- Some MLB pitchers make stellar first impressions.
Stephen Strasburg hurled 14 strikeouts
in his super hyped debut.
Juan Marichal started his Hall of Fame career
with a one-hit shutout in 1960.
A guy called Bumpus Jones opened his brief,
mediocre career with a no-hitter in 1892.
But not everyone has a happy first day on the mound.
And in the deep history of humiliating debuts,
one stands out as the saddest combination
of bad performance, bad luck,
and very, very uncomfortable circumstances.
This is the worst MLB pitching debut.
July 24, 2016, Saint Louis, Missouri.
The Cardinals are hosting the LA Dodgers.
And for the first time all season,
Saint Louis is using an emergency starter.
Because of a rain check double header,
and a 16 inning game earlier this week,
none of the five pitchers in Saint Louis' rotation
are ready to go.
So they went to their triple A club in Memphis,
and said, "Hey, hey,
give us the next pitcher in your rotation.
Not necessarily the best guy,
or the readiest guy, just the next guy."
That lucky call up, is this fellow, Mike Mayers.
Making his first, and to date, only career start
due to sheer happenstance.
It's not the first time happenstance
has dictated a pitching debut.
In 1912, the Detroit Tigers needed an emergency starer
because Ty Cobb was suspended for beating up a heckler,
and Cobb's teammates went on strike
to protest the suspension.
The Tigers found a bunch of randos
to fill in for their next game in Philadelphia.
Including Allan Travers, a college student
they found outside, who got 50 bucks
to take the mound and pitch a complete game,
in which he gave up 24 runs on 26 hits.
So at least Mayers is a real baseball pitcher
and not some random shmuck off the street.
But is he ready to face the playoff bound dodgers?
Well, with a couple strikes,
he's got the count in his favor, but ugh,
Chase Utley just kinda sticks out his bat,
and pokes one into center field for a single.
The very first batter is on base,
but hey, at least Mayers faced a batter right?
In the ninth inning of a 1971 Astro's game,
Robin Yount's older brother Larry Yount,
was called to the mound to make his debut.
He entered the game, but aggravated an elbow injury
while warming up, and was pulled
before throwing his first pitch.
Yount never got another opportunity.
That non debut, debut, was his whole career.
Mayers arm feels fine, so with a man on first,
he deals to Corey Seager, gets up two strikes again,
but then Seager hits this weird roller that just stays fair.
No play at first or second, so that's two men up.
Bad luck, and now Mayers is starting to sweat.
He's sweating because remember,
this isn't a relief inning in the middle of a game,
he's getting his major league baptism as a starting pitcher.
And it happens to be Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN.
People are watching.
Including a large contingent of Mayers family members.
Who were gonna go watch him in Memphis,
but took a surprise road trip detour
to see him pitch on a way bigger stage.
Oh, and Mayers is also sweating because it's 100 degrees.
So yeah, whatever he does, it's gonna be as a starter
in front of his family, and a national TV audience,
and Marlins man, and everybody.
It's gonna be a story.
This is not like Fred Hutchinson's debut in 1939,
in which he gave up 8 runs in just 2/3s of an inning
in relief against the Yankees, but was totally overshadowed
by Lou Gehrig's decision that same day
to end his legendary streak of 2,130 straight games played.
Mayers still has a chance to get outta this pickle.
And with a full count against Justin Turner,
he throws what might be strike three, but no.
The umpire calls it ball four.
Turner walks, bases loaded.
And yeah, this felt like it was coming.
Mayers misses his spot, and serves Adrian Gonzalez
a pitch straight down the middle,
that Gonzalez crushes for a grand slam.
Oh Mike, I feel for you man.
Oh god, and his family looks so sad.
And before the broadcast even gets out of replays,
Mayers has given up a double to Howie Kendrick.
Finally, against the sixth batter he faces,
Yasmani Grandal, Mayers records a strike out.
What a relief, his family finally has something to applaud.
And this saves Mayers rom one potential
ignominious achievement; the infinite ERA.
According to some accounts of Harry Heitmann's
1918 debut for the Brooklyn Robins.
Heitmann took the mound, gave up four hits
that would all become earned runs,
recorded zero outs, got pulled from the game,
then walked straight out of the stadium
to enlist in the Navy and never play pro baseball again.
Zero outs means Heitmann counts as having pitched
zero innings in the ERA calculation.
Which means ERA is loop de loop.
That honestly, might be preferable to a situation like that,
of Frank Wurm, who in his 1944 debut,
recorded a single out to go with four runs surrendered.
Never pitched again, and lived on with a career ERA of 108.
Mayers has not left the field to volunteer for
or military service, or for any other reason,
but that ERA is climbing,
and he's gotten himself in another pickle.
After inducing his second out, Mayers walks Jace Peterson,
and ends up with men on second and third.
And then, Scott Kazmir, the god damned pitcher,
drives in both runners to make the score six nothing.
Mayers finally gets out of the inning,
and now you've gotta wonder if his night is done.
And where six runs in an inning ranks among
the worst debut starts ever.
Because there had been some bad ones even in recent history.
Just a month before this game, Zach Eflin
debuted as a Philly starter,
and gave up nine runs, 8 of them earned.
In two and 2/3 innings.
In 1996, these same Saint Louis Cardinals sent out
Mike Buzby for a start his in first ever game.
Then pulled him down 13, three after four innings.
Then there's Arnie Munoz, who in his 2004
debut for the White sox, gave up one run
in the first inning, then nine in the second.
Eventually exiting his first game with 11 runs
surrendered in 3 innings.
Those are all much longer outings than this one,
but hey, Mayers is back on the mound for the second inning,
and the Cardinals picked up a run for him,
changing tides perhaps.
Shit, maybe with such a big lead already,
the Dodgers will go easy on Mayers.
That's what happened in Squire Potters
debut for the Washington Senators in 1923.
Potter pitched so poorly, including nine runs
in three innings, that Cleveland base runners
allowed themselves to be thrown out
just to curtail the embarrassment, kind of.
But look, Mayers gets the first batter out.
So maybe he doesn't need any help.
Maybe things are turning around.
Or maybe the next batter gets on with a single,
then Gonzalez picks up another hit, and throw to third
sails into the dugouts, so Gonzalez winds up at third
and another run scores.
If Mayers can't get out of this inning intact,
then that's, oh no.
Howie Kendrick homers, and even though the Cardinals
are trying to preserve a bullpen full of dudes,
who put in major work this week, it's time to pull Mayers.
The final total, nine earned runs,
in one and a third innings.
That's good for an ERA of 60.75.
By far the worst in recorded baseball history
among starting pitchers,
who gave up eight or more runs in their debut.
He got hit very hard, very, very quickly.
It would be Mayers last start too.
These days, he's a regular, solid reliever
in the Cardinals system, but he'll never forget
that first taste of the majors.
Many pitchers have gotten rocked,
their first times out on the mound.
Pitching history is riddled with dismal debuts.
During production of this video, Arizona's Yoan Lopez
started his career in the majors,
by facing exactly three batters,
and giving up two home runs and a triple.
There's a lot of all flavors.
But no one has ever done it quite like Mike Mayers.
For whom fate and mishap collided in front of his family,
and the whole damn country.
Forming the worst pitching debut ever.
A perfect storm of humiliation.