April 28 – Happy Birthday Tom Sturdivant
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|