July 24 – Happy Birthday Dee Pillette
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was not very well known as a Yankee pitcher, but he certainly was involved in lot’s of great Major League Baseball history. First of all, he was the son of a big league pitcher. Dee Pillette’s Dad, Herman won 19 games with the 1922 Tigers in his first complete big league season. He then led the league with 19 losses the following year, hurt his arm and became so sour on Major League baseball that he discouraged his only son from playing the game.
Duane Pillette, better known as Dee, ended up not listening to his father. Born in Detroit, when his Dad was pitching for the Tigers, he was raised in San Diego and became a very good pitcher for the San Diego High School team. A Yankee scout named Joe Devine was ready to sign the teenager right out of high school but Dee’s Dad insisted his son had to attend college. Devine got the youngster a scholarship at a Catholic college in San Francisco in 1940. WWII service in the Navy interrupted his education and when Dee returned from the South Pacific after the war, he finally signed a Yankee contract.
After three years in the minors, Pillette was invited to Casey Stengel’s first Yankee spring training camp in 1949 and impressed the Ol Perfessor. Though he failed to make the parent club’s Opening Day roster, he was called up to the Bronx that July and made 12 appearances during the second half of that season, including his first three big league starts. He ended the year with a 2-4 record, a 4.34 ERA and though he failed to make Stengel’s World Series roster, Pillette also got his one and only championship ring.
The tall right-hander started out the 1950 season back in the minors and after getting called back up that June, was traded with Snuffy Stirnweiss and two other Yankees to the Browns for St. Louis pitchers Tom Ferrick and Joe Ostrowski. One year later, Pillette had pitched his way into the Brown’s starting rotation and when his 14 losses that season led the American League, the Pillette’s became the first and only father and son pair to have led the league in in that category.
Dee’s best year in the Majors was 1952, when he went 10-13 for St. Louis with a 3.59 ERA. The following year he was the starting pitcher in the last game ever played by a St. Louis Browns baseball team. Five months later, after the team had relocated to Baltimore, Pillette became the winning pitcher in the first regular season victory recorded by the modern-day Orioles. He went 10-14 during that ’54 season and produced a career-low 3.12 ERA, but he also developed bone spurs in his pitching elbow. He hung around in the big leagues for two more years before going home to California, where he eventually became a distributor of mobile homes. He lived to be 88 years old, passing away in 2011.
The only other member of the Yankee all-time roster born on July 24th is this former catcher.
|BAL (6 yrs)||36||62||.367||4.37||152||116||15||32||4||2||836.1||901||454||406||59||357||282||1.504|
|NYY (2 yrs)||2||4||.333||3.86||16||3||4||2||0||0||44.1||52||23||19||6||22||13||1.669|
|PHI (1 yr)||0||0||6.56||20||0||6||0||0||0||23.1||32||21||17||2||12||10||1.886|