The term “one-hit wonder” often conjures up images of musical artists and bands. A musical act comes along and releases a song that achieves immense, yet short-lived mainstream popularity. While music is fraught with examples of one-hit wonders, they can occur in other fields as well. Take sports, for example.
One cannot forget about David Tyree, the New York Giants receiver who made the famous “helmet catch” against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 42. Or how about Buster Douglas, the boxer who knocked out the previously undefeated Mike Tyson in 1990? Sports are full of players who shined for one great moment and captured the attention of fans everywhere.
In Major League Baseball, “one-hit wonder” refers to a player who enjoyed one prolific season anomalous to all others in their respective career. This list does not look at players who kept up solid production throughout their entire careers, and simply excelled in one category for one year. The list takes into account players who noticeably exceeded in two or more statistical categories for their “one-hit wonder” season, and failed to replicate that success. It looks at players whose notoriety comes from one season of all-around success.
Many of these “one-season wonders” ended their careers in the minor leagues. Fans might have wondered what happened to these players after they retired from baseball. Well, here are 15 such one-hit wonders and what they are up to now.
15 Mitch Williams
Mitch Williams is best known today for giving up a walk-off home run to the Toronto Blue Jays’ Joe Carter in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. That unfortunate moment came to define his career. Yet, he amassed over 40 wins, 650 strikeouts, and nearly 200 saves over an 11-year career. Those are respectable numbers, but he never established consistent dominance in any statistical category for more than one season.
Williams earned his only career All-Star appearance in 1989 while pitching for the Cubs. He pitched to a 2.76 earned run average with 67 strikeouts and 36 saves in 76 appearances. Although he helped Chicago make the playoffs that year, he struggled in the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants.
His most notable post-retirement venture came in sports broadcasting. He spent two years as a baseball analyst in the Philadelphia market before joining MLB Network as a studio analyst from 2009 to 2014.
14 Marcus Giles
Giles played decently in the minors after the Braves took him in the 53rd of the 1996 MLB draft. He bounced between the major and minor-league level before earning the Braves’ starting second baseman job in 2003. He made an impact from the start, hitting .316 with 21 home runs, 49 doubles, and 69 runs batted in. He made his one and only All-Star appearance that season, and finished in the Top 20 for NL MVP voting.
Giles was poised to repeat his All-Star campaign the following season, until an outfield collision sidelined him for over 50 games, interrupting his rhythm. Giles finished the 2004 season with a .311 batting average, eight home runs, and 22 doubles. He rebounded with 15 home runs in 2005, but his batting average fell to .262 in 2006.
The Braves parted ways with Giles after the 2006 season. He spent his final year in the league with the Padres in 2007, hitting .226 with four home runs and 39 RBI. Following his playing career Giles pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge and had to undergo a year of counselling as part of his plea deal.
13 Wang Chien-Ming
Wang Chien-Ming got off to a fast start with the Yankees in 2006 and 2007. He won 38 games over that span, and established himself as the ace of the Yankees pitching staff heading into the 2008 season. Sure, he wasn't a one-season wonder, but his reign of success didn't last much longer than that. Apart from 2006 and 2007, Wang's career was marred by injuries and inconsistency.
Wang won just 16 games over the next eight seasons between the Yankees, Nationals, Blue Jays and Royals. His ERA never dipped below 4.00, as it had during the 2006-2007 seasons. He never pitched more than 100 innings in any of those seasons (he pitched over 200 in 2006). He also never topped more than 54 strikeouts, although he had 180 combined from 2006-07.
The Royals released Wang after the 2016 season. As of May 2017, the 37-year-old remains a free agent.
12 Shane Spencer
Spencer never put up prolific numbers in the majors, hitting only 59 home runs and 242 RBI over a six-year MLB career. However, he proved to be integral to the New York Yankees’ postseason run in 1998. Spencer hit ten home runs in the month of September, three of which were grand slams. Spencer batted .500 with another two home runs and four RBI in the ALDS against the Texas Rangers that postseason. He went on to win three World Series titles in the Bronx.
Spencer spent another four seasons with the Yankees after 1998, never quite replicating his late-season and postseason success as a rookie in 1998. Yet, he still proved to be a valuable utility infielder for the team.
Spencer remained involved in baseball after his 2006 retirement. He served as a hitting coach for the Single-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres from 2008-2012. In 2016, after three years coaching in the Atlantic League, Spencer accepted a minor-league managerial role for the South Korean baseball club, the Hwaseong (Nexen) Heroes.
