Results tagged ‘ closer ’
Before there could be a Rivera or Gossage or Lyle, there had to be a Joe Page. One of seven children, Page was born on October 28, 1917, the son of a Cherry Valley, Pennsylvania coal-miner. Page began his Yankee career as a starter in 1944 when he won five of his first six decisions and made the AL All Star team as a 27-year-old rookie. Page then hurt his shoulder in a fall while running the bases, kept the injury quiet from Yankee skipper Joe McCarthy and proceeded to lose his final six decisions that season. He was used mostly as a starter the next two seasons with mostly unspectacular results which is why he ended up in the place most under-performing starters ended up back in the forties, the bullpen. But instead of treating his new status as a bullpen pitcher as a demotion, Page seemed to relish it.
By 1947 he had evolved the role into one of baseball’s first great closers, leading the league in games finished for three straight seasons while winning 34 games in the process. When the “save” became an official Major League stat in 1969, baseball historians reviewed old box scores to apply it retroactively and found that Page led the league in saves in both 1947 and ’49, while saving 60 games over that three-season period. Page also appeared in two World Series, winning and saving a game in each Classic, both Yankee victories. After slumping to a 3-7 record in 1950 with an ERA that ballooned to over 5 runs per game, the Yankees released their first-ever ace closer. He tried an unsuccessful comeback with the Pirates a few years later before hanging it up for good.
Page was the first Yankee and first Major League reliever to reach the 20-save mark when he accumulated 27 in 1949. Sparky Lyle was the first Yankee to reach the 30-save mark when he had 35 in 1972. Dave Righetti became the first Yankee to break the 40-save barrier with his 46 in 1986 and the great Mariano Rivera is the only Yankee reliever to save 50 or more games and he’s done it twice, the first time in 2001.
Up until last evening, I had completely forgotten that Jeff Reardon appeared in his very last big league baseball game while wearing the Yankee pinstripes. I do remember at the end of the 1993 season that New York had let their regular closer, Steve Farr sign with the Indians as a free agent. When the Yanks did not sign or trade for Farr’s replacement that offseason, it looked as if they were going to depend on former NL Rookie of the Year and cocaine addict, Steve Howe to assume that role the following year. But just before the pitchers’ first scheduled workout at New York’s 1994 spring training camp, Yankee GM, Gene Michael announced the team had signed the 38-year-old Reardon to a minor league contract.
At the time, Reardon already had 15 seasons of relief pitching under his belt and was in second place behind Lee Smith, with 365 career saves. He had put together 40-save seasons for the Expos, Twins and Red Sox. Michael explained that there was absolutely no risk involved for the Yankees because Reardon’s $250,000 salary wasn’t guaranteed. The then 37-year-old right-hander had to make the Yankee roster to get paid and if he did, he could also earn a total of $750,000 in performance incentives. Reardon had been working on a knuckleball and was hoping the new pitch would earn him those bonuses and extend his career.
The man known as “the Terminator” made Buck Showalter’s Opening Day roster and saw lots of action that April, making ten appearances, earning two saves and getting his last-ever big league victory. Then on May 4th he was called into pitch in the seventh inning of a game against the Angels and allowed three runs, blowing the save. Two days later, the Yankees released him and this native of Pittsfield, MA retired to his home in Florida.
Eleven years later, he was arrested in a bizarre incident for robbing a Palm Beach Gardens’ jewelry store. Police later reported that Reardon had overmedicated on depression medicine and was not acting rationally. The pitcher was depressed because his 20-year-old son had died of a drug overdose a few weeks earlier.
