One wayward pitch ended Adam Greenberg’s major league career on the same day it began, on a breezy July night in Miami seven years ago. A 92-mph fastball thrown by Marlins reliever Valerio de los Santos struck Greenberg in the back of his helmet, knocked him to the ground and left him with mental and physical scars that prevented his return to the majors.
Greenberg became a baseball footnote after that: the only player, of the more than 18,000 who have played in the big leagues, whose career ended with one pitch. And because he was hit by a pitch, Greenberg was not credited with an official at-bat.
But in a story that is reminiscent of the character Moonlight Graham in the movie Field of Dreams, Greenberg on Tuesday will go from footnote to feel-good story. The Marlins will sign Greenberg, 31, to a one-day contract that will enable him to fulfill his dream of receiving an official at-bat in the majors. He will bat Tuesday at Marlins Park against the New York Mets.
“It’s a dream come true, part two,” Greenberg said.
Said Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria: “He has earned his chance as his love and passion for the game never diminished, despite his career tragically being cut short.”
After that night – July 9, 2005 – Greenberg struggled with post-concussion syndrome, double vision, nausea and vertigo and was never able to return to the majors. After a number of years in the minors and independent leagues trying to make it back, Greenberg finally stopped playing.
But after the Marlins heard about a campaign designed to help Greenberg receive an official at-bat in the majors, they decided to give it a try.
Said Marlins infielder Greg Dobbs, a former Seattle Mariner: “It’s a noble thing. It’s a pretty tough thing he’s gone through.”
Greenberg was playing for Team Israel in a World Baseball Classic qualifying round in Jupiter, Fla., earlier this month when Marlins president David Samson, after receiving permission from MLB commissioner Bud Selig, called him with the news. He said that he broke down in tears.
Until Greenberg, Fred Van Dusen of the 1955 Philadelphia Phillies is the only other player in major-league history to be hit with a pitch in his only major-league plate appearance without ever taking the field.
Greenberg has agreed to donate his one-day salary (about $2,600) to the Marlins Foundation, which will then make a donation to the Sports Legacy Institute, an organization that advances the study, treatment and prevention of the effects of brain trauma in athletes.
Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said he is considering starting Greenberg in left field on Tuesday, have him bat leadoff against the R.A. Dickey – the Mets’ scheduled starter – and then promptly remove him from the game.
“If he hits a home run, he (stays in the game),” Guillen said with a wink. “If he’s out, he’s gone. I think that’s the easier way.”
Greenberg said he will not treat his at-bat as some lark.
“This was never a gimmick,” he said. “I got to the major leagues on my own merit, and I worked through the ranks as a little kid all the way up, and I earned that spot seven years ago.”