove his worth. He did just that with a great year: H pitched a 20-7 record and saves in in 25 starts. That offseason, he was offered a ten-year deal worth $2.3 million (this was in the ’70s). But when the season came, Garland was only decent by standards. The following season, he had a myriad of injuries. All that money wasted.
The Shock Was Gone
Luis Gonzalez was a great hitter since the day he put on an Arizona Diamondbacks uniform. He even led the National League in hits, back in 1999. But then 2001 came and everyone was shocked. When Gonzalez came up to bat, he gave people something to be excited about.
He went from 37 home runs to 57. His on-base percentage and hitting were all at career highs. Then the next season he only hit 28 home runs. That turned out to be the highest total of his career.
The Landslide Rookie Of The Year
There aren’t many built the way Mark Fidrych was built. He had quite the imagination. He would talk to the baseball and also groom the mound with his hands. He wasn’t given a chance to pitch until May 15th of the 1976 season. He won that game and was given another start. He ended up pitching another complete game and from there, Fidrych became a phenom.
He ended up taking the place as starting pitcher in the all-star game that year and finished the year with a 19-9 record. He got second in CY Young voting and won the Rookie of the Year in ’76. The workload caught up with the youngster. Fidrych ended up hurting his knee and tearing his rotator cuff. The remaining four years of his career only saw him start 27 times.
Loyal To The Team
If you remember the name Bobby Higginson, then you’re probably a Detroit Tigers fan. For 11 seasons from 1995 to 2005, Higginson played for the Detroit Tigers and never played for another MLB team in his entire career.
In 2000, Higginson boasted a .300 average, 30 home runs and 102 runs batted in, despite the fact that he was never selected for an All-Star Game throughout his career. Despite his skill, Higginson’s limited success is probably attributed to the fact that he played for the Tigers when they weren’t very good, experiencing more losses than wins.
Perhaps It Was Wishful Thinking
Pitcher Wayne Garland was a long reliever for the Orioles for three years, which included one great year in which he threw 14 complete games out of the 25 that he was the starting pitcher for. That season he had a 20-7 record with a 2.67 ERA before he became a free agent.
The following season, he went to the Indians under a ten-year $2.3 million contract. At just 26 years old, Cleveland hoped that Garland would be a star on their rotation. Unfortunately after 1977, all those plans went downhill when Garland suffered a number of injuries. The Indians released him earlier than expected and after he signed with the Yankees, he was sent to AA.
Maybe He Shouldn’t Have Went To The Mets
In 2004, Pittsburgh Pirates’s Oliver Perez looked like he was about to be one of the MLB’s hottest pitcher. He finished that season with a 2.98 ERA and d239 strikeouts in 196 innings. Impressive? Yes. Which is why the Mets organization might have been optimistic about obtaining the then-22-year-old left-handed pitcher.
Unfortunately, the move didn’t fare well for Perez since he wound up giving up too many long balls, which might have shook his confidence and caused him to lose miles off his fastball. He then went from the Nationals to the Mariners, to the Diamondbacks, and then the Astros, before winding up with the Nationals again.
It Was Hopeful For The “Fat Toad”
Hideki Irabu was a pitcher out of Japan who was about to go to the San Diego Padres. However, Irabu insisted that he would only play with the Yankees and he ended up getting what he wanted. Irabu pitched for the Yankees from 1997 to 1999 and within that time won two World Series rings despite having only pitched in one postseason game.
Still, at first, Irabu was impressive, finishing with a 4.06 ERA in 173 innings in his first full season with New York. But afterward, his talents began to decline and he was never able to match his strikeout totals from Japan. After the Yankees got rid of him, he ended up falling out of the MLB by 2002. Sadly, he took his own life in 2011.
So Much For The 11th Overall Pick
Shawn Estes made his Major League debut with the Giants in 1995. He pitched his best season in 1997 with a 3.18 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 201 innings. Yet, despite being the 11th overall pick in the 1991 MLB draft, Estes, unfortunately, could not deliver as well as he did in the beginning.
Over the course of his career, his ERA ballooned between 4.00 and 6.00 and it eventually got to the point where he was allowing one walk every two innings. He was eventually traded to the Mets, before being passed off to the Reds, the Cubs, the Rockies, the Diamondbacks, then the Padres. To add insult to injury, he only made the All-Star team once in his entire 13 years in the MLB.