11 Tuffy Rhodes
Utility players aren’t known for offensive flair. Even Tuffy Rhodes, who hit 464 home runs in 13 seasons in the Nippon Professional League in Japan, did not have the same knack for the long ball during his time in Major League Baseball.
Rhodes made his MLB debut for the Houston Astros in 1990 and was out of the league by 1995. The only consistent playing time Rhodes saw came during the 1994 season while he was a member of the Cubs. He hit three opening-day home runs against Dwight Gooden, and played in 95 games that season. His 17 doubles and eight home runs were a true anomaly. Rhodes never hit more than six doubles and three home runs in any other season.
As noted, Rhodes found stardom in Japan for the next 15 years before his official retirement in 2009. He returned to the United States in 2010, and joined the coaching staff of the Houston Hoops AAU club, where his son played high school basketball.
In 2014, Rhodes was spotted at a Houston Rockets game, catching a Hakeem Olajuwon-signed basketball and handing it off to a young fan.
10 Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle played in 110 games in the major leagues from 1978-1981. He only hit one regular-season home run during his career, but made his biggest impact in the postseason with the New York Yankees. Just as Reggie Jackson starred in 1977 World Series, Doyle made his mark on the 1978 championship team.
The rookie second baseman played in six World Series games, and racked up seven hits in 16 at-bats for a .438 average. He also had two RBI and no strikeouts. Bucky Dent may have won the Series MVP that year, but Doyle really brought his best for the biggest stage.
Doyle left the majors after the 1981 season. Since then, he has bravely battled numerous health ailments, from leukemia in the 1990s to Parkinson’s in 2015. He became an ordained minister in 2005 and served as pastor at First Baptist Church in Ft. Lauderdale. He is now working on an autobiography.
“It’s another opportunity for me to show that there’s hope, that you just don’t stop living when something like this happens,” Doyle told the Daily News in 2015. “I have no regrets.”
9 Aaron Boone
Aaron Boone will forever live in New York Yankees lore for his walk-off home run in Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox that vaulted the team to the World Series. His career was never the same from there, as he sat out the 2004 season with an injury sustained playing pickup basketball.
Boone’s home run wasn't the only one-hit wonder of his career. Just one year before, Boone enjoyed an All-Star season with the Cincinnati Reds. He belted 26 home runs and notched 86 RBI as he played all 162 games that season. It proved to be Boone's only All-Star season.
After retiring in 2010, Boone joined ESPN as a baseball analyst and commentator for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball and Baseball Tonight broadcasts.
8 Brady Anderson
Brady Anderson enjoyed a productive career with the Baltimore Orioles. By no means was he a “one-hit wonder” in the traditional sense. He didn’t just have one great all-around season then drop off the face of the MLB map.
However, he did have a one-hit wonder season in 1996, when he hit 50 home runs. Why was this an anomaly? Well, Anderson had never hit more than 24 home runs in any of his other 15 seasons in the majors. The 1996 season marked his second All-Star appearance, as he posted a .297 average and 110 RBI. The only time Anderson came close to that total was in 1999 when he notched 81 RBI. His .297 batting average was also much higher than his career average of .256.
Still, Anderson’s accomplishments deserve recognition. He ranks among the top ten in many offensive categories for the Orioles. After retirement, he was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame, and has since joined the team as an executive. Anderson currently serves as the Orioles’ Vice President of Baseball Operations.
7 Dave Fleming
The Seattle Mariners took Dave Fleming in the third round of the 1990 draft. The young pitcher was fresh off a College World Series Championship, and appeared destined for similar success in Major League Baseball. He debuted for the Mariners during the summer of 1991. He enjoyed early success during his first full season in the majors in 1992, winning 17 games and sporting a 3.39 ERA. Fleming also finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year vote that season.
Unfortunately, Fleming could not replicate his rookie success over the following years in Seattle. He won 12 games in 1993, but only eight games total over the next two years. The Mariners traded Fleming to the Royals in 1995, where he pitched nine games with the team before undergoing surgery that led to his early retirement.
In retirement, Fleming returned to school, earning a master's degree from the University of New Haven. Fleming found a second career as a teacher. As of 2011, Fleming teaches math at Paul E. Chatfield School in Seymour, Connecticut.
6 Jerome Walton
Jerome Walton excelled as a rookie much like Fleming did. In his first season with the Chicago Cubs, Walton batted .293 with five home runs, 23 doubles, 46 RBI, and 24 steals in 116 games. He captured the 1989 NL Rookie of the Year Award.
