Results tagged ‘ pitcher ’
In 1970, I remember giving a trio of young Yankee pitchers the nickname “The Three K’s.” They were Steve Kline, Mike Kekich and Ron Klimkowski. Klimkowski was a Jersey City native who was born on March 1, 1944. He grew up a passionate Yankee fan but was signed by the Red Sox out of college. He realized his boyhood dream of becoming a Yankee when he was sent to New York as part of the 1967 trade that sent Ellie Howard to Beantown. After a brief call-up to the Bronx in 1969, the right hander became a permanent part of the Yankee staff the following season. Pitching mainly out of the bullpen with an occasional start, he won 6 of 13 decisions including a complete-game three hit shutout of Detroit and posted a 2.68 ERA in 98 innings of work.
Both Kline and Kekich were first-year starters on that same staff and both matched Klimkowski’s total of six wins. I considered Kline the most talented of the three. He won 28 games in pinstripes over the next two seasons with an ERA well under three runs per game, but pitched too many innings in the process. His arm and career faded quickly and he was out of the big leagues by 1975. Kekich also became a two-time double digit winner for New York, winning ten games in both 1971 and ’72. That’s when he swapped wives with teammate Fritz Peterson, pretty much ruining his career in the process.
After the 1970 season, New York sent Klimkowski to Oakland in their trade for Felipe Alou. The A’s released him after his 2-2, 2-save performance in 1971 and he rejoined the Yankees. When he could not recover from a 1973 spring-training knee injury, he was forced to retire. Klimkowski died in November of 2009 of heart failure at the young age of 55, after seeing his beloved Yankees win their 27th World Series.
Some Klimkowski uniform trivia: Klimkowski was assigned uniform number 51 during his 1969 rookie season. In 1970, he was given number 24. He then got traded to Oakland for Felipe Alou who also wore number 24 for the Yankees. When the A’s released Klimkowski and the Yankees re-signed him for a spell, he wore uniform number 22.
In the last three days, we’ve had two Pinstripe Birthday Celebrants who were born in Jersey City (Klimkowski & Willie Banks). Over the years, more Yankees have lived in New Jersey than any other state, especially during baseball season. Oddly, there have not been that many Bronx Bombers born in the Garden State. Here’s my top five list of Jersey-born Yankees:
1. Derek Jeter – Pequannock
2. Billy Johnson – Montclair
3. Jim Bouton – Newark
4. Rick Cerone – Newark
5. Elliott Maddox – East Orange
The phone rang and he let it ring one more time before picking it up. His family, friends and coaches who were gathered in his Sarasota, Florida living room that early June day in 1993 all fell silent and turned their attention to the expression on the face of the eighteen-year-old high school pitcher who was now holding the receiver tightly to his ear. As soon as they saw the huge grin break out across his face, every person in the room knew not only who was on the other end of that phone conversation but also what he had just said. The caller was Yankee scout Paul Turco, and he had just told the talented teenager that he had been selected with the Yankees first draft pick (13th overall) in Major League Baseball’s 1993 Amateur Draft.
The kids name was Matt Drews and right after he hung up the phone that day, his Dad, Ron Drews handed him a Yankee cap and told him it was his now. But unlike the brand new New Era team lids most modern day top picks get to place on their heads, the Yankee hat Matt’s Dad had handed him looked a bit aged and odd. That’s because at the time, that particular hat was close to a half-century old. It had been given originally to Matt’s grandfather by Joe DiMaggio as a gift for Matt’s Dad. Ron Drew’s Dad and Matt Drew’s Grandfather was former Yankee pitcher and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Karl Drews. In his rookie year of 1947, Karl had gone 6-6 for New York, appearing in 30 games for Yankee skipper Bucky Harris, including ten starts. Six years earlier, Karl was pitching for the Class C farm team that used to play in my hometown of Amsterdam, NY. He had signed with the Yankees in 1939 and was working his way up the minor league ladder when he was called into the military for service in WWII. That’s why he was already 27 years-old during his first full season in the big leagues.
Drews threw very hard but he had trouble finding the strike zone consistently. Still, Harris had enough faith in his rookie to use him twice in the 1947 World Series against Brooklyn. After his first appearance in Game 3 of that Fall Classic, the gracious DiMaggio walked up to him in the clubhouse after the game and handed him the Yankee cap, telling Drews to give it to his boy as a souvenir of his first World Series game.
