Results tagged ‘ pitcher ’
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|
You’d have to be about my age or older to remember today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant and if you do, you might not remember him as a Yankee. That’s because in October of 1967, everyone including me thought Gary Waslewski was on the cusp of becoming a very good starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.
Waslewski was born in Connecticut to a Polish father and a mom who was half German and half Cherokee Indian. He was signed by the Pirates in 1960, after his freshman year of college. He spent the next four years pitching in the Pittsburgh farm system and then, when he was left unprotected in the minor league draft in 1964, the Red Sox grabbed him. Three years later he was called up by Boston when the team was in the midst of their 1967 miracle season. In Waslewski’s second ever big league start, the then 25-year-old right-hander shut out the White Sox for nine innings but was forced to leave the game in the tenth with a strained left shoulder. He recovered quickly and won his next two decisions. He had allowed just 3 earned runs in his first 26.1 big league innings. That’s when his right arm started aching.
He ended up with a 2-2 record that year and a 3.21 ERA. Everybody, including Waslewski was surprised when Boston Manager Dick Williams put him on the World Series roster as a replacement for the injured pitcher, Bucky Brandon. Everyone was pretty much shocked, when Williams named Waslewski as his Game 6 starting pitcher. After all, Boston was down 3 games to 2 to the Cardinals at the time and placing the fate of the team in a must win game on the shoulders of a rookie, much less a 2-game-winning rookie seemed crazy. Dick Williams was crazy, crazy like a fox.
The Boston manager had been impressed by Waslewski’s perfect two-inning relief stint against the heart of the St Louis’s lineup in Game 3. Besides, the manager’s other choices as starters for that game were Jose Santiago or Gary Bell, neither of whom was considered a better than average arm. Waslewski ended up pitching into the sixth inning and leaving that game with a 4-2 lead. Though he didn’t get the win because the Cards later tied the score, Boston pulled out the victory and everyone praised the rookies’ clutch performance and poise. After Boston lost the next game and the Series, Red Sox fans took solace in the fact that a new number 2 starter seemed ready to help Cy Young Award winner Jim Lonborg get Boston back to the postseason in 1968.
That didn’t happen. After winning his first two starts in 1968, Gary lost his next seven decisions and finished the year 4-7. His bubble had burst in Beantown and following that ’68 season, he was traded to the Cardinals for Dick Schofield. He was sent to Montreal the following June and did nothing for either National League team that indicated he was becoming a better big league pitcher. In fact, his 3-11 record since leaving the Red Sox, a rising ERA and a chronically sore right arm seemed to signal impending retirement. The New York Yankees felt differently.
New York got Waslewski in a May 1970 trade for a first baseman named Dave McDonald. Ralph Houk used him a lot (26 appearances) during the second half of that 1970 season, including 5 starts. Though his record with New York was just 2-2, he pitched well enough to get invited back in 1971. He appeared in 24 games during his only full year in the Bronx and all of them were in relief.
The Yankees cut him toward the end of their 1972 spring training camp. He signed with Oakland but after an 0-3 start he was reassigned to the minors. He hung up his glove for good after the 1974 season.
|MON (2 yrs)||3||9||.250||3.63||36||18||7||3||1||1||134.0||125||67||54||8||78||82||1.515|
|NYY (2 yrs)||2||3||.400||3.18||50||5||13||0||0||1||90.2||70||35||32||6||43||44||1.246|
|BOS (2 yrs)||6||9||.400||3.54||46||19||6||2||0||2||147.1||142||68||58||12||60||79||1.371|
|STL (1 yr)||0||2||.000||3.92||12||0||7||0||0||1||20.2||19||9||9||3||8||16||1.306|
|OAK (1 yr)||0||3||.000||2.04||8||0||3||0||0||0||17.2||12||5||4||3||8||8||1.132|
You never heard of Floyd Newkirk and either had I until this morning. That’s when I found out he was one of just 35 big league players who celebrate or celebrated their birthday on today’s date. I had also thought Tom Metcalf was the only former Yankee among those 35 July 16th birthday celebrants until I discovered that Newkirk had pitched for New York as well, during the 1934 season after getting called up on August 1st from the Yanks’ outstanding Newark Bears farm club. At the time of that call-up, he had put together an 11-4 record for the Bears. When he made his one and only appearance for New York almost three weeks later versus the St.Louis Browns, he became the only three-fingered pitcher in history to pitch for the Yankees.
