Detroit Tigers Throwback Thursday: Remember Beiker Graterol?

The Detroit Tigers have had over 16,000 players don the Olde English D. Here’s a profile on one of the few who only played in one game.

Suiting up in a Detroit Tigers uniform, or any big league uniform, is the dream of thousands of kids across America. So many talented baseball players come so close to reaching their goal, only to fall just short of making the big leagues.

Perhaps just as agonizing are the players who, for one reason or another, only played in one major league game. They made it sure, but it would be hard not to wonder what could have been had they gotten another chance.

The Tigers have a handful of players who only played one big league game with the team. One player had the unique distinction of only playing in one big league game – a game that didn’t even go nine full innings as rain halted it in the bottom of the seventh.

That player is pitcher Beiker Graterol.

Graterol’s path to the big leagues

Graterol was originally signed by the Toronto Blue Jays in November of 1992, just weeks after the team won their first ever World Series. Graterol had just turned 18 and was pitching in Venezuela at the time. Although the Blue Jays owned his rights, he pitched in the Dominican Republic for the next three years before finally appearing in organized baseball in 1996 with the St. Catharines Stompers of the short-season New York Penn League.

Graterol dominated at that level, going 9-1 with a 1.50 ERA in 84 innings pitched. He split the 1997 season between A-Ball, High-A and Double-A, and at just 22 years old looked well on his way to a big league career.

After a rocky 1998 season at Double-A and Triple-A, Graterol was shipped to the Tigers in December in exchange for right-hander Eric Ludwick. (Interestingly enough, Ludwick would also only throw in one more big league game).

Graterol wasn’t in the Tigers organization for long before making his big league appearance, a start on April 9, 1999 against the New York Yankees. Graterol would oppose David Cone and faced the eventual World Series champions, a lineup that included Hall of Famer Derek Jeter as well as Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Chuck Knoblauch and Chili Davis.

A bad tasting cup of coffee

Graterol got off to a solid enough start, walking Paul O’Neill in the first but getting Williams to strikeout to end the threat. Things unraveled immediately in the second, with Tino Martinez taking Graterol deep to lead off the inning. Davis singled and after a groundout, third baseman Scott Brosius hit a two run home run to make it 3-0.

The third inning was even worse, as Graterol walked Jeter and O’Neill. A groundout moved them over, and Martinez was intentionally walked to load the bases. Chili Davis then blasted a grand slam, giving the Yankees a 7-0 lead. Graterol had only thrown three innings and had already surrendered three home runs and seven runs overall.

He managed to get through the fourth with a 1-2-3 inning, the first and only one of his career. He was pulled to start the fifth, never to make another appearance in the major leagues. Masao Kida came in and threw 2.2 innings in relief, giving up five more earned runs. The Tigers eventually lost 12-3. A bases loaded walk by Gabe Kapler scored one and a two-run shot by Bobby Higginson in the seventh were Detroit’s only runs.

David Cone threw for the Yankees, giving up just one hit in 5.1 innings of work. He struck out six but walked seven – blaming the ugly rainy conditions for his poor performance. The umpires eventually relented, and the game was called in the bottom of the seventh inning. The last play was an RBI double off the bat of future Yankees skipper Joe Girardi.

What happened next

Well, Graterol went down to Triple-A Toledo, no doubt hoping to shake off his ugly debut and work his way back to the show. He never got his groove back however, going 3-9 with a 5.83 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP at Triple-A. His 47/38 K/BB ratio was ugly, and the Tigers made the choice to cut him in October of 1999.

No big league team was willing to pick him up even on a minor league deal, so Graterol joined the Mexico City Tigres of the Mexican League for the 2000 season. He posted a 7.13 ERA and a 38/40 K/BB ratio, and never played professional baseball again.

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Graterol, unlike so many others, at least had a chance to don the colors of the Detroit Tigers and pitch in a big league game. While it did not go well, getting to face Derek Jeter is a (in this case literal) once in a lifetime opportunity.