Results tagged ‘ pitcher ’
An on-the-field failure by today’s birthday celebrant, actually left me in tears. Yeah, I know Tom Hanks insisted “there’s no crying in baseball” in the movie “A League of Their Own,” but he wasn’t a six year old at the time, watching his beloved Yankees lose the final game of the 1960 World Series.
In fact, the pitch that Ralph Terry threw to to Bill Mazeroski on that October afternoon in Pittsburgh almost fifty years ago, is the first memory I have of being a Yankee fan. When that ball sailed over the ivy-covered left field wall of old Forbes Field, my tears started flowing. I was more livid with Mazeroski than anybody else. How dare this perennial singles hitter get lucky against the world’s greatest baseball dynasty. And my grudge lasted against the Pirate’s longtime second baseman. When the Veteran’s Committee put him into Baseball’s Hall of Fame years later, I distinctly remember cursing the committee. I was pretty upset with Terry too, but it did not take long for my hostile feelings against the tall right-hander to dissipate.
In 1961, Terry went 16-3 for one of the greatest Yankee teams in history as the Bombers reclaimed the World Championship by beating Cincinnati four games to one, in that year’s World Series. Terry was the loser in the one game the Yankees lost to the Reds so he still wasn’t entirely off my list of “players I was angry at.”
But it was 1962 that forever changed the way I felt about Ralph Terry. First off, he won 23 regular season ball games that year. When you’re a Yankee fan, however, you don’t measure players by their regular season performance. Instead it becomes all about the post season. That year, the Yankees faced a very talented San Francisco Giants team, led by Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, and Juan Marichal.
The series was tied three games apiece. Terry had pitched well in the second game but lost 2-0, his fourth consecutive Series defeat over the past three seasons. He finally broke that skid when he came back to get the win in Game 5 but I’m sure I was feeling pretty nervous when New York Manager, Ralph Houk gave his big righthander the ball to start the seventh and deciding game. Terry pitched brilliantly that day and had held the home team Giants scoreless thru eight innings. In the bottom half of the ninth, with the Yankees leading by just one run, Matty Alou led off with a bunt single. Terry then settled down and struck out Matty’s brother, Felipe and Chuck Hiller. Willie Mays then doubled sending Alou to third with the tying run. The next hitter, Willie McCovey blasted a line drive toward right field. If “Stretch” had hit that ball just a few inches further left or right, Ralph Terry might have officially replaced Bill Mazeroski as my most despised baseball player in history. Fortunately, however, McCovey’s screaming liner was hit directly at Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson, who after the game admitted he just threw his glove up and luckily snared it. Richardson still claims it was the hardest hit ball he’d ever fielded.
Legendary Yankee scout, Paul Krichell signed some of the best players in Yankee history, including Lou Gehrig and Whitey Ford. He was once asked which of the players he had signed most surprised him by not making it in the big leagues. One of his answers was Charlie Devens. The Yankees gave Devens a huge bonus when the fire-balling right-hander graduated from Harvard in 1932 and wasted no time throwing him into the fire. He got his first start in Pinstripes against Boston in Fenway and threw a complete game victory. He had a blazing fastball and loads of confidence but he also had a family that owned a bank and a girl friend who was the daughter of a former Massacusetts’ Governor. After bouncing back and forth between the Yankees and their Minor League affiliate in Newark for the next two seasons, it wasn’t too difficult a decision for Charlie to walk away from the Yankees in 1934 for a job in his family’s bank and to marry his well-heeled sweetheart.
Another Yankee born on the first day of the year was this former first baseman nicknamed “the Earl of Snohomish.”
I don’t remember what my exact reaction was back in July of 2004, when I learned that the Yankees had traded Jose Contreras for this tall Mexican right hander, but I don’t think I was too disappointed. Loaiza was coming off a twenty-one win season with the White Sox in 2003 and was 9-5 thus far in 2004 when he became a Yankee. In addition to sending Contreras to the Windy City, New York also had to include lots of cash. Although Contreras had not been a total bust in New York, Steinbrenner had spent over $30 million to outbid the Red Sox for the Cuban defector and the Yankee front office predicted he was ready to win big at the big league level, right away. When that didn’t happen, disappointed Yankee fans started booing and Contreras’ $8.5 million annual salary became an even heavier albatross around New York’s neck. So the Yankees jumped at the chance to replace the Cuban with Loaiza who’s annual salary was $4 million at the time.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, they jumped a bit to soon and the White Sox ended up getting the best part of the deal by a country mile. Loaiza went just 1-2 in pinstripes the rest of that 2004 season and got absolutely hammered in most of his starts. New York released him that October. Contreras would go on to find his bearings at US Cellular Field. In 2005, Jose went 15-7 and then 3-1 in the postseason to help the White Sox capture their first World Series title in over 70 years. Loaiza actually rebounded to pitch well for the Nationals in 2005 and did OK with the A’s in 2006. He’s been out of the big leagues since 2008 and had a 126-114 lifetime record during his 14-season career with eight different big league clubs.
