Results tagged ‘ starting pitcher ’
If I had been around back then, I would have been a fan of Tiny Bonham. “Back then” was the WWII era and Bohnam was this big six-feet-two-inch lug of a Yankee right-hander who was born in northern California in 1913. He was the grandson of a 49er, not the football 49ers mind you but the prospectors who invaded the state when gold was discovered in the hills near Sacramento way back in 1849. Grandpa didn’t strike it rich but he did settle the Bonham’s in northern California. Tiny grew up there, developing his bulk and muscle early on in his teen years by working on his dad’s farm, a lumber camp and the shipping docks of Oakland. He had huge powerful hands with long fingers, two essential characteristics for developing a good fork ball and Bonham had one of the best ever.
The Yankees signed him to a contract in 1935 and he spent the next five years putting up good numbers at each level of New York’s farm system. His call-up to the Bronx came in August of the 1940 season. Joe McCarthy’s Yankee team was the four-time defending World Champions that year but they were floundering badly. Bonham proved to be just the medicine the ailing team needed. McCarthy started him 12 times and he went 9-3 while posting a sparkling 1.90 ERA and throwing three shutouts. The Yanks had been one-game over .500 when Tiny joined the team and finished the season twenty-two games over the break-even mark. Though only good enough for third place, Marse Joe told sportswriters if he had had Bonham at the beginning of the year, the Yanks would have won the pennant. The Hall-of-Fame skipper then proved his point by using Bonham to help him do exactly that during the next three seasons.
In 1941, a back injury Bonham had sustained as a youngster working in the lumber camp flared up and limited his action that season. McCarthy used him wisely out of the bullpen and as a spot starter. He won nine of his fifteen decisions that year, picked up two saves and that fall, won the fifth and deciding game against Brooklyn in a one-run, four-hit, complete game effort to win his first World Series ring. In 1942 his back felt better and he became one of the premier pitchers in all of baseball. He put together a 21-win season that included a league-leading six shutouts and an ERA of just 2.27. Always blessed with outstanding control, Tiny walked just 24 batters that year in 226 innings of pitching and surrendered the fewest walks-plus-hits per inning pitched (WHIP) of any hurler in the majors. He lost his only start against the Cardinals in the 1942 World Series, which the Yanks lost in five games
The condition of his back was bad enough to keep him out of military service during the war but not bad enough to prevent him from continuing to pitch for the Yankees. He won fifteen games in 1943 and though he again lost to St Louis in that year’s Fall Classic he did earn his second ring when the Yankees avenged their loss to the Cards from the previous year. Bonham’s back problems became more severe during the 1944 and ’45 seasons causing him to suffer through his only two losing seasons in pinstripes. In 1946, he got swept-up in the “clean-house” campaign of new Yankee co-owner Lee MacPhail Sr. and was traded to the Pirates for somebody named Cookie Cuccurullo.
Though his back ached, Boham still had enough talent and grit to go 11-8 for a very bad Pittsburgh team that finished 30 games below five hundred. Even more impressive were the three shutouts Tiny threw that year. He would not be able to keep up that pace during his final two seasons with the Pirates and he was planning to retire and return home to California, when he decided to check into a Pittsburgh hospital during the final month of the 1949 season to find the cause of the severe stomach pains he was experiencing. His doctors decided to perform an appendectomy on the 36-year-old pitcher. During the operation intestinal cancer was discovered and a week later Ernie “Tiny” Bonham was dead.
By all accounts, everyone loved Tiny. He had a great sense of humor, was easy-going and considered a great teammate. Upon his untimely death, his widow and child were supposed to become the first beneficiaries of a pension plan league owners had agreed to establish for the players and their families. Mrs. Bonham was due to receive $90 per month. The problem was that the owners had not funded the plan. Learning this enraged the players and in order to avert a full scale labor rebellion, then MLB Commissioner Happy Chandler went out and sold radio and television broadcast rights to the Gillette Razor Blade Company for the next six years for one million dollars per year and used the proceeds to get funds into the plan quickly. In his haste, it seems Chandler left some money on the table. Gillette broadcasting rights were later sold to NBC for four million dollars annually.
