July 16 – Happy Birthday Tom Metcalf
There are only 35 former Major League ballplayers who have July 16th as a birthday and not one of them is still playing the game. The most famous of this group is “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. Perhaps they should have called old Shoeless “Luckless” instead. In addition to being suspended from playing Major League baseball for life for allegedly conspiring to throw the 1919 World Series, Jackson once hit .408 in a season and didn’t win the batting title. Remember Terry Pendleton? In 1990 and ’91 he was the best third baseman in baseball, winning an NL batting crown with the Braves and a Gold Glove as well. Pendleton turns 52 today.
Tom Metcalf is exactly 20-years-older than Pendleton. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is not a well known Yankee but even though this Amherst, WI native pitched for New York way back in the 1963 season and won just one game in pinstripes, I vividly remember that Yankee victory. The date was September 1, 1963 and the Yankees were playing the Orioles at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.
The Orioles were leading 3-0 when Manager Ralph Houk replaced reliever Steve Hamilton with Metcalf. One month earlier, Metcalf had made his big league debut in a relief effort against this same Baltimore team and been shelled. He didn’t get another chance to pitch for ten days and even went to Houk and told him if he wasn’t going to get a chance to pitch to send him back to Richmond. Instead, Houk began calling on him and Metcalf started pitching well.
Now against the Orioles a second time, the right-hander pitched two innings and gave up one run and then was lifted for a pinch-hitter with the score 4-1. That pinch-hitter happened to be Mickey Mantle. Mantle had broken his foot earlier in that ’63 season, in a game against these same Orioles in this same ballpark. He was chasing a fly ball and his foot became entangled in a chain link fence that used to run along Memorial Stadium’s outfield. When Houk sent him in to hit for Metcalf, it was his first appearance since coming off the disabled list from that injury. While I watched on my parents’ old black & white Sylvania, Mickey hit a two-run homer and three batters later, Tom Tresh hit another two-run shot for his second homer of the game and the Yankees and Metcalf had their victory.
Metcalf’s promising career ended with an injury to his pitching arm. Not too many Yankees hail from Metcalf’s home state of Wisconsin. The best of the few that do, is Tony Kubek. Former Yankee fireballing reliever, Ryne Duren is a also a native of the Badger State.