Results tagged ‘ relief pitcher ’
It became clear after the Yankees won the 2009 World Series that the team’s front-office was not going to continue it’s free-spending ways. Even though it was their lack of a budget that permitted Brian Cashman to go out and get CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett the previous year, the Yankee GM was now ready to prove he could play money ball too.
One of Cashman’s first moves after the Bronx Bombers won their 27th World title was to make the Curtis Granderson deal. Every time someone asked him about the trade, he kept reminding the interviewer that Granderson was signed for three years at the relatively minuscule total amount of $17 million. He also wanted to prove that he had been right about Javier Vasquez all along so he put the one-time Yankee disappointment back in pinstripes for just $11.5 million and a one-year deal.
Cashman’s other discount moves that off season included signing Randi Winn and bringing back Nick Johnson as value-based free agents and acquiring today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant to shore up the Yankee bullpen or possibly even the team’s starting rotation. When announcing Chan Ho Park’s free agent signing on February 28,2010, Cashman couldn’t resist reminding reporters that for just $1.2 million, the Yankees were getting the services of the 16-year veteran for less than half of what he had earned in Philadelphia the previous season.
Park’s best years had been as a starter for the Dodgers, for whom he had won 84 games between 1996 and 2001. He then got a huge 5-year, $65 million contract as a free agent with Texas in January of 2002 and proceeded to earn hardly any of it, becoming one of the Rangers’ biggest free agent busts ever. He went to the bullpen full time in 2008 and had just held the Yankees scoreless in four relief appearances against them in the 2009 World Series. Joe Girardi was hoping Park would become one of his most dependable late-inning bridges to Mariano. That didn’t happen.
After 27 appearances for New York, Park’s ERA was 5.60 and the native of South Korea was simply not getting the big outs the Yankees needed him to get. Winn, Johnson and Vasquez also didn’t work out for Cashman. By August, Park was put on waivers and Cashman made a great deal with Cleveland to get Kerry Wood to replace him.
Parks was picked up by the Pirates and finished the 2010 season in Pittsburgh. That turned out to be his final year in the big leagues. Park shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee third baseman, this hero of the 1969 World Series, and Derek Jeter’s predecessor as the Yankees’ starting shortstop.
|LAD (9 yrs)||84||58||.592||3.77||275||181||20||9||2||2||1279.0||1098||589||536||136||596||1177||1.324|
|TEX (4 yrs)||22||23||.489||5.79||68||68||0||0||0||0||380.2||423||254||245||55||190||280||1.610|
|SDP (2 yrs)||11||10||.524||5.08||34||30||0||1||1||0||182.1||196||114||103||23||70||129||1.459|
|NYM (1 yr)||0||1||.000||15.75||1||1||0||0||0||0||4.0||6||7||7||2||2||4||2.000|
|PIT (1 yr)||2||2||.500||3.49||26||0||11||0||0||0||28.1||25||14||11||2||7||23||1.129|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||1||.667||5.60||27||0||15||0||0||0||35.1||40||25||22||7||12||29||1.472|
|PHI (1 yr)||3||3||.500||4.43||45||7||6||0||0||0||83.1||84||43||41||5||33||73||1.404|
This 6’3″ right-hander made his big league debut in 1959, as a member of the Yankee bullpen. He lost all three of his decisions but picked up two saves in his 16 appearances that season. He was sent back down to the minors in July of that season and the next time he pitched in the Majors was as a member of the Senators’ 1963 staff.
As I researched Bronstad’s career, I came across newspaper articles from the winter and spring of 1960 that talked about how the Yankees were really expecting this guy to make their big league roster that season. Then I came across a list of Yankee “prospects” who had been invited to the team’s 1960 spring training camp.The pitchers on that list were Bronstad, Bill Bethell, Tom Burrell, Frank Carpin, Ed Dick, Mark Freeman, John Gabler, George Haney, Johnny James, Billy Short, Bill Stafford, Hal Stowe and Don Thompson. Fritz Brickell was the only infield prospect invited to that camp and there were two catchers brought in by the names of Dan Bishop and Joe Miller. The outfielder invitees were Kent Hunt, Deron Johnson, Don Lock, Jack Reed and Roy Thomas. Of these 21 youngsters, only Stafford would end up making what I considered to be a significant contribution to the parent club during their subsequent careers. Deron Johnson and Don Lock would both become solid big leaguers with other organizations and Ken Hunt would have a couple of decent seasons as a member of the Angels. Remember, this was back in 1960, when Major League Baseball had just 16 teams so it was even tougher for a prospect to earn a roster spot with their parent club than it is today. Coincidentally, I was researching this information about the Yankees’ 1960 prospects last evening as I watched one of their 2013 prospects, outfielder Zoilio Almonte, hit his first big league home run against Tampa Bay. The odds are so stacked against these young kids, it truly has been and always will be a huge accomplishment for a young kid to become a star with the same big league organization that signs him.