By 1992, Walton was relegated to utility outfield duties. He never sniffed those 1989 numbers for the remainder of his ten-year MLB career. He never topped 16 doubles, 22 RBI or 14 stolen bases in any single subsequent season.
He left the majors in 1998, and has since become high school baseball coach for Westlake High School in Cascade, Georgia. It's certainly been a relatively quiet life but students must enjoy listening about his time in the majors.
5 Phil Plantier
Plantier looked like the next big thing for the San Diego Padres in 1993. He had just joined the team after a solid rookie season with the Boston Red Sox. During that 1993 season, the power-hitting left fielder belted 34 home runs and 100 RBI in 462 at-bats. He placed second in the league to Barry Bonds in home-runs-per-at-bats.
Plantier hit another 18 home runs in 1994, but his average dropped to a paltry .220 as injuries limited him to just 96 games. Plantier hit 21 home runs over his final three MLB seasons from 1995-1997.
He retired in 1998. From 2008-2010, Plantier served as a hitting coach (and manager in 2009) for the Seattle Mariners' Double-A team in Tennessee.
He also served as hitting coach for the Padres from 2011-2014.
4 Rick Ankiel
Ankiel got his start as a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, and what a promising one it was. He burst onto the scene at the end of the 1999 season, with 39 strikeouts in 33 innings. His first full rookie season in 2000 was his best as a starter. Ankiel made 30 starts that season, going 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 175 innings pitched. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting.
Unfortunately, Ankiel lost the control and location on his pitches fairly quickly, turning in a disappointing postseason performance that Fall. He walked 25 batters through his first 24 innings of the 2001 season and was demoted to Triple-A. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2002 and eventually attempted an ill-fated comeback as a pitcher in 2004.
By the late 2000s, Ankiel had reinvented himself as an outfielder. He hit 47 home runs with the St. Louis Cardinals from 2007-2009. Ankiel announced his retirement in 2014, and was named a life skills coordinator for the Washington Nationals in 2015. He released a memoir in 2017, where he touches on his struggle to maintain his pitching prowess beyond that 2000 season.
3 Bob Hamelin
Bob Hamelin burst onto the baseball scene in 1994 with 25 doubles and 65 RBI as a rookie for the Kansas City Royals. Hamelin’s 24 home runs set the franchise record for home runs by a rookie. He beat out Manny Ramirez for the league’s Rookie of the Year Award.
His reign with the Royals was short-lived, and he found himself in the minors the very next season. In just one year, Hamelin’s batting average dropped to .168, as he hit just seven home runs, seven doubles, and 25 RBI.
The Royals released Hamelin in 1997, after which he signed on for one season with the Detroit Tigers. His production rebounded somewhat (.270 average, 18 home runs, 52 RBI) but never approached his rookie stats.
Since retiring in 1999, Hamelin briefly joined the construction industry and worked as a scout for Washington Nationals, Toronto Blue Jays, and Boston Red Sox.
2 Kevin Maas
Speaking of incredible rookie seasons, one cannot ignore Kevin Maas’ 1990 campaign for the New York Yankees. Maas was called up at the end of June, and hit 10 home runs in less than 80 at-bats. He finished the season with 21 home runs in 254 at-bats. By comparison, 2016 Yankees’ rookie sensation Gary Sanchez hit 20 home runs in 201 at-bats.
Maas seemed determined to continue his hot start the following season, belting another 23 home runs. However, his batting average dropped to .220 in 500 at-bats. Maas’ on-base percentage and slugging percentage declined as well, and by 1992, Maas founded himself in the minors.
The Yankees eventually released Maas in 1994. He spent his final MLB season with the Minnesota Twins in 1995 before signing in Japan for one year.
Maas finished his MLB career with 65 home runs, approximately 70 percent of which came during his first two seasons with the Yankees. Since retirement, Maas found work as a financial consultant in California, and appeared at the Yankees’ Old Timer’s Day in 2008 and 2011.
1 Joe Charboneau
Most sports fans know about the dreaded “sophomore slump,” where promising young rookies regress from the production of their freshman season.
Joe Charboneau exhibited one of the more notable cases of the jinx after his otherworldly rookie year with the Cleveland Indians in 1980. During that 1980 season, Charboneau hit .289 with 23 home runs and 87 RBI, earning the AL Rookie of the Year. However, his career nosedived after that one magical season, as injuries limited him to 70 games over the next two seasons.
He was out of Major League Baseball by 1983. In retirement, Charboneau spent time as a coach for a few teams in the independent Midwestern-based Frontier League. In 2015, he was named manager of the Lorain County Ironmen of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League. He previously served as the team’s hitting coach from 2011-2013.
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