August 13 – Happy Birthday Bill Stafford
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 former Yankee shortstop and this current Yankee reliever.