Long before Karaoke made its way from Japan to our shores, big league pitcher Mickey McDermott loved to sing in bars. Perhaps the biggest reason he loved to sing in bars was because he had to be in a bar in order to do it which meant he could drink and if their was one thing old Mickey liked to do in bars more than sing in them, it was drink in them. Born in Poughkeepsie, NY on April 29, 1929 and raised in New Jersey, his full name was Maurice Joseph McDermott. Big league scouts drooled over his fastball and the Red Sox won the race to sign him by doing so when he was just fifteen years-old. His shifty father actually forged a birth certificate that claimed his talented son was 18 years old. The elder McDermott than pocketed $5,000 of his son’s bonus money. Mickey made his big league debut for Boston when he was just 19 and by 1949 he was splitting his time between the team’s starting rotation and its bullpen.
I’ve found testimony from great big league hitters like Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams that indicate this guy could be very impressive on the mound. He showed many moments of brilliance in his early career and seemed to be putting it all together in 1952 when he went 10-9 in Beantown and then followed that up with an 18-10 1953 season that included 4 shutouts. Making him even more valuable was the fact that he was an extremely gifted hitter who averaged .252 lifetime and was frequently used as a pinch hitter.
McDermott’s achille’s heel was his desire to party, which is what made Tom Yawkey’s decision to approve trading him after his great 1953 season an easy one. It turned out to be one of the best deals Boston ever made because in return for McDermott, they got a gifted, ex-Yankee outfielder from Washington by the name of Jackie Jensen. By 1958, Jensen would become an AL MVP winner and McDermott would find himself pitching back in the Minor Leagues.
Mickey would start for the lowly Senators for two seasons, compiling a 17-25 record in our Nation’s capital. The Yankees then acquired him in a seven player trade in February of 1956. New York had just lost the 1955 Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers and Yankee GM George Weiss and Manager Casey Stengel both knew the team needed to get some pitching. Weiss and Stengel had been the beneficiaries of one of the greatest starting rotations in the club’s history when Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat and then Whitey Ford had pitched the team to five straight World Series wins between 1949 and ’53. With Reynolds, Raschi and Lopat now all gone from the team, Weiss knew he had to replace them with quality arms but the thrifty GM was determined to do so as cheaply as possible. That was his goal when he agreed to send a five player package of Yankee subs and prospects to the Senators for McDermott, figuring that lot’s of mediocre bodies for one quality pitcher would end up being a steal. Weiss thought the vaunted Yankee offense combined with McDermott’s talent would make him a big winner in New York. Instead, even though none of the five players the Yankees gave up became stars in Washington, the Senators still were the big winners in the McDermott deal.
That’s because instead of taking advantage of New York’s powerful lineup when he got to the Big Apple, Mickey McDermott took advantage of the City’s vibrant night life. He would finish 2-6 during his only season in pinstripes and then become part of a thirteen player deal with the A’s in February of 1957 that brought Clete Boyer to New York. McDermott did get a chance to pitch in his only World Series as a Yankee and Stengel let him take an at bat in that 1956 Fall Classic as well. Mickey uncharacteristically took advantage of an opportunity by singling in the eighth inning of Game 2 so that he finished his career with a 1.000 postseason average.
McDermott was out of the big leagues for good by 1962 and back in the minors, where he continued his hard-partying lifestyle. After hanging up his glove for good, his self-destructive ways continued. Ironically, his old drinking buddy with the Yankees, Billy Martin hired Mickey as a coach for the Oakland A’s but both were fired in 1982. McDermott then became a player agent until his affinity for alcohol ruined that career too. He hit rock bottom in 1991, when he was sent to jail for multiple DWI offenses. That’s when he became sober. That same year, he and his wife hit the Arizona Lottery for $7 million.