The right-handed Newkirk had lost two fingers on his pitching hand in a childhood accident. Throughout his youth, he never treated the condition as a handicap. Instead, he claimed his unique three-digit grip on a baseball added speed to his fastball and bite to his curve. He went on to pitch in college in his native Illinois and then signed with the Albany (New York) Senators in the old Eastern League.
In one article I uncovered during my research for today’s post, a fill-in sportswriter for a Milwaukee newspaper gave an account of a 1933 American Association game he was called upon to cover, between Newkirk’s St. Paul Saints and the hometown Milwaukee Brewers. In a very tongue and cheek writing style, this amusing scribe who had never before reported on a baseball game, bemoaned the fact that the St. Paul pitcher with three fingers had out-pitched the five-fingered hometown hurler that day.
In any event, that one scoreless ninth inning Newkirk pitched against St. Louis in 1934 would end up being the the only inning of his Yankee and his big league pitching career. That December, Newkirk was included in the historic trade with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League that brought Joe DiMaggio to New York. He went 8-5 with San Francisco in 1935 but an inability to throw strikes doomed his efforts to make it back to the Majors. He passed away in 1976 at the age of 67.
Mickey Mantle will always be my favorite baseball “name” but “Zack Monroe” isn’t too bad a moniker for a ball player either. Both names ended up appearing on Hall of Fame plaques. Of course Mantle’s plaque is in Cooperstown while today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant’s can be found in at the the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame.
This native of that city in Illinois was a two-sports star at home-town Bradley University when the Yankees signed him in 1952. He then played just one season of minor league ball before doing a two-year hitch in the military during the Korean War. He returned to the Yankee farm system in 1955. The right-hander put together two straight 16-win seasons for the Yankees’ single A affiliate in Binghamton and was a stellar 10-2 for their triple A club in Richmond when he got the call to report to the Bronx at the end of June, during the 1958 season. He made his big league debut against the A’s on June 27th of that year. He held the Kansas City lineup hitless in his three-inning relief stint but he gave up four bases-on-balls. It was that inability to throw strikes at the big league level that would come back to haunt him.
Five days later, Casey Stengel gave Monroe his first start in Baltimore and he gave up just one run (and 5-more walks) during his eight-inning appearance against the O’s to earn his first big league victory. He ended up winning four of his five decisions during his rookie season and posting an impressive 3.26 ERA. That was good enough to earn Monroe a spot on the Yankees’ World Series roster that year, but in his only relief appearance against the Braves, he was shelled for three runs in the single inning he got to pitch. That bad October inning against Milwaukee, the 27 walks he issued in the 58 regular season innings he pitched that first year, plus the fact that he was already 26-years-old at the time, most likely soured his long-term potential in the eyes of Stengel and the Yankee brass. Though he made New York’s 1959 Opening Day roster, he found himself back in Richmond in early May, after two straight bad relief outings. He never again pitched in the big leagues.
Monroe shares his birthday with one of the Yankees greatest fourth outfielders of all-time and this one-time Yankee prospect.
Those of us who remember the first half of George Steinbrenner’s tenure as principal owner of the Yankees remember the two things he hated most. The first was seeing his Yankees lose a baseball game. The second was seeing his Yankees lose the back-page headlines of New York City’s tabloid newspapers to the cross-town New York Mets.
When the 1984 regular season began, “The Boss” had already enjoyed a decade of dominant Big Apple press coverage. His Yankees had been to five postseasons and won two rings in those ten years. The Mets, on the other hand, after making the World Series that first year of Steinbrenner’s rein had entered into an extended period of losing by 1977. As Opening Day 1984 approached, the Amazin’s were coming off seven consecutive seasons during which they had failed to reach 70 victories.
But as Steinbrenner began his second decade of Yankeedom, there was a definite whiff of change in the air between the Bronx and Flushing. More specifically, it was a nineteen year old Doctor of Whiff’s with a blazing fastball who would almost singlehandedly evict the Bronx Bombers form the back pages of the Daily News and Post. His name was Dwight Gooden and he would electrify baseball with his 17-9 rookie season and league-leading 276 strikeouts. He led that ’84 team to their first 90-win season since the legendary Miracle Mets of 1969 and he would help the club reach that level of success six more times during the next seven years.
