You have probably never heard of Chris Saenz, but he is a member of a very exclusive club of Major League Baseball players. The only member.
Saenz was never much of a prospect. Although born and raised in Tuscon, Arizona he never managed to get into University of Arizona or Arizona State University, the hotbeds of talent that gave MLB the likes of Barry Bonds, Reggie Jackson, Kenny Lofton, Sal Bando and ahem, Brett Wallace. Instead he went to Pima Community College in Tuscon, the institution of education that was attended by only nine MLB players.
He barely got drafted, getting picked in the 28th round of the 2001 MLB June Amateur Draft by the Brewers, or as the A’s fans know it – we now draft the relatives of our manager round.
He had mixed results once he started playing pro ball. He pitched in Rookie level in 2001, A level in 2002 and split his time between High A and AA in 2003, when he went back to starting. In that year his ERA topped 5 for the first time and his previously strong peripherals took a hit.
When Chris Capuano got injured on April 18th 2004, Milwaukee needed a spot starter and they recalled Saenz from Alabama. Although he did well, he was sent back to AA, where something seemed to click for him. Although his ERA wasn’t stellar, he showed very good control of the strike zone, striking out more than four times as many as he walked. His season on that 2004 Huntsville team, stacked with talent was cut short due to an elbow injury. He missed 2005 due to it, too. And 2006.
In 2007, the Angels gave him a try, but he was horrible. There was no control left in his arm, as he walked more than 30 batters in just over 40 innings. He gave it another try in the independent leagues, but he was done. Finally, in 2008 he retired for good.
So what is so special about him?
Saenz retired after appearing in only one single MLB game in his entire life. He was a starter in that game. He won. He didn’t allow any runs. Nobody before him or after him had such a brief and immaculate career. He had only one game, but he faced Albert Pujols (and hit him with a pitch, talk about not being intimidated) <em>and </em>Jim Edmonds. He had only one game, but he made it count and retired as the only person ever to start in his only game in the Majors, win it and not allow a single run.