Bronstad was born in Ft. Worth, TX. Just like “All my Ex’s” there have been some famous Yankees who have lived in Texas. There have not, however been many great Bronx Bombers who were born in the Lone Star State. Mickey Mantle moved his family to Dallas during his playing days. Roger Clemens was born in Ohio but moved to Texas when he was in high school. Andy Pettitte moved there from Louisiana. The honor of being the best-ever Texas-born Yankee is probably currently between Don Baylor, Chuck Knoblaugh and pitcher Ron Davis. Davis, in fact, is the only native born Texan to make an All Star team while wearing the Yankee uniform.
Jim Bronstad’s Yankee and career stats:
|WSA (2 yrs)||1||4||.200||5.60||29||0||12||0||0||1||64.1||76||42||40||9||24||31||1.554|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||3||.000||5.22||16||3||8||0||0||2||29.1||34||19||17||2||13||14||1.602|
When I first started following the Yankees back in 1960, Major League Baseball was still in the two-league, sixteen-team format that it had been in since 1901. To finish last in an American or National League Pennant race had always meant your team had ended up in eighth place. By 1962 however, both the AL and then the NL had expanded to ten teams and suddenly finishing eighth no longer sounded as forlornly horrible as it had for big league franchises since the turn of the twentieth century. In fact, your team could actually finish ninth and still not be considered the worst team in the league.
The Yankees of course had developed a reputation for finishing in first place but in 1962, their new crosstown rivals, the Mets would begin battling their NL expansion brothers, the Houston Colt 45′s for ninth place bragging rights in the senior circuit. Neither team finished ninth in their 1962 inaugural seasons because Houston was able to surpass a woeful Chicago Cubs team that year and finish in eighth. But for the next four seasons, it was baseball’s first-ever-team based in Texas that won the NL race for ninth place over the Amazin’s and the reason was Houston had much better starting pitching than the Mets.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was in the original starting rotation of that Houston expansion team. He joined Turk Farrell and Bob Bruce to give the Colt 45′s a solid trio of starters that made it tough to sweep a series against the early versions of this ball club. That 1962 Houston pitching staff had a 3.83 cumulative ERA (the Mets first year ERA was 5.04.)
Ken Johnson was the ace of that first Houston pitching staff. The native of West Palm Beach, FL had made his big league debut with the Kansas City A’s in 1958 and spent his first three years struggling to establish himself with that very bad A’s team. He ended up in Toronto in 1961, picking for an unaffiliated minor league team in the American Association, when he caught the eye of the Reds, who were at the time in the thick of the NL Pennant race. He joined the Cincinnati starting rotation and finished 6-2 for that NL Championship club. He actually got to pitch two-thirds of an inning of scoreless relief against the Yankees in the ’61 Series. Johnson thought he had found a home but the Cincinnati front office left him unprotected in the NL expansion draft and he became Houston’s 29th pick.
His four-year record with the Colt 45′s was 32-51 but his ERA while there was a very respectable 3.41. The Milwaukee Braves, in search of starting pitching during the 1965 season, acquired Johnson for Lee Maye. With a solid offense finally supporting him, the six foot four inch right hander went 40-25 during his first three seasons with the Braves. He slumped to 5-8 during his fourth year with the team and by 1969 he was 35-years-old.