|MON (6 yrs)||32||37||.464||2.84||359||0||281||0||0||152||506.1||416||172||160||40||178||398||1.173|
|MIN (3 yrs)||15||16||.484||3.70||191||0||177||0||0||104||226.1||206||95||93||28||55||185||1.153|
|NYM (3 yrs)||10||9||.526||2.65||97||0||59||0||0||10||159.2||135||54||47||14||68||139||1.271|
|BOS (3 yrs)||8||9||.471||3.41||150||0||127||0||0||88||153.0||146||60||58||20||42||109||1.229|
|CIN (1 yr)||4||6||.400||4.09||58||0||32||0||0||8||61.2||66||34||28||4||10||35||1.232|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||8.38||11||0||8||0||0||2||9.2||17||9||9||3||3||4||2.069|
|ATL (1 yr)||3||0||1.000||1.15||14||0||11||0||0||3||15.2||14||2||2||0||2||7||1.021|
This Big Apple native son was the first great Yankee reliever. He had come up to the Yankees as a starter in 1934, winning 14 games in his rookie season. It was only after the Yankees paid him a starter’s salary that he agreed to the pleadings of then Manager Joe McCarthy, to become one of baseball’s first full-time relief specialists. During the next eight years he led the AL in relief victories six times and in saves, four times.
How important was Murphy to the Yankee’s great success during the late thirties? When New York’s Hall-of-Fame hurler, Lefty Gomez was asked how he felt before a big game, he responded, “How I feel isn’t important. The important thing is how Murphy feels!” McCarthy liked to refer to Murphy as “My pennant insurance.” Murphy was given the nickname “Fireman” and was so dominant in his role that that same nickname became the term used to describe each team’s best bullpen pitcher. In all, Murphy pitched 12 seasons in pinstripes with all but one of those seasons coming before he entered military service in 1943. He finished his Yankee career with a record of 93-53 and 107 saves. He then became a front office executive with the Red Sox and then the Mets. He passed away in 1970, at the age of 71.
|1944||Did not play in major leagues (Military Service)|
|1945||Did not play in major leagues (Military Service)|
|NYY (12 yrs)||93||53||.637||3.54||383||40||277||17||0||104||990.1||944||447||389||51||416||369||1.373|
|BOS (1 yr)||0||0||2.80||32||0||16||0||0||3||54.2||41||17||17||1||28||9||1.262|
When relief ace, Luis Arroyo hurt his arm during the 1962 season, the Yankee bullpen struggled to make up for the devastating loss. The front office decided to go into New York’s farm system to find a successor and his name was Hal Reniff. A pudgy right-hander nicknamed “Porky,” Reniff responded well to the challenge.
Reniff, who had been born in Ohio but grew up in California, had been a starter in the Yankee farm system and a good one at that. He had won 20-games for New York’s Class C team in Modesto, CA. But when he went to spring training with the parent club in 1961, then Manager Ralph Houk told him he wanted Reniff to become a reliever. At first, the pitcher resisted but when Houk made it clear the choice was the Yankee bullpen or back to the minors, he made the switch.
After getting sent back down to Richmond to work on the transition, he was recalled to the Bronx that June and put together a strong half-season for that ’61 Yankee team. He appeared in 25 games, won both his decisions, saved two and compiled a stingy 2.58 ERA. But he didn’t make that year’s Yankees’ World Series roster and then spent most of the following season in the military, while Arroyo’s arm was shutting down.
Returning to full-time action the following year, he won 4 and saved 18, establishing himself as Houk’s best reliever on that 1963 Yankee pennant-winning team. He then pitched brilliantly in the ’63 World Series with little fanfare as his three scoreless and hitless innings of relief were lost in the Dodgers four-straight-game destruction of the Yankees in that Fall Classic.
The following year, Reniff developed some arm problems and Yogi Berra began using Pete Mikkelsen as his closer. When Mikkelsen faltered, the Yankees brought in Pedro Ramos. Still, Hal pitched well when called upon. His seven-season pinstripe career ended in 1967 with 41 career saves and an 18-21 Yankee record, when he was sold to the cross-town Mets. When the Amazin’s released him, Reniff returned to the Yankee farm system, pitching for Syracuse for five more seasons until he hung up his glove for good.
In an interview for Maury Allen’s book Yankees, Where have You Gone, Reniff told the author his best friend on the Yankees was Roger Maris. Like Maris, Reniff was mostly quiet and reserved during his playing days. He liked to do his job and go home and he hated all the media attention the Yankees attracted wherever they went.
