January 6 – Happy Birthday Don Gullett
Don Gullett was just nineteen years old when he made his Major League debut in 1970 as a relief pitcher for Cincinnati. The Lynn, Kentucky native struck out Willie Mays to end his first inning of work in the big leagues. He got his first win a few days later when Reds ace Jim Maloney tore his achilles tendon in a game against the Dodgers and Gullett was called in to replace him. Willie Stargell called the hard-throwing rookie’s stuff “wall-to-wall heat” and for the next seven seasons, this left-hander was one of the most dominating pitchers in the National League and became the ace of the Big Red Machine’s pitching staff. After Cincinnati swept the Yankees in the 1976 World Series, Gullett became one of George Steinbrenner’s earliest free-agent acquisitions. He paid immediate dividends, going 14-4 for the 1977 World Championship Yankee team. The following year he won four of his first six decisions before a sore arm shut him down. The diagnosis was a double tear of the rotator cuff in his left shoulder. He worked like crazy to rehab the damage but never again pitched in the big leagues. His nine-year career resulted in 109 lifetime victories and an amazing .686 winning percentage.