November 6 – Happy Birthday John Candelaria
The New York Yankees were a very competitive team from 1982 until the wheels came off in 1989. In fact, no team in baseball won more games than New York did during that time but, they failed to make the playoffs in each of those seasons. With Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield and Ricky Henderson in their lineup for much of that decade, offense wasn’t the problem for New York but starting pitching and managerial consistency was. It seemed as if every season, the Yankees had at least one new manager and three new starters in their rotation. In 1988, the Yankee front office signed former Pirate ace, John Candelaria to a free agent contract and hoped he would anchor their staff. For half a season, the “Candy Man” did just that, going 8-2 and helping New York get out to a quick start and take the Eastern Division lead for Manager Billy Martin, who was on his fifth tour of duty that year as Yankee skipper. As usual, however, Martin was fired on June 23rd of that season, when Clyde King, George Steinbrenner’s personal scout told the Boss that Martin had behaved unprofessionally by leaving reliever Tim Stoddard in a game in which he was getting shelled. King felt it was because Billy disliked Stoddard. By the time Lou Piniella took over for Martin, Candelaria’s knee was hurting and he won just five of his last ten decisions. The Yankees ended up finishing in fifth place, but were just 3.5 games behind Division winning Boston. That 1988 season really was the straw that ended up breaking the Yankee’s back. The next four Yankee teams finished below five hundred under five different Managers, going through a whole bunch of different starting pitchers. Martin died drunk, when his pickup truck drove off the road and Steinbrenner was actually banned from the game for his role in the Howie Spira episode.
When Candelaria got off to a 3-3 start for New York in 1989, he was traded to the Expos for an infielder named Mike Blowers. The New York City-born southpaw tried to make the Yankees winners again but in the end, the Candy Man couldn’t.