Last night, Padres catcher Tommy Medica made his major league debut. Medica was drafted in the 14th round of the 2010 amateur draft. Going into this season, he wasn't on the MLB list of top-20 prospects for the Padres, nor was he on fellow SBNer John Sickels' list, though he did make the next cut from Sickels as a C+ prospect.
However, he's had a pretty good year this year, leading the Padres minor league system with 20 home runs. From this article about his career, he seems like he's doing quite well in the minors overall: "In four minor league seasons, he is hitting .295 (312-for-1058) with 177 runs, 94 doubles, eight triples, 49 home runs, 205 RBI, .388 on-base percentage, .538 slugging percentage and a .926 OPS in 300 games."
In his major league debut last night, Medica did what every kid dreams of - he hit a home run in his first game in the big leagues. It wasn't his first at-bat, but it was against one of the best pitchers in baseball, Cliff Lee. That's something to be damn proud of and something he'll remember for the rest of his life.
He finished the game 1 for 4, so as of this writing, he has one career hit, a home run. Which got me thinking after the game (what else do we have to think about given this Phillies' season?) - has anyone gone their entire career and finished with that line? One career hit and only one career hit, and it's a home run?
Well, thanks to the incredible Play Index tool over at Baseball Reference, I was able to figure this out. In baseball history, there have been 17 players who have exactly one hit for their career and that hit is a home run. For now, we'll call this feat "to Medica." (With this, I mean no disrespect to Tommy Medica nor do I have any reason to believe he will end his career with these numbers. In fact, I have every reason to believe that he will not. But, at this point in time, this is what his career is - one hit, one home run.)
As you might guess with a little bit of thought, a majority of the players to have Medica'd (I threw in the apostrophe rather than an e for effect) are pitchers, but just a bare majority. 9 pitchers have Medica'd compared to 8 position players. It's the latter who are of most interest to me.
Here's the position-player Medica list, sorted by most plate appearances:
The winner, for the most impressive Medica career goes to Ron Allen. Allen has a somewhat interesting story for someone with only 1 major league hit. (I'd bet each guy on this list does.) In fact, his story is a Phillies story at heart.
Allen is the brother of famed Phillies slugger Dick Allen. Dick, Ron, and their other brother Hank were all signed by the same Phillies scout. Ron was signed in 1964 and stayed with the Phillies minor league organization through 1970. While in the minors, Ron had prodigious power. In 9 years in the minors (7 with the Phillies), he hit 135 home runs. One home run he hit while playing for the Spartanburg Phillies went 600 feet. The manager at the time said "I have no way of telling how high it went, but it would have gone out of any park in the country, including Yellowstone."
After his brother Richie fought with the Phillies and left the team in 1969, Ron was sent to the Mets and then the Cardinals. His only major league hit came after he was called up by the Cardinals in August 1972. In his career-defining game, he replaced Joe Torre because Torre was ejected. Allen came into the game in the 8th and got his only hit, the home run, in the ninth. That hit came in the fourth game of his seven game MLB career.
I wasn't able to find out why he was never able to display the rest of his power in the majors, but that one hit was all Allen got in the majors. He had 14 plate appearances and nothing else. He walked 3 times though, so he finished with a .091/.286/.364 triple-slash line - good for a .649 OPS that would be the envy of many of the 2013 Phillies.
The pitcher Medica list is also somewhat interesting.
Unlike the hitters, most of these pitchers had long careers, with Gregg Olson playing a remarkable 622 games. Of course, these are relief pitchers, who rarely get to the plate. But, for these guys, in those rare moments, they had that one special hit that they will always remember.
To Tommy Medica - may you remove your name from this list soon (though not today). In the meantime, let's marvel at these 17 guys whose major league careers feature this rare one hit, one home run feat - the Medica.