August 25 – Happy Birthday Dooley Womack
Dooley Womack was one of the best relief pitchers on two of the worst Yankee teams in the franchise’s fabled history. He made his pinstripe debut in April of 1966, as a seldom used member of Manager Johnny Keane’s Yankee bullpen. When that team proceeded to win just four of its first twenty games that season, Ralph Houk took over for Keane and the “Major” took a liking to Womack. The right-handed native of Columbia, SC appeared in 42 games during his rookie season and compiled a 7-3 record with 4 saves in 75 innings of work. He joined Fritz Peterson and Steve Hamilton as the only members of that year’s Yankee pitching staff to compile a winning record and Womack’s 2.64 ERA was the lowest of any New York pitcher with a minimum of ten decisions. That Yankee team became the first to finish in last place since the 1912 Highlanders accomplished the dreaded feat fifty-four seasons earlier.
Womack was even better the following year but the Yankees, unfortunately were not. He led the ’67 squad with 18 saves and 65 appearances plus lowered his ERA to 2.41. The Yankees as a team, in the mean time, won just two more games than they did the season before and finished in ninth place in the ten-team American League. Womack got off to a slower start in ’68 and his Yankee days became numbered that July, when New York acquired the veteran, Lindy McDaniel. The born-again reliever took the struggling Womack’s role as the Yankee bullpen’s right-handed saver and filled it superbly. Dooley found himself demoted to middle inning relief assignments. The Yankees traded Womack to the Astros after the 1968 season for an outfielder named Dick Simpson. Within the next 12 months, Dooley was traded to Seattle, Cincinnati and finally Oakland. In his last big league appearance, while pitching for the A’s in September of 1970, Womack tore his rotator cuff.
Dooley was actually a nickname given to him as a child. His real first name was Horace. Womack became much more famous after Jim Bouton’s best selling book “Ball Four” was published. In it the Bulldog wrote this reaction after learning he’d been traded by the Seattle Pilots for Womack; “Maybe it’s me for a hundred thousand and Dooley Womack is just a throw-in. I’d hate to think at this stage of my career I was being traded even-up for Dooley Womack.” I was an avid card collector as a kid and I bet I had at least ten of the 1967 Topps Womack Card pictured with today’s post.