The argument is easy to make that Whitey Ford is the greatest Yankee starting pitcher of all time. “The Chairman of the Board” was a winner from the get-go, helping New York capture the 1950 pennant in his rookie season by winning nine of ten regular season decisions. He then pitched eight and two thirds innings of shutout ball to earn his first of ten World Series victories in that year’s Fall Classic against the Philadelphia Whiz Kids.
After a two-year hitch in the military, Ford rejoined the Yankees in 1953 and began a streak of thirteen consecutive winning seasons. I firmly believe that if anyone other than Casey Stengel managed the Yankees during the fifties, Ford would have had a lot more regular season victories. Stengel liked to manipulate his rotation so he could match up Ford against the opposing team’s best pitcher, which caused Whitey to average about six to eight less starts per season than the aces of other Major League teams during that decade. When Ralph Houk took over from Stengel in 1961, he gave Ford the ball every fourth game down the stretch and the southpaw responded well to the regularity and extra workload. He had his best year in 1961, when he captured the Cy Young Award with a stunning 25-4 record. In 1963, he went 24-7 and in 1964, eight of his seventeen victories were complete game shutouts.
A native New Yorker, Whitey, country bumpkin Mickey Mantle, and the fiery Californian, Billy Martin, formed a friendship triumvirate that created a lot of success for the Yankees on the field but lots of trouble off of it. Since Ford only played once every five games, he could party hard six nights a week and rest up the evening before his scheduled start. As position players, Mantle and Martin didn’t have that luxury and there were many an early afternoon game when Whitey would sit in the dugout laughing at the play of his two hung over drinking buddies while Stengel fumed.
Ford retired in 1967 after spending his entire seventeen-year career in a Yankee uniform. His 236 regular season victories are still number 1 on New York’s all-time list. His incredible .690 career winning percentage is also still the best of any pitcher with 300 or more career decisions.
Back in 2008, during the ESPN television broadcast of the final game at Yankee Stadium, Ford and his longtime battery mate and fellow Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra, were invited up to the broadcast booth to share their memories of playing in the Stadium. Those thirty minutes listening to two of my heroes talk about their Yankee playing days was the personal highlight of that 2008 baseball season. Whitey turns 84-years-old today. How did all those years come and go so fast?
I remember the first time I saw Jose Veras get summoned in from the bullpen to pitch in a Yankee game. I’m not sure if it was during this Dominican’s first cup of coffee stay in the Bronx in 2006 or his second call-up in 2007, but I do remember how his huge physical size made an impression on me. This right-hander is six feet six inches tall and goes about 250 pounds. It took him three tries to finally stick with the Yankees but when he did start clicking it happened at an opportune time for both team and player.
When the Yankees opened up the 2008 season the plan was to have both Kyle Farnsworth and the previous year’s rookie sensation, Joba Chamberlain serve as the late inning bridges to closer Mariano Rivera. That strategy collapsed when rookie starters Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy struggled out of the gate and Chamberlain was taken from the bullpen and inserted in the rotation. That put too much of the late-inning workload on Farnsworth and Joe Girardi gave Veras the opportunity to fill Chamberlain’s vacated slot.
He responded well to the challenge and became one of the bright spots in an otherwise disappointing 2008 season for the Yankees. Veras appeared in 60 games that year and finished with a 5-3 record with a 3.58 ERA and 10 Holds. Unfortunately for Veras, he got off to a slow start in 2009. Meanwhile, Phil Hughes began pitching brilliantly in a late-inning role and newcomer David Robertson was impressing everyone with his ability to get outs. That made Veras expendable and that June, he was sold to the Indians. He hasn’t had a chance to unpack his suitcase since, as he pitched for the Marlins in 2010, the Pirates in ’11 and spent last season with the Brewers. He has pitched well since switching to the National League.