|NYY (7 yrs)||79||50||.612||2.73||158||141||11||91||17||6||1176.2||1108||399||357||71||206||348||1.117|
|PIT (3 yrs)||24||22||.522||4.11||73||52||16||19||4||3||374.1||393||181||171||46||81||130||1.266|
After ten years of futility attempting to do so, George Steinbrenner made the decision to stop trying to purchase free agent starting pitchers and to instead go with some of the organization’s top minor league prospects. The problem with that strategy was timing. If “the Boss” had made that decision earlier in the 1980′s, it might have meant that Doug Drabek would have won his Cy Young Award as a Yankee instead of a Pirate and Jose Rijo might have been World Series MVP for the Bronx Bombers instead of the Cincinnati Reds. But by waiting until the end of the decade, the Yanks were counting on the young unproven arms of prospects like Wade Taylor, Dave Eiland and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. I don’t know if Steinbrenner played poker but I guarantee you that if he did, he would end up gladly trading that “three of a kind” for just a single ace.
Johnson was the Yankees sixth round pick in the 1988 draft. He had pitched well during his first three years in the lower levels of New York’s farm system but it was his perfect 4-0 start-of-the-season at triple A Columbus that convinced the Yanks to add him to the parent club’s rotation in June of 1991. A six foot three inch well-built southpaw, he was 24 years-old at the time of his Yankee debut and he looked like a Major League pitcher. That look proved to be deceiving.
Johnson’s problem turned out to be an inability to get ahead in the count on big league hitters. Once he fell behind them, his must strike pitches were much to hittable. He finished a disappointing 6-11 during his rookie season, which was not that bad considering that ’91 Yankee team finished in fifth place in the AL East, twenty games below five hundred. What was more troubling however, was Johnson’s first-year 5.95 ERA. He was showing a consistent inability to get outs at the big league level. Taylor finished that year with a 7-12 record and a 6.27 ERA and Eiland’s numbers were 2-5, 5.33. So much for the Yankees’ patience with starting pitching prospects.
Johnson was the only one of the three who would be part of the team’s starting rotation the next Opening Day, but that status didn’t last long. By the end of April he was 1-2 with a 6.57 ERA and first-year Yankee manager, Buck Showalter demoted him to bullpen duty. He got one more shot in the rotation that June but again failed to impress and was sent back to Columbus. That’s where he started the 1993 season as well. His one last big league chance came in June of that season. Showalter brought him in out of the bullpen twice that month and he gave up a total 12 hits and 9 earned runs in those 2.2 innings of pitching. Johnson’s Yankee and big league career were over. He is now a minor league pitching coach.
His real name was Edward Haughton Love but folks called him “Slim” because he was 6’7″ tall but weighed just 195 pounds. When he joined the Washington Senators in 1913, he became the tallest player in the big leagues. He was born in 1890 in a place called Love, Mississippi, making him the only Yankee to be born in a home town that shared his last name. A story that appeared in a 1913 Washington Post edition reported that Love had actually bragged his way into his first minor league tryout while tossing a few back, on a bar stool in Memphis.
Most likely under the influence of one too many cocktails, he started telling his fellow imbibers that he had come to the Tennessee city to pitch the town’s Memphis Turtles ball club to a Southern Association League championship. It just so happened that the owner of the bar was a friend of the Turtles’ manager and he was able to arrange a tryout for Love. That tryout reportedly took place during an exhibition game between the Turtles and the Cleveland Indians, when Love was called in to face the legendary Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie with the bases loaded. Slim evidently and amazingly struck out the future Hall-of-Famer. I use the word amazingly, because it was soon thereafter apparent to the Turtles that the bold-tongued youngster could throw the ball hard but he had no idea where his pitches would end up. In other words, Love really didn’t know a thing about pitching. But the impressive speed of his fastball and that strikeout of Lajoie finally got him a minor league contract and he spent the next three years trying to figure out how to get the ball to go where he wanted it to go, an objective he would never quite master.
He did however get good enough to win 21 games for New York between 1916 and 1918. Thirteen of those wins came in 1918, Miller Huggins first year as manager of the Yankees. New York’s starting pitching rotation at the time was very thin so Huggins kept starting Love that year even though he had a real tough time getting the ball over the plate. The Yankee skipper wanted his lanky left-hander to learn how to throw a curveball but Love struggled to do so and continued to depend almost completely on his often-wild fastball. When the 1918 season was over, Slim led the league in walks and Huggins began a complete overhaul of his pitching staff. As part of that overhaul, Love and three of his teammates were traded to the Red Sox for two of Boston’s pitchers and an outfielder.