The Boss reacted to Gooden’s emergence as only “the Boss” could. He demanded the Yankees find a teenaged phee-nom starter of their own. The unfortunate pinstriped pitching prospect selected for the cloning experiment was a nineteen-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic who was coming off an 18-7 1983 season spent mostly as a starter with the Yankees’ single A team in the Florida League. Never mind he wasn’t yet old enough to drink and had only pitched a month of that season in double A ball, the Mets had a 19-year-old pitching sensation dominating his league and George Steinbrenner wanted one of his own.
The problem that almost became a tragic career blunder was that Rijo, unlike Gooden was nowhere near ready to pitch at the big league level. Manager Yogi Berra let him perform out of the bullpen the first month of that ’84 season but my guess is that the hotter Gooden got starting for the Mets the greater the pressure the Boss put on Berra to start Rijo. Berra began using him as a starter in early May. By June 11th, his record was 1-6 and Yogi put him back in the bullpen. Less than a month later, he was 2-8 and pitching in Columbus. That December, he was one of five Yankees sent Oakland in the trade for Ricky Henderson.
After three mediocre years with the A’s, Rijo signed as a free agent with the Reds and found a home. He was 97-61 during his decade in Cincinnati, during which he won the 1990 World Series MVP award for his two Fall Classic victories against Oakland. Rijo, who was born in 1965, is the son-in-law of Hall-of-Fame pitcher, Juan Marichal.
Rijo shares his May 13th birthday with another Yankee pitching prospect who made his big league debut in May of 2012.
|CIN (10 yrs)||97||61||.614||2.83||280||215||22||17||4||0||1478.0||1301||523||464||102||453||1251||1.187|
|OAK (3 yrs)||17||22||.436||4.74||72||49||13||5||0||1||339.2||335||209||179||40||177||308||1.507|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||8||.200||4.76||24||5||8||0||0||2||62.1||74||40||33||5||33||47||1.717|
There are not many if any Yankee fans still around who can remember this knuckle-balling right-hander. The best thing about Ivy Andrews had to be his nickname, which was “Poison.” He started his big league career in 1931 when he went 2-0 for New York after being called up from the minors in August of that season. Yankee Manager Joe McCarthy planned on giving the Dora, Alabama native plenty of opportunities the following year but when Andrews came down with a case of lumbago after just four appearances in 1932, Marse Joe started using a rookie named Johnny Allen in his place. Allen became an instant success and Andrews found himself in a Boston Red Sox uniform by early June. He bounced back from his illness to finish that ’32 season with a 10-7 record. When he slumped to 7-13 the following year he was traded to the Browns. In his first season in St. Louis he won just 4 games but three of those victories were complete game shutouts. He then went 13-7 for the 1935 Browns, which turned out to be his best year in the big leagues. The Yankees got him back in 1937 and in that year’s World Series he enjoyed his finest moment in pinstripes. It took place in Game 4 with the Yankees leading the cross-town Giants three games to none and looking for a sweep. McCarthy started Bump Hadley who got hammered for six runs in the second inning. Poison Ivy replaced Hadley and pitched five plus innings of solid relief. Unfortunately, the Yankee lineup took that game off and the Giants came out on top. Andrews played one more year in New York and then spent the next seven in the minors trying to make it back to the big show. He never did.
Also born on this date was one of the first second baseman in New York Yankee history.
|NYY (4 yrs)||8||6||.571||3.12||41||10||22||6||1||2||156.0||156||69||54||8||51||47||1.327|
|SLB (3 yrs)||24||30||.444||4.29||129||58||42||23||0||5||543.2||618||288||259||36||168||127||1.446|
|BOS (2 yrs)||15||19||.441||4.38||59||36||12||13||0||1||281.2||301||172||137||12||114||67||1.473|
|CLE (1 yr)||3||4||.429||4.37||20||4||8||1||1||0||59.2||76||33||29||3||9||16||1.425|
If you think today’s sportswriters and bloggers can be overly critical of modern day ballplayers, you’re absolutely correct. But its nothing new. Take a look at some of the statements I uncovered about today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant in a July 21, 1916 New York Times account of a regular season game between the Yankees and the St Louis Browns: “None of the Yankees was injured yesterday up at the Polo Grounds yesterday but a misfortune came to them when Cliff Markle started to pitch against the St. Louis Browns…Markle seems to be about the only disappointing feature of this year’s Yankee ball club. All the other players have proved better than anyone expected except Markle…The only player who doesn’t seem to approve (of the Yankees being in first place) is Markle…whenever he starts to pitch the home plate simply disappears…As Markle pitched yesterday he had a far-away look, as if pondering where he was going to spend next summer’s vacation…Markle left (the game) with the bases loaded and no one was out when Manager Bill Donovan sent the pitcher word that the next train south left the elevated at 4:20 PM. He also told him if he hurried he might catch it.” Ouch! Imagine if Michael Kay used the above words to describe one of Ivan Nova’s recent starts.