Another Yankee born on the last day of the year was this pitcher who lost the final game of the 1955 World series to Brooklyn.
This big right-hander was coming off the worst season in his 14-year big league career, when the Yankees signed the Gastonia, North Carolina native to a free agent minor-league contract just before the 2011 season opened. Millwood’s 4-16 record with the Orioles in 2010 had scared away most big league teams but his 159 lifetime wins and the uncertainty of New York’s own starting rotation convinced Brian Cashman to grab the former NL All Star and hold him in reserve. The Yanks assigned Millwood to their Scranton-Wilkes Barre Triple A team. If either Freddie Garcia or Bartolo Colon had failed to perform for the parent club during the opening weeks of the 2011 season, New York intended to use Millwood as their replacement.
Millwood pitched well during his opening month in the minors but both Colon and Garcia were doing likewise with the Yankees. Instead of waiting around for circumstances to change, Millwood chose to opt out of his Yankee contract and sign with the Red Sox. By that August, Millwood was 7-2 for the season in Triple A but with no hope of getting called up by the Red Sox either. When the Rockies were looking for a starter, he got Boston to release him and he ended up in Colorado’s rotation during the last two months of the 2011 regular season, going 4-3. He pitched the 2012 season with the Mariners.
The only member of the Yankee all-time roster who actually played for the big league club is this former outfielder who lived to be 100 years-old.
It was appropriate that Scott Nielsen pitched three of his four big league seasons in the city of Wall Street because he was traded so often, he might have qualified for a slot on the big board. Selected by the Mariners in the sixth round of the 1983 draft, New York got him the first time a year later, for Larry Milbourne. He pitched well in the Yankee farm system, especially in 1986, when he had already won 13 games by the time he was called up to the Bronx in July of that season to fill in for Ron Guidry, who had suffered a severe cut on his pitching hand. Nielsen ended up going 4-4 for manager Lou Piniella that season, with a 4.02 ERA.
The following January, the Yankees traded the right-hander to the White Sox in the deal that brought Randy Velarde to New York. The Salt Lake City native saw quite a bit of action in the Windy City during the 1987 season as a reliever and spot starter. He finished that year with a 3-5 record and an ERA over six. That November the White Sox sent Nielsen back to New York along with former 20-game winner, Rich Dotson in exchange for Yankee outfielder, Dan Pasqua and two other players. The Yankees put him back in Columbus to start the ’88 season and he became the Clippers best starting pitcher. He was 13-6 in Triple A when he was called back up to the parent club in August of that year. But he didn’t pitch well for New York during the last two months of that season. The following July, he was traded to the Mets for Marcus Lawton but he would never again pitch in a Major League game. He ended his four-year big league career with a 9-11 record and three career shutouts. In 1988, Nielsen became one of just 38 big league pitchers who have allowed more home runs than batters struck out in the same season, when he gave up five HRs but struck out just 4 opposing hitters.
Nielsen shares his birthday with this great Yankee first baseman who passed away earlier this year.
Probably like most pretty passionate baseball fans, when I see the name “Bob Ojeda,” two things come to mind quickly. The first is that 1986 Met season when today’s birthday celebrant was the very best pitcher in the outstanding starting rotation of that World Championship team. The second is the tragic Florida boating accident that took place during the Cleveland Indians’ 1993 spring training season, in which Ojeda was seriously injured and two of his Cleveland teammates, Steve Olin and Tim Crews, lost their lives.
What most of us forget, when we come across the name of this talented left-hander who pitched in the big leagues for all or parts of 15 seasons, is that he finished that career in pinstripes. Ojeda was able to recover from the injuries he suffered in that boating accident and actually pitch for Cleveland during the final two months of the 1993 season, but was then released. The Yankees had just finished a strong 1993 season in second place in the AL East under second-year manager Buck Showalter and felt they were one starting pitcher away from being a post season participant in 1994. When Yankee GM Gene Michael couldn’t make a trade for that starter, he decided to throw the role up for open competition during New York’s ’94 spring training camp. Participants in that competition included the team’s top prospects at the time, Sterling Hitchcock and Mark Hutton and the veteran Ojeda, who Michael had signed to a one-year minor league deal.
