September 26 – Happy Birthday Bobby Shantz
One of three pitchers to have played for the Yankees and won the MVP award, southpaw Bobby Shantz was a 24-game winner for the 1952 Philadelphia A’s who thought his career was over the following season when he blew out his left elbow. He suffered through four more pain-filled seasons with the A’s, pitching when he could and gradually regaining arm strength. By the time he was sent to the Yankees as part of a ten-player 1957 pre-season swap, Shantz was ready to resume his career as a starter.
It just so happened that Yankee ace, Whitey Ford, developed his own sore arm in 1957 so when Shantz started that season going 9-1 for New York, he became the toast of the Big Apple. He finished that year with an 11-5 record and led the league with a 2.45 ERA. The diminuitive 5 foot 6 inch Shantz stayed in Pinstripes for the next four seasons, gradually becoming Casey Stengel’s best reliever.
Yankee Nation’s memory of this little southpaw would be a lot brighter if the infield at old Forbes Field had been groomed more professionally. The Yankees had quickly fallen behind in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, when Bob Turley and Bill Stafford gave up four early runs to the Pirates. Stengel then put Shantz in the game in the third inning. He pitched shutout ball until Bill Virdon’s eighth inning grounder to short caromed off a stone that shouldn’t have been there, causing it to take a crazy hop into Tony Kubek’s Adam’s apple and turn a sure double play into a rally starting infield single. If Kubek makes that play Shantz’s pitching performance would reside right up there in the pantheon of outstanding moments in Yankee history. Instead, we got a real-life reenactment of David using a stone to kill Goliath and Mazeroski’s bronze statue stands outside of Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.
Its also too bad Virdon didn’t hit that ball to Shantz, instead. Bobby was a seven-time Gold Glove winner during his career. Bobby was born on September 26, 1925, in Pottsown, PA. Happy 86th birthday Bobby.
Stengel and his pitching coach, Jim Turner perfected the role of spot starter during their Yankee tenures. They used Johnny Sain, Shantz, Duke Maas, Bob Turley and Jim Coates to near perfection in that dual role and each of them helped New York make it to at least one World Series. By the way, Spud Chandler and Roger Clemens were the other two pitchers who won MVP Awards and also played for the Yankees. Chandler was the only one of the three to win the award as a Yankee.