July 21 – Happy Birthday Gary Waslewski

waslewskiYou’d have to be about my age or older to remember today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant and if you do, you might not remember him as a Yankee. That’s because in October of 1967, everyone including me thought Gary Waslewski was on the cusp of becoming a very good starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.

Waslewski was born in Connecticut to a Polish father and a mom who was half German and half Cherokee Indian. He was signed by the Pirates in 1960, after his freshman year of college. He spent the next four years pitching in the Pittsburgh farm system and then, when he was left unprotected in the minor league draft in 1964, the Red Sox grabbed him. Three years later he was called up by Boston when the team was in the midst of their 1967 miracle season. In Waslewski’s second ever big league start, the then 25-year-old right-hander shut out the White Sox for nine innings but was forced to leave the game in the tenth with a strained left shoulder. He recovered quickly and won his next two decisions. He had allowed just 3 earned runs in his first 26.1 big league innings. That’s when his right arm started aching.

He ended up with a 2-2 record that year and a 3.21 ERA. Everybody, including Waslewski was surprised when Boston Manager Dick Williams put him on the World Series roster as a replacement for the injured pitcher, Bucky Brandon. Everyone was pretty much shocked, when Williams named Waslewski as his Game 6 starting pitcher. After all, Boston was down 3 games to 2 to the Cardinals at the time and placing the fate of the team in a must win game on the shoulders of a rookie, much less a 2-game-winning rookie seemed crazy. Dick Williams was crazy, crazy like a fox.

The Boston manager had been impressed by Waslewski’s perfect two-inning relief stint against the heart of the St Louis’s lineup in Game 3. Besides, the manager’s other choices as starters for that game were Jose Santiago or Gary Bell, neither of whom was considered a better than average arm. Waslewski ended up pitching into the sixth inning and leaving that game with a 4-2 lead. Though he didn’t get the win because the Cards later tied the score, Boston pulled out the victory and everyone praised the rookies’ clutch performance and poise. After Boston lost the next game and the Series, Red Sox fans took solace in the fact that a new number 2 starter seemed ready to help Cy Young Award winner Jim Lonborg get Boston back to the postseason in 1968.

That didn’t happen. After winning his first two starts in 1968, Gary lost his next seven decisions and finished the year 4-7. His bubble had burst in Beantown and following that ’68 season, he was traded to the Cardinals for Dick Schofield. He was sent to Montreal the following June and did nothing for either National League team that indicated he was becoming a better big league pitcher. In fact, his 3-11 record since leaving the Red Sox, a rising ERA and a chronically sore right arm seemed to signal impending retirement. The New York Yankees felt differently.

New York got Waslewski in a May 1970 trade for a first baseman named Dave McDonald. Ralph Houk used him a lot (26 appearances) during the second half of that 1970 season, including 5 starts. Though his record with New York was just 2-2, he pitched well enough to get invited back in 1971. He appeared in 24 games during his only full year in the Bronx and all of them were in relief.

The Yankees cut him toward the end of their 1972 spring training camp. He signed with Oakland but after an 0-3 start he was reassigned to the minors. He hung up his glove for good after the 1974 season.

Waslewski shares his birthday with this former Cy Young Award winner and this one time Yankee first baseman.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1970 NYY 2 2 .500 3.11 26 5 5 0 0 0 55.0 42 20 19 4 27 27 1.255
1971 NYY 0 1 .000 3.28 24 0 8 0 0 1 35.2 28 15 13 2 16 17 1.234
6 Yrs 11 26 .297 3.44 152 42 36 5 1 5 410.1 368 184 157 32 197 229 1.377
MON (2 yrs) 3 9 .250 3.63 36 18 7 3 1 1 134.0 125 67 54 8 78 82 1.515
NYY (2 yrs) 2 3 .400 3.18 50 5 13 0 0 1 90.2 70 35 32 6 43 44 1.246
BOS (2 yrs) 6 9 .400 3.54 46 19 6 2 0 2 147.1 142 68 58 12 60 79 1.371
STL (1 yr) 0 2 .000 3.92 12 0 7 0 0 1 20.2 19 9 9 3 8 16 1.306
OAK (1 yr) 0 3 .000 2.04 8 0 3 0 0 0 17.2 12 5 4 3 8 8 1.132
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/20/2013.

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