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How a P.E. teacher made a perfect MLB debut - and never played again

New book “Perfect: The Rise and Fall of John Paciorek, Baseball’s Greatest One-Game Wonder” tells the story of a lesser-known part of sports history
Paciorek’s perfect MLB stats after one-day career 05:21

SAN GABRIEL, Calif. -- You'd never know it by looking at the man on the field with the whistle, but P.E. teacher John Paciorek may well be the single most perfect baseball player the game ever knew.

P.E. teacher John Paciorek CBS News

On one glorious autumn afternoon back in 1963, Paciorek, the then-muscular right fielder did something not only remarkable, but also historic.

It was the last game of the season for the Colt .45's, the team that would eventually become the Houston Astros, and Paciorek, an 18-year-old rookie, was getting his first shot at the big leagues.

"When they said, 'Do you want to play?' And I said, 'Yes!!!' I didn't have to think twice. I wanted to do it," Paciorek told CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan.

For Paciorek, whose story is chronicled in "Perfect: The Rise and Fall of John Paciorek, Baseball's Greatest One-Game Wonder" by Steven K. Wagner, it was a dream come true. He had been preparing for that moment all his life.

Paciorek grew up in a working class family outside Detroit, a city that loves its baseball. All he wanted was a life in the outfield, not a life on the automotive assembly line. Sports was all he could think about, he said.

"Nothing else mattered to me," Paciorek said.

He trained day and night, with a little help from his kid brother, Tom Paciorek.

"He was awesome. At any sport. Really was," Tom said. "He was as talented an athlete as there was in the country."

And he wasted no time proving it in his major league debut.

He went to bat five times -- and reached base every time -- on three hits, two walks.

He scored four runs and drove in three more. In the end, it was one of the finest first games ever played in major league history.

In fact, it was perfect.

"When I got up there I felt so confident, that I just was ready, I just felt that I belonged there. I just always thought that I belonged playing in that situation," Paciorek said.

Tommy Lasorda

Whispers of the boy who might be the next Mickey Mantle made it all the way to the ears of Dodger great Tommy Lasorda.

"You know, a young man at that time, had everything going for him, you could see a great career with him," Lasorda said. "No telling what he could have accomplished."

Paciorek had a chronic back condition

But Paciorek had a secret he hadn't told any of his teammates: a chronic back condition he'd had since birth had flared up and got worse during the offseason.

"It was like somebody was stabbing me with a knife," Paciorek said.

By spring training, he couldn't hit, couldn't catch and was sent back down to the minors.

The once-perfect Paciorek never played another major league game again but was left with the best career record in the history of the game.

"It was impressive, and he's still the answer to a great trivia question!" Tom said.

"I mean the guy played one game, and that was it? I mean how many times does that ever happen?" Lasorda said.

Lasorda did recruit another Paciorek -- John's younger brother Tom. He went on to have a long career in the majors, much of it with the Dodger.

"That was the only thing that I just really envied about my brother, that he had the opportunity to play for Tommy Lasorda," Paciorek said.

Instead, John went back to school to become a P.E. teacher, and he's been quietly doing that job, coaching and mentoring, ever since.

"You know the thing about it is, it's not the success that you have, it's how many lives have you touched, and I think he's touched much more lives than I have," Tom said.

CBS News' Lee Cowan with John Paciorek, Tommy Lasorda and Tom Paciorek

"Nothing ever happens by accident. And I was relatively free from bad things happening, except for this. People think 'Oh, that's the worst thing that could ever happened.' It's not," Paciorek said. "I think everything that's happened to me since then, was good."

No hard feelings, no regrets.

For John Paciorek, his field of dreams is at the school field. More mundane perhaps than the majors, but to him, just as perfect.

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