Ojeda ended up pitching better in that exhibition season than not only both youngsters, but also Scott Kamieniecki, who had been the fifth starter in New York’s ’93 rotation. It was decided that Kamieniecki would start the year in the bullpen and Ojeda would go to Triple A Columbus for a few practice starts to strengthen his arm before joining the Yankee starting rotation.
He made his first start for his new team on April 16th of that season in a game against the Tigers in Detroit and was hammered hard, not surviving the first inning. He got his second chance a week later, this time at the Stadium, versus Oakland and was hammered again, not making it out of the third inning. He did not get a third chance. Michael and Showalter decided they were better off starting Kamieniecki and they released Ojeda.
A few months ago, Ojeda wrote one of the best self-retrospective articles I’ve ever read written by a professional athlete. It appeared in a May 2012 edition of the New York Times and you can read it here. In it he reveals that his left arm has been chronically sore since he was a 12-year-old little league pitcher and only a constant mixture of drugs, ice, booze and denial throughout his career kept him pitching.
The starting rotation for the 1990 New York Yankees pitched so poorly that I clearly remember thinking the team’s manager, Stump Merrill should seriously have considered letting his bullpen start games. The combined record of starters Tim Leary, Andy Hawkins, Dave LaPoint, Chuck Cary and Mike Witt was a woeful 32-59 that season. The team’s top five relievers on the other hand had a combined record of 26-20 plus 36 saves by closer Dave Righetti. In fact, one of those relievers, right-hander Lee Guetterman actually led the entire staff in wins that year with 11.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was a member of that 1990 Yankee bullpen. Jeff Robinson had made his big league debut as a starter with the San Francisco Giants in 1984, putting together a 7-15 record in 33 starts during his rookie season. He then spent most of the next season back in the Pacific Coast League and when he reemerged in San Francisco in 1986 he had been converted into a reliever. During the next five seasons he evolved into one of the NL’s better bullpen pitchers. His best year happened in 1988. By then, this native of Santa Ana, CA had been traded to Pittsburgh. He went 11-5 that season with 9 saves and an ERA of 3.03. In 1989, the Pirates converted Robinson back into a starter during the second half of that year and the results were pretty ugly. After winning his first three starts, the big right-hander lost 7 of his final 9 decisions and was traded to the Yankees that December, as part of the trade that sent catcher Don Slaught to Pittsburgh.
Robinson appeared in 54 games for New York in 1990. He pitched pretty well, going 3-6 with a 3.45 ERA and 57 strikeouts in the 57 innings he pitched that season. Merrill inserted him in the rotation in mid July and he won two of his first three starts impressively. In his fourth start he gave up 4 runs to Detroit in 5 and 1/3 innings and then was sent back to the bullpen, where he remained for the rest of the season.
That 1990 season was the final year of Robinson’s contract and he became a free agent. The Yankees showed little interest in retaining his services so he signed with the Angels and got his first and only million dollar payday. He had a bad 1993 season for California and then bounced back with the Cubs, going 4-3 in 1992 with a 3.00 ERA. Chicago cut him on the final day of the 1993 spring training season and Robinson’s nine-year big league career was over.
There was actually another Jeff Robinson who was a big league pitcher during the same time today’s Birthday Celebrant pitched in the big leagues. In fact, the other Robinson was pitching for the Orioles in 1990 when this Robinson was pitching in New York. The two never faced each other in a big league game. Just to confuse you a bit more, this other Jeff Robinson celebrates his birthday tomorrow, on December 14th. Meanwhile, the ex-Yankee Jeff Robinson shares his December 13th birthday with this former Yankee closer and this son of a former Yankee manager.
The 1998 Yankees had a near perfect team. Every player had a role, every player knew his role and every player performed his role perfectly enough to generate a franchise record number of regular season wins (114) and an 11-2 postseason run that culminated in a World Series sweep of a shell-shocked San Diego Padres team.
The pitching staff featured a five-man starting rotation of double digit winners led by David Cone who went 20-7. The bullpen was anchored by the amazing Rivera, and he was surrounded by situational workhorses Mike Stanton, Ramiro Mendoza, Jeff Nelson and Graeme Lloyd. I loved watching that team play. To this day, I can easily name 24 of the players who composed that team’s core 25-man roster for the majority of the regular season. The only name I have a tough time recalling is that of relief pitcher Mike Buddie. The native of Berea, Ohio was the 11th member of the Yankee pitching staff that season. He spent most of the season on the parent club’s roster, appearing in 24 games, including two starts and finishing with a very nice 4-1 record but a rather high ERA of 5.62. It was most likely that lofty earned run average and Buddie’s control problems that got the big right hander left off the Yankees’ 1998 postseason roster. But nobody can take away that beautiful championship ring he earned as a significant contributing member of that team.