DiMaggio would return to three more World Series as a Yankee before retiring but unfortuntely for Karl Drews, 1947 would be his one and only appearance in postseason play. The following season, the Yankees found themselves in a year-long and eventually unsuccessful battle with the Red Sox and Indians to defend their AL Pennant. Drews was actually pitching better baseball than he had the season before, walking fewer hitters and lowering his ERA by over a full run, to 3.79. That didn’t prevent the Yankees from selling Drews to the St. Louis Browns in early August of that 1948 season.
Now pitching for one of the worst teams in baseball, Drews went 4-12 for the Browns in 1949 and was sent back to the minors, where he broke his skull in a base path collision. He got back to the big leagues with the Phillies in 1951 and had his best big league season a year later, as a member of Philadelphia’s starting rotation. He went 14-15 with a sparkling 2.72 ERA and threw 5 shutouts. He would last two more years in the big leagues and then settled with his family in Hollywood, Florida. On August 15th, 1963, he was taking his daughter to swimming practice when his car stalled on a Florida highway. When he got out of the disabled vehicle and attempted to wave a passing car down, the drunken driver of the car plowed into Drews and killed him instantly. He was just 43 years old at the time of his death and he would never get to meet his grandson Matt.
Unlike his grandfather, Matt Drews never made it to the mound of Yankee Stadium. His career started out well, as he went 22-13 during his first two seasons in the lowest levels of New York’s farm system, but during the next five he was 16-58. He left baseball after the 2000 season.
Due to an eye ailment, Walter “Monk” Dubiel was not considered healthy enough to serve in WWII and with a sore hip and chronically aching back, there were times he was just barely healthy enough to pitch for the Yankees. New York signed this native of Hartford, Connecticut in 1941 and he spent the next four seasons moving up the organization’s farm system. By 1944, most of the front-line big league pitchers were in the military and Dubiel, who had gone 16-9 for the Yankees’ double A affiliate in Newark the year before, was ready to make his debut in the Bronx. The six foot tall right-hander went 13-13 in his rookie year, threw three shutouts and posted a very respectable ERA of 3.38. But he also pitched 232 innings for Manager Joe McCarthy’s third place ball club, which was fifty more than he had ever pitched in a single season in the minors. He couldn’t match that workload in his sophomore season in pinstripes and his ERA in 1945 climbed to 4.64, but he did manage to post a 10-9 record, which would turn out to be his only winning season as a big league pitcher.
Since the war had ended, all of the Yankee pitchers who had served in the armed forces returned en-masse to New York’s 1946 spring training camp. Dubiel couldn’t make the cut and he was sent back to Newark by McCarthy. Accompanying him to the minor league club that spring was a short stumpy Yankee catcher by the name of Lawrence Berra. Yogi would end up back in pinstripes one day but Monk never did.
In 1947, he became the property of the pitching poor Philadelphia Phillies via the Rule 5 Draft, which eased his path back to the big leagues. He went 8-10 for Philadelphia in 1948, with 2 shutouts and 4 saves. That December he was traded to the Cubs. He would pitch the next three seasons and a tiny part of a fourth in the Windy City and then return to the minors for good. He ended his seven-year career as a Major League pitcher with a 45-53 record and an ERA of 3.87 with 11 saves and 9 shutouts.
Dubiel wore uniform number 14 with New York. Here are my picks for the top five number “14′s” in Yankee history:
One could sum up today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant’s career with three words, “strange but interesting.” It started out late but promising. Though this right-handed hurler never played an inning of minor league ball, he was already 28-years-old when he signed with the Yankees in 1924. Up until then, he had been playing semi-pro baseball for a company-sponsored team back in his native New Jersey. Such teams were common throughout the country during much of the first half of the 20th century and the competition was certainly, in many cases, minor-league quality. In fact, Gaston’s semi-pro team regularly played exhibition games versus Major League clubs and through the years, he had offers from several of them to pitch for their organizations. But it wasn’t until the Yankees offered him a contract that he decided to make the move.
