For whatever reason, Americans seem to be fascinated by certain ideas, products, or fads that exist for a very short time before vanishing into obscurity, never to be seen again. The colloquial term for this phenomenon is the "one-hit wonder."
One hit wonders can be found in almost every discipline, from single-year production vehicles (the DeLorean DMC-12) to nations that existed for only one day (Abu Dhabi, before becoming part of the United Arab Emirates) to actors who only appear in a single film (Danny Lloyd, the boy in The Shining). But most people tend to think about music when they use the phrase to denote songs or artists that only produced one widely-popular song. Examples include Soft Cell (Tainted Love), Right Said Fred (I'm Too Sexy), Dexy's Midnight Runners (Come on Eileen), Vicki Lawrence (The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia), and Los Del Rio (Macarena).
But the "one-hit wonder" reference can also apply to sports. Usually, people use it when talking about athletes, teams, or other ideas that were famous for a very short time. You can probably call to mind quite a few of them right now: Ickey Woods. Buster Douglas. Jeremy Lin. The 2006 George Mason Patriots Final Four college basketball team. The 1966 World Cup-winning English soccer team. And who could forget the XFL?
And even though (or perhaps because) baseball has been around longer than almost every other American sport, it has its share of one-hit wonders as well. This shouldn't be taken literally, we're not talking about players who only recorded a single hit in their entire careers. What we mean is someone who rose to greatness for just one season - or month - or night - and then never attained that level of performance ever again.
Here are the top 20 such "one-hit" wonders from Major League Baseball.
20 Clint Hurdle - OF, Kansas City Royals (1980)
19 Charlie Kerfeld - RP, Houston Astros (1986)
18 Bob Ojeda - SP, New York Mets (1986)
17 Mark Prior - SP, Chicago Cubs (2003)
16 Wayne Garland - SP, Baltimore Orioles (1976)
15 Bill James - SP, Boston Braves (1914)
14 Warren Morris - 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates (1999)
13 Wally Bunker - SP, Baltimore Orioles (1964)
12 Pete Schourek - SP, Cincinnati Reds (1995)
11 Joe Charboneau - OF/DH, Cleveland Indians (1980)
10 Mark Fidrych - SP, Detroit Tigers (1976)
9 Bob Hamelin - DH, Kansas City Royals (1994)
8 Kevin Maas - 1B, New York Yankees (second half of 1990)
7 Kent Bottenfield - SP, St. Louis Cardinals (first half of 1999)
6 Brian Doyle - 2B, New York Yankees (1978 World Series)
5 Chris Shelton - 1B, Detroit Tigers (April 2006)
4 Karl Spooner - SP, Brooklyn Dodgers (late September 1954)
3 Cesar Gutierrez - SS, Detroit Tigers (June 21, 1970)
2 John Paciorek - OF, Houston Colt 45s (September 29, 1963)
1 Tom Cheney - SP, Washington Senators (September 12, 1962)
In an eight-year career, Cheney recorded a grand total of 19 wins, 29 losses, and two saves. But when he took the mound against the Orioles in Washington on that September evening, all the stars must have aligned. Cheney struck out 13 batters while giving up only one run in nine innings - then stayed on the mound throughout the extra innings and struck out eight more, throwing 228 pitches altogether. The Senators won the game in 16 innings 2-1, and Cheney's 21 strikeouts still stands as a major league record. He developed arm trouble the following year, and was out of baseball prior to the middle of the 1966 season.
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