July 27 – Happy Birthday Johnny Kucks

kucksThe Yanks had won five straight Pennants with a starting rotation led by the Holy Trinity of Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat. Raschi was the first of the three to go before the 1954 season and then both Reynolds and Lopat followed him out of the Bronx the following year. That left Whitey Ford as the only bonafide ace in New York’s rotation and thus began the era of what I like to call the in and outers. These were Yankee pitchers who were brought up from the minors or acquired from other teams who had one or maybe two great years in pinstripes pitching behind Ford. They’d help Stengel win another pennant or Fall Classic and then fade away. The four top in and outers during the second half of the 1950’s were Tommy Byrne, Tom Sturdivant, Bob Turley and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.

Johnny Kucks’ big Yankee season was 1956. The tall, skinny right-hander from Hoboken put together a sensational 18-9 regular season and then shut the Brooklyn Dodgers out in the 7th Game of the 1956 World Series to help New York avenge its only Fall Classic loss to D’em Bums from a year earlier. If Don Larsen hadn’t thrown his perfect game in that same Series, Kucks’ final game effort would have been much more celebrated in the annals of Yankee history.

New York had signed Kucks right out of high school right before the 1952 regular season began. They assigned the then 18-year-older to their Class B affiliate in Norfolk, Virginia and he wowed the entire organization when he finished 19-6 that year. He then spent the next two years in the military and then went 8-7 with the parent club during his 1955 rookie season. Kucks fit right into that mid-fifties Yankee clubhouse. He loved to party and with that crew, he had plenty of opportunities to do so. He was in attendance during the famous Copa incident in June of 1957.

Kucks never again approached the level of brilliance he displayed on the mound in that 1956 season. After two mediocre seasons for New York in 1957 and ’58, he was traded to Kansas City at the beginning of the ’59 season in the deal that brought Hector Lopez and a new Yankee in and outer for the early 1960’s by the name of Ralph Terry.

Kucks shares his July 27th birthday with this current Yankee slugger,  this former lippy shortstop and this former Yankee utility infielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1955 NYY 8 7 .533 3.41 29 13 5 3 1 0 126.2 122 54 48 8 44 49 1.311
1956 NYY 18 9 .667 3.85 34 31 1 12 3 0 224.1 223 113 96 19 72 67 1.315
1957 NYY 8 10 .444 3.56 37 23 10 4 1 2 179.1 169 82 71 13 59 78 1.271
1958 NYY 8 8 .500 3.93 34 15 8 4 1 4 126.0 132 67 55 14 39 46 1.357
1959 NYY 0 1 .000 8.64 9 1 4 0 0 0 16.2 21 16 16 5 9 9 1.800
6 Yrs 54 56 .491 4.10 207 123 39 30 7 7 938.1 970 493 427 91 308 338 1.362
NYY (5 yrs) 42 35 .545 3.82 143 83 28 23 6 6 673.0 667 332 286 59 223 249 1.322
KCA (2 yrs) 12 21 .364 4.78 64 40 11 7 1 1 265.1 303 161 141 32 85 89 1.462
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/26/2013.

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