The Yankees happened to be looking for a right-hander they could add to Ralph Houk’s bullpen and Johnson’s name came up. The Braves sold him to New York on June 10, 1969. He made his pinstriped debut one day after his 36th birthday, pitching two scoreless innings against the Tigers in relief of Mike Kekich. Four days later, Houk inserted him in the tenth inning of a game against the Red Sox and he got shelled and took the loss. It took him a couple of weeks to get used to his new surroundings but by July he had settled down and allowed just one earned run in his six appearances that month. Just as he was getting comfortable working in the Bronx however, Johnson was sold to the Cubs on August 11th.
Johnson’s most famous moment as a big leaguer took place on April 24, 1963, when he became the first MLB pitcher in history to toss and lose a nine-inning no-hitter. In the ninth inning of that Houston-Cincinnati Reds game, Pete Rose tried to break up the hitless performance by bunting for a hit. Johnson fielded the ball cleanly and quickly but his throw to first was wild and Rose advanced to second on the pitcher’s error. After Rose was sacrificed to third, he scored when Houston second baseman, Nellie Fox booted a ground ball and when his team couldn’t score in the bottom of the ninth, Johnson lost the game 1-0.
|ATL (5 yrs)||45||34||.570||3.22||130||104||13||26||3||3||769.2||746||317||275||72||155||390||1.171|
|KCA (4 yrs)||6||15||.286||5.03||52||9||19||2||0||3||143.0||148||92||80||21||60||96||1.455|
|HOU (4 yrs)||32||51||.386||3.41||113||106||4||19||3||1||690.2||660||311||262||49||151||471||1.174|
|MON (1 yr)||0||0||7.50||3||0||2||0||0||0||6.0||9||6||5||1||1||4||1.667|
|CHC (1 yr)||1||2||.333||2.84||9||1||3||0||0||1||19.0||17||8||6||2||13||18||1.579|
|CIN (1 yr)||6||2||.750||3.25||15||11||1||3||1||1||83.0||71||33||30||11||22||42||1.120|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||2||.333||3.46||12||0||8||0||0||0||26.0||19||11||10||1||11||21||1.154|
The name of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant won’t sound familiar to any but the most astute Yankee fans. That’s because George Kontos pitched just six innings in relief for the Yankees after being drafted out of Northwestern University in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He would spend most of the next six seasons pitching out of the bullpens of New York’s chain of minor league affiliates trying to get his ticket to the Bronx. That ticket finally came in September of 2012, when this Evanston, IL native was called up for a cup-of-coffee preview and appeared in seven games for a Yankee team that was in the process of winning that season’s AL East race by a comfortable six-game margin.
The six foot three inch right-hander performed well in those seven games, surrendering just 4 hits and two earned runs. That effort put him on the “players-to-watch-list” the following spring and one of the teams watching Kontos was the San Francisco Giants. Every member of the Yankee press corps was expecting Joe Girardi to start the 2012 season with Russell Martin as his starting catcher and Francisco Cervelli as Martin’s backup. That’s why the trade that took place just before Opening Day was treated as more than just a bit of a surprise. The Yankees sent Kontos to the Giants in exchange for catcher Chris Stewart. The deal might have gone largely unnoticed except for the fact that Stewart was out of minor league options so New York had to keep him on their big league roster or risk losing him. That meant Francisco Cervelli, who still had minor league options left was being sent down to the minors. At the time the deal was made, Brian Cashman was blaming Austin Romine’s back injury as the reason. The Yankee GM told the press that since Romine’s back wasn’t getting better he was forced to make the deal to add depth to the organization’s catching corps.
As it turned out, acquiring Stewart proved to be a wise move, especially after Cashman let free agent Russell Martin go to Pittsburgh this winter and Cervelli broke his finger during the opening month of the 2013 season. Kontos also proved to be a good-get for San Francisco. He got into 44 games for the Giants in 2012 and became one of their top middle relievers, finishing the year with a 2.47 ERA and 5 holds. He was at his best during that season’s NLDS against the Reds, appearing in four of that series’ five games and holding Cincinnati scoreless in the 3.2 innings he pitched. He then got hit pretty good in both the 2012 NLCS and the World Series but when all was said and done, Kontos had his first World Series ring and a secure spot in the Giants bullpen.
He got off to a slow start in 2013 but has pitched much better recently and is on pace to appear in 60 games for the defending World Champions this season.