A native of Dravosburg, PA, this right-hander actually attracted the attention of several big league teams after posting a 31-9 record for a Class C minor league team in the Virginia League in 1914, followed by a 19-11 season for a B team in Waco, Texas. He also got off to a strong start with New York, winning both of his decisions at the end of the Yankees’ 1915 season and his first three the following year. On May 6 of 1916,his ERA was a microscopic 1.39. That’s when the curtain started coming down on his big league career. He lost three of his next four decisions including the one described above. In fact, though at first I thought the Times sports reporter was just trying to be dramatically sarcastic, that start against the Brown’s was the last game Markle pitched in the big leagues for the next five years. But instead of taking the elevated train south, he headed north and finished the 1916 season pitching for an American Association League team in Toronto.
His next stop in the big leagues was with Cincinnati in 1921 and ’22 and then two years later he got a final chance with the Yanks but he couldn’t seem to get anyone out. That was his last year as a professional baseball player. He passed away in 1974 at the age of 80.
|NYY (3 yrs)||6||6||.500||4.60||21||12||4||5||1||0||92.0||85||55||47||6||57||33||1.543|
|CIN (2 yrs)||6||11||.353||3.79||35||9||19||7||1||0||142.2||150||77||60||3||53||57||1.423|
In Leigh Montville’s book about Babe Ruth entitled, The Big Bam, the author clearly makes the case that when Ruth first became a Yankee in 1920, he was one of the crudest, least mature and most undisciplined human beings to ever wear a big league uniform. He ignored all rules and authority of any kind, doing exactly as he pleased when he pleased. One of the rules he ignored was Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ prohibition of post season barnstorming by players who had participated in that year’s World Series. After the Yankees lost to the Giants in the 1921 World Series, Ruth, his Yankee outfield mate, Bob Meusel and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, pitcher Wild Bill Piercy joined a barnstorming team, flaunting the Commissioner’s edict.
Landis reacted quickly and harshly. He fined all three players the amount of money they had collected from their 1921 World Series share and also suspended them for the first month of the 1922 regular season. Ruth shrugged off the punishment because he had already become the highest paid player in the game. Meusel was angry but he too would go on to make good money and several more World Series checks in pinstripes. Piercy, on the other hand really got the short end of the stick. Even though he had shown promise as a pitcher by going 5-4 in 1921, Yankee manager Miller Huggins wanted to send a message to Ruth that his childlike behavior would have consequences. He quickly traded Piercy and a couple of other Ruth partying buddies to the Red Sox. The Sultan of Swat, however, hardly noticed his old teammates were missing and he quickly found new ones to pal around with. Meanwhile, Piercy went 16-33 as a Red Sox and was out of the big leagues for good by 1927.
Piercy shares his May 2nd birthday with a Yankee pitcher who’s religious beliefs prevented him from pitching on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons.
|BOS (3 yrs)||16||33||.327||4.48||82||54||18||21||1||0||429.2||489||269||214||11||201||95||1.606|
|NYY (2 yrs)||5||5||.500||2.98||15||11||3||6||1||0||90.2||91||43||30||4||30||39||1.335|
|CHC (1 yr)||6||5||.545||4.48||19||5||9||1||0||0||90.1||96||52||45||1||37||31||1.472|
Joking aside, Cole’s real first name was Leonard. He had become “King” in 1910 when, as a rookie with the Chicago Cubs he went 20-4 with a league-leading ERA of just 1.80. How special was that performance? Only 17 other Major League first-year pitchers have been able to win 20 games (Bob Grim, who went 20-6 in 1954, was the only Yankee rookie to do it) and only nine have compiled an ERA of less than two runs per game. He pitched the Cubs into the 1910 World Series and even though his team lost, Cole had gained national attention. This “Royal” rookie then went on to trash baseball’s sophomore jinx superstition by going 18-7 in his second season with the Cubbies.