McDermott decided to chronicle his crazy life in a book. He did so in his well received autobiography “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cooperstown,” which was published in 2003. He died of cancer at the age of 73, just as his book went on sale.
|BOS (6 yrs)||48||34||.585||3.80||153||97||36||34||9||8||773.2||647||359||327||47||504||499||1.488|
|WSH (2 yrs)||17||25||.405||3.58||61||46||11||19||2||2||352.1||312||170||140||17||210||173||1.482|
|KCA (2 yrs)||1||4||.200||6.15||33||4||15||0||0||0||74.2||82||59||51||9||60||32||1.902|
|STL (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||3.67||19||0||13||0||0||4||27.0||29||17||11||3||15||15||1.630|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||6||.250||4.24||23||9||11||1||0||0||87.0||85||46||41||10||47||38||1.517|
|DET (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||2||0||0||0||0||0||2.0||6||4||2||0||2||0||4.000|
Back in the nineteen fifties, slugger Mickey Mantle would begin drooling a week before his Yankees were scheduled to play a series against the Washington Senators. Why? There were three reasons, and their names were Chuck Stobbs, Camilio Pascual and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Pedro “Pistol Pete” Ramos. They formed three fifths of Washington’s starting rotation back then and it seemed as if Mantle hit three-fifths of his 536 lifetime home runs off the trio. Pascual and Ramos were both from Cuba and both were actually very talented big league pitchers. In fact, I saw Pascual pitch a couple of times live at Yankee Stadium and several times on television and to this day, I believe he belongs in Cooperstown. Ramos was a notch below his countryman in talent but it would end up being Ramos who would help pitch the Yankees into a World Series.
Pedro pitched his first seven big league seasons for the Senators (who moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961) and achieved double figures in victories in six of them. Unfortunately, thanks in large part to the anemic offense and porous defense of those Washington teams, Ramos also lost 112 games during that same span. He was then traded to the Indians, where he pitched decently for almost three seasons until September 5, 1964 when Yankee GM Ralph Houk acquired him for two players to be named later, who would turn out to be pitchers Ralph Terry and Bud Daley.
Yogi Berra had replaced Houk as Yankee skipper that season and the team took a long time to respond to their new Manager and were in danger of not reaching the World Series for the first time in five straight seasons. Berra’s starting rotation and bullpen were running on fumes. The additions of Mel Stottlemyre and Ramos proved to be the perfect elixir to what ailed Yankee pitching. Ramos took over the closer role and pitched brilliantly, saving eight games down the stretch as New York pulled off a late-season surge to win the AL Pennant. Unfortunately, he had joined the Yankees to late in the season to qualify for the World Series roster so he was forced to watch helplessly as the Cardinals beat New York in that year’s seven-game Fall Classic.
Houk then replaced Berra as Yankee Manager with Johnny Keane right after that series and Ramos spent the next two years as the closer on a Yankee team that was not able to generate too many leads that needed closing. Still, Ramos did save a total 32 games for New York during the 1965 and ’66 seasons before getting dealt to Philadelphia for relief pitcher Joe Verbanic. He retired after the 1970 season with a lifetime record of 117-160, 55 saves and 13 shutouts.
It seems Ramos was pretty much a wild man in his private life. In fact, his nickname “Pistol Pete” was only partially attributable to the right-hander’s fastball. This guy actually carried a gun with him off the field, almost all the time. He once used that gun to shoot out the screen of his family’s television set when he objected to the channel choice of Mrs. Ramos (who quickly thereafter became the ex-Mrs. Ramos.) He also used his gun after his playing days were over when he got himself involved in Little Havana’s drug business, which landed him in jail in the early 1980′s.
Ramos shares his April 28th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher.
|MIN (7 yrs)||78||112||.411||4.19||290||199||56||58||10||12||1544.1||1579||808||719||210||491||740||1.340|
|CLE (3 yrs)||26||30||.464||3.87||109||68||15||15||3||1||519.0||489||262||223||75||152||363||1.235|
|NYY (3 yrs)||9||14||.391||3.05||130||1||91||0||0||40||203.2||191||80||69||18||45||147||1.159|
|WSA (1 yr)||0||0||7.56||4||0||1||0||0||0||8.1||10||7||7||2||4||10||1.680|
|CIN (1 yr)||4||3||.571||5.16||38||0||12||0||0||2||66.1||73||41||38||8||24||40||1.462|
|PIT (1 yr)||0||1||.000||6.00||5||0||3||0||0||0||6.0||8||4||4||2||0||4||1.333|
|PHI (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||6||0||4||0||0||0||8.0||14||8||8||1||8||1||2.750|
At one time, Virgil Trucks was one of the premier pitchers in the American League. The right-hander from Birmingham, AL won 177 big league games during his seventeen season career that began with the Tigers in 1941 and he’s one of just four pitchers to have thrown two no-hitters in the same season. The others are Johnny Vander Meer, Allie Reynolds and Nolan Ryan.
