If you’re old enough to remember when Lou Piniella played for the Yankees, you most likely enjoyed watching him do so. He had very little speed and not much power so he mixed every ounce of talent he had with every bit of effort he could muster to play a huge role in helping New York win five pennants and two World Series during his eleven seasons with the team. Oh yeah, he also had a beautiful swing which earned him the nickname “Sweet Lou.” He first donned the pinstripes in 1974, when the Yankees picked up the 1969 AL Rookie of the Year winner from the Royals in a trade for veteran reliever Lindy McDaniel. It turned out to be one of the best transactions in Yankee history. He hit .305 as manager Bill Virdon’s everyday right-fielder during his first year in the Bronx but then he went through a horrible season in 1975, averaging just .186 and helping to get Virdon fired and replaced by the fiery Billy Martin. Billy began playing Piniella a little bit in right field, a little bit in left and a little bit at DH. Lou simply thrived in this semi-utility role, averaging over .300 for the rest of his Yankee career. The play he will always be remembered for in the Big Apple was his famous feint on the Jerry Remy liner that he lost in the sun during the 1978 playoff game against the Red Sox. If he doesn’t make believe he sees that ball, Rick Burleson, who was on first at the time, easily gets to third and might have scored. Then Lou spears the ball on one hop and again prevents Burleson from getting past second.
George Steinbrenner loved players born in his adopted home-town of Tampa and Lou was the first native of that city to play for The Boss. That helps explain why George gave Lou his first manager and general manager jobs with the Yankees. Piniella’s temper and Steinbrenner’s famous impatience with anyone placed in either of those positions ended any chance Lou might have had to retire from baseball as a Yankee. Instead he went on to win three Manager of the Year titles, the 1991 World Series and finally ended his 43-year big league career this month when he walked away from the Wrigley Field dugout to spend time with his ailing Mom and go fishing.
Lou turns 68 years-old today. The guy who gave up the home run to Bucky Dent in that 1978 playoff game, the pitcher who started that playoff game for New York, this former Yankee second baseman and this former Yankee reliever were all also born on August 28th.
|NYY (11 yrs)||1037||3577||3291||392||971||178||20||57||417||10||215||276||.295||.338||.413||.751|
|KCR (5 yrs)||700||2778||2570||258||734||127||21||45||348||22||153||265||.286||.327||.404||.730|
|CLE (1 yr)||6||6||5||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|BAL (1 yr)||4||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|
I remember the first time I saw Bobby Meacham taking ground balls during a Yankee spring training workout in the early eighties. Born in Los Angeles on this date in 1960, Meacham looked so smooth that morning that I thought the Yankees had found themselves a keeper. As it turned out, he played each of his six seasons and 457 big league games as a Yankee but he never became a star. He was given the opportunity when he took over New York’s starting shortstop job in 1985. Appearing in 156 games, the then 24-year-old switch hitter used his speed to steal 25 bases but he just could not hit, finishing the season with a paltry .218 batting average.
Bobby got another chance to wear Pinstripes when Joe Girardi made him his third base and infield coach for the 2008 season. Unfortunately, Meacham was replacing the popular Larry Bowa and rumors were that the Yankee front office blamed Bobby for Robinson Cano’s uninspired infield play that season and replaced him with Robby Thomson.
Bill Stafford was a big right-hander from Athens, NY who had once pitched a seventeen-inning game in high school and struck out 31 batters. Just about every team in baseball scouted him as a schoolboy and the Yankees outbid them all to sign him. When he was called up to the Yankees in August of 1960, the Yankee pitching staff was in a slump, especially the starting rotation. The highly poised youngster proceeded to win 3 of his first 4 big league starts and provided the mound-boost the team needed to surge past a surprising Baltimore Orioles team and win the AL Pennant. Too bad Casey changed his mind about starting Stafford in the seventh game of that year’s World Series against the Pirates. The kid went to bed the night before thinking he would be starting the next day but when he got to Forbes Field he found out the Ol’ Perfessor had decided to go with Bob Turley instead. Bullet Bob gave up three quick runs and the Yankees were never in the lead.The following season, new Yankee manager Ralph Houk put Stafford in his starting rotation and over the next two seasons, he went 28-18 in that role to help New York win two consecutive World Championships. He got his only postseason win in Game 3 of the 1962 Fall Classic, when he held the Giants scoreless for eight and two thirds innings in a brilliant, four-hit, 3-2 victory. At that point in his career, he was just 22-years-old and the sky seemed the limit for this guy. I clearly remember thinking he was on his way to becoming a Hall-of-Fame pitcher and if the Yankees had put him on the market after their ’62 Series triumph, they could have demanded and received just about any player in the game in return. That’s how good Bill Stafford was. So what happened to him?
On April 10, 1963, Stafford made his first start of the season against the A’s in Kansas City. There were fewer than 4,000 people in the stands and the temperature at game time was way below normal for that time of year in KC. Stafford grinded his way through six plus innings and got the win but he also hurt his arm. Instead of resting, he tried to pitch through the injury but finished the ’63 season with a 4-8 record and was demoted to the bullpen. His right arm was never the same after that season. New York put him in the bullpen in 1964 and he went 5-0 in 31 games as a reliever. He was then returned to the rotation in ’65 and finished that season 3-8, as the Yankee dynasty began to crumble away. Stafford was traded to the A’s in June of 1966. He was out of baseball by 1968. He died of a heart attack in 2001 at the age of 62. He shares his birthday with this this former Yankee shortstop, this current Yankee reliever and this former Yankee outfield prospect.
|NYY (6 yrs)||43||35||.551||3.48||163||96||30||18||6||9||730.0||653||305||282||75||249||408||1.236|
|KCA (2 yrs)||0||5||.000||4.04||23||8||5||0||0||0||55.2||54||32||25||2||21||41||1.347|