I present the case of Joe Grzenda. He was as nondescript as a player could be. Joe pitched in the major leagues for 8 years. He was a reliever appearing in 219 games with only three starts. He pitched for the Tigers (1 year), Athletics (2 years), Mets (1 year), Twins (1 year), Senators (2 years), and the Cardinals (1 year). None of these teams ever played in a World Series or playoff game.
During that whole time he won 14 games and lost 13. His lifetime ERA was an even 4.00. In 308 innings he struck out 173 and walked 120. He was as forgetful a baseball player who ever lived and his last name only had 2 vowels. As a young boy, his baseball card was so disregarded that we attached it to the spokes of our bikes to make noise as we rode.
As so happens in life, this forgetful athlete had one excellent season. In 1971 while pitching for the Senators he had a record of 5-2 with a 1.92 ERA. Sports Illustrated Magazine even called him one of the best relievers in the American League during that year.
However 1971 was also the year the Senators announced to the people of Washington they would be moving to Texas and would be called the Rangers at the end of the year. This was the second time in history that the Washington Senators left town. The fans were very angry that this was happening for a second time in only 11 years. In 1961 the Senators moved from Washington to Minnesota to become the Twins. This second version of the Senators was an expansion team in 1962 replacing the departed Twins. These new Senators played 11 years averaging 90 losses per year.
In the last game of 1971, 14,000 upset fans came to express their displeasure at the Senators leaving town. During that last game, Joe Grzenda took the mound to get a save leading the Yankees 7-5. Fans had come on to the field in the 7th inning but authorities restored order. Joe Grzenda recorded the first out and more fans came on the field causing a second delay. Joe retired the second batter and the stands emptied. All the fans poured onto the field. The authorities called the game off and forfeited a victory to the Yankees. As for Joe, he left the mound holding the ball. A chance to save the final game in the stadium had been denied to Joe. He had never done anything memorable in his career and this small piece of history was taken away. However, the tale doesn’t end at this point.
Joe Grzenda held on to that ball for 34 years. On April 14, 2005, he attended the opening day for the Washington Nationals (Montreal Expos) and gave the ball to President George W. Bush (who at one time owned the Texas Rangers) and the President threw the ball out for the opening ceremonies.
Mr. Mediocre stared at Fate and smiled.