Kontos shares his June 12th birthday with this former World Series MVP.
|SFG (2 yrs)||4||2||.667||3.50||74||0||17||0||0||0||72.0||62||31||28||6||21||1||69||1.153|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||0||3.00||7||0||4||0||0||0||6.0||4||2||2||1||3||0||6||1.167|
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was a fastball pitcher who saw a lot of action out of the Yankee bullpen way back in 1930. McEvoy was a big right-hander who was born In Williamsburg, KS on May 30, 1902. After he won 22 games for the 1929 Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast league, the Yankees purchased his contract. Miller Huggins had died during the 1929 season and former Yankee pitcher, Bob Shawkey was named manager the following year. Shawkey liked McEvoy’s heater and called on the 28-year-old rookie to pitch in 28 games that season. He got his one and only big league win against the Browns that year, when Yankee shortstop Lyn Lary belted four hits and drove in five runs to help New York and his former Oakland Oak teammate get the come-from-behind victory. Lary was also responsible for McEvoy’s marriage as well. Lary had been spiked so badly during a PCL game that he required a hospital stay. McEvoy and two additional Oakland players all came to visit Lary and incredibly during that visit, all three met nurses who they later married.
That 1930 Yankee team finished a disappointing third and Shawkey was fired and replaced by Joe McCarthy. Lou McEvoy only appeared in six games for New York during the 1931 season. McCarthy sent him back to the PCL that July and he never appeared in another big league game. A few years later he hung up his glove for good and became a rancher. He died of cancer in 1953.
Update: The above post was originally written in 2010. I’ve since learned that because McEvoy had a good fastball and played for the Yankees, he was selected to help cadets at the US Military Academy at nearby West Point conduct an experiment designed to determine the speed at which a big leaguer could throw a baseball. The experiment took place during the 1930 regular season. His New York teammate, shortstop Mark Koenig was also asked to participate. A device of some sort was used to determine that when a baseball left McEvoy’s hand, it was traveling at 150 feet per second (which equates to over 102 miles per hour). This was much faster than previously thought. Balls thrown by Koenig were determined to be traveling at a slower rate of speed.
The only other Yankee born on this date is this two-time 20-game winner.
The 1951 New York Yankees had both Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle in their lineup. They had MVP winner Yogi Berra and Rookie of the Year Gil McDougald in it too. Their pitching staff included Vic Raschi, Ed Lopat and Allie Reynolds who together won 59 games that season. But it was a 28 year old WWII veteran named Bob Kuzava who provided the spark that led the Bombers to the AL Pennant that season and the World Championship.
Kuzava was acquired by New York from the Senators, just before midseason that year. He started eight games for the Yankees and relieved in 15 others. He won eight times but more importantly, got five saves during the second half of that season. He then relieved Johnny Sain in the ninth inning of the sixth and final game of that year’s World Series after the Giants had rallied to pull within one run. Kuzava retired the next three batters to earn the save.
One year later, in the seventh game of the 1952 series, after Vic Raschi had loaded the bases with Brooklyn Dodgers, Casey Stengel gave Kuzava the ball again with a 4-2 lead with one out in the seventh inning. The southpaw reliever got the first batter he faced, Duke Snider to hit a harmless popup to the infield for the second out and he then thought he had gotten Jackie Robinson to do the same thing. But the October wind was swirling at Brooklyn’s Ebbets’ field that afternoon and it grabbed Robinson’s ball and started making it dance and flutter. The entire Yankee infield seemed frozen in their tracks when at the last moment, Billy Martin came streaking in from his second base position to snare the ball, inches from the ground, right beside Kuzava and the pitching mound. That catch is considered a great moment in Yankee franchise history. What gets lost in that same history some times is the fact that “Sarge” Kuzava had just gotten two future Hall of Famers to pop up to the infield with the bases loaded and then went on to pitch two more innings of hitless and scoreless relief to preserve another Yankee World Championship. All in a day’s work I guess.
Kuzava was born in Wyandotte, WI, on May 28, 1923. He pitched in pinstripes until June of 1954 when he was released. His Yankee regular season record was 23-20 with 14 saves and also 4 complete games shutouts. But it was those two October saves that defined his Yankee career.
