There are those who saw Paciorek play, though, who still have a hard time believing that his career began and ended with that one game at age 18. "Whenever we talk about top prospects who had the tools and the strengths but didn't enjoy the success we had envisioned, John's name is always mentioned," says Tal Smith, who spent more than 30 years in Houston's front office and was player personnel director during Paciorek's tenure.
That tenure, though, was one for the books. Since 1876, some 18,000 men have played major league baseball, and 979 of them played a single game. Among the one-and-done set, Paciorek holds the record for times on base, runs scored and hits without making an out, and he shares the marks for batting average (1.000), on-base percentage (1.000) and RBIs (three).
He is proud of what he did but considers it in some ways a fluke. If not for his bad back and the fact that he played in the last game of the season, he believes he would have played again. "I can understand why somebody thought it was an enormous thing if he didn't put it into perspective," he says. "I was so fortunate to have this opportunity to play and then to take advantage of it."
He has become a part of baseball history in a way that thousands of players with far lengthier careers, including his brother, never did. Several years ago one of his nieces was in a college lecture hall when the professor asked the class an extra credit question: Who is the only player in history to play one game in the majors and go 3 for 3? When she answered correctly, the stunned professor said, "How the heck did you know that?"
Paciorek has never seen film of his one game, and he saw the box score only because someone sent it to him. He doesn't even remember the specifics of any of his at bats.
But at night, after he has watched a few innings of baseball and marveled at the hustle of teenage phenom Bryce Harper ("He reminds me of me") or questioned the batting stance of Albert Pujols ("He has trouble with the low pitch because he starts out so high"), Paciorek sometimes dreams of the only day he ever had. Only now he is not hitting singles; he is hitting home runs. He doesn't have long to rest, though. Morning for John Paciorek will come in the moonlight and with it the chance for another perfect day.