Results tagged ‘ pitcher ’
Yankee fans will need a long and good memory to remember when today’s birthday celebrant played in pinstripes. In fact, many of you may have a tough time remembering Gene Nelson at all, even though he was a very steady big league reliever for a dozen seasons with Seattle, the White Sox and Oakland, retiring after the 1993 season. But before Nelson went to the bullpen, he was a 20-year-old Yankee starting pitcher prospect, who found himself inserted into Gene Michael’s starting rotation in May of the Yankee’s strike-split 1981 season. He did better than OK. In seven starts, he won three of his four decisions, including a strong eight and a third inning effort against the Orioles on June 4th that would prove to be his last victory as a Yankee. One week later, Major League Baseball players went on strike.
When the work stoppage ended seven weeks later, Nelson was still a Yankee but Bob Lemon had replaced Michael as Yankee manager and the relationships between MLB owners and the players had been severely damaged. Lemon left his young right-hander off the Yankees’ postseason roster that year and just before the 1982 season got under way, the Yankees traded Nelson to the Mariners in the deal that brought starting pitcher Shane Rawley to the Bronx.
Nelson was born in Tampa, FL. His lifetime big league won-loss record was 53-64 and he had 28 career saves. The highlight of his career was the 1988 ALCS, when he got two of Oakland’s three victories, as the A’s beat Boston in four games. He also won a ring with Oakland in 1988. He shares his December 3rd birthday with this former Yankee first baseman and this one-time Yankee outfielder.
For the second day in a row, we celebrate the birthday of a Yankee that few Yankee fans have ever heard of. James Donald Breslin was born in Augusta, Maine on December 2, 1903. After a great collegiate pitching career at Georgetown University, he began his Minor League career in 1926 by going 11-5 with the Lewiston Twins of the B-level New England League. In 1932, he went 26-8 for the Newark Bears, who were the Yankee’s International League affiliate at the time.
That was good enough to give him a trial with the parent club the following season. Brennan became the fifth starter for Manager Joe McCarthy’s 1933 Yankees in a rotation that included two future Hall of Famers Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez plus Johnny Allen and Russ Van Atta. Brennan got ten starts that year and won five of six decisions. McCarthy also used him out of the bullpen in eight additional games and the right- hander stuck around to finish six of those contests and earn three saves.
That first-year performance caught the attention of the Cincinnati Reds who made an offer to purchase Brennan in March of 1935 that the Yankees did not refuse. He then became a busy, somewhat effective member of Cincinnati’s bullpen for the next three plus seasons. After a short stint with the Giants in 1937, his big league career was over. Brennan does hold a Major League record. His 21 career victories are the most ever for any pitcher born in Augusta, Maine. Of course, Brennan is the only big league pitcher to be born in Augusta and is the only Yankee to be born on today’s date.
December 1 in general is not a very noteworthy date for baseball birthdays of any kind. The only member of Baseball’s Hall-of-Fame born on this date, played in just 1 big league game, but he managed in 3,658 of them and won four World Series rings. That would be Walter Alston, who managed the Dodgers for 23 years and beat the Yankees in two of those Fall Classics (1955 and 1963.) The greatest all-around big league player born on this date would probably be former Expo and Rockies outfielder, Larry Walker, who retired in 2005 with a .313 lifetime average and 383 home runs.
The only member of the Yankee all-time roster who celebrates his birthday on December 1 is a former pitcher named Cecil Perkins. You’ve never heard of him because his entire big league and Yankee career consisted of two appearances during the 1967 season. The first was as a starter against the Twins on July 5th of that year. Perkins lasted just three innings, giving up five runs and five hits and getting the loss in a 10-4 Minnesota victory. Former Yankee announcer, Jim Kaat, got the complete game win for the Twins that day. Perkins gave up his first big league hit, a triple to Rod Carew in the first inning. Later in the game, Minnesota third baseman Rich Reese hit what would become the only big league home run ever given up by the right hander. That loss extended a Yankee losing streak to five games. Three days later, Yankee Manager Ralph Houk inserted Perkins in the sixth inning of a game against the Orioles, in Baltimore. The Yankees were trailing 8-3 at the time and Perkins pitched two inning of one-hit, shutout ball, including a strikeout of the great Oriole reliever, Moe Drabowsky, which turned out to be Perkins only big league career K. He was then sent back down to Syracuse for the balance of the 1967 season and was gone from baseball for good after the following season.
