April 9 – Happy Birthday Graeme Lloyd

If you have been a Yankee fan for at least the past couple of decades, chances are that you agree that 1996 and 1998 were two of your all-time favorite baseball seasons. In 96 the Bombers weren’t picked to win anything and ended up winning everything, terminating a drought that had lasted for 18 years. Then two years later, the 1998 team put together the greatest season in franchise history. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the Yankees picked up Graeme Lloyd during the 96 season, just to get out tough lefty hitters in late-inning situations. By 1998, this 6’7″ Aussie had perfected that role and helped make the Yankee bullpen the envy of baseball.

The Yankee team of the mid nineties had a hunger and a team-spirit they have had a difficult time replicating. Veteran specialty role players like Lloyd, who had no ego and knew exactly what was expected of him, helped nurture this positive environment.

One of my all-time favorite “weird” Yankee moments was when Lloyd charged the mound and threw one of the funniest looking punches I have ever seen at Oriole reliever Armando Benitez, during a 1998 early-season contest with the Orioles. Both team’s benches and bullpens had cleared after Benitez threw a pitch at Tino Martinez.

Lloyd also pitched for the Mets in 2003, in what was his last season in the big leagues.

A decade after Lloyd pitched in the Yankee bullpen, this fireballing reliever, also born on April 9th, did the same. This long-ago starting pitcher shares their birthday.

3 Comments

You may or may not have the answer to this, but how old is the lefty specialist phenomenon?
-Mateo
http://mateofischer.mlblogs.com

Hello Mateo. The earliest specialist I personally remember was Jim Kaat toward the end of his career in the late seventies but I gotta believe there were others before him. I think prior to free agency, there was too much of a stigma attached to such a limited role for a pitcher. But I’m sure every Manager since the beginning of time has pre-selected a pitcher on their staff they would insert at a key moment of a game to get get a better match-up against an opposing hitter.

Ah, Kaat became a lefty specialist? Interesting,thank you for letting me know

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