Like Greenberg, Van Dusen's career short-lived
Ex-Phillie hit by pitch in only Major League plate appearance in '55
MIAMI -- Fred Van Dusen literally can feel Adam Greenberg's pain.
Until Tuesday night, the two shared the distinction of being the only players in Major League history to have their careers halted after one plate appearance, which ended up being a hit by pitch.
Seven years after being struck in the back of the head by the only pitch he saw at the big league level, Greenberg was given another chance. The Marlins on Tuesday, signed him to a one-day contract, to fulfill his dream for one big league at-bat. Facing Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, Greenberg struck out as pinch-hitter in the sixth inning of the Marlins' 4-3 victory.
As part of the game, Van Dusen also was on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Now 75, Van Dusen and his wife, Anna, were flown in from Tennessee as guests to recognize Greenberg's return.
"I never thought it would be my last at-bat," Van Dusen said. "I thought it would be the beginning of my career. The way fate works. Fate's worked here, with Adam."
Van Dusen's story is a bit different from Greenberg's. In August 1955, he was an 18-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder with the Phillies.
He appeared in the ninth inning of the second game of a doubleheader against the Milwaukee Braves. Van Dusen was struck on the right knee on an 0-2 pitch. He took first base, but afterward, some bad decisions he made away from the field resulted in his MLB career ended.
"I thought my career was going to go for 15 years," Van Dusen said. "I was just starting out. I never dreamed it would only be one at-bat.
"I got up there, I fouled one off. I took one down the middle. That's the one I dream about today, I could have hammered it. Then I got hit by a pitch with two strikes. I went to first base."
Van Dusen didn't give specifics of his problems, but noted the desire to play in the big leagues stayed with him for years.
"I played six years in the Minors," he said. "Had some good years and some bad years. That's what happens. You get to go from a prospect to a suspect. Somebody younger comes by.
"I was very immature, we'll leave it at that. I did a lot of things I shouldn't have done. I had a burning desire on the field, but off the field, I was a kid. I did silly things. It ended my career."
For 43 years, Van Dusen had a successful insurance company. But it wasn't baseball.
"You don't realize it at the moment, what an opportunity it is to play Major League Baseball," he said. "Sometimes you don't appreciate things until you lose it. I really paid a heavy price emotionally. It took me a few years before I could even go back to a ballgame. It was a heavy toll."
Van Dusen may never had played baseball at the big league level again, but he enjoyed a successful business career with a loving family.
"I have a Hall of Fame wife," he said. "We've been married for 38 years. Tremendous children. I have no regrets. Life is what it is. You make mistakes, but you come back."