That happened in 1924. Gaston joined a Yankee team that had won the franchise’s first World Series the year before. Miller Huggins was his manager and a fellow rookie, Lou Gehrig, his first big league roommate. Huggins liked Gaston a lot and got him into 29 games during his rookie season, mostly as a reliever. In fact, he won his first four straight big league decisions coming out of the bullpen, before Huggins gave him a chance to start. Gaston’s signature pitch was a fork ball that moved so much, there were times he had no idea where the ball was going. As a result, he would often walk an awful lot of hitters, and in his first ever big league start, he issued eight bases on balls against the St. Louis Browns in six-plus innings and suffered his first loss. But all-in-all, his rookie season had been a success. He finished it with a 5-3 record and a save, a budding friendship with the Iron Horse, plus Huggins liked his stuff. Gaston was certainly in a good place to be with his baseball career. But not for long.
The 1924 Yankees had failed to make it back to the World Series for the first time in three years, and New York owner Jacob Rupert, who was George Steinbrenner before George Steinbrenner was even born, wanted better pitching. He heard the St. Louis Browns wanted to trade their four-time 20-game winner, Urban Shocker and he went after him hard. The deal between the two teams was reached a week before Christmas in 1924. The Yanks sent Gaston, starting pitcher Bullet Joe Bush and another pitcher named Joe Giard to the Browns for Shocker. When Huggins told Gaston he had been traded, the Yankee manager also told the departing pitcher he hated to lose him.
Thus, Gaston’s pinstriped career ended but he would go on to establish a few unusual Major League firsts. He holds the record for giving up the most hits in a shutout, 14. He also owns the record for taking part in the most double plays as a pitcher in a single game, 4. Though he was teammates with 17 different future Hall of Famers during his eleven-year career, they all must have been in hitting slumps on the days Gaston pitched because his career record was 97-164, which gives him the record for most games below the .500 mark for pitchers with at least 100 decisions. In addition to the Yankees and Browns, he also pitched for the White Sox, Senators and Red Sox, and while with Boston, he got the opportunity to pitch to his older brother, catcher Alex Gaston, during the 1929 season. Milt Gaston kept setting records after he retired in 1934. He became the only former player with at least ten years of service to live to 100. He died in his sleep in a Massachusetts nursing home in 1996.
He was considered the best pitcher in the history of Clarkson University, a small engineering school in northwestern New York State. Born in Rome, New York in 1918, his real first name was Emerson but his Clarkson coach started calling him “Steve” instead because it was easier to both say and remember. Roser had a choice to make in 1940. He could either finish his senior year at Clarkson or sign a contract with the Yankees. He signed the contract and spent the next four years pitching his way up New York’s minor league ladder.
Joe McCarthy put him on the parent club’s roster for the first time in 1944, and Roser pitched well enough to stick around the entire season. His big league debut came on May 5th of that year against the Red Sox. He relieved starter Atley Donald in the top of the fifth inning with the score tied and finished the game, which the Yankees won, earning him his first career victory. He got his first career start two months later and earned a complete game 8-2 win over the Tigers. He would finish that first season with a 4-3 record and one save and he earned good marks from McCarthy who kept Roser on the roster the following season.
In 1946, his slow start combined with the mass return of Yankee pitching talent from military service in World War II got the right-hander sold to the Boston Braves in early May. He pitched OK but sparingly in Beantown for a few weeks and then spent the second half of the season with the Braves triple A team in Indianapolis. Despite a good record in Indy, he failed to make the Braves roster the following spring and when he pitched poorly during the 1947 season in the minors, he quit the game for good. Roser returned to upstate New York where he and his wife opened a sporting goods store and a restaurant. Roser passed away in 2002.
One of the amazing things about the on-the-field dominance of the Yankee teams during the late nineties was the fact that off-the-field, the franchise’s player personnel decision making process was in disarray. I like to call the reason for that disarray “the Boss’s Tale of Two Cities.” The ball club George Steinbrenner owned played in New York but he lived and made his base of operations in Tampa, Florida. The Yankee GM and Manager were based in the Big Apple while the team’s administrative personnel, including Steinbrenner’s unofficial cabinet of baseball advisors operated out of the central Florida city. The eccentric Yankee owner loved to create conflict among his upper-echelon staff because he felt it fostered a competition to out-do each other and keep everyone in line. But if you asked Brian Cashman and Joe Torre if they enjoyed fighting every Yankee player move with a bunch of George’s yes men located 1,500 miles away, you’d have received a much different opinion.
