September 21 – Happy Birthday Sam McDowell
They called him Sudden Sam and along with one of the best fastballs in big league history, he also possessed one of the game’s worst drinking habits. His career began in Cleveland in 1961 and during his eight seasons as the ace of the Tribes’ pitching staff he threw 21 shutouts and led the American League in strikeouts five times. McDowell would drink himself into oblivion every day of the week with the exception being the day before he was scheduled to pitch. By 1971, the Indians threw up their hands and traded the southpaw fireballer to the Giants for Gaylord Perry. It took San Francisco just over a season to realize their mistake and they unloaded McDowell by selling him to the pitching hungry Yankees. When Sam won five of his first six decisions in pinstripes, Yankee fans thought it was the best deal in franchise history. But McDowell then proceeded to lose seven straight to close out the 1973 season and when he dropped six of seven decisions the following year, New York released him. He signed on with the Pirates but his drinking had become so bad, he was quickly kicked off the team and out of baseball for good. Miraculously, Sam got his alcohol addiction under control and became a very effective substance abuse counselor after his pitching days were over. He was born in Pittsburgh on this date in 1942.
Another former Yankee celebrating his birthday today is the father of a Prince but has no royal blood running through his veins. This long-ago Yankee outfielder was also born on September 21st.