Justin Thompson Fell Flat
Justin Thompson road to one-hit-wonder-fame took a while. The left was drafted right out of high school but wouldn’t make it to the major league for five more years. But after just a year in the MLB, he had already earned himself a spot amongst the All-Star.
He closed his first major-league season with 32 starts, 223.1 innings, and an impressive 3.02 ERA. He went on to have another somewhat successful season the next year but never achieved quite the same high and it looked like his career might be over at just 26 years old. Thompson joined the Rangers in 2005 but his stats fell flat.
Wally Bunker Was Full Of Promise
Wally Bunker (pictured left) began playing for the Baltimore Orioles when he was just 18 years old. Despite his age, he pitched like one of the veterans. People took notice of Bunker’s more than impressive arm, and the athlete closed out the 1964 season with 19 wins and just five losses as well as a 2.69 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.
Bunker was an enigma of sorts compared to other pitchers of the times. While he didn’t strikeouts as many players as some of the other pitchers, hitters didn’t quite know what they were going to get when he was on the mound. The young star pitched for six more years but never had as impressive of a season as his first. He retired in 1971 at 26 years old.
Seattle Bill Lost His Steam
Bill James was adoringly given the nickname “Seattle Bill” after he won 26 games for the Braves in one of the most incredible seasons in early MLB history. During the season, James made 37 starts, of which 30 he pitched complete games, totaling 332.1 innings. This left him with an impressive 1.90 ERA when the season was up.
James went on to lead the Braves to a World Series titles in the postseason against the Philadelphia Athletics who were unable to score a single run in 11 innings. However, following this all-star season, James baseball career lost its steam and he never experienced the same success. He retired for good at age 27.
Tommy Harper Was One Of The Fastest In The Game
There were few players in MLB history that were as fast as Tommy Harper, but yet, the athlete has been referred to as merely a slap hitter…with the exception of one season. In 1970, the Milwaukee Brewers infielder scored a staggering 31 home runs, which nearly double the record of 18 in 1965. Harper finished that season with .296/.377/.522 — what would be his career best.
While Harper did go on to have multiple good seasons throughout his MLB career, none were as good or as memorable as the 1970 season. In the photo above, Harper (left) is shown with Pete Rose at the Rookie Ceremony.
Geovany Soto Excited Fans In 2008
Geovany Soto is a free agent who has played for the Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the Chicago White Sox. While he is not yet retired, he hasn’t excited his fans quite like he did in 2008. It was this year that the athlete hit 23 home runs, batted in 86 runners, and finished the season with a .285 as well as the Rookie of the Year title.
With impressive stats like that and a title to boot, he seemed very promising as a rookie. Lots of fans though the Cubs were going to get an above-average hitter out of Soto as well as a long-term catcher spot, but Soto never had another season quite as impressive.
Dontrelle Willis had an incredible year in 2005. During that season he had impressive stats that included: 34 starts, 223.1 innings, 170 strikeouts, 2.63 ERA, and 1.13 WHIP. All things considered, this was an impressive season — especially for someone who was just 23 years old at the time.
While the rest of Willis’ career has been fruitful, it’s safe to say he hasn’t had a year quite like the 2005 season again. We can’t really write this star off as a one-hit-wonder just yet (he’s trying to make a comeback to the big leagues) but the rest is to be determined.
Chris Hoiles On The Come Up
Chris Hoiles’ 1993 season lands him a spot on our list. Although Hoiles had a somewhat lackluster career prior, it was think year when people started noticing the offensive catcher and briefly considered him amongst the greats.
It was during this season that Hoiles hit 26 home runs and drove in 82 runs at bat in 126 games. He finished the season with a .310/.416/.585 line, which ultimately put him in the top-five for each. Talk about an impressive come-up.
His Fire Was Put Out
When you’re giving a nickname like “Hurricane,” one can bet you’re bound to bring your A-game…and Bob “Hurricane” Hazel did…for a little while. Hazel made his debut playing for the Cincinnati Redbacks in 1955. He did a decent job early in his career but didn’t really make a name for himself until two years in as an outfield and pinch-hitter. It was then that he was promoted to the majors after starting outfielder Bill Burton was injured. After that, Hazel’s career caught on fire.
