December 3 – Happy Birthday Butch Wensloff
Growing up in Sausalito, California, Charles “Butch” Wensloff did not have an easy life. He was just six years old and the eldest of three children, when his dad left his mom to marry another woman. In an effort to help his family put food on the table during the Great Depression, Charley quit school at a young age to work at a variety of odd jobs.
In his spare time he pitched for semi-pro teams. Strong as a bull, the young right-hander had an impressive fastball and to keep opposing hitters off balance, he developed a very good knuckler. His mastery of those two pitches got him his first minor league contract in 1937 with the El Paso Texans, a D-level club in the old Aztec League. His 17-10 record that season caught the attention of the Yankees and they purchased his contract and moved him up to their Joplin affiliate in the C-level Western Association. When Wensloff won 21 games during his second year in Joplin, he was sent up to the Yankees double A affiliate in Kansas City, where during the next three seasons he won 49 ball games.
The Yankees finally brought him up in 1943, when he was 27 years old. Manager Joe McCarthy loved the fact that in addition to a fastball and curve, his new rookie hurler had better than average command of his knuckleball. The Yankee skipper wasted little time throwing Wensloff into the starting rotation and by the end of his first year in the big leagues, he had compiled a 13-11 record and a 2.58 ERA.
He didn’t get to throw a single pitch in the Yankees five-game victory over the Cardinals in the ’43 Series because McCarthy had decided to use him as his long reliever out of the bullpen if the need arose. It never did.
Wensloff was one of those guys who never felt as if he was being paid enough and for all I know, he probably had good reasons for feeling that way. When he received his proposed Yankee contract for the 1944 season in the mail, he was unhappy with it and refused to sign it. When the stalemate continued, he was put on the voluntarily retired list and missed the entire 1944 season. He then got drafted into the Army in 1945 and wasn’t discharged until August of 1946, long after all of the Yankees other pitchers had returned from service. The long period of inactivity and his late discharge probably contributed to the sore arm he developed during the Yankees’ 1947 spring training camp.
Though he did finally return to pitch for New York again in June of that year, his arm was never the same. After going 3-1 for Bucky Harris’s 1947 AL Pennant winners he finally got to pitch in a World Series that fall. But when he again was unhappy with the Yankees contract offer for the following season, he asked to be traded. His wish was granted when he was dealt to the Indians but after just one painful appearance with Cleveland, his big league career was over. He passed away in 2001, at the age of 85.
|NYY (2 yrs)||16||12||.571||2.55||40||32||4||19||1||1||275.0||220||97||78||10||92||123||1.135|
|CLE (1 yr)||0||1||.000||10.80||1||0||1||0||0||0||1.2||2||2||2||1||3||2||3.000|