I’ve spent a lot of time recently fooling around with the searches at Stathead, the indispensable statistics site, because it just introduced tools to search the FBRef data. I can now tell you, for example, that there are seven MNUFC players who made exactly one regular-season MLS start in their careers.

There are some fascinating memories in that group, but the most unexpected might be the tale of Cameroonian international Frantz Pangop.

He was already an international for Cameroon when he arrived before the 2018 season, and had even scored for them in a World Cup qualifier. Cameroon wasn’t some second-rate pushover; they won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2017, and had qualified for the previous two World Cups.

He also had never played outside Cameroon before joining MNUFC, except for a stint in the Swedish third division (?), which seems like it could be a typo on somebody’s part. Former assistant coach Ian Fuller was the one who scouted Pangop, but from what the player said about joining the Loons, it sounded like he’d been tricked by his agent. According to the inimitable Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press, he said - via translation from teammate Jerome Thiesson - “The offer my agent got me was from Minnesota, and I wanted to stick with my agent. He forgot to tell me it was really cold here.”

From the team’s perspective, his arrival - alongside countryman Bertrand Owundi Eko’o, who never played for Minnesota - was a case of “for this cheap, why not try something crazy?”. “We’re excited about what we’ve got with [the two],” said head coach Adrian Heath. “We felt it wasn’t a gamble, but an opportunity to bring in two young pieces for not a lot of financial output.”

He had visa and transfer problems - sound familiar? - but by the end of March, he was available for selection. He ended up playing nine times for the Loons in the league, of course starting once. He even scored a goal, albeit in a friendly against Deportivo Saprissa.

Minnesota talked about sending him on loan to the USL, but nothing came of it, and they declined his contract option after the 2018 season. After he left the Loons, he played two years in the Austrian Bundesliga… then popped up in 2023 playing for a semi-professional team in Ontario, Canada. I am not sure I understand this career arc.

Pangop will, I think, be remembered as an excellent example of a certain era for the Loons - one where they thought that they might be able to find players in places that other MLS teams might have missed.

At any rate, this got me thinking: which other Minnesota athletes were one-game wonders?

One of the great ones, in Minnesota sports history, was former Gophers center Trevor Winter. Winter made the Wolves out of camp for the 1998-99 season, which was shortened by a lockout. He then promptly got hurt, and only recovered in time for a mid-March home game against the Lakers.

This was the the Lakers with Shaquille O’Neal, who was at the height of his powers, and Winter’s role was simple: use up some fouls. According to Winter, coach Flip Saunders told him, “You have five fouls to give, and for every foul you don’t use, we’ll fine you $1,000.”

Winter did his duty, grabbing three rebounds and committing five fouls in five minutes. He never played in the NBA again.

You might remember the story of Jaime García, maybe the most famous one-game pitcher the Twins ever had. Minnesota traded for him on July 24 of 2017, he made one start for them, and six days later, they turned around and sent him to the Yankees - true “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic” business.

In the process, they sent prospect pitcher Huascar Ynoa to Atlanta; Ynoa pitched pretty well for Atlanta in the year the Braves won the World Series, though he was left off the postseason roster after struggling with injuries. He hasn’t yet really made it back, and he’s working this spring to return from the dreaded Tommy John surgery.

Ynoa was really the only guy involved in either trade who went on to do anything - including García, who was 0-3 with a 4.82 ERA in eight starts for New York.

Also on the one-game list for the Twins is Edwar Colina, who had a cup of coffee with the Twins during 2020. Colina got COVID before the year even started, was called up late in the year, and pitched once. He gave up a homer, two singles, a walk, then another single, then got one out - a bases-loaded grounder with a forceout at home - and departed.

So far, that’s his only big-league appearance. He got hurt after that, and hasn’t been back to the majors; he was last seen pitching in Triple-A last year for Texas.

Tzu-Wei Lin was in the same boat, in 2021. Lin was called up in late April, after Andrelton Simmons got COVID; he replaced Luis Arraez in left field in the eighth inning of a game against Cleveland. He never came to the plate, Alex Colome blew the game in the 10th, and that was the only time Lin ever played for the Twins.

No one, however, holds a candle to Sleepy Eye native Fred Bruckbauer, who pitched once for the Twins in 1961. Bruckbauer had been a star pitcher at the University of Minnesota, including clinching the Big Ten title in 1958 by beating future Red Sox All-Star Dick Radatz in the first game of a doubleheader against Michigan State, then coming back to save the second game with a two-out, ninth-inning strikeout.