A classic example of this two-headed management battle is today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, pitcher Jeff Juden. A 1989 first round draft pick of the Houston Astros, the 6 foot 8 inch, 265 pound right-hander had pitched for seven different teams during his first seven big league seasons. One of the reasons this Salem, Massachusetts native was hiring moving vans every season was because he was purportedly not a nice guy. Prior to him signing as a free agent with the Yankees in February of 1999, Juden had a long history of not getting along with opponents on the field or teammates in his own clubhouse. It has been alleged that when Juden was pitching for Montreal in 1996, some Expo players actually told management they would no longer play if Juden wasn’t banished from the team. The Expos got rid of him, even though he had an 11-5 record at the time. But as George Steinbrenner’s on-again, off-again love affair with the cantankerous Billy Martin had proven, the Boss had a special place in his heart for fight-loving trouble-makers and the Yankees signed Juden.
The pitcher was assigned to New York’s triple A Columbus affiliate to begin the 1999 season. Sure enough, he got into trouble in his new clubhouse almost immediately in an incident with Clipper teammate, Andy Stankiewicz. His on-the-field performance was nothing to write home about either. In 26 starts with Columbus, he was 11-12 with a 5.56 ERA. Despite it all, Juden was promoted to the big league roster that September, with the Yanks still battling the Red Sox for the AL East flag. It became apparent to the Yankee press pool that the huge hurler’s ascension had been the decision of the Tampa-side of Yankee management, when Torre responded to their questions about the new arrival by telling reporters he didn’t know why the pitcher was there because neither he or Yankee M Cashman had requested him.
Juden’s only start as a Yankee was ruined by an error by first baseman Jim Leyritz that led to five unearned runs and an 0-1 lifetime Yankee record for the controversial pitcher. Ironically, the Tampa committee had convinced Steinbrenner the Yankees should reacquire Leyritz earlier that same season over the objections of both Torre and Cashman. The Tampa connection brought Juden back for spring training the following season but it was no surprise to any one that Torre chose to go north without him. The Yankees released him and after a few more years of trying to regain his form and control his temper in the minors, he retired with a 27-32 lifetime record.
The only other Yankee born on this date is this long-ago outfielder.
UPDATE: Phase 1 of the Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda trade aftermath is over and the Mariners have taken the advantage. The two players they got in the deal, Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi at least both played for the Mariners last year, albeit not as well as Seattle hoped either would. Noesi had eighteen starts for his new team, going 2-12 with an ERA in the five’s and getting demoted to Tacoma for most of the second half of the season. Montero averaged .260 for Seattle in his official rookie season, with 15 home runs, 62 RBIs and an .OPS of just .685. Seattle’s Safeco Field has proven to be a tough park for home run hitters and the Mariners have decided to move the fences in for the 2013 season. I have no doubt Montero’s power production would have been significantly better if he spent his full rookie campaign in the comfortable confines of Yankee Stadium, especially with the way this kid showed Yankee fans he could punch opposite field drives over that short right field wall in the Bronx during his September 2011 debut. The real problem with Montero is that it looks like he may not have the ability to become a decent big league catcher, defensively. The Mariners were not happy with his game management skills or his arm and he spent most of his first regular season in the northwest DH-ing.
Meanwhile, Pineda never made it out of the Yankees’ 2012 spring training camp. First he reported overweight and then he had nothing but trouble trying to get his highly touted fastball to travel even 90 miles per hour. It was almost with relief that the Yankees announced he had a physical problem with his throwing shoulder and sure enough, doctors discovered a torn labrum muscle, which required season-ending surgery. The key concern I now have about Pineda is his maturity level. He turns just 24-years-old today. Has he figured out how to take care of his huge 6 foot 7 inch body and especially that golden right arm or will he just let nature take its course? Unfortunately, a warning signal occurred this past August when police arrested Pineda in the wee hours of the morning for driving recklessly and at high speeds. He was charged with DUI. Where was he at the time? In Tampa, where he was supposed to be working out and rehabbing his shoulder. Meanwhile, not quite a week after Pineda was sidelined, Jose Campos, the well-regarded minor league pitcher the Yanks acquired with Pineda, also went on the DL of his Class A minor league team with an arm injury that pretty much ended his season.
