May 2012

May 19 – Happy Birthday Ed Whitson

whitsonSome guys love playing under the brightest of lights. Eddie Lee Whitson definitely wasn’t one of those guys. The native of Johnson City, Tennessee had come up with the Pirates in 1977 and went 39-48 during his first seven seasons in the big leagues while pitching for four different teams. Then in 1984, the right-hander finally put it all together for the San Diego Padres, going 14-8 and helping the team capture the NL West Pennant and advance to the franchise’s first-ever World Series. I happened to be rooting for the Padres that year because the Yankee’s failed to make it to the postseason and ex-Yankees Graig Nettles, Goose Gossage and Bobby Brown all played for that San Diego team. The first time I ever saw Ed Whitson pitch was when he started the second game of that Fall Classic between the Padres and the Tigers. He got hit hard immediately, giving up five singles and three runs and was knocked out of the game in the first inning.

In any event, a few months later when I heard that the Yankees had signed the free agent Whitson to a four year deal, his disastrous start against the Tigers was the first thing that popped in my mind. History was about to repeat itself in the Bronx.

Whitson got off to a horrible start with New York and by the middle of May, his record was 1-6 and his ERA was over six. Yankee fans began booing him unmercifully and Whitson had a tough time dealing with their hostility. He refused to let his wife attend home games and at one point, the Yankees stopped starting him in games at Yankee Stadium. To make matters worse, George Steinbrenner had fired Yogi Berra in April of that season and brought back the mercurial Billy Martin as field boss. Martin immediately started picking on Whitson for his bad performances on the mound, often calling him gutless in front of his teammates. The bewildered pitcher would later tell people he hated every day he was a Yankee.

Somehow, Whitson began pitching much better and he had won nine of his previous ten decisions when Martin started him in a big game against Toronto in mid-September. At the time, New York was trailing the first-place Blue Jays by four-and-a-half games and couldn’t afford to give up any more ground. Whitson got shelled in the third inning as Toronto scored six runs in that frame to put the game away and also cause irreparable damage to the Yankees pennant hopes.

Billy Martin was so mad about the pitcher’s performance, he skipped over Whitson when his next scheduled start came up. That action enraged the pitcher and set the stage for one of the most famous bar fights in Billy Martin’s illustrious history. It happened after a Yankee game in Baltimore on September 22, 1985 in the cocktail lounge of the hotel at which the Yankees were staying. Martin was drinking heavily at the bar while Whitson was downing drinks just as quickly sitting at a table with friends. Reports of the incident indicate it was actually Whitson who started the altercation by getting into it with another customer in the lounge that evening. Martin was trying to act as a peace keeper when Whitson turned on his manager. Before it was over, Whitson had doubled Martin over with a kick to his crotch, broken Billy’s arm and cracked two of his skipper’s ribs.

It wasn’t until July of his second season in pinstripes that the Yankees finally granted Whitson’s desperate wish to get him out of New York. He was traded back to the Padres for reliever Tim Stoddard. He spent the final six of his fifteen big leagues seasons pitching for the Padres, retiring in 1991 with a lifetime record of 126-123 and an ERA of 3.79. During his season and a half with the Yankees he was 15-10 with an ERA of 5.38.

Whitson shares his May 19th birthday with the 1951 Rookie of the Year and this former Yankee starting catcher.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1985 NYY 10 8 .556 4.88 30 30 0 2 2 0 158.2 201 100 86 19 43 89 1.538
1986 NYY 5 2 .714 7.54 14 4 6 0 0 0 37.0 54 37 31 5 23 27 2.081
15 Yrs 126 123 .506 3.79 452 333 48 35 12 8 2240.0 2240 1045 944 211 698 1266 1.312
SDP (8 yrs) 77 72 .517 3.69 227 208 4 22 6 1 1354.1 1314 596 555 148 350 767 1.229
SFG (3 yrs) 22 30 .423 3.56 74 73 1 10 3 0 435.0 450 196 172 22 142 217 1.361
PIT (3 yrs) 8 9 .471 3.73 67 9 19 0 0 5 147.1 130 73 61 11 82 105 1.439
NYY (2 yrs) 15 10 .600 5.38 44 34 6 2 2 0 195.2 255 137 117 24 66 116 1.641
CLE (1 yr) 4 2 .667 3.26 40 9 18 1 1 2 107.2 91 43 39 6 58 61 1.384
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/19/2014.

May 17 – Happy Birthday Pascual Perez

You want to know why I was sort of excited when the Yankees signed Pascual Perez to a three year, $5.7 million contract after the 1989 season? I’ll give you five reasons; Andy Hawkins, Dave Lapoint, Chuck Cadaret, Clay Parker and Walt Terrell. They were the Yankee starting rotation during the ’89 regular season and they were also cumulatively, a key reason why that New York team finished in fifth place in the AL East, thirteen games below .500. Perez had been a decent pitcher for the Braves and Expos and based on the ages and pedigrees of the Yankee starters he’d be joining in 1990, Pascual had the opportunity of becoming ace of the staff. That didn’t happen.