Reniff shares his July 2nd birthday with this former AL Rookie of the Year and MVP who is now referred to as “The Chemist.”
|NYY (7 yrs)||18||20||.474||3.26||247||0||132||0||0||41||428.1||341||173||155||13||219||293||1.307|
|NYM (1 yr)||3||3||.500||3.35||29||0||16||0||0||4||43.0||42||20||16||1||23||21||1.512|
Back in the nineteen fifties, slugger Mickey Mantle would begin drooling a week before his Yankees were scheduled to play a series against the Washington Senators. Why? There were three reasons, and their names were Chuck Stobbs, Camilio Pascual and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Pedro “Pistol Pete” Ramos. They formed three fifths of Washington’s starting rotation back then and it seemed as if Mantle hit three-fifths of his 536 lifetime home runs off the trio. Pascual and Ramos were both from Cuba and both were actually very talented big league pitchers. In fact, I saw Pascual pitch a couple of times live at Yankee Stadium and several times on television and to this day, I believe he belongs in Cooperstown. Ramos was a notch below his countryman in talent but it would end up being Ramos who would help pitch the Yankees into a World Series.
Pedro pitched his first seven big league seasons for the Senators (who moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961) and achieved double figures in victories in six of them. Unfortunately, thanks in large part to the anemic offense and porous defense of those Washington teams, Ramos also lost 112 games during that same span. He was then traded to the Indians, where he pitched decently for almost three seasons until September 5, 1964 when Yankee GM Ralph Houk acquired him for two players to be named later, who would turn out to be pitchers Ralph Terry and Bud Daley.
Yogi Berra had replaced Houk as Yankee skipper that season and the team took a long time to respond to their new Manager and were in danger of not reaching the World Series for the first time in five straight seasons. Berra’s starting rotation and bullpen were running on fumes. The additions of Mel Stottlemyre and Ramos proved to be the perfect elixir to what ailed Yankee pitching. Ramos took over the closer role and pitched brilliantly, saving eight games down the stretch as New York pulled off a late-season surge to win the AL Pennant. Unfortunately, he had joined the Yankees to late in the season to qualify for the World Series roster so he was forced to watch helplessly as the Cardinals beat New York in that year’s seven-game Fall Classic.
Houk then replaced Berra as Yankee Manager with Johnny Keane right after that series and Ramos spent the next two years as the closer on a Yankee team that was not able to generate too many leads that needed closing. Still, Ramos did save a total 32 games for New York during the 1965 and ’66 seasons before getting dealt to Philadelphia for relief pitcher Joe Verbanic. He retired after the 1970 season with a lifetime record of 117-160, 55 saves and 13 shutouts.
It seems Ramos was pretty much a wild man in his private life. In fact, his nickname “Pistol Pete” was only partially attributable to the right-hander’s fastball. This guy actually carried a gun with him off the field, almost all the time. He once used that gun to shoot out the screen of his family’s television set when he objected to the channel choice of Mrs. Ramos (who quickly thereafter became the ex-Mrs. Ramos.) He also used his gun after his playing days were over when he got himself involved in Little Havana’s drug business, which landed him in jail in the early 1980′s.
Ramos shares his April 28th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher.
