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.
|OAK (6 yrs)||25||25||.500||3.82||281||9||86||0||0||14||490.1||456||222||208||48||165||315||1.266|
|CHW (3 yrs)||19||21||.475||4.16||120||28||41||3||0||9||335.0||334||164||155||39||125||207||1.370|
|SEA (2 yrs)||6||12||.333||5.30||32||24||4||3||1||0||154.2||171||99||91||22||81||82||1.629|
|TEX (1 yr)||0||0||3.38||6||0||2||0||0||1||8.0||10||3||3||0||1||4||1.375|
|CAL (1 yr)||0||5||.000||3.08||46||0||20||0||0||4||52.2||50||25||18||3||23||31||1.386|
|NYY (1 yr)||3||1||.750||4.81||8||7||0||0||0||0||39.1||40||24||21||5||23||16||1.602|
For the second day in a row, we celebrate the birthday of a Yankee that few Yankee fans have ever heard of. James Donald Breslin was born in Augusta, Maine on December 2, 1903. After a great collegiate pitching career at Georgetown University, he began his Minor League career in 1926 by going 11-5 with the Lewiston Twins of the B-level New England League. In 1932, he went 26-8 for the Newark Bears, who were the Yankee’s International League affiliate at the time.
That was good enough to give him a trial with the parent club the following season. Brennan became the fifth starter for Manager Joe McCarthy’s 1933 Yankees in a rotation that included two future Hall of Famers Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez plus Johnny Allen and Russ Van Atta. Brennan got ten starts that year and won five of six decisions. McCarthy also used him out of the bullpen in eight additional games and the right- hander stuck around to finish six of those contests and earn three saves.
That first-year performance caught the attention of the Cincinnati Reds who made an offer to purchase Brennan in March of 1935 that the Yankees did not refuse. He then became a busy, somewhat effective member of Cincinnati’s bullpen for the next three plus seasons. After a short stint with the Giants in 1937, his big league career was over. Brennan does hold a Major League record. His 21 career victories are the most ever for any pitcher born in Augusta, Maine. Of course, Brennan is the only big league pitcher to be born in Augusta. He shares a birthday with this long-ago Yankee second baseman.
|CIN (4 yrs)||15||11||.577||3.90||117||16||57||4||1||16||302.2||332||168||131||10||124||125||1.507|
|NYG (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||6.75||6||0||2||0||0||0||9.1||12||8||7||0||9||1||2.250|
|NYY (1 yr)||5||1||.833||4.98||18||10||6||3||0||3||85.0||92||56||47||4||47||46||1.635|