One-Hit Wonders: Dennis Kinney to Dave Leiper

This is Part 7 of a 13-part series examining the 65 men who have collected exactly one hit as a member of the San Diego Padres. The current installment includes four left-handed pitchers (two of whom never started a big-league game) and a light-hitting backup catcher who once homered off an aging Warren Spahn.

Dennis Kinney

Pos: LHP
Years: 1978-1980

70 14 0 1  0  0  0   0  1 8 .071 .071 .071 -40

Taken by Cleveland in the 10th round of the 1970 June draft (half a round before Ray Knight and one pick after the Padres’ selection of the excellently named Ed Evilsizor), Kinney enjoyed modest success in the minor leagues. In 1972, he was the only pitcher in the California League to break triple digits in strikeouts without breaking double digits in starts, which is not only impressive but also useless to know; you’re welcome.

Kinney finally reached the big leagues in 1978, getting into 18 games for the Indians before being traded to San Diego that June. Right-hander Dan Spillner went to Cleveland in the deal, which ended badly for the Padres:

          Tm   G    IP  W-L  SV  ERA ERA+  WAR
Spillner Cle 290 782.2 46-45 41 4.29  96   7.6
Kinney    SD  70 107.2  4-7   1 4.26  82  -1.0

Kinney knocked his first and only big-league hit on May 31, 1980. Working in relief of starter John Curtis, who did nothing against the Reds that day, Kinney led off the bottom of the fifth inning with an infield single. He was promptly forced out at second on a grounder off the bat of Ozzie Smith, who then came home on a Jerry Mumphrey triple, making the score 5-4 in favor of Cincinnati. Kinney, meanwhile, held the Reds scoreless for 4 1/3 innings but didn’t receive credit for the Padres’ eventual 7-5 victory; that honor went instead to Bob Shirley, the pitcher of record when the home team erupted for three runs against Tom Hume in the eighth.

Chris Krug

Pos: C
Years: 1969

8 17 0 1  0  0  0   0  1 6 .059 .111 .059 -50

Once upon a time, in the low minors, Krug was a great power hitter. In 1959, he and another 19-year-old named Willie Stargell played in the Class D Sophomore League:

          AB   BA HR
Krug     439 .280 30
Stargell 431 .274  7

History shows that Stargell slugged 470 more homers than Krug at the big-league level. Despite seeing his offensive game peak while he was still a teenager, Krug reached the Show in 1965. He served as one of four catchers the Cubs employed that year with equal irregularity (none received as many as 200 PA).

After sitting out most of 1967 and all of 1968, Krug signed with the expansion Padres in April 1969 and got into a handful of games before being released the following month. On April 30, in a contest against the Braves, Krug led off the seventh inning with a single off future Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro. Krug, who earlier in his career homered against another Braves legend, Warren Spahn, was left stranded and the Padres lost, 6-3. (For more on this game, see the recap from our retrospective series on the National League Padres’ inaugural season.)

Fred Kuhaulua

Pos: LHP
Years: 1981

5  9 0 1  0  0  0   1  0 5 .111 .111 .111 -35

Kuhaulua spent time in the Giants and Angels organization, as well as in Japan, before signing with the Padres in 1979. Perhaps the fact that their Triple-A team played in Honolulu influenced Kuhaulua, who was born in that city. He spent most of 1979-1982 pitching for his hometown team, winning 33 games in the process.

Kuhaulua’s big-league career didn’t last long. He made three appearances for the Angels in 1977 and five for the Padres in 1981. On September 20, 1981, he collected his first and only hit. More than 12 years after Chris Krug became a Padres one-hit wonder with a single off Phil Niekro, Kuhaulua did the same, driving home Luis Salazar with one out in the fifth inning to tie the score, 1-1. Kuhaulua worked seven strong innings but the game went to extra innings.

After the Padres left the bases loaded in the 10th, Atlanta plated two in the 11th to pull ahead. The Padres left two more on in the 11th and fell, 3-1. Steve Mura took the last of his NL-leading 14 losses.