By the time he joined the Yankees however, just minutes before the 1958 regular season trading deadline, Trucks was 41 years old and his best days were behind him. The Yankees got the veteran pitcher and reliever Duke Maas from the A’s for outfielder Harry Simpson and pitcher Bob Grim.
Trucks would appear in 25 games for Casey Stengel’s AL Pennant winners during the second half of the ’58 season, finishing his brief Yankee career with a 2-1 record and a single save. Though he was left off of the team’s World Series roster, his Yankee teammates still voted him a full $8,759.10 winners’ share after they knocked off the Braves in that year’s Fall Classic.
Trucks never again played a big league ball game. He did stay in the game as a coach for the Pirates and then a scout for the Tigers, retiring in 1990. He turns 95 years-old today and is currently the oldest ex-Yankee still living. Update: Trucks passed away on March 23, 2013 in Alabama.
|DET (12 yrs)||114||96||.543||3.50||316||229||53||84||20||13||1800.2||1618||786||700||123||732||1046||1.305|
|CHW (3 yrs)||47||26||.644||3.14||96||80||10||36||11||4||616.0||551||225||215||46||223||345||1.256|
|KCA (2 yrs)||9||8||.529||2.87||64||7||35||0||0||10||138.0||124||52||44||14||77||70||1.457|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||1||.667||4.54||25||0||13||0||0||1||39.2||40||24||20||1||24||26||1.613|
|SLB (1 yr)||5||4||.556||3.07||16||12||2||4||2||2||88.0||83||37||30||4||32||47||1.307|
MLB scouts first took notice of Juan Miranda when he played left field and hit over .400 for the Cuban National Team that won the first World University Championship Series gold medal in 2002. He defected from the Castro-ruled island in 2005 and signed with the Yankees in 2006. He put together some solid seasons in the Yankee farm system that earned him late season call-ups to the Bronx in both 2008 and ’09. He got his real shot with the parent club in 2010, when Manager Joe Girardi played him pretty regularly during the second half of May. He hit his first big league home run against Boston’s Josh Beckett in a losing effort on May 18th of that season and two days later he went deep against Tampa Bay’s James Shields. Unfortunately, he had a tough time proving he could hit big league pitching consistently and when the Yankees sent him back down that June, his average was just .217. The following November, Miranda was traded to the Diamondbacks. The change of scenery didn’t help. He hit only .213 for Arizona last year. He began the 2012 season with Tampa’s Triple A affiliate in Durham.
|NYY (3 yrs)||46||94||83||11||21||3||1||4||14||0||0||9||20||.253||.330||.458||.788|
|ARI (1 yr)||65||202||174||18||37||8||2||7||23||0||1||23||48||.213||.315||.402||.717|
Late in the 1964 season, the Yankees traded for Cleveland’s Pedro Ramos and the veteran right-hander from Cuba saved 8 games for New York down the stretch and together with rookie Mel Stottlemyre, pitched Yogi Berra’s team to the AL Pennant. Just two seasons later, the Yankees were near the very bottom of the AL standings when they traded Ramos to Philadelphia for Joe Verbanic, a skinny right-hander with a good fastball and decent slider.
Verbanic spent his first season in pinstripes as a reliever, winning four, saving two and posting a very nice 2.80 ERA. That performance earned him a shot at New York’s starting rotation in ’68 and he responded with a 6-7 record which included a shutout plus four more saves. That wasn’t good enough to prevent his return to the minors the following season. Vebanic did play a role in a significant piece of Yankee trivia. Elston Howard’s last at-bat as a Yankee was as a pinch-hitter for Verbanic.
