April 24th, 2012

April 24 – Happy Birthday Joe Verbanic

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.

Verbanic shares his April 24th birthday with this one-time Yankee third baseman and this Yankee starting pitcher.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP WHIP
1967 NYY 4 3 .571 2.80 28 6 11 1 1 2 80.1 74 27 25 6 21 3 39 2 1.183
1968 NYY 6 7 .462 3.15 40 11 16 2 1 4 97.0 104 36 34 6 41 8 40 6 1.495
1970 NYY 1 0 1.000 4.60 7 0 3 0 0 0 15.2 20 9 8 1 12 0 8 1 2.043
4 Yrs 12 11 .522 3.26 92 17 33 3 2 6 207.0 210 81 75 15 84 14 94 9 1.420
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/24/2013.