Perkins was born in Baltimore in 1940. Other former Yankees born in Baltimore include; Phil Linz, Jeff Nelson, Tommy Byrne, Ron Swoboda and the Big Bam, Babe Ruth.
In the late eighties, the Yankee starting rotation included promising prospects, Doug Drabek and Bob Tewksbury. Although scouts predicted both would become solid Major League starters, the ever impatient George Steinbrenner dealt them both. Drabek went on to win a Cy Young Award with the Pirates and Bob Tewksbury, who was born on today’s date in 1960, in Concord, NH, won 66 games during a five-season span with the Cardinals. “Tewks” is now a sports psychologist working for the Boston Red Sox. He had a chronically sore pitching arm throughout his big league career forcing him to experiment with different pitches and deliveries that he could use without stressing his right arm. These experiments included an eephus pitch he threw twice to Mark McGuire in a 1997, getting the slugger out each time.
Today also happens to be the birthday of another Yankee pitcher who used the eephus pitch successfully during his career.
I love writing this blog because I learn such interesting things about players who wore the pinstripes. Take today’s birthday celebrant as an example. I very clearly remember when Larry Gowell made his debut with the Yankees way back in 1972. He was considered a very good prospect at the time but he had one serious handicap. He was a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and as such, it was against his religious beliefs to work from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. This meant he could not and did not pitch in any baseball games on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon. Still, his slider was good enough to get him promoted to the Yankees for a cup-of-coffee look see in September of 1972. He would appear in just two games as a Yankee and as a big leaguer, yet he still became part of baseball history.
His first big league appearance was a hitless two-inning relief stint against the Milwaukee Brewers. Two weeks later, Yankee manager Ralph Houk gave the Lewiston, Maine-born right hander his first and only big league start against that same Brewer team. Although Gowell took the loss, he made MLB history when he hit a third inning ground ball double off of Milwaukee’s Jim Lonborg. That hit turned out to be the very last hit by an American League pitcher before the League’s new designated hitter rule went into affect.
Gowell would spend the next two seasons in Syracuse pitching for the Yankees’ triple A franchise. He left baseball after the 1974 season. During my research for this post, I found a reference to Gowell in a book about offshore insurance schemes of all things. Robert Tillman, author of the book alleges that in 1996, Gowell sold a worthless $100,000 promissory note on behalf of a company called Legends Sports, that was supposedly constructing a string of golf courses and entertainment centers in the southeastern United States. The note was supposed to pay the purchaser a twelve percent annual interest but instead, proved to be worthless when it was discovered that the owners of Legends Sports were operating a Ponzi scheme. I wonder if Gowell made the sale of that bond on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon. I hope not because according to his religion, that would have been a sin.
Gowell shares his May 2nd birthday with a Yankee pitcher who got in trouble when he barnstormed with Babe Ruth.
Long before Karaoke made its way from Japan to our shores, big league pitcher Mickey McDermott loved to sing in bars. Perhaps the biggest reason he loved to sing in bars was because he had to be in a bar in order to do it which meant he could drink and if their was one thing old Mickey liked to do in bars more than sing in them, it was drink in them. Born in Poughkeepsie, NY on April 29, 1929 and raised in New Jersey, his full name was Maurice Joseph McDermott. Big league scouts drooled over his fastball and the Red Sox won the race to sign him by doing so when he was just fifteen years-old. His shifty father actually forged a birth certificate that claimed his talented son was 18 years old. The elder McDermott than pocketed $5,000 of his son’s bonus money. Mickey made his big league debut for Boston when he was just 19 and by 1949 he was splitting his time between the team’s starting rotation and its bullpen.
I’ve found testimony from great big league hitters like Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams that indicate this guy could be very impressive on the mound. He showed many moments of brilliance in his early career and seemed to be putting it all together in 1952 when he went 10-9 in Beantown and then followed that up with an 18-10 1953 season that included 4 shutouts. Making him even more valuable was the fact that he was an extremely gifted hitter who averaged .252 lifetime and was frequently used as a pinch hitter.