Update: The above post was originally written in May of 2011. Though most of his Yankee teammates knew him by the nickname “Sarge,” Kuzava also had another alias, given to him by the late great Red Sox second baseman, Johnny Pesky. When both were still playing in the big leagues, Kuzava had once induced Pesky to hit a slow roller back to the pitcher and as Kuzava fielded the ball he heard Pesky scream at him “You white rat!” The new nickname sort of stuck with the pitcher. Years later, Pesky had been hired as a player-coach by the Yankees for their Denver Bears team in the American Association. One of the players’ on the Bears’ roster that year was Herzog. When Pesky saw him, he told the future Hall-of-Fame manager that he was the spitting image of Bob Kuzava. I’m sure Kuzava, who’s still living in his native Michigan and turns 90-years-old today, has no regrets about losing his “White Rat” nickname too Herzog.
Kuzava shares his May 28th birthday with another modern day Yankee reliever.
|NYY (4 yrs)||23||20||.535||3.39||104||29||40||12||4||13||347.1||329||145||131||24||142||187||1.356|
|WSH (2 yrs)||11||10||.524||4.34||30||30||0||11||1||0||207.1||213||114||100||13||103||106||1.524|
|CLE (2 yrs)||2||1||.667||3.74||6||6||0||1||1||0||33.2||31||17||14||1||20||13||1.515|
|BAL (2 yrs)||1||4||.200||4.00||10||5||3||0||0||0||36.0||40||18||16||0||15||20||1.528|
|CHW (2 yrs)||11||9||.550||4.39||39||25||5||10||1||0||201.0||182||104||98||11||118||104||1.493|
|PIT (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||4||0||1||0||0||0||2.0||3||2||2||0||3||1||3.000|
|PHI (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||7.24||17||4||7||0||0||0||32.1||47||26||26||5||12||13||1.825|
|STL (1 yr)||0||0||3.86||3||0||2||0||0||0||2.1||4||1||1||0||2||2||2.571|
One of the things the Yankees did not seem to need after winning the 1950 World Series was starting pitching. Their rotation was loaded with the glorious triumvirate of Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat,15-game winner Tommy Byrne and a cocky rookie southpaw named Whitey Ford. But Ford would miss the entire 1951 season to military service and Byrne, who always had control problems suddenly couldn’t find the plate. That made room in the rotation for a rookie Yankee left-hander named Tom Morgan. Casey Stengel let the 20-year-old native of El Monte, California start 16 times during that ’51 season and he went 6-3 in those games, including two shutouts. He also relieved in 11 other games that year and earned two saves.
Morgan credited two guys for helping him become a successful big league pitcher. The first was his younger brother Dick, who became a minor league catcher himself. Tom would spend hours throwing a baseball to his sibling in the yard of their California home and he credited those sessions for helping him master control of his very good fastball. He also used to say that his Yankee pitching coach, Jim Turner was instrumental in helping him master both a sidearm curve and change up, giving him the confidence he needed to throw those pitches whenever he needed to at the big league level.
Morgan’s most distinctive physical trait was the way he walked. He’d bend his body at the waist, hunch his shoulders and take his steps slowly, looking as if he was always pulling something behind him. As a result, the Grand Annointer of pinstriped nicknames, Yankee announcer Mel Allen gave Morgan the nickname of “the Plowboy.”
Morgan started 12 more times in 1952 and then missed the entire ’53 season to military service. When he returned to action in 1954, Stengel began using him more out of the bullpen and he had his best season in pinstripes with an 11-5 record and a 3.34 ERA. He was then converted to a full-time reliever and over the next two seasons he saved 21 games for New York. But his ERA climbed dramatically in 1956 and the following February he was included in a humungous deal with the A’s that eventually caused 13 players to exchange uniforms.
After one year in Kansas City, Morgan spent two-and-a-half years with the Tigers and a half season as a Senator. The expansion Angels purchased him in 1961 and he surprised everyone by putting together two very strong years out of the Angels bullpen. He couldn’t keep the string going, however, and he was done as a player after the ’63 season. He then became a minor league pitching instructor with the Angels and scouted for the Yankees. He eventually became the Angels’ big league pitching coach and later held that same position with the Padres. Cy Young Award winners Nolan Ryan and Randy Jones credited Morgan with helping them become all star pitchers. He was still coaching at the minor league level when he suffered a stroke and died of a heart attack in 1987 at the age of 56.
