July 4 – Happy Birthday USA & Jim Beattie
Jim Beattie was a tall, right-handed pitcher who the Yankees selected out of Dartmouth in the fourth round of the 1974 MLB Draft. He shares his July 4th birthday with the USA and George Steinbrenner. One of the things I liked least about the Boss was his propensity to insult players in the press. The most frequent targets of his barbs seemed to be young Yankee pitchers. He called Irabu a fat toad. He told reporters a young right-hander named Ken Clay “spit the bit.” In another interview he was quoted as suggesting both Dave Righetti and Brian Fisher “should leave with the vendors.” As for Beattie, George infamously described him as being “scared stiff” on the mound. Beattie made his Major League debut with the Yankees in 1978, when he was named the team’s fifth starter behind Ron Guidry, Ed Fiqueroa, Catfish Hunter and Dick Tidrow. After winning his first two decisions that season, he lost his next seven as the Yankees seemed to fall out of the Division race against the high flying Red Sox. Then Steinbrenner replaced Billy Martin with Bob Lemon and the Yankees pulled off one of the great comebacks in MLB history. Beattie was instrumental in that effort as he won four of his six decisions in September and finished his rookie season with a 6-9 record. When Beattie then beat the Royals in the ALCS and won the fifth game of the World Series with a masterful complete game effort against the Dodgers, I thought he was on his way to becoming a solid Yankee starter for the next five years. Turns out I was wrong about that. The 1979 season was a bad one on the field for the Yankees and a tragic one off of it. The Yankees failed to make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons and Captain Thurman Munson was killed in an airplane accident. Beattie went just 3-6 and his ERA ballooned to over five runs per game. In November of that year, the Yankees decided that Seattle’s Ruppert Jones would be their team’s next great center fielder and included Beattie in the four-player package it took to obtain him. Beattie spent the rest of his nine-season big league career pitching for the Mariners during a very mediocre time in that franchise’s history. His best seasons were 1983 when he was 10-15 and the following year when he won 12 and lost 16. He ended his playing career in 1986 with a 43-72 lifetime record. He then began a long career as a front office executive that included a long stint as Expos GM. This former big league manager and onetime Yankee utility infielder was also born on Independence Day.