McDermott’s achille’s heel was his desire to party, which is what made Tom Yawkey’s decision to approve trading him after his great 1953 season an easy one. It turned out to be one of the best deals Boston ever made because in return for McDermott, they got a gifted, ex-Yankee outfielder from Washington by the name of Jackie Jensen. By 1958, Jensen would become an AL MVP winner and McDermott would find himself pitching back in the Minor Leagues.
Mickey would start for the lowly Senators for two seasons, compiling a 17-25 record in our Nation’s capital. The Yankees then acquired him in a seven player trade in February of 1956. New York had just lost the 1955 Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers and Yankee GM George Weiss and Manager Casey Stengel both knew the team needed to get some pitching. Weiss and Stengel had been the beneficiaries of one of the greatest starting rotations in the club’s history when Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat and then Whitey Ford had pitched the team to five straight World Series wins between 1949 and ’53. With Reynolds, Raschi and Lopat now all gone from the team, Weiss knew he had to replace them with quality arms but the thrifty GM was determined to do so as cheaply as possible. That was his goal when he agreed to send a five player package of Yankee subs and prospects to the Senators for McDermott, figuring that lot’s of mediocre bodies for one quality pitcher would end up being a steal. Weiss thought the vaunted Yankee offense combined with McDermott’s talent would make him a big winner in New York. Instead, even though none of the five players the Yankees gave up became stars in Washington, the Senators still were the big winners in the McDermott deal.
That’s because instead of taking advantage of New York’s powerful lineup when he got to the Big Apple, Mickey McDermott took advantage of the City’s vibrant night life. He would finish 2-6 during his only season in pinstripes and then become part of a thirteen player deal with the A’s in February of 1957 that brought Clete Boyer to New York. McDermott did get a chance to pitch in his only World Series as a Yankee and Stengel let him take an at bat in that 1956 Fall Classic as well. Mickey uncharacteristically took advantage of an opportunity by singling in the eighth inning of Game 2 so that he finished his career with a 1.000 postseason average.
McDermott was out of the big leagues for good by 1962 and back in the minors, where he continued his hard-partying lifestyle. After hanging up his glove for good, his self-destructive ways continued. Ironically, his old drinking buddy with the Yankees, Billy Martin hired Mickey as a coach for the Oakland A’s but both were fired in 1982. McDermott then became a player agent until his affinity for alcohol ruined that career too. He hit rock bottom in 1991, when he was sent to jail for multiple DWI offenses. That’s when he became sober. That same year, he and his wife hit the Arizona Lottery for $7 million.
McDermott decided to chronicle his crazy life in a book. He did so in his well received autobiography “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cooperstown,” which was published in 2003. He died of cancer at the age of 73, just as his book went on sale.
|BOS (6 yrs)||48||34||.585||3.80||153||97||36||34||9||8||773.2||647||359||327||47||504||499||1.488|
|WSH (2 yrs)||17||25||.405||3.58||61||46||11||19||2||2||352.1||312||170||140||17||210||173||1.482|
|KCA (2 yrs)||1||4||.200||6.15||33||4||15||0||0||0||74.2||82||59||51||9||60||32||1.902|
|STL (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||3.67||19||0||13||0||0||4||27.0||29||17||11||3||15||15||1.630|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||6||.250||4.24||23||9||11||1||0||0||87.0||85||46||41||10||47||38||1.517|
|DET (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||2||0||0||0||0||0||2.0||6||4||2||0||2||0||4.000|
At one time, Virgil Trucks was one of the premier pitchers in the American League. The right-hander from Birmingham, AL won 177 big league games during his seventeen season career that began with the Tigers in 1941 and he’s one of just four pitchers to have thrown two no-hitters in the same season. The others are Johnny Vander Meer, Allie Reynolds and Nolan Ryan.
By the time he joined the Yankees however, just minutes before the 1958 regular season trading deadline, Trucks was 41 years old and his best days were behind him. The Yankees got the veteran pitcher and reliever Duke Maas from the A’s for outfielder Harry Simpson and pitcher Bob Grim.
Trucks would appear in 25 games for Casey Stengel’s AL Pennant winners during the second half of the ’58 season, finishing his brief Yankee career with a 2-1 record and a single save. Though he was left off of the team’s World Series roster, his Yankee teammates still voted him a full $8,759.10 winners’ share after they knocked off the Braves in that year’s Fall Classic.