|1953||Did not play in major leagues (Military Service)|
|NYY (5 yrs)||38||22||.633||3.48||156||46||61||13||7||26||504.2||500||218||195||32||160||163||20||1.308|
|LAA (3 yrs)||13||4||.765||2.86||120||0||64||0||0||20||166.2||147||65||53||14||42||75||9||1.134|
|DET (3 yrs)||6||11||.353||3.81||107||2||49||0||0||11||184.1||197||93||78||24||32||83||7||1.242|
|WSH (1 yr)||1||3||.250||3.75||14||0||6||0||0||0||24.0||36||15||10||6||5||11||1||1.708|
|KCA (1 yr)||9||7||.563||4.64||46||13||24||5||0||7||143.2||160||76||74||19||61||32||3||1.538|
Jim Mecir did not compile extraordinary numbers during his eleven-season career as a big league reliever, but it was a remarkable career nonetheless. This Bayside, New York native was born with two club feet. He underwent a series of surgeries as a child that helped correct much of the defect, but the procedures left him with an atrophied right calf, a fused right ankle and a right leg that was about an inch shorter than his left. Despite all that, he somehow managed to become a successful pitcher in Major League Baseball and I consider that achievement absolutely amazing!
Mecir was drafted in the third round of the 1991 MLB Amateur Draft by Seattle. He spent his first three seasons in the Mariner system being groomed as a starter but was switched to the bullpen after the 1993 season. He made his big league debut in 1995 with two relief appearances for Seattle. That December, he and Jeff Nelson accompanied Tino Martinez to the Bronx in a mini-blockbuster that sent Yankees Sterling Hitchcock and Russ Davis to Seattle.
During the next two seasons Joe Torre inserted Mecir into 51 Yankee games. He went a combined 1-5 with an ERA in the mid five’s which explains why New York left him off both their 1996 and ’97 postseason rosters. In September of 1997, the Yankees sent Mecir to Boston to complete an earlier deal. Two months later he got a break when the Red Sox left him unprotected in the 1997 AL Expansion Draft and he was selected by Tampa Bay.
He found his groove with the Devil Rays and he went a combined 14-4 for them in 1998 and most of ’99 until he was traded to Oakland. Mecir pitched for the A’s until 2004 and then spent a year with the Marlins before hanging up his glove for good.
Due to his physical deformity, Mecir employed an unorthodox pitching motion and it was often said that the strange delivery actually helped increase the movement on his signature screwball. Today he serves as a motivational speaker.
|OAK (5 yrs)||13||21||.382||3.91||246||0||55||0||0||11||250.2||242||121||20||104||225||1.380|
|TBD (3 yrs)||14||5||.737||3.03||123||0||36||0||0||1||154.1||118||54||8||69||125||1.212|
|NYY (2 yrs)||1||5||.167||5.47||51||0||21||0||0||0||74.0||78||47||11||33||63||1.500|
|SEA (1 yr)||0||0||0.00||2||0||1||0||0||0||4.2||5||1||0||2||3||1.500|
|FLA (1 yr)||1||4||.200||3.12||52||0||13||0||0||0||43.1||39||17||2||17||34||1.292|
The Yankees signed Dave LaRoche ten days after the start of the strike-shortened 1981 season. The left-hander had been released by the California Angels two and a half weeks earlier. When he joined the Yanks, he had eleven big league seasons already on his resume, during which he had established himself as a better than average reliever.
His first year in pinstripes was his best as he went 4-1 with a 2.49 ERA and pitched an inning of scoreless relief for New York in the 1981 World Series. I often refer to that 1981 season as George Steinbrenner’s tipping point as a Yankee owner. The players strike coupled with the Yankee defeat to the Dodgers in that year’s Fall Classic seemed to turn the Boss from a hard-to-work for egomaniac into an impossible to please tyrant. Under his complete control, the Yankee front office began making a series of spur-of-the-moment personnel decisions that undermined the team’s field management and filled the roster with anxiety.
Laroche became a victim of that calamity in 1982, when he began being bounced back and forth between the Bronx and Columbus, as the Yankee front office made roster moves with alarming frequency. Despite all the frequent flier miles, the Colorado Springs native continued to pitch effectively for New York, compiling a 4-2 record in his second season with the team. But even LaRoche had limits. When the team tried to send him back to Triple A at the end of the ’83 exhibition season, LaRoche quit instead. At the time his wife was undergoing a very difficult pregnancy and LaRoche wanted a guarantee that if he did go to Columbus, he could remain with the Clippers until the baby was born. When the Yankees refused that request, LaRoche left baseball to be with his wife.
