August 15 – Happy Birthday Joe Cowley
Right about 1985, I remember thinking Yankee owner, George Steinbrenner had gone insane. It had been four seasons since the Yankees had made the postseason and “the Boss” seemed to be on two missions. The first was to absolve himself from any role in the team’s recent failures to make it to fall ball. He made sure the media understood that he had made or wanted to make all the correct player moves necessary to keep the Yankees in the playoffs perpetually. He had let his “baseball people” talk him out of some of those moves and in the deals he had orchestrated, the players he had acquired had simply choked. His second mission back then was to prove he could single-handedly maneuver the Yankees back into World Series play.
I have never been a big George Steinbrenner fan however, I had appreciated the fact that he was hell-bent on turning my favorite baseball team into winners again. But after that 1985 season, he made a move that absolutely stunned me. He traded Joe Cowley. I loved Joe Cowley. New York had signed the native of Lexington, KY as a free agent in 1983 and sent him to their Triple A team in Columbus. He began the ’84 season going 10-3 for the Clippers. The Yankees brought him up in July of that same year and he became the best starting pitcher on the parent club’s staff in August and September, winning eight straight decisions. Then in 1985, he went 12-6, helping New York win 97 games that season, finishing second to the Blue Jays, who won 99.
So here’s a guy who’s gone 21-8 for New York over two seasons and proven he can win in pinstripes and what’s Steinbrenner do? In December of ’85 he trades him to the Chicago White Sox for Britt Burns. Maybe you’ve never heard of Burns or didn’t realize he had pitched for the Yankees? That’s because he never did. Turns out the guy had a bad hip and never appeared in a single game for New York. Cowley didn’t last too long in Chicago either. He went 11-11 in his only season in the Windy City. In his last-ever victory for the White Sox, he threw a complete-game no-hitter. He lost his next two starts that year and Chicago traded him to the Phillies during the following off-season. After the big right-hander lost his first four starts in 1986, Philadelphia released him and he never again pitched in a big league game. That makes Cowley the only pitcher in big league history who’s last big league victory was a no-hitter.
Cowley shares his August 15th birthday with this MVP of the 1998 World Series.