One of the nicest things that has happened to me since I started writing this Pinstripe Birthday Blog has been the messages I’ve received from former Yankees and their friends and relatives. My absolute biggest thrill came when after reading in one of my posts that I had not read his classic book, former Yankee 20-game winner, Jim Bouton sent me an autographed copy of “Ball Four.” If you have not read it yet, do something nice for yourself and get a copy. In addition to giving you a unique, up close perspective of what life was like for baseball players in the late sixties, it will make you laugh out loud many many times. It also makes a perfect birthday gift for any Yankee fans in your life.
Bouton is the first author/player I’ve ever read who spends significant page space describing the men he had as coaches during his playing career. He loved Johnny Sain, one of the pitching instructors he had when he was on the Yankees. He was not a fan of two of his other New York coaches, Frank Crosetti and Jim Turner. It was Turner who happened to see Bouton squeezing two baseballs together in his pitching hand one day. The pitcher had indicated in his book that pitching coach Turner had spent more time and attention protecting the Yankees’ supply of team baseballs than he had helping Yankee pitchers become better pitchers. When he saw Bouton squeezing the two balls he asked him what he was doing and the “Bulldog” explained the exercise helped him strengthen his fingers. Thinking Bouton was attempting to steal the balls, Turner demanded Bouton put them back in the bag. Bouton’s good friend and fellow Yankee pitcher Fritz Peterson had overheard Turner reprimand his buddy so he convinced Joe Verbanic, Steve Hamilton and three or four other pitchers on that Yankee staff to each grab two balls from the bag and walk in front of Jim Turner while squeezing them in their pitching hand. According to Bouton, this drove Turner crazy.
|NYY (3 yrs)||11||10||.524||3.12||75||17||30||3||2||6||193.0||198||72||67||13||74||11||87||9||1.409|
|PHI (1 yr)||1||1||.500||5.14||17||0||3||0||0||0||14.0||12||9||8||2||10||3||7||0||1.571|
Back in 1964 I was an avid baseball card collector. I remember that $1.25 was enough to purchase an entire box of Topps. I would scrimp, save, beg, and borrow every penny possible and as soon as I reached that magic amount I’d run to Puglisi’s Confectionary, up the street from my house, and buy my box. I’d then take my treasure back to my house and sit on the rusting green metal porch swing we used to have on the front porch and begin the glorious ritual of opening each pack. I will never forget the day I sat on that porch swing and got six Duke Carmel cards in the same box. I saw him staring at me with that bat cocked over his shoulder so many times that afternoon that he became a friend of mine. About a week later, I’m sure five of those Carmel cards were fastened to the forks of my 20″ Rollfast two-wheeler, transforming the sound of the bike into a roaring Harley.
Duke was born in New York City and got to play in his home town when the Cardinals traded him to the Mets in 1963. He joined the Yankees two seasons later but only appeared in a half dozen games wearing the pinstripes. Carmel turns 76 years old today. Carmel shares his April 23rd birthday with this Yankee outfielder.
Here is my all-time lineup of the most skilled players who have played for both the Mets and Yankees during their careers:
1b Dave Kingman
2b Willie Randolph
3b Gary Sheffield
ss Tony Fernandez
c Yogi Berra
of Ricky Henderson
of Darryl Strawberry
of Ron Swoboda
p Dwight Gooden
rp Jesse Orosco
mgr Casey Stengel
Here are Carmel’s Yankee seasonal and big league lifetime career stats.
|STL (3 yrs)||71||81||70||11||13||2||0||1||5||1||2||11||18||.186||.296||.257||.553||52|
|NYM (1 yr)||47||167||149||11||35||5||3||3||18||2||2||16||37||.235||.307||.369||.676||94|
|NYY (1 yr)||6||8||8||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||5||.000||.000||.000||.000||-100|
After a solid nine-year career with the Blue Jays, this left-hander was signed as a free agent by New York after the 1992 season to become the ace of the Yankee rotation. For the next two years, Key was exactly that, winning
thirty five games and losing just ten. He got beat out for the AL Cy Young Award during the strike-shortened 1994 season by future Yankee teammate, David Cone. A rotator cuff injury then wiped out his 1995 season. He had an ok 12-11 record in 1996 but then got the opportunity to win the sixth and final game of that year’s World Series against Atlanta in his final performance in pinstripes.