The newbie batted an impressive .403, earning seven home runs, 12 doubles, and an unbelievable 1.126 OPS. Despite a promising career, it seemed that someone put Hazel’s fire out. He has a less-than-impressive season the next year and retired at 27.
Arm Troubles Ended Cheney’s Career
Tom Cheney may not be a household name anymore, but for one brief season in MLB history, he shined. Cheney even holds a record to this day for the most strikeout in a single major-league game (21, if you’re wondering). What’s more impressive is during that record-setting game, Cheney pitched every inning and threw 228 pitches for a 2-1 win for the Baltimore Orioles.
All of those strikeouts took a toll on Cheney though, and his arm was never quite the same after that. The next season, he threw just 136.1 innings and then even fewer (48.2) after that. His arm trouble eventually ended his career.
The Literal One-Hit-Wonder
John Paciorek is a literal one-hit-wonder because he played, well, just one game in his entire MLB career. During that game, Paciorek earned three hits in three official at-bats. While at bat he drove in all three of his team’s runs during the last game of the season. For Houston fans, this was extremely exciting, since the 18-year-old newcomer showed up seemingly out of nowhere and delivered. So what happened to Paciorek?
Unfortunately, Paciorek never returned to the field. The athlete was supposed to be a starter for Houston during the next season, but chronic and debilitating back problems kept him on the bench. Despite only ever playing one game, he technically has the highest career batting average in baseball history!
From 1960 to 1969, Dick Ellsworth was a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. But what the athlete did in 1963 is what makes him an MLB one-hit-wonder to remember. Ellsworth won 22 games and finished second in the league that year. He had an impressive 2.11 ERA in 290.2 innings and made the All-Star team. All good things must come to an end though, and the following year, Ellsworth’s steam seemed to have run out. He never won more than 16 games in any of the following seasons and eventually finished his career with a 3.72 ERA.
Shane Spencer Showed Promise
Shane Spencer was first called to the major leagues in the late ‘90s when he was 26 years old. Joining the New York Yankees, he made a great impression amongst fans as he hit 10 home runs, including three grand slams during his first season (this was a record at the time). Even more impressive was that Spencer was able to accomplish this feat with only 67 at-bats, which earned him a place on the Yankees roster when the season ended. It appeared that Spencer was to have a promising career, but he didn’t maintain his success. He split the 2003 season between Texas and Cleveland and became a free agent the next year.
Bobby Crosby Disappeared
Bobby Crosby is a former infielder for the MLB who had a promising career until he basically disappeared. In 1998 he was selected by the Anaheim Angels in the 34th round of the MLB draft. He chose not to sign with the Angels and instead went to play for California State University. Went he did go pro in 2001, he signed by the Oakland Athletics. During his first full MLB season, he hit .239 with an impressive 22 home runs and 64 RBIs. Leading the American League Rookies, he deservingly took home the Rookie of the Year title. While this season was impressive, he never had a season with quite the same vigor. He played fewer and fewer games and was eventually released by the Brewers and the Diamondbacks.
He Was Once Anointed The Second Coming Of Cy Young
Cy Young was an American Major League Baseball pitcher, who, during his 22-season career, pitched for five teams. Altogether he compiled more than 511 wins, the most in MLB history, and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937. No big deal right?
To be compared to a baseball great like Cy Young, you have to pretty talented yourself. An Irv Young (no relation) seemed like he was about to have a career as promising as Cy’s. In fact, Irv was once anointed the second coming of Cy Young. The only this is, he let everyone down. Read more about his one-hit-wonder career next.
Irv Didn’t Live Up To Cy Young
After Irv Young’s stellar season is 1905, people began to pay attention to the young MLB star. During that season, Irv made 42 starts for the Beaneaters, completing 41 of them and pitching a league-leading 378 innings. All things considered, he was a force to be reckoned with, which brought on the comparisons between Irv and Cy. The following season, it seemed the same vigor was still there as Irv made 41 starts and competed in 37 in 358.1 innings.
But a year later, things had changed. Not only did Irv fail to live up to his performance in the previous season, but his stats totally fell flat. He made just 78 starts for the rest of his career and by 1908, Irv was a part-time reliever. He retired three years later in 1911 at just 33 years old.