January 24th – Happy Birthday Neil Allen
The Yankees are not the baseball team most fans think of when they hear the name Neil Allen. That’s because today’s birthday celebrant made his big league debut as a starter for the New York Mets in 1979 and is best remembered as that team’s closer from 1980, when he took over that role from Skip Lockwood until the ’83 season. That was the year the Mets gave the closer role to Jesse Orosco and made Allen a starter once again. In June of that season, he was traded to St Louis in the deal that brought Keith Hernandez to Shea Stadium. During that first partial season in St Louis, Allen continued to be used as a starter and went 10-6 with two shutouts. He was then sent back to the bullpen the following year but not to close, because St Louis had the great Bruce Sutter to finish their games. You have to believe that all these changes in pitching roles were detrimental to Allen’s career. He joined the Yankees for the first time in June of 1985, when New York purchased him from the Cardinals. He pitched well in his seventeen games in pinstripes that year, winning his only decision and posting a 2.76 ERA. The following February, the Yankees traded him to the White Sox. Chicago made him a starter again and he went 7-2 in the Windy City in 1986. But when he began the ’87 season 0-7, he was released and signed as a free agent with the Yankees that September. He had his best season in pinstripes in 1988, appearing in 41 games, going 5-3 and even pitching a complete game shutout in one of the two starting assignments he was given that year. But with his contract expiring at the end of that season, New York chose to let him walk away. He pitched one more season for the Indians and then left the big leagues for good. Sixty nine of his seventy four lifetime saves came during his years as a Met. His lifetime record was 58-70, with a 3.88 career ERA. Since retiring, Allen has been a minor league pitching coach in both the Blue Jay and Yankee organizations and also served as New York’s bullpen coach in 2005.