Bill Laxton

Pos: LHP
Years: 1971-1974

48  5 0 1  0  0  0   0  1 3 .200 .333 .200  56

Laxton, father of former big-league pitcher Brett Laxton, made 18 appearances for the Padres in 1971 and 30 more in 1974. Originally taken by Pittsburgh in the seventh round of the 1966 June draft (not a bad draft for the Bucs — they also snagged Richie Hebner and future Padres second baseman Dave Cash), Laxton was snatched up by the Padres in the 1970 Rule 5 draft. He stuck in ’71 and then spent most of the next two seasons at Double-A Alexandria, where he took his turn in rotations that featured the likes of Dave Freisleben, Rusty Gerhardt (who shows up in Part 5 of the current series), Randy Jones, Dan Spillner, and Dave Wehrmeister.

Laxton’s only big-league hit came on August 21, 1974, at Jarry Park in Montreal. Working in relief of starter Spillner (who failed to retire any of the five batters he faced — John McNamara with the quick hook there, eh?), Laxton stepped to the plate with nobody on and two out in the second inning, and his team trailing, 3-2. He singled off right-hander Steve Renko and was left stranded when leadoff man (!) Enzo Hernandez flied to center.

Although Laxton coughed up three runs in 2 1/3 innings, an uncharacteristically potent Padres offense knocked Renko out early. The game was tied, 6-6, by the time Laxton left in the third. The Expos ended up scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth, sending the visitors to defeat. The loss gave the Padres sole possession of worst record in MLB (they had been tied with the Angels) — a .392 winning percentage (it didn’t do them justice; their Pythagorean record was .327).

Remarkably, San Diego would play even worse from that point forward. The Padres lost 26 of their final 37 games (.297 WPct) and were outscored, 175-100 (.264 Pythag), in the process.

Dave Leiper

Pos: LHP
Years: 1987-1989

69  3 0 1  0  0  0   1  0 2 .333 .333 .333  93

Meet the almost perfectly average pitcher. Leiper made 264 relief appearances over parts of eight seasons, finishing with a 101 ERA+ and 0.5 WAR.

Taken by the A’s in the first round of the 1982 January draft secondary phase (which also yielded fellow one-hit wonder Danny Jackson), Leiper first reached Oakland in September 1984. He spent the next season in the minors before resurfacing in ’86. In August 1987, Leiper came to San Diego in the trade for Storm Davis (yet another one-hit wonder).

Leiper had a decent, albeit short, run with the Padres. He went 4-1 with a 3.38 ERA (106 ERA+) and 2 saves in 69 appearances. And on August 10, 1988, in a game at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, he collected the lone hit of his big-league career.

In the 14th inning, Leiper came on to replace right-hander Lance McCullers. The game was tied, 3-3. After the Braves failed to score in the 14th or 15th, Benito Santiago slugged a one-out solo homer off southpaw German Jimenez. Singles by Randy Ready and Garry Templeton brought Leiper to the plate. Manager Jack McKeon had right-hander Mark Grant warming up in the ‘pen, but left Leiper in to get his first big-league at-bat because in McKeon’s words, the lefty “was pitching so good I didn’t want to take him out. I figured he could hold a one-run lead.” On a 1-2 count, Leiper whacked a single to right field, driving home Ready. After John Kruk flied out, Roberto Alomar singled to left, but Dion James gunned down Templeton at the plate to end the inning.

With the Padres now up, 5-3, Leiper faced the top of the Atlanta order. Ron Gant led off with a ground ball single, and Jim Morrison sacrificed him to second. Gerald Perry then lofted a fly ball to right-center; Tony Gwynn committed a potentially costly error when he and Marvell Wynne collided. Perry ended up on second, with Gant advancing to third. Dale Murphy, swinging at the first pitch, then drove a ball to center that plated Gant and pulled the Braves to within one run. But shortstop Andres Thomas grounded to third baseman Ready to end the game.

As for Leiper, after leaving San Diego in 1989, he disappeared from the big leagues for a few years before returning to Oakland in 1994. He enjoyed some success there and in Montreal, then retired in 1996.

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