August 13th, 2010

August 13 – Happy Birthday Bill Stafford

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.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1960 NYY 3 1 .750 2.25 11 8 0 2 1 0 60.0 50 17 15 3 18 36 1.133
1961 NYY 14 9 .609 2.68 36 25 6 8 3 2 195.0 168 65 58 13 59 101 1.164
1962 NYY 14 9 .609 3.67 35 33 1 7 2 0 213.1 188 95 87 23 77 109 1.242
1963 NYY 4 8 .333 6.02 28 14 7 0 0 3 89.2 104 64 60 16 42 52 1.628
1964 NYY 5 0 1.000 2.67 31 1 12 0 0 4 60.2 50 19 18 4 22 39 1.187
1965 NYY 3 8 .273 3.56 22 15 4 1 0 0 111.1 93 45 44 16 31 71 1.114
8 Yrs 43 40 .518 3.52 186 104 35 18 6 9 785.2 707 337 307 77 270 449 1.244
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/14/2013.