After an excellent season in Class B in 1959, he hurt his arm pitching batting practice during spring training in 1960, and was never really the same. As a Washington Senators prospect, he hung on long enough to move with the franchise to Minnesota for 1961, and claimed that his arm was okay because he’d had his tonsils out, and because of this, his arm had stopped hurting.

Something tells me that the general understanding of arm injuries was not as advanced, in 1961, as it is today.

Anyway, Bruckbauer got the call in the team’s 11th game of 1961, entering in the fourth inning of a game the Twins were already losing 7-2, against the Kansas City A’s. He gave up a double, a walk, a single, and another double, and was replaced.

Said his wife, Kathy, who was tending to their eight-month-old at home: “Every time I looked up, somebody new was on base.”

His arm never really recovered. He was out of baseball after 1962, and by 1963, he was in graduate school at Mankato State, and looking to get into coaching.

He goes down as one of 20 pitchers in big-league history, according to Stathead, to end their careers with an ERA of infinity.

The Wild, strangely, have had an awful lot of players whose only NHL game was one night with Minnesota. There’s Curtis Murphy, a former North Dakota d-man who grinded his way through three years with the Orlando Solar Bears in the then-IHL, then two more with the Houston Aeros, before he got his chance in December 2002, with Brad Bombardir injured. He played 13 shifts, totaling nearly nine minutes; Minnesota traded him to Nashville after the season, he played in Russia during the NHL lockout the following year, and he never managed to make it back to the NHL.

Oddly, Murphy was called up due to a wave of injuries and sicknesses that also included forward Jean-Guy Trudel, who left the team after playing the game before, to be with his pregnant wife. Trudel already had four NHL games under his belt in previous seasons - but that was the only one he ever played for Minnesota.

There’s Chay Genoway, another UND defenseman, and near to the platonic ideal of a UND defenseman (in that he was still playing college hockey at age 24). He played in the last game of 2011-2012, a year the Wild missed the playoffs, because Nate Prosser was suspended and Clayton Stoner was injured.

The Wild used 47 different players that year, which explains why Kris Focault and former first-round pick Tyler Cuma, who could never stay healthy, also played their only NHL games for Minnesota during that season.

There was also Michael Keranen, once named the best player in the Finnish league, who played one game in 2015, was traded to Ottawa after the year, and ended up as a Finnish league veteran with just the one NHL game to his name. And there was SCSU standout Jon Lizotte, who played a solitary game in October 2021, and is currently a free agent.

Plus, there are a few guys who are still in the American League, and who it wouldn’t be fair to give up on yet: Damien Giroux and Nick Swaney.

Two MNUFC players are tied for the fewest minutes played in MLS, among the players that played at all. One is former defender Noah Billingsley, who got six minutes in his only Loons appearance. The other is Mikael Marques, whose official six minutes may be a bit more memorable, should he never play again for Minnesota.

The box score from March 25, 2023 will tell you that Marques came on as a late sub, and that Vancouver scored with what was effectively the last kick of stoppage time. What it doesn’t tell you is how involved Marques was with that goal, which you can see from the highlights.

The center back attempted to needlessly juggle the ball out of pressure at midfield - in the 8th minute of 6 minutes of stoppage time! - and lost it. He then tracked back, tried to head away a cross, but instead only managed to flick it on to a Whitecaps player who was standing open at the back post to head it in.

The Loons gave up on Marques after that, eventually sending him to MNUFC2; they’ve loaned him out this year.

Pro Football Reference lists 73 players who played in exactly one game for the Minnesota Vikings. The most well-known is probably Josh Freeman, whose one-night jazz odyssey was covered by Michael Rand here.

Other quarterbacks who played just once for the Vikings included Kellen Mond, Gino Toretta, and Jay Walker, who completed the only two passes of his NFL career - at the end of a 41-17 Vikings win against Tampa Bay, in 1996, in relief of Brad Johnson.

Most of the rest are forgettable. Heck, one of those players is linebacker Benton Whitely, who played in the Vikings’ first game of this year (seven snaps, six on special teams and one on defense); that was just six months ago, and I still don’t remember it.

You may remember wideout Isaac Fruechte, if only because he’s from Caledonia, and played for the Gophers; he played five offensive snaps in the final game of the year in 2016. Linebacker Paul Faust was another Gopher who got only one NFL game with the Vikings; his was the last game of 1967.

And finally: according to Basketball Reference, the Lynx have never had a player who played just one game for the team. So there you go: if you want permanence, look to the Minnesota Lynx.