|MIN (7 yrs)||78||112||.411||4.19||290||199||56||58||10||12||1544.1||1579||808||719||210||491||740||1.340|
|CLE (3 yrs)||26||30||.464||3.87||109||68||15||15||3||1||519.0||489||262||223||75||152||363||1.235|
|NYY (3 yrs)||9||14||.391||3.05||130||1||91||0||0||40||203.2||191||80||69||18||45||147||1.159|
|WSA (1 yr)||0||0||7.56||4||0||1||0||0||0||8.1||10||7||7||2||4||10||1.680|
|CIN (1 yr)||4||3||.571||5.16||38||0||12||0||0||2||66.1||73||41||38||8||24||40||1.462|
|PIT (1 yr)||0||1||.000||6.00||5||0||3||0||0||0||6.0||8||4||4||2||0||4||1.333|
|PHI (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||6||0||4||0||0||0||8.0||14||8||8||1||8||1||2.750|
This devout Christian was the Lord and saver of the Yankee bullpen in 1970 when he saved 29 games, won 9 of 14 decisions and posted a 2.01 ERA in 62 relief appearances. He had come to New York in a 1968 trade with San Francisco for Bill Monboquette. Born in Hollis, OK, in 1935, McDaniel was 32 years-old at the time of that deal and had already posted 97 big league wins and 112 career saves, mostly as a Cardinal. He pitched five plus seasons for New York, compiling a 39-29 record in pinstripes and 58 more career saves. Even his departure from the team was productive for the Yankees when he was traded to the Royals after the 1973 season because it brought Lou Piniella’s bat to the Bronx. Lindy retired after the 1975 season, his 21st year in the big leagues, with 141 wins and 172 career saves. He also holds the distinction of being the last Yankee pitcher to hit a home run.
|STL (8 yrs)||66||54||.550||3.88||336||63||188||15||2||64||884.2||920||432||381||83||258||523||1.332|
|NYY (6 yrs)||38||29||.567||2.89||265||3||186||1||0||58||544.2||486||194||175||43||156||363||1.179|
|SFG (3 yrs)||12||11||.522||3.45||117||3||49||0||0||9||213.2||202||98||82||12||64||150||1.245|
|CHC (3 yrs)||19||20||.487||3.06||191||0||114||0||0||39||311.2||301||120||106||25||97||238||1.277|
|KCR (2 yrs)||6||5||.545||3.75||78||5||40||2||0||2||184.2||190||90||77||9||48||87||1.289|
When I was a kid, we’d eat dinner at my Grandmother’s house most Sundays with our entire extended family. As a result, I watched plenty of Sunday afternoon televised Yankee games with my uncle. I was a much more passionate Yankee fan than he was and once the Yankee dynasty crumbled in 1965, he would annoy me by making snide derogatory comments about how bad the team was playing. For example, if a Yankee starter faltered and a reliever was inserted, no matter who came out of the bullpen I could count on my uncle to exclaim, “Not this guy for God’s sakes, even I can hit this guy!”
I’ll never forget the game in late June during the 1970 season when that statement was actually made truthfully. Steve Hamilton had been a very good bullpen pitcher for New York since he was acquired from the Washington Senators in a 1963 trade for Jim Coates. He was 6’7″ tall and a superb athlete, good enough to have played two seasons of NBA basketball in the late fifties for the Lakers. He had performed a variety of pitching roles for New York during his career in pinstripes. He pitched parts of eight seasons for the Yankees, accumulating a 34-20 record, with 36 saves and a 2.78 ERA in 486 innings of work. Manager Ralph Houk would give the big guy a start every now and then and in 1968, used him as New York’s closer and Hamilton led the team with 11 saves that year.
On this particular June day, Sam McDowell and the Indians were killing the Yankees. Houk put Hamilton into pitch the top of the ninth. Hamilton, who was born in Columbia, KY in 1935, was a very funny guy in the clubhouse and on that day, with the game already lost, he decided to have some fun on the field as well. The first hitter he faced was Tony Horton. He had been working on a blooper pitch, which had been nicknamed the “Folly Floater” and had used it against Horton successfully in an game earlier that same season. He decided to employ the pitch again against the Indian first baseman. Hamilton threw Horton two straight folly floaters and Horton almost came out of his spikes trying to hit the softly tossed lobs. Horton fouled both of them off weakly and Thurman Munson caught the second one for an out. Horton’s reaction was hilarious as he tossed his helmet high in the air and actually crawled back into the Indian’s dugout on his hands and knees.
