December 3 – Happy Birthday Gene Nelson
Yankee fans will need a long and good memory to remember when today’s birthday celebrant played in pinstripes. In fact, many of you may have a tough time remembering Gene Nelson at all, even though he was a very steady big league reliever for a dozen seasons with Seattle, the White Sox and Oakland, retiring after the 1993 season. But before Nelson went to the bullpen, he was a 20-year-old Yankee starting pitcher prospect, who found himself inserted into Gene Michael’s starting rotation in May of the Yankee’s strike-split 1981 season. He did better than OK. In seven starts, he won three of his four decisions, including a strong eight and a third inning effort against the Orioles on June 4th that would prove to be his last victory as a Yankee. One week later, Major League Baseball players went on strike.
When the work stoppage ended seven weeks later, Nelson was still a Yankee but Bob Lemon had replaced Michael as Yankee manager and the relationships between MLB owners and the players had been severely damaged. Lemon left his young right-hander off the Yankees’ postseason roster that year and just before the 1982 season got under way, the Yankees traded Nelson to the Mariners in the deal that brought starting pitcher Shane Rawley to the Bronx.
Nelson was born in Tampa, FL. His lifetime big league won-loss record was 53-64 and he had 28 career saves. The highlight of his career was the 1988 ALCS, when he got two of Oakland’s three victories, as the A’s beat Boston in four games. He also won a ring with Oakland in 1988. He shares his December 3rd birthday with this former Yankee first baseman and this one-time Yankee outfielder.