July 30 – Happy Birthday Steve Trout
Many long-time Yankee fans remember Steve Trout. Many also wish they could forget him. He was the left-handed starting pitcher the Yankees got from the Cubs in July of 1987, who was supposed to help that team win the AL East. Lou Piniella was the Yankee Manager that year and the addition of Trout gave him a starting rotation consisting of four southpaws (Trout, Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Dennis Rasmussen) and right-hander Rick Rhoden. The deal occurred in Trout’s tenth big league season. He had come up with the White Sox in 1978 and pitched there for his first five years in the majors and then was traded to the cross-town Cubs. He had compiled a 43-38 record as an AL pitcher and a 37-40 mark as a Cubbie and had never really had a breakout season with either team. But in Trout’s last two starts before being dealt to New York, he had pitched consecutive complete game shutouts. Back then, I think George Steinbrenner used to scour the headlines looking for any player on a hot streak and when he found one, he’d tell his GM to try and get him before their streak ended. So New York sent the disappointing young pitcher, Bob Tewksbury to the Windy City in exchange for Steve “Rainbow” Trout, who’s father was Dizzy Trout, a 170-game winning big league pitcher (mostly with the Tigers) from the 1940′s.
Unfortunately for the Yankees and for Trout, that second straight shutout was the end of his hot streak. When he got to New York, he was cold as ice. In eight starts and four relief appearances with his new team he had an 0-4 record and an ERA that was almost as high as the Empire State Building. He was also the victim of some high crescendo booing during almost all of his painful Yankee Stadium appearances. The low point for Trout came in a relief appearance against the Tigers in early August. He pitched to just two batters and gave up a hit a walk, two wild pitches and two runs. After that game, Piniella told the press “I know this much for sure, we certainly can’t pitch him any more.” Trout was jettisoned to Seattle the following December and Piniella tried to sum up the pitcher’s dismal career in Pinstripes, when he told reporters after the 1987 season, “Maybe he just put too much pressure on himself.”
I’ve certainly criticized Yankee pitchers in my lifetime, but I’ve never disrespected one. Once, when I was in my twenties, I was somewhere where they had a speed gun set-up so you could see how fast you could throw a baseball. I had trouble getting the reading up over 60 mph. I can only dream of being able to do what Steve Trout actually did. He shares his July 30th birthday with this legendary Yankee skipper and this one-time Yankee DH/first baseman.