October 25 – Happy Birthday Pete Mikkelsen

When workhorse relievers Steve Hamilton and Hal Reniff both got hurt during the 1964 regular season, the Yankee front office and manager Yogi Berra were forced to improvise with their bullpen. One of their moves was to rely on a 25-year-old rookie right-hander named Pete Mikkelsen. He had been toiling in the team’s farm system for the six previous seasons, mostly as a starter. In 1963, while playing winter ball, he strained his back. The injury prevented him from throwing with his customary overhand motion so to compensate, he was forced to develop a sidearm delivery. This new motion gave his fastball a natural sinking movement and upon the urging of his teammate and catcher at the time, the veteran Rube Walker, Mikkelsen took his new found sinker to the bullpen and worked at becoming a relief specialist.

Berra began using the right-hander liberally during his 1964 rookie season and he responded well by winning seven games and saving 12 more in his 50 total appearances, as New York rallied during the last month of the season to capture the AL pennant. Berra often credits the rebuilt Yankee bullpen featuring Mikkelsen and late-season acquisition Pedro Ramos for making that title possible. In that year’s World Series against the Cardinals, Mikkelsen had the misfortune to pitch in all four Yankee defeats. But he came oh so close to instead getting a key win in that Fall Classic. In the fifth game, with the Series tied at two apiece, Mikkelsen came on in the eighth inning with New York trailing 2-0 and got five consecutive outs. In the bottom of the ninth, with a runner on first, Joe Pepitone hit a shot up the middle that slammed off pitcher Bob Gibson who recovered in time to nip Pepitone at first. So when Tom Tresh came up next and smashed a home run, it tied the game at 2-2 instead of winning it, as would have been the case if Gibson had not been able to make that magnificent play. I can still remember watching Mikkelsen surrender a three-run home run to Tim McCarver in the top of the tenth and becoming the goat of that game and the Series. In fact, since the Yankee dynasty went into total collapse after that series, those Yankee fans that remember Mikkelsen usually do so with negative recollections.

After a poor statistical year the following season, Mikkelsen was traded to Pittsburgh, where he had a great season. He also pitched very effectively in the Dodger bullpen later in his career. He retired after the 1972 season with a 45-40 career record, a 3.38 ERA and 49 career saves.

This former Yankee had much more World Series success in Pinstripes than Mikkelsen did, while this former Yankee shortstop spent thirteen seasons in the big leagues without playing in one post season game. Both these guys share Mikkelsen’s October 25th birthday as does this Yankee bullpen coach and this former Yankee GM.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1964 NYY 7 4 .636 3.56 50 0 27 0 0 12 86.0 79 35 34 3 41 63 1.395
1965 NYY 4 9 .308 3.28 41 3 19 0 0 1 82.1 78 40 30 10 36 69 1.385
9 Yrs 45 40 .529 3.38 364 3 189 0 0 49 653.1 576 288 245 59 250 436 1.264
LAD (4 yrs) 24 17 .585 3.27 155 0 93 0 0 20 275.0 237 124 100 27 90 185 1.189
PIT (2 yrs) 10 10 .500 3.46 103 0 44 0 0 16 182.1 156 74 70 15 70 106 1.239
CHC (2 yrs) 0 0 6.94 10 0 4 0 0 0 11.2 16 10 9 4 6 5 1.886
NYY (2 yrs) 11 13 .458 3.42 91 3 46 0 0 13 168.1 157 75 64 13 77 132 1.390
STL (1 yr) 0 0 1.13 5 0 2 0 0 0 16.0 10 5 2 0 7 8 1.063
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2013.

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