Trucks never again played a big league ball game. He did stay in the game as a coach for the Pirates and then a scout for the Tigers, retiring in 1990. He turns 95 years-old today and is currently the oldest ex-Yankee still living. Update: Trucks passed away on March 23, 2013 in Alabama.
|DET (12 yrs)||114||96||.543||3.50||316||229||53||84||20||13||1800.2||1618||786||700||123||732||1046||1.305|
|CHW (3 yrs)||47||26||.644||3.14||96||80||10||36||11||4||616.0||551||225||215||46||223||345||1.256|
|KCA (2 yrs)||9||8||.529||2.87||64||7||35||0||0||10||138.0||124||52||44||14||77||70||1.457|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||1||.667||4.54||25||0||13||0||0||1||39.2||40||24||20||1||24||26||1.613|
|SLB (1 yr)||5||4||.556||3.07||16||12||2||4||2||2||88.0||83||37||30||4||32||47||1.307|
I do remember getting pretty excited when New York acquired this veteran right-hander from the Dodgers after their 2003 World Series defeat to the Marlins. They had to give up Jeff Weaver to get him but Weaver had been unimpressive in pinstripes. New York also had to pay Brown’s salary of $15 million per year but the Yankees had the cash.
Brown’s initial season as a Yankee was filled with disappointments. First, his chronically sore back prevented him from pitching well over an extended string of starts. Next, a frustrated Brown injured his hand punching a concrete wall, angering his teammates. Finally, Brown pitched terribly in the seventh and deciding game of the disastrous 2004 ALCS against the Red Sox, sealing his reputation as a disappointment with Yankee fans. He then went 4-7 in 2005 and retired with a career record of 211-144.
With a reputation as a flake and a substance abuser, Ellis came to the Bronx in the same trade that made Willie Randolph a Yankee and Doc Medich a Pirate. At first, I didn’t like the deal because I was a pretty big Medich fan and thought the Yankees could win with Sandy Alomar Sr. as their starting second baseman. It only took me about a month of watching Randolph play to realize how great a deal it was for New York, even if Ellis had never pitched a single inning in Pinstripes. But Dock ended up pitching 217 of them for New York that year, winning 17 games and helping the Yankees capture the 1976 AL Championship.
The Yankees traded Ellis to Oakland right after the 1977 season opened in the deal that put Mike Torrez in pinstripes. Dock was then sold to the Rangers in June of that same season. The flighty right hander later pitched for the Mets before ending his career as a Pirate, in 1979. Lifetime, Ellis won 138 games. Dock was one of those rare big league pitchers who could hit from both sides of the plate. He was born in LA on March 11, 1945. He died in December of 2008, a victim of cirrhosis.
I’ve never read Ball Four. That surprises me because I’ve been reading about two books per month for the past forty years of my life and that includes just about every commercially successful piece of baseball non-fiction published during that time. For some reason, however, I’ve yet to read Jim Bouton’s classic about his life in baseball.
The Bulldog made a lot of money from that book, much more than he ever made on a pitching mound, but the experience has also cost him dearly. He was immediately ostracized by his former Yankee teammates for breaking the old cardinal rule of keeping what happens in the locker room inside the locker room. In Ball Four, Bouton evidently confirms that some pro ballplayers cheat on their wives, gamble too much, have huge egos, and serious substance abuse problems. The truth was that you could substitute just about any other occupation on earth for the word “ballplayers” in the previous sentence and write a book about it and no one would be shocked.
I may not have read Bouton’s book but I did see him pitch for the Yankees. He put absolutely every ounce of strength he had into every pitch he threw. In 1963, he was one of the best pitchers in either league. He won 21 games, threw six shutouts and had an ERA of 2.53. He then pitched brilliantly in game 3 of the that year’s World Series against Los Angeles, giving up just one run in the first inning, but the Dodgers’ Don Drysdale was even more brilliant that day.
By 1964 the strain on Bouton’s right arm was beginning to take its toll but he still won 18 times during the regular season and two more times against the Cardinals as the Yankees dropped their second straight World Series. The problem with Bouton’s delivery was that he threw as hard as he could across his body which put a tremendous amount of stress on his arm. After throwing 520 innings the previous two seasons, Bouton’s arm broke down in 1965 and he was never again the same pitcher.