I was amazed to find out that the above clip of this event was actually available on You Tube. Take a look for yourself and see why I finally could agree that a Yankee pitcher threw a pitch even I could hit.
|NYY (8 yrs)||34||20||.630||2.78||311||7||140||2||1||36||486.0||389||163||150||36||150||389||1.109|
|WSA (2 yrs)||3||9||.250||3.95||44||10||13||1||0||2||109.1||108||54||48||10||41||84||1.363|
|CHC (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||4.76||22||0||12||0||0||0||17.0||24||9||9||1||8||13||1.882|
|CLE (1 yr)||0||0||3.00||2||0||0||0||0||0||3.0||2||1||1||0||3||4||1.667|
|SFG (1 yr)||2||2||.500||3.02||39||0||16||0||0||4||44.2||29||15||15||4||11||38||0.896|
|CHW (1 yr)||0||0||6.00||3||0||0||0||0||0||3.0||4||2||2||0||1||3||1.667|
The 1961 New York Yankee team was loaded with talent at every position, except one. They had no closer. Ryne Duren was supposed to fulfill that role but he was a serious alcoholic and by 1961, his drinking and his behavior when drinking had gotten completely out of hand. New York traded the troubled Duren to the Angels and manager Ralph Houk eventually replaced him with a Puerto Rican screwballing lefthander named Luis Arroyo.
At the time Arroyo was already 34-years old. He had made his big league debut seven seasons earlier, with the Cardinals, going 11-8 as a starter in his rookie season and making the 1955 NL All Star team. The following year, Fred Hutchinson was hired to manage St Louis and Old Hutch did not like Arroyo. Instead of getting the opportunity to make his second NL All Star team, Luis first found himself back in the minors as the ’56 season started and then traded to Pittsburgh. He spent the next four years battling a sore arm and developing a screw ball. By the time he joined the Yankees in 1960, his arm had healed and he had perfected his new signature pitch. He went 5-1 in his first season in New York setting the stage for his magical year in 1961.
Arroyo appeared in 65 games that season, finishing 54 of them. He compiled a 15-5 record and saved 29 games. He relieved Whitey Ford 24 times that season and saved 13 of the Yankee aces 25 wins. Arroyo’s ERA was 2.19. Topping that off, he hit .280 that year and pitched four shutout innings and got a win in the ’61 World Series against Cincinnati, gaining some revenge on Fred Hutchinson, who by then was the Reds’ Manager.
Unfortunately for Arroyo, that great screwball he developed has also been described as the reason why he again developed a sore pitching arm. That sore arm limited him to just 27 appearances in 1962 and just 3 the following year. The Yankees released Luis at the end of the 1963 season.
|NYY (4 yrs)||22||10||.688||3.12||127||0||89||0||0||43||199.1||158||77||69||12||91||142||1.249|
|PIT (2 yrs)||6||14||.300||4.69||72||12||19||1||0||1||159.1||187||93||83||24||43||118||1.444|
|STL (1 yr)||11||8||.579||4.19||35||24||6||9||1||0||159.0||162||80||74||22||63||68||1.415|
|CIN (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||3.95||10||0||5||0||0||0||13.2||17||11||6||0||11||8||2.049|
I never agreed with the the Yankee’s decision to sign the Goose as a free agent during the 1977 post season. Sparky Lyle had just won the AL Cy Young Award the season before and the Yankees had won the World Series. They did not need a closer and adding another one to the team was the type of overkill that could only end up disrupting team chemistry in the long run. When I read about Gossage’s signing, I figured Lyle was a goner and I had always been a fan of the “Count.”
I was wrong about Lyle being a goner in 1978. The Yankees did figure out a pretty effective way to keep Lyle in the mix but Gossage emphatically took over the closer’s role and remained the ace of the Yankee pen for a half-dozen seasons, saving 150 games and winning 41 more in the process.
The Yankees finally traded Lyle in 1979, sending him to Texas in a multiplayer deal that put Dave Righetti in Pinstripes. Goose’s shower room brawl with Cliff Johnson helped ruin the Yankee’s 1979 season but in 1980, a big young right-hander named Ron Davis became the Yankee’s set-up man and he and Gossage teamed to deliver what I still consider to be some of the best relief pitching I have ever seen. Unfortunately, George Brett’s three-run shot of Goose in the third game of the AL playoffs that season was not a great moment in Yankee history.