The Yankees’ new right hander had started just three games for New York at the beginning of the 1990 season when he hurt his throwing shoulder. He did not pitch again that season and the Yankees finished dead last in the AL East. It was again hoped that a healthy Perez would help rejuvenate the Yankee rotation in 1991 but it was not to be. Injuries sidelined him all of April, half of May, all of June and July and the first part of August. He was able to start fourteen games when he wasn’t on the DL but his 2-4 record was a bitter disappointment for Yankee fans.

With one more year left on his contract, there was hope Perez would be pitching the 1992 season with extra motivation. Instead, this guy violated the Major League drug policy which got him suspended for a full year. He never again pitched in a big league game.

Pascual was one of two brothers to pitch for the Yankees (Melido was the other.) He was one of three Perez brothers to play in the Majors and one of seven siblings to play minor league ball. His trademarks were sprinting to the mound from the dugout and his long curly unkempt hair style. Another former Yankee who had a brother playing in the big leagues shares Pascual’s May 17th birthday, as does this former Yankee co-owner and this long-ago Yankee World Series game-winning pitcher.

UPDATE: Pascual Perez was murdered on October 31, 2012, during a home invasion at his residence on the outskirts of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. He was 55 years-old.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1990 NYY 1 2 .333 1.29 3 3 0 0 0 0 14.0 8 3 2 0 3 12 0.786
1991 NYY 2 4 .333 3.18 14 14 0 0 0 0 73.2 68 26 26 7 24 41 1.249
11 Yrs 67 68 .496 3.44 207 193 6 21 4 0 1244.1 1167 541 475 107 344 822 1.214
ATL (4 yrs) 34 33 .507 3.92 101 96 2 11 2 0 601.2 621 291 262 60 176 375 1.325
MON (3 yrs) 28 21 .571 2.80 70 65 3 8 2 0 456.2 363 165 142 35 105 341 1.025
PIT (2 yrs) 2 8 .200 3.94 19 15 1 2 0 0 98.1 107 56 43 5 36 53 1.454
NYY (2 yrs) 3 6 .333 2.87 17 17 0 0 0 0 87.2 76 29 28 7 27 53 1.175
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/17/2013.

May 16 – Happy Birthday Rick Reuschel

Rick Reuschel had been the ace of the Chicago Cubs pitching staff for almost a decade when the Yankees acquired him in exchange for a pretty decent reliever named Doug Bird on June 12, 1981. What was especially weird about the deal was the timing. The Yankees’ 1981 season had been halted after the team’s game on June 11th due to a player strike. Although the season would resume a couple of months later, at the time the Reuschel deal was made, few expected Major League Baseball to be played again that year.

Although Reuschel had had several very good seasons with the Cubs, his pre-strike performance during the ’81 season had not been good. When the work stoppage occurred, the record of the right-hander known as “Big Daddy” was just 4-7. Still, he had won 125 games for Chicago during his first nine seasons with the team and to be able to get him for Bird seemed at the time to be a steal for New York. That’s not how it turned out, unfortunately.

Reuschel did get to pitch in pinstripes the year of the trade, when play resumed in August of ’81. He went 4-4 with a very good ERA of 2.67. He then appeared in three more games during the Yankees 1981 postseason, which included a decently pitched loss against the Brewers in the ALDS and two less than impressive appearances against the Dodgers in that year’s World Series. Yankee fans never again got to see him pitch in a Yankee uniform.

When pitchers reported to the Yankees’ 1982 spring training camp, Reuschel was not one of them. The Yankee front office had discovered that the pitcher’s contract with the Cubs had a deferred payment clause that stretched payments to Reuschel all the way out to the year 2020. Citing the Yankee team owners’ partnership agreement expiration date of 2002, lawyers for the club claimed the organization could not agree to make those payments and needed to restructure the deal. Reuschel protested by not showing up to spring training and eventually the matter was worked out with a two-year contract extension at $280,000 per year. It was the worst $560,000 investment the team ever made.

That’s because when Reuschel did finally show up at spring training, he tore or had already torn his rotator cuff. The injury and the surgery to repair it, kept him from pitching the entire 1982 season and limited his performance in 1983 to just 16 innings of pitching with New York’s Columbus Clippers farm team. The Yankees released him in June of 1984. He worked his way back into shape and once again became a very good big league starter with both the Pirates and Giants.

Reuschel shares his May 16th birthday with this former Yankee manager, this former Yankee reliever and a pitcher who’s own name and career are very often confused with Reuschel’s.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1981 NYY 4 4 .500 2.67 12 11 1 3 0 0 70.2 75 24 21 4 10 22 1.203
19 Yrs 214 191 .528 3.37 557 529 16 102 26 5 3548.1 3588 1494 1330 221 935 2015 1.275
CHC (12 yrs) 135 127 .515 3.50 358 343 9 65 17 3 2290.0 2365 1007 891 140 640 1367 1.312
SFG (5 yrs) 44 30 .595 3.29 96 90 2 12 3 1 601.0 600 236 220 38 141 283 1.233
PIT (3 yrs) 31 30 .508 3.04 91 85 4 22 6 1 586.2 548 227 198 39 144 343 1.180
NYY (1 yr) 4 4 .500 2.67 12 11 1 3 0 0 70.2 75 24 21 4 10 22 1.203
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/15/2013.