I remember thinking the Yankees had gone crazy after that Fall Classic, when they let both Key and the Series MVP, closer John Wetteland, sign with other teams. Key signed a nice deal with the Orioles but he really wanted to stay in New York. Turns out that rotator cuff injury that sidelined him in ’95 was enough to convince the New York front office they couldn’t match Baltimore’s guarantee of a second year. Key pitched well for the Birds in 1997, going 16-10 but when he fell off to 6-3 the following season he decided to call it quits, doing so with a 186-117 lifetime record.
The retired southpaw made Big Apple back page headlines again during the 1999 preseason when the Yankees approached him about coming out of retirement to pitch in their bullpen. Key had made his big league debut as a closer for the Blue Jays back in 1984, saving ten games in his rookie season. The native of Hunstville, AL quickly threw cold water over the comeback rumors when he insisted he was done with baseball for good.
Key shares his April 22nd birthday with this one-time New York Highlander shortstop.
|TOR (9 yrs)||116||81||.589||3.42||317||250||24||28||10||10||1695.2||1624||710||645||165||404||944||1.196|
|NYY (4 yrs)||48||23||.676||3.68||94||94||0||5||2||0||604.1||607||265||247||60||159||400||1.268|
|BAL (2 yrs)||22||13||.629||3.64||59||45||4||1||1||0||291.2||287||129||118||29||105||194||1.344|
From 1983 until 1987, Jesse Orosco was one of the best relievers in all of baseball. He joined the Mets in 1979 as the player to be named later in the deal that sent the veteran Jerry Koosman to Minnesota. In the next few seasons, the southpaw would perfect a deadly slider and a backdoor curve that could at times make him unhittable, especially against left-handed batters. He went 13-7 with 17 saves and a 1.47 ERA in 1983 and followed that up with a 10-6, 31-save effort a year later. In the Mets magical 1986 season, Jesse and his right-handed closing counterpart, Roger McDowell practically guaranteed the Mets would win any game in which they led after seven innings. It was Orosco who nailed down the final outs in both the 1986 NLCS and World Series.
In 1987, Orosco had his first bad season as a Met and since 1988 would be the final year of his contract, New York decided to trade him before his free agency commenced. Thus began a fifteen year, nine team odyssey for Jesse, during which he was transitioned into one of the Game’s most effective situational left handed relief specialists. That was the role the Yankees needed filled when the Yankees acquired Orosco from the Padres at the midway point of the 2003 season. By then, he was 46 years-old, was pitching in his fourth decade, and had surpassed Dennis Eckersley as the Major League’s all-time leader in games pitched. Unfortunately, he had also lost the ability to get left-handers out.
Orosco appeared in 15 games as a Yankee, pitching a total of just 4.1 innings. He walked six batters, gave up 4 hits and compiled a horrible ERA of 10.48. On the last day of August during the 2003 season, the Yankees sent him to the Twins where he won the last of his 87 big league victories. He retired at the end of that season, his 24th in the big leagues, with 144 lifetime saves.
Orosco shares his August 21st birthday with this Hall of Fame Yankee Manager.
|NYM (8 yrs)||47||47||.500||2.73||372||4||246||0||0||107||595.2||480||207||181||40||240||506||1.209|
|BAL (5 yrs)||15||11||.577||3.35||336||0||83||0||0||11||244.1||173||95||91||26||133||241||1.252|
|LAD (3 yrs)||4||5||.444||3.00||146||0||36||0||0||10||96.0||82||35||32||11||49||86||1.365|
|CLE (3 yrs)||10||8||.556||3.11||171||0||77||0||0||5||188.1||164||75||65||20||79||170||1.290|
|MIL (3 yrs)||9||7||.563||3.74||156||0||46||0||0||9||134.2||112||66||56||11||56||143||1.248|
|MIN (1 yr)||1||1||.500||5.79||8||0||3||0||0||0||4.2||4||3||3||0||5||3||1.929|
|STL (1 yr)||0||0||3.86||6||0||0||0||0||0||2.1||3||3||1||1||3||4||2.571|
|SDP (1 yr)||1||1||.500||7.56||42||0||10||0||0||2||25.0||33||22||21||4||10||22||1.720|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||0||10.38||15||0||0||0||0||0||4.1||4||6||5||0||6||4||2.308|
Don Mattingly’s first game in a Yankee uniform took place in 1982, the season after the Yankees lost a World Series to the LA Dodgers. His career in pinstripes lasted until 1995. One year later the Yankees would finally make it back to the Fall Classic, with their victory over Atlanta. “Donnie Baseball” was the first person I thought about when New York third baseman Charlie Hayes squeezed the foul-popped final out of the 1996 World Series in his glove.
