His real name was Leslie Ambrose Bush and he won 196 regular season games during his seventeen-year big league career that began in 1912. He pitched for seven different Major League teams during that time including the Yankees for three seasons, from 1921 through 1924. During his first year in pinstripes. he won 26 games and lost 7, marking the first and only time the right-hander reached the 20-victory plateau. His performance propelled New York to the team’s second straight AL Pennant that year, but he lost both his starts in the 1922 World Series as the Yankees were swept by the Giants. The following season Bush went 19-15 and earned a victory in that year’s Fall Classic, helping New York to finally beat their inter-city rivals from the Polo Grounds in the third straight postseason match-up of the two teams. When New York failed to make it back to the Series in 1924 and Bush went 17-16, the Yankees then traded this native of Ehime, MN to the Browns for pitcher Urban Shocker. After winning 14 games in his first season in St. Louis the bullets were gone from Bush’s right arm and he won just 11 more games during the final three seasons of his career. Bush died in 1974 at the age of 81.
|PHA (7 yrs)||65||76||.461||3.19||191||124||52||71||15||8||1115.1||1002||506||395||15||499||575||1.346|
|BOS (4 yrs)||46||39||.541||3.25||110||97||11||65||10||4||777.2||781||340||281||16||282||311||1.367|
|NYY (3 yrs)||62||38||.620||3.44||115||91||20||61||6||4||783.0||765||341||299||32||311||297||1.374|
|PIT (2 yrs)||7||8||.467||3.61||24||15||5||9||2||3||117.1||111||59||47||8||40||39||1.287|
|WSH (1 yr)||1||8||.111||6.69||12||11||1||3||0||0||71.1||83||54||53||6||35||27||1.654|
|NYG (1 yr)||1||1||.500||7.50||3||2||1||1||0||0||12.0||18||10||10||1||5||6||1.917|
|SLB (1 yr)||14||14||.500||5.09||33||30||3||15||2||0||208.2||230||129||118||18||91||63||1.538|
After the Yankees acquired Jay Howell in a nondescript player-to-be-named-later transaction with the Cubs in 1982, they converted him into a full-time reliever and over the next three seasons, he evolved into the primary set-up guy for closer Dave Righetti. By 1984, he had mastered that role, going 9-4 with a 2.69 ERA that year and even getting 7 saves in situations when “Rags” needed a break. He also loved the intensity of pitching in Yankee Stadium and living in New York. I expected him to be a Yankee for quite awhile and remember even wondering if the organization might consider turning him back into a starter down the road.
That option became moot during the 1984 offseason, when New York traded Howell along with Jose Rijo, Tim Birtsas, Stan Javier, and Eric Plunk to the A’s for superstar Ricky Henderson. I absolutely loved the deal when it was made because at the time, the Yankees had failed to make postseason play for three consecutive years and putting Henderson in front of Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield in the Yankee lineup seemed like a certain recipe for success offensively and it was. But even though Henderson had some great years in pinstripes, he couldn’t put the team over the top. Meanwhile, the loss of Howell and Rijo would come back to bite New York in the rear end by the late 1980’s, when the Yankees pitching quality had plummeted and both these guys became All Stars and won rings with new teams.
Howell was the closer for the 1988 Dodger team that won the World Series over the A’s. In that same year’s NLCS versus the Mets, the Miami, FL native was forced to serve an embarrassing two-game suspension after the umps found pine tar inside his glove during a Game 3 inspection. Howell pitched in the big leagues until 1994, finishing his fifteen-year career with a 58-53 record and 155 saves. He then coached at the college level for the next ten years.
Howell shares his November 26th birthday with this Hall-of-Fame Yankee pitcher, this almost-a-phee-nom and another hurler who became a star after being traded by New York to the the Kansas City Royals.
|LAD (5 yrs)||22||19||.537||2.07||236||0||175||0||0||85||308.1||243||76||71||14||92||260||1.086|
|OAK (3 yrs)||15||18||.455||3.68||137||0||118||0||0||61||195.2||199||85||80||14||75||145||1.400|
|NYY (3 yrs)||12||12||.500||4.38||86||19||26||2||0||7||213.2||217||111||104||13||82||191||1.399|
|ATL (1 yr)||3||3||.500||2.31||54||0||22||0||0||0||58.1||48||16||15||3||16||37||1.097|
|TEX (1 yr)||4||1||.800||5.44||40||0||17||0||0||2||43.0||44||29||26||10||16||22||1.395|
|CHC (1 yr)||2||0||1.000||4.84||10||2||1||0||0||0||22.1||23||13||12||3||10||10||1.478|
|CIN (1 yr)||0||0||13.50||5||0||1||0||0||0||3.1||8||5||5||0||0||1||2.400|
Today is like a holy day of obligation for Big Apple sports enthusiasts. On this date in 1916, the “Great DiMaggio” was born in Martinez, CA. He was and probably still is one of the most revered athletes in our country and perhaps the world. As a kid growing up, all I knew about DiMaggio was based on his statistics as a player, the nostalgic observations of sportswriters and the often embellished memories of the older generation of Yankee fans who were my neighbors on the west end of Amsterdam. While his stats indeed indicated DiMaggio was a great player, the latter two sources considered him a “God.” In fact, during my childhood, one of the most frequently heard lines in any argument between a young fan of Mickey Mantle and an older fan of Joe DiMaggio was “Mantle couldn’t carry DiMaggio’s jock strap.”
I’ve since read quite a few books about DiMaggio and about the Yankees during the DiMaggio era. The last one I read was the critical 2001 biography by Ben Cramer. I’ve come to the conclusion that much of the aura that surrounded the Yankee Clipper was based on his amazing baseball skills and achievements. But a large part of it was also due to the fact that the New York and national sports media of his era worshiped the guy and Joe maneuvered that worship brilliantly. This level of celebrity pandering by the media has become much less possible because today’s athletes get too much exposure. For example, Yankee fans can watch their team play every single spring training, regular and postseason game on high definition, big-screen TVs. Sportswriters are no longer free to embellish something that everyone is seeing with their own eyes. The Internet and the proliferation of sports bloggers has also made hiding a star player’s off-the-field behavior nearly impossible. Just ask A-Rod.
I would have loved to watch Joe DiMaggio play the game but I didn’t get the opportunity. As a die hard Yankee fan, I celebrate his accomplishments. But I believe the truth is that DiMaggio eventually got wrapped up in his own press clippings to the point that he actually believed he was perfect and that everyone else was out to get him. It was the pressure of maintaining that image that made DiMaggio a bitter man, the superstar who would not say a single word to a young Mickey Mantle during the Mick’s rookie season, who thought Casey Stengel was trying to embarrass him into retirement, and who pretty much abandoned his only son. Why is it that people who have so much going for them have such a difficult time just being happy?
Several years ago, I took my boys to a Yankee game and we were sitting next to a young Yankee fan who loved Don Mattingly. He knew everything about the then current team but not so much about Yankee history so when he told me that Mattingly was a better hitter than Mantle was, I couldn’t help myself. I found myself saying, “Son, Mattingly couldn’t carry Mickey Mantle’s jock strap.” I have to admit the line felt good coming out of my mouth until the completely unfazed kid responded with “What’s a jock strap, mister?”