Goose was indeed a monster on the mound and deserves being in Cooperstown but I still think his signing was a matter of greed and not need on the part of Yankee management. Goose was born on this date in 1951, in Colorado Springs, CO.
Goose shares his July 5th birthday with this 1965 winner of the AL Rookie of the Year Award, this former Yankee pitcher and pitching coach and this one-time Yankee starting pitcher from the late thirties.
|NYY (7 yrs)||42||28||.600||2.14||319||0||272||0||0||151||533.0||390||150||127||31||185||512||1.079|
|CHW (5 yrs)||29||36||.446||3.80||188||37||80||16||0||30||584.2||534||269||247||34||288||419||1.406|
|SDP (4 yrs)||25||20||.556||2.99||197||0||157||0||0||83||298.0||255||109||99||19||92||243||1.164|
|OAK (2 yrs)||4||7||.364||3.78||69||0||25||0||0||1||85.2||81||37||36||11||45||66||1.471|
|SFG (1 yr)||2||1||.667||2.68||31||0||22||0||0||4||43.2||32||16||13||2||27||24||1.351|
|PIT (1 yr)||11||9||.550||1.62||72||0||55||0||0||26||133.0||78||27||24||9||49||151||0.955|
|TEX (1 yr)||4||2||.667||3.57||44||0||16||0||0||1||40.1||33||16||16||4||16||28||1.215|
|CHC (1 yr)||4||4||.500||4.33||46||0||33||0||0||13||43.2||50||23||21||3||15||30||1.489|
|SEA (1 yr)||3||0||1.000||4.18||36||0||21||0||0||1||47.1||44||23||22||6||15||29||1.246|
The consensus was that Ryne Duren was the best reliever in all of baseball in 1958. This near-sighted monster on the mound used to throw 100 mph warm-up pitches five feet off the plate to unnerve on-deck hitters. The Yankees got him in the same 1957 trade with Kansas City that ended Billy Martin’s pinstriped playing career. GM George Weiss then sent the wild right-hander to New York’s Denver farm club to work on his control for the rest of that season. The move worked. Duren went 13-2 in the Mile High City and more importantly lowered his bases on balls from more than one per inning to less than one every three innings. He joined the parent club in 1958 and absolutely dominated opposing teams in the late innings of Yankee ball games, leading the league in saves and striking out 87 batters in the 75 innings he pitched that year. He also won and saved a game in the 1958 World Series, helping New York avenge their 1957 Fall Classic defeat to the Braves. While Duren may have learned how to control his fastball, he couldn’t figure out how to control his drinking and the guy was a mean drunk. In the end, alcohol dependency destroyed his career but his eventual ability to overcome it created another one for him as a substance abuse counselor. He is credited with helping many active and ex big league ballplayers kick the habit. Duren was born in Cazanovia, Washington in 1929.
|NYY (4 yrs)||12||15||.444||2.75||131||2||81||0||0||43||206.1||118||70||63||15||139||257||1.246|
|PHI (3 yrs)||6||2||.750||3.38||41||7||19||1||0||2||101.1||80||43||38||6||57||95||1.352|
|LAA (2 yrs)||8||21||.276||4.86||82||17||25||1||1||10||170.1||140||108||92||14||132||182||1.597|
|KCA (1 yr)||0||3||.000||5.27||14||6||2||0||0||1||42.2||37||26||25||4||30||37||1.570|
|WSA (1 yr)||1||1||.500||6.65||16||0||8||0||0||0||23.0||24||17||17||0||18||18||1.826|
|CIN (1 yr)||0||2||.000||2.89||26||0||10||0||0||1||43.2||41||17||14||1||15||39||1.282|
|BAL (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||1||0||0||0||0||0||2.0||3||3||2||0||1||2||2.000|