Let’s hope Phase 2 of the Pineda/Montero swap delivers better results for the Yankees. Here’s what I wrote for Pineda’s Birthday post last year:
When President Franklin Roosevelt died, his wife Eleanor met with his just sworn in successor and asked him how he was doing. Harry Truman, referring to the intense pressure he felt at being thrust unexpectedly into the world’s most important job during a time of world war, told the former first lady it was as if the sun and the moon and all the planets and stars had just fallen on him.
I’m hoping Michael Pineda doesn’t feel like old “Give em Hell Harry” did on that fateful day. A few days ago, he was the bright young pitching star of the struggling Seattle Mariners, coming off a very decent rookie season. Then suddenly, he found himself thrust into the number two spot of the New York Yankee starting rotation and the expectations on his right arm increased a thousand fold. If he finishes the 2012 regular season with the same record (9-10) that he put up for Seattle in 2011, he might very well get booed out of Yankee Stadium.
All indications are that this youngster is the real deal. “Nasty” seems to be the adjective used most when players who’ve had to hit against him, describe this native Dominican’s stuff. I can’t help remembering Derek Jeter using the same adjective in an interview a few years ago to describe the stuff of another just-acquired-Yankee pitcher named AJ Burnett.
I got my fingers crossed for Pineda (and the young minor league pitcher named Jose Campos who the Yankees also picked up in the same trade.) I was really pretty pumped about seeing Jesus Montero get a full season of at bats in pinstripes but now that is not going to happen. Instead, I can’t wait to see Pineda get that first start in April.
The only other Yankee I could find who was born on this date was also the last Yankee to wear number 5 before Joe DiMaggio.
I began paying attention to the White Sox starting pitching rotation right around 1980. That was the season a former Yankee minor league phee-nom named Lamarr Hoyt made his first big league start for Chicago and went an impressive 9-3 in his rookie year. The Yankees had included Hoyt in the package of players they used to acquire shortstop Bucky Dent from the White Sox three seasons earlier and I had kept an eye on Hoyt’s progress ever since.
The Chicago rotation Hoyt joined that season included some very good young pitchers headed by 21-year-old Britt Burns, who led the staff with 15 victories that season. Hoyt and Burns were joined by 22-year-old left-hander Steve Trout and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Rich Dotson. Dotson was a 21-year-old rookie at the time, who finished the year with an impressive 12-10 record. Back then, the Yankee rotation by contrast was ancient but still effective, with 39-year-old Luis Tiant, 37-year-old Tommy John and 35-year-old Rudy May helping 29-year-old Ron Guidry win the AL East. Yankee fans like me couldn’t help but notice the young guns being assembled in the Windy City and wish our favorite team was as well-stocked with fresh young arms.
Dotson had a superb start to his sophomore year. By June 9th of the ’81 season, the young right-hander was 7-3 and four of those seven victories were complete game shutouts. Two days later the season stopped when players went on strike. The disruption clearly bothered Dotson, who went just 2-5 during the second half of the split season.
The Cincinnati native would reach his apex as a pro two years later when he went 22-7 to help lead the White Sox to an AL West Division flag. It looked as if he was on his way to becoming one of baseball’s premier right-handed pitchers after he started the ’84 season with 11 wins in his first 15 decisions and made the All Star team. But he fell apart in the second half of that year and the White Sox collapsed in the standings. A circulatory problem was later discovered in Dotson’s throwing shoulder and it limited him to just nine starts in 1985. After two more losing seasons in Chicago, he was traded to the Yankees in November of 1987, for outfielder Dan Pasqua.
Ironically, both Steve Trout and Britt Burns had preceded their former pitching mate to the Bronx in earlier deals and both had failed miserably. Dotson fared better in pinstripes than both of them, winning 12 games for New York in 1988, but his ERA hit five and the Yankees finished in a disappointing fifth place in the AL East. When he continued to struggle the following year, new Yankee manager Dallas Green demoted Dotson to the bullpen and a few weeks later, the pitcher was given his unconditional release. He retired after the 1990 season with a lifetime record of 111-113.
Dotson shares his January 10th birthday with this long-ago Yankee starting second baseman.
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.”