Bidde spent most of the 1999 season back pitching in Columbus, where he put together an impressive 9-2 record. After he started the 2000 season still with the Clippers and lost three of his first four decisions, the Yankees released him. He was able to immediately catch on with the Brewers’ organization. During the next three seasons, his career continued on its yo-yo trajectory between Triple A and the big show. He earned his only two big league saves with Milwaukee in 2001 and earned his first and only victory as a Brewer the following season. 2002 would be his final year in the Majors and he quit playing entirely after one more season in Triple A. He than went to work in the athletic department of his alma mater, Wake Forest University.
They called him”Hal” and “Skinny” but his real name was Hector. He was 6’2″ and weighed about 180 pounds. Just before he retired, the great Ted Williams told reporters that Brown had never thrown him a “fat pitch” and called Skinny a “great pitcher.” Who could be more qualified than the “Splendid Splinter” to make a judgment like that. Brown had a terrific slider and later in his career he learned how to throw a knuckleball. Those two pitches helped him stay in the big leagues for 14 seasons, coming up with the White Sox, in 1951. He was traded to the Red Sox in1953 and went 11-6 for Boston that year in his first shot as a regular starting pitcher. But it wasn’t until he was traded to Baltimore, two seasons later that Brown really hit his pitching stride. In eight years with the Birds, Hal started and relieved his way to a 62-48 record. The Yankees purchased Brown from Baltimore in the last month of the 1962 season and he got his first and only start in pinstripes against the Red Sox, two days later. Boston battered him pretty good and he left in the fifth inning, trailing 9-2. He got just one more relief appearance that season and then was sold to the Houston Colt 45s the following April. Brown is the only member of the Yankee all-time roster I could find who was born on December 11. The Greensboro, NC native was born on this date in 1924. I could find no other Yankee who shares his birthday.
This post is happening at the same time the Yankees are considering signing former Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youklis to play third base in 2012. If the deal goes through, Youklis would join Hal Brown and a whole bunch of other former big leaguers who played for both the Yankees and Red Sox during their careers. Here’s my all-time lineup of Yankee/Red Sox:
1b: George Boomer Scott
2b: Mark Bellhorn
3b: Wade Boggs
ss: Everett Scott
c: Elston Howard
of: Babe Ruth
of: Johnny Damon
of: Ricky Henderson
dh: Don Baylor
sp: Red Ruffing
cl: Sparky Lyle
I remember not being thrilled by the news that the Yankees had traded this big right-hander to Pittsburgh just before Christmas in 1975. I was a Doc Medich fan. He was born George Francis Medich on today’s date in 1948, in Aliquippa, PA. He had gone 14-9 during his first big league season in 1973, including three shutouts and finished third in that year’s AL Rookie of the Year balloting. Then in ’74, he stepped up big when Yankee ace Mel Stottlemyre was injured, winning 19 games, including four more shutouts and helping New York finish second, just two games behind Eastern Division winner, Baltimore. Doc was 6’5″ tall and weighed right around 230 pounds so you expected he’d have a real good fastball but he did not. He was much more of a finesse and control pitcher. He was also one smart cookie, attending medical school during the off season and eventually becoming a practicing physician.
After New York finished so close to the Orioles, George Steinbrenner traded Bobby Murcer for Bobby Bonds and then signed Catfish Hunter. Everyone expected the Yankees to win their Division in 1975. That didn’t happen. Medich went 16-16 that year, still pitching well but not well enough to suit the Yankee brass. The following December, New York traded Medich to Pittsburgh for pitchers Ken Brett, Dock Ellis and a young second baseman named Willie Randolph.
He lasted just one disappointing season with the Pirates and then pitched for three different teams during the 1977 season before ending up with the Rangers. He remained in Texas for almost five years. Doc’s lifetime record was 124 – 105 over eleven big league seasons and 49-40, with a 3.37 ERA in pinstripes. He practiced medicine full time after he retired from the big leagues in 1982. Seventeen years later, he lost his medical license when he was convicted of writing fake prescriptions and illegally possessing painkillers. At that time he admitted he had been battling a drug addiction for years.
Medich shares his birthday with a Yankee franchise Hall-of-Famer nobody remembers.