Unable to land a steady job, LaRoche contacted the Yankees after the baby’s birth to see if they still wanted him to pitch for the organization. He returned for one final go-round in 1983, appearing in seven games for Columbus and just one for the parent club.
I remember LaRoche’s Yankee days very well, primarily because he frequently threw a slow, high arching eephus pitch his Yankee teammates had nicknamed La Lob. After he finished his pitching career, the Yankees hired him as a minor league pitching coach and he has spent the last quarter century working in that role for a number of minor league teams. He is also the father of two big league players. They are the Washington National’s slugging first baseman Adam LaRoche and the former Dodger and Pirate infielder, Andy LaRoche.
|CAL (6 yrs)||35||32||.522||3.65||304||10||170||1||0||65||512.1||462||223||208||51||204||386||1.300|
|CLE (3 yrs)||8||9||.471||2.51||135||0||95||0||0||42||197.1||133||64||55||10||113||216||1.247|
|NYY (3 yrs)||8||3||.727||3.12||52||1||30||0||0||0||98.0||94||37||34||8||27||55||1.235|
|CHC (2 yrs)||9||7||.563||5.17||94||4||43||0||0||9||146.1||158||91||84||16||76||83||1.599|
|MIN (1 yr)||5||7||.417||2.83||62||0||43||0||0||10||95.1||72||33||30||9||39||79||1.164|
When CC Sabathia shed 25 pounds after the 2010 postseason, he also shed the mantra of being the heaviest full-time player in MLB history. That honor now reverts back to another Yankee pitcher named Walter Brown. Brown was 6’4″ tall, three inches shorter than Sabathia and tipped the scales at 295 pounds. As a result, he was better known as “Jumbo” Brown. Born in Green, Rhode Island, he broke into the big leagues with the Cubs in 1925 and then pitched for the Indians during the 1927 and ’28 seasons. Not yet ready for prime time, the big guy then returned to the minors.
He became a Yankee in 1932 and spent four of the next five seasons as a member of the Yankee bullpen and one of manager Joe McCarthy’s occasional starters. Unfortunately for Brown, those Yankee teams of the 1930′s were loaded with talented pitchers. One of Brown’s biggest problems, according to author Stephen Lombardi in his book “The Baseball Same Game,” was the fact that his fingers were too short and too stubby to throw a curveball so he was limited to throwing only a fastball. Though Brown’s heater was a good one, it was not good enough to break into that Yankee rotation because after one time through a lineup, opposing hitters had a much easier time squaring up to a one-pitch pitcher.
By 1934, Jumbo was forced to pitch in Newark where he again got a chance to start and won 20-games for the Yankees’ top Minor League franchise. He was 19-16 during his stay in pinstripes, earning two saves and pitching two shutouts. The Reds purchased his contract in 1937 but he quickly returned to the Big Apple when the Giants bought him from Cincinnati that same season. He spent his final five big league seasons pitching very effectively out of the bullpen at the Polo Grounds. His one pitch repertoire was much more suited to relief work, during which hitters faced the rotund right hander and his fastball just once. Brown actually led the NL in saves in both 1940 and ’41 before joining the US Navy. His baseball career ended for good when his military service began. Jumbo is the only member of the Yankee all-time roster to celebrate his birthday on the last day of April.
|NYG (5 yrs)||13||12||.520||2.93||150||0||103||0||0||27||267.1||237||106||87||13||104||131||1.276|
|NYY (4 yrs)||19||16||.543||4.74||80||22||31||7||2||2||281.0||323||166||148||10||148||146||1.676|
|CLE (2 yrs)||0||3||.000||6.48||13||0||10||0||0||0||33.1||38||29||24||3||41||20||2.370|
|CIN (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||8.38||4||1||0||0||0||0||9.2||16||10||9||0||3||4||1.966|
|CHC (1 yr)||0||0||3.00||2||0||2||0||0||0||6.0||5||5||2||0||4||0||1.500|