Everything began to change for Cole during the 1912 season. He won just one of his first eight starts that season and he was getting shelled by every opposing lineup. The Cubs traded the former phee-nom to the Pirates but the change of scenery did not help and Cole found himself pitching in the minor leagues the following year. That seemed to be an elixir for the young right-hander’s career as he won 23 games for a team in Columbus and that effort attracted attention from a bunch of big league clubs, including the Yankees. New York ended up outbidding all other teams for Cole and he was headed to the Big Apple.
Cole appeared in 33 games for New York in 1914, including 15 starts and won ten of his nineteen decisions, including two shutouts. But Cole’s performance plummeted again in 1915 and the reason turned out to be a medical one. The pitcher was suffering from tuberculosis and then a cancerous tumor was found in his groin. The end came quick for the native of Toledo, IA. He died in January of 1916 at the age of 29.
This former Yankee reliever was also born on IRS tax deadline day.
|CHC (4 yrs)||40||13||.755||2.72||74||60||10||35||7||1||489.0||404||177||148||7||240||225||1.317|
|NYY (2 yrs)||12||12||.500||3.27||43||21||16||10||2||1||192.2||192||90||70||5||73||62||1.375|
|PIT (1 yr)||2||2||.500||6.43||12||5||6||2||0||0||49.0||61||42||35||1||18||11||1.612|
Whatever happened to the bullpen cars and golf carts that Major League teams use to use to transport relief pitchers from the home team’s bullpen to the pitching mound? The Yankees had a pinstriped Datsun making this trip for quite a while. I remember thinking how unneighborly it was to force the opposing team’s relievers to walk from their pen to the mound while providing air conditioned transport to the homie’s. Did the occupants of the car listen to the radio during these rides? What did the conversation between driver and pitcher consist of? You’d think teams would have been smart enough to have their bullpen coaches drive these vehicles so they could spend those last precious few moments discussing the best pitching strategies for the passenger to use with the hitters he was about to face. How many times did we see anxious relief pitchers waiting for their ride to show up alongside the bullpen? Where was the vehicle, out getting gas?
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant causes me to ponder an even more important historical question about the New York franchise’s use of bullpen vehicles. Bill Zuber became a Yankee pitcher in 1943, just as the exodus of Major League players to wartime service was peaking. The deal that brought this native of Iowa to the Bronx was decidedly one-sided. New York gave the Senators a very good second baseman named Jerry Priddy and a promising young pitcher named Milo Candini in exchange for Zuber and both had very strong first years for Washington in 1943.
Perhaps New York’s motivation for the deal was their certainty that their new acquisition would be around to pitch despite the conflicts going on in Europe and the Pacific at the time. The Yankees knew they could depend on having Zuber on their roster through the War’s end because he was a member of a religious group known as The Amana Church Society. Members of this group were against all wars and were granted conscientious objector status by the US Government. This Society also believed that it was a sin to make use of modern machinery like automobiles. So what would have happened if back in 1943, ’44 or ’45, when Zuber was putting together an 18-23 record for Joe McCarthy’s wartime Yankees as a starter and reliever, the Skipper summoned this big peace-loving right hander from the bullpen to pitch in a game and the Yankees were making use of a bullpen vehicle? Would Zuber have put himself in the passenger seat or would he instead have pointed to the sky, like Bobby Abreu used to do every time he got a base hit and proceed to walk the walk?
In any event, as you can see from the graphic accompanying this post, Zuber went into the restaurant business after his baseball career ended. He found away to merge his new business, his Yankee past and his religiosity by adorning the back page of his restaurant’s menu with his former Yankee Manager’s “Ten Commandments of Baseball.”
|CLE (4 yrs)||4||5||.444||5.69||50||3||25||1||0||1||98.0||113||70||62||5||68||47||1.847|
|NYY (4 yrs)||18||23||.439||3.88||66||40||13||16||1||2||357.2||332||167||154||12||187||169||1.451|
|WSH (2 yrs)||15||13||.536||4.52||73||14||38||4||1||3||223.0||225||129||112||10||143||115||1.650|
|BOS (2 yrs)||6||1||.857||3.86||35||8||14||2||1||0||107.1||97||52||46||8||70||52||1.556|