Marv Breuer thought he had blown his chance to get signed by the Yankees. He was pitching for an unaffiliated D-level team in Rogers, Arkansas in 1934 and Yankee scout Johnny Nee was in the stands for one of the right-hander’s starts. Breuer not only lost the game 7-0, his team was no-hit by the opposing team’s pitcher. At dinner that night, a disappointed Breuer figured it would be the pitcher he faced that day who would be getting a visit from Nee. But when he looked up from his plate, Nee was standing there ready to offer him a Yankee contract. A disbelieving Breuer thought the scout had made a mistake and reminded his unexpected visitor it was the other guy who had thrown the no-hitter. Nee told him “You’ll be pitching in the American League when everyone has forgotten about that no-hitter.”
So Breuer signed on with the Yanks and spent the next six years trying to climb up the crowded ladder of baseball’s best farm system and there were plenty of missteps along the way. His first breakout year came with Binghamton in 1936, when he went 18-9 in the A-level NY-Penn League. But when he was promoted to double A, the following season, his record plummeted to 5-19 and the Rolla, Missouri native gave serious thought to quitting the game.
It was the midst of the Great Depression and Breuer had earned a degree in civil engineering after graduating from high school. Every off-season, he was hired to do engineering work. But he stuck with pitching and when he went 17-9 for the Yank’s, Kansas City Blues farm team in 1939, Joe McCarthy brought him to spring training and announced he would open the 1940 season as a member of the Yankees’ starting rotation.
Now remember, that Yankee team Breuer was joining had won four consecutive World Championships and the pitching staff on their 1939 club boasted seven guys with at least 10 winning decisions. But Lefty Gomez was faltering badly, Red Ruffing was getting old and Spud Chandler was hurting. McCarthy found himself forced to revamp one of the deepest mound staff’s in the history of the game.
It looked as if Breuer was certainly one of the answers as the 1940 regular season got under way. The 26-year-old rookie pitched well and the Yankees won 9 of his first 13 starts. But the tide turned in late July and Breuer started getting hammered. By the end of his first full season in New York, his record was a disappointing 8-9 and his ERA in the mid-four’s and the Yankees finished in second place.
He pitched better in 1941, putting together what would be his only winning season for New York, finishing 9-7 and lowering his ERA by half a run. He then turned in his most memorable moment in pinstripes during Game 4 of that year’s World Series against Brooklyn. McCarthy called on him to relieve starter Atley Donald in the fifth inning with the Yankees trailing Brooklyn, 4-3. He pitched three scoreless innings and New York came back to win the game.
He would spend two more years with the team but when it became clear he would never become the 20-game winner the Yankees thought he would, the pitcher nicknamed “Baby Face” quit the game for good and became a civil engineer for the US Geological Survey for the next 31 years. He passed away in 1991 at the age of 76.
|162 Game Avg.||12||12||.490||4.03||40||28||7||11||0||1||226||227||115||101||19||72||105||1.323|
If you were a bullpen pitcher for the New York Yankees after Game 2 of the 1956 World Series win over the Brooklyn Dodgers, you might have qualified for unemployment checks. Why? Because beginning with Game 3, New York starting pitchers; Whitey Ford, Tom Sturdivant, Don Larsen, Bob Turley and Johnny Kucks became the first and only pitchers in history to toss five consecutive complete games in a Fall Classic.
Sturdivant’s turn came in the fourth game, which he won 6-2. That would be the only postseason decision in the decade-long big league career of this right-hander, who was born in Kansas, on April 28, 1930 and then raised in Oklahoma. The Yankees originally signed him out of high school as an infielder but he didn’t hit well in the minors. When he came back to the organization after serving a year in the military, Sturdivant was switched to pitching. He could throw hard and he developed a signature slithering curve ball that eventually earned him the nickname “Snake.” The Yankees called him up for the first time in 1955 and pitched him pretty much exclusively out of the bullpen. In ’56, Casey Stengel began starting him and he did well enough to become a regular part of that year’s Yankee rotation, winning 16 games. He duplicated that win total in 1957, and his .727 winning percentage that season led the AL. Sturdivant was also one of the league’s best hitting pitchers in the days before the DH took hold. In 1956, this guy hit .313. Stengel absolutely loved him but according to my research could either never remember or pronounce his last name so the Ol Perfessor just took to calling Sturdivant, “Number 47.”
The winning didn’t last long. In 1957 he tore his rotator cuff and although he claimed his arm recovered completely, Sturdivant spent the final six seasons of his career struggling on the mound for six different big league teams. He never came close to being the pitcher he was during those two great years he had for the Yankees.
This former Yankee reliever also celebrates a birthday today.
|NYY (5 yrs)||36||25||.590||3.19||115||59||26||13||4||5||524.1||449||205||186||45||221||333||1.278|
|PIT (3 yrs)||14||7||.667||3.49||65||23||16||8||2||3||219.1||209||97||85||19||60||127||1.226|
|KCA (3 yrs)||3||8||.273||4.42||56||6||20||0||0||5||128.1||121||73||63||12||52||84||1.348|
|NYM (1 yr)||0||0||5.97||16||0||5||0||0||1||28.2||34||20||19||2||7||18||1.430|
|BOS (1 yr)||3||3||.500||4.97||40||3||14||0||0||1||101.1||106||58||56||16||45||67||1.490|
|WSA (1 yr)||2||6||.250||4.61||15||10||3||1||1||0||80.0||67||42||41||6||40||39||1.338|
|DET (1 yr)||1||2||.333||3.76||28||0||15||0||0||2||55.0||43||26||23||7||24||36||1.218|
Coming out of their 2013 spring training camp, I thought the Yankees made a mistake going north without former Mariner closer David Aardsma and choosing to take along today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant instead. Granted, the new season is less than a month old, but thus far, right-hander Shawn Kelley has not pitched especially well in his seven appearances in pinstripes. Meanwhile though, Aardsma is not getting a chance to show if he’s again ready for prime time because he started this season pitching in the Marlins’ farm system.
Like Aardsma, Kelley pitched out of the Mariner bulllpen before he came to New York, but not as a closer. When announcing they were cutting Aardsma and going with Kelley, Yankee manager Joe Girardi and GM Brian Cashman explained they wanted a reliever who could pitch more than one inning. If it was up to me, I’d rather have the pitcher who can get the biggest outs in my bullpen instead of the one who can throw the most pitches. No disrespect to Kelley, its just that Aardsma saved over 30 games twice with Seattle before injuring his arm and if that arm is fully healed, the Yanks had enough other pitchers in their pen to not have to extend his appearances beyond an inning.
Kelley turns 29-years-old today.He was born in Louisville, KY and was Seattle’s 13th round draft pick in 2007. He spent his first four big league seasons in Seattle and was traded to New York in February of 2013 for Abraham Almonte, a 23-year-old outfield prospect. Though he got off to a slow start this season, he did pick up his first win as a Yankee against Toronto last week and two nights ago he pitched two scoreless inning against the Rays. I’d love to see him get hot and make me completely wrong about the management decision that got him on this Yankee team.
He shares his April 26th birthday with this long-ago hard-partying Yankee starting pitcher, this former pitch from the 1950’s who gained most of his fame pitching for another team and this one too.
|SEA (4 yrs)||10||9||.526||3.52||120||0||31||0||0||0||128.0||121||54||50||19||39||122||1.250|
|NYY (2 yrs)||4||3||.571||4.04||69||0||21||0||0||4||64.2||57||31||29||8||26||83||1.284|