During his first six full seasons with New York, Mattingly averaged 203 hits per year, 27 home runs, 114 RBIs and hit .327. He also made the All Star team each of those seasons, won five Gold Gloves for his outstanding play at first base and was voted AL MVP in 1985. During that period, he was the best and most popular player in baseball and he along with Dave Winfield made the Yankees perennial contenders in the very tough AL East.
Even though they missed the playoffs every year, those Mattingly-Winfield-led Yankee teams played every inning of every game with a hustle and determination that made you proud to be a Yankee fan. In 1990, Mattingly injured his back and it never fully healed. The impact of the injury on his swing and his power was immediate, significant and permanent. Still he persevered, playing six more seasons. I remember feeling so bad for him when a strike ended the 1994 regular season and prevented the Yankees, who were in first place at the time, from playing in Mattingly’s first-ever postseason. Fortunately, New York did get there in ’95. Those of us who followed him closely throughout his career will never forget his outstanding performance during those five October games against the Mariners. He had ten hits in that series with a homer and six RBIs and he averaged .417. Even though New York lost, Mattingly’s farewell effort to Yankee fans was one of the most poignant moments in franchise history. Donnie Baseball turns fifty-two-years-old today. I still miss watching him play the game.
Mattingly shares his birthday with this long-ago New York outfielder.
The Boston Red Sox Impossible Dream pennant in 1967 would really have been impossible without reliever John Wyatt. The right-handed native of Chicago, IL had made his Major League debut in 1961 with Kansas City and during the next five seasons, had developed into one of the better closers in the AL. The Red Sox got him in a mid-season trade in 1966 and he quickly became became the ace of Boston’s bullpen. During that ’67 season, Wyatt appeared in 60 games for Manager Dick Williams’ Beantowners and many of them were must wins. He ended up winning 10 games, saving 20 and posting a 2.60 ERA. But he also ended up that regular season with a stiff arm and enraged Williams by insisting he wasn’t healthy enough to pitch. The cantankerous skipper told the Boston sports press he thought Wyatt was imagining his maladies. Wyatt responded by writing a letter to a Boston newspaper, complaining about the way he was being treated by Williams and demanding to be traded.
He got his wish in May of 1968, much to the delight of Yankee manager Ralph Houk, when the Red Sox sold the angry pitcher to New York. The problem with the deal was that even though that 1968 Yankee team had several weaknesses, the bullpen wasn’t one of them. New York had both Steve Hamilton and Lindy McDaniel already closing games with pretty good efficiency. What Houk really needed was offense which was why, less than a month after purchasing Wyatt from Boston, they sold him to Detroit to make room for the newly acquired one-time home-run slugger, Rocky Colavito. So Wyatt’s Yankee career ended up consisting of just seven appearances and two losses. As it turned out, the reliever’s arm was more than tired. It was worn out completely. He finished the ’68 season with the Tigers and then rejoined the A’s in ’69 but only appeared in 4 games before calling it quits for good.
|OAK (7 yrs)||27||29||.482||3.77||296||9||206||0||0||73||473.0||428||214||198||58||254||29||367||1.442|
|BOS (3 yrs)||14||13||.519||2.92||110||0||73||0||0||28||175.2||139||64||57||11||72||8||142||1.201|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||2||.000||2.16||7||0||2||0||0||0||8.1||7||3||2||1||9||0||6||1.920|
|DET (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||2.37||22||0||10||0||0||2||30.1||26||9||8||2||11||2||25||1.220|