Update: Veras got a huge break at the trading deadline during the 2013 season, when he was traded from the lowly Astros to the playoff-contending Tigers. Detroit skipper Jim Leyland used him a lot from that point forward and the couple of times I saw him pitch during the 2013 playoffs he looked very effective, until last night that is. Veras was the guy who surrendered the back-breaking grand slam to Shane Victorino that sent Boston into the World Series and the Tigers into the off-season.
|NYY (4 yrs)||8||4||.667||4.43||106||0||32||0||0||3||103.2||89||51||51||14||55||94||1.389|
|CLE (1 yr)||1||2||.333||4.38||22||0||9||0||0||0||24.2||19||16||12||3||14||22||1.338|
|PIT (1 yr)||2||4||.333||3.80||79||0||19||0||0||1||71.0||54||32||30||6||34||79||1.239|
|DET (1 yr)||0||1||.000||3.20||25||0||7||0||0||2||19.2||16||8||7||2||8||16||1.220|
|HOU (1 yr)||0||4||.000||2.93||42||0||38||0||0||19||43.0||29||15||14||4||14||44||1.000|
|FLA (1 yr)||3||3||.500||3.75||48||0||11||0||0||0||48.0||32||20||20||5||29||54||1.271|
|MIL (1 yr)||5||4||.556||3.63||72||0||17||0||0||1||67.0||61||29||27||5||40||79||1.507|
In yesterday’s PBB post we celebrated the birthday of Alan Mills, a member of one of the worst pitching staffs in Yankee history, back in 1991. Wade Taylor was a teammate of Alan’s and one of the starters on that woeful Yankee pitching staff. He had compiled a two-season record of 16-9 for the Yankee farm teams in Columbus and Albany, when New York called him up to pitch for the big boys in June of that season. He went 7-12, finishing behind only Scott Sanderson for most victories by a starter on that staff. That was not good enough to earn him a spot in the rotation the following season and he found himself pitching back in Columbus. Taylor never again appeared in a big league game.
The only other Yankee to have been born on October 19th is this former second baseman who had two sons who both became Major League All Star players.
You have to be a pretty strong Yankee fan to remember when this right-handed reliever wore the pinstripes. He pitched for New York during his first two big league seasons, in 1990 and 1991. He was a member of two of the worst pitching staffs in Yankee franchise history during those years. After the 1991 season, the Yankees traded him to the Orioles. After going 1-6 with New York with an ERA of over four, Mills became a middle relief animal for the Birds in 1993, winning ten of fourteen decisions and compiling an ERA of 2.61. That’s why I remember Alan Mills. As soon as the Yankees dealt him, he became exactly the type of pitcher the Yankees needed so desperately back then. Though he never again achieved those lofty 1993-level numbers on the mound, he was an effective member of the Orioles’ bullpen for the next seven seasons and then signed a pretty nice free agent deal with the Dodgers. He retired in 2001. Mills is a native of Lakeland, FL who was born on this date in 1966.
Another former Yankee born on this date was being groomed by Casey Stengel to take over for the Scooter, Phil Rizzuto, as Yankee shortstop. Problem was, this guy wanted to play third base. This one-time Yankee outfielder was also born on October 18th.
|BAL (9 yrs)||32||21||.604||4.16||346||3||105||0||0||14||480.0||412||231||222||65||295||354||1.473|
|LAD (2 yrs)||5||5||.500||3.86||86||0||27||0||0||1||98.0||101||45||42||13||59||67||1.633|
|NYY (2 yrs)||2||6||.250||4.19||42||2||21||0||0||0||58.0||64||30||27||5||41||35||1.810|
Today is Danny Pasqua’s 52nd birthday. The native of Yonkers joined the Yankees at the end of May in 1985 after tearing up Minor League pitching at both Nashville and Columbus. He spent the next two-and-a-half seasons teasing Bomber fans with with his power. He was a streaky hitter and back in the eighties, if you were a young Yankee prospect who went into a slump, you’d be sent back down to the minors to hit your way out of it. Pasqua made return trips to the Clippers in each of his three seasons in pinstripes and in November of 1987, the impatient Yankee front office traded him to the White Sox for starting pitcher Rich Dotson. He was a left handed hitter who couldn’t hit lefties. Of his 117 career home runs, only 11 were served up by left-handers and Pasqua’s career average against southpaws was below .200. That weakness forced him into a platoon role with both New York and Chicago. He played for Chicago from 1988 until 1994, his final big league season. He hit 117 home runs during his decade-long career, including the 42 he hit during his 275 games (two-plus seasons) in pinstripes.
|CHW (7 yrs)||630||2140||1874||238||451||102||13||75||278||5||232||427||.241||.325||.429||.754|
|NYY (3 yrs)||275||860||746||103||187||27||2||42||112||2||103||215||.251||.344||.461||.805|