Slim never played a game in Beantown. Instead, the Red Sox quickly traded him to Detroit where he went 6-4 in 1919. But the bases on balls continued at an alarming pace for Love and he was out of the big leagues for good by 1921 and back in the minors, where he kept pitching for almost another decade.
His legend would tragically but almost poetically end where it began. On November 30, 1942, while taking a stroll in Memphis, TN, Love was hit by a car and died. It seems Slim never learned the lesson that also ended his big league career. Walks can kill you!
The above article was originally written in 2009. It was updated for today’s post using this excellent article about Slim Love as my primary reference.
|NYY (3 yrs)||21||17||.553||3.05||91||39||34||15||1||2||406.2||368||171||138||5||196||198||11||1.387|
|DET (2 yrs)||6||4||.600||3.26||23||8||11||4||0||1||94.0||98||44||34||3||44||48||6||1.511|
|WSH (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||1.62||5||1||4||0||0||1||16.2||14||5||3||0||6||5||0||1.200|
The Yanks had won five straight Pennants with a starting rotation led by the Holy Trinity of Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat. Raschi was the first of the three to go before the 1954 season and then both Reynolds and Lopat followed him out of the Bronx the following year. That left Whitey Ford as the only bonafide ace in New York’s rotation and thus began the era of what I like to call the in and outers. These were Yankee pitchers who were brought up from the minors or acquired from other teams who had one or maybe two great years in pinstripes pitching behind Ford. They’d help Stengel win another pennant or Fall Classic and then fade away. The four top in and outers during the second half of the 1950′s were Tommy Byrne, Tom Sturdivant, Bob Turley and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.
Johnny Kucks’ big Yankee season was 1956. The tall, skinny right-hander from Hoboken put together a sensational 18-9 regular season and then shut the Brooklyn Dodgers out in the 7th Game of the 1956 World Series to help New York avenge its only Fall Classic loss to D’em Bums from a year earlier. If Don Larsen hadn’t thrown his perfect game in that same Series, Kucks’ final game effort would have been much more celebrated in the annals of Yankee history.
New York had signed Kucks right out of high school right before the 1952 regular season began. They assigned the then 18-year-older to their Class B affiliate in Norfolk, Virginia and he wowed the entire organization when he finished 19-6 that year. He then spent the next two years in the military and then went 8-7 with the parent club during his 1955 rookie season. Kucks fit right into that mid-fifties Yankee clubhouse. He loved to party and with that crew, he had plenty of opportunities to do so. He was in attendance during the famous Copa incident in June of 1957.
Kucks never again approached the level of brilliance he displayed on the mound in that 1956 season. After two mediocre seasons for New York in 1957 and ’58, he was traded to Kansas City at the beginning of the ’59 season in the deal that brought Hector Lopez and a new Yankee in and outer for the early 1960′s by the name of Ralph Terry.
|NYY (5 yrs)||42||35||.545||3.82||143||83||28||23||6||6||673.0||667||332||286||59||223||249||1.322|
|KCA (2 yrs)||12||21||.364||4.78||64||40||11||7||1||1||265.1||303||161||141||32||85||89||1.462|
The Yankee pitching staff was decimated in the late eighties by the aging and retirement of Ron Guidry and perhaps the worst trade and free agent signing decisions made during the Steinbrenner era. Among the very poorest of these decisions was trading Doug Drabek to the Pirates for Pat Clements, Cecilio Guante and Rick Rhoden. Of the three Pirate pitchers, Rhoden was the most effective in pinstripes, going 16-10 in 1987 and 12-12 the following year. But Rhoden was also 34 years old when New York got him from Pittsburgh while Drabek was just 24 at the time of that trade. Even though he went 7-8 during his 1986 rookie season in the Bronx, I remember he had impressive enough stuff to be excited about his future.
Sure enough, the right-hander quickly became one of the best pitchers in the NL winning the Cy Young Award in 1990 with a 22-6 record. He pitched six seasons for the Pirates before signing a lucrative free agent deal with Houston in 1993. He pitched OK for the Astros but was never the big winner there that they expected him to be. He retired after the 1998 season with a 155-134 record and 21 career shutouts. If he had remained in New York his entire career and the Yankees had also kept young arms like Bob Tewksbury and Al Leiter in their system, who knows? They may have got back to the playoffs a few seasons faster than they did in 1995.
Update: The above post was written in 2010. Here’s an update: The first time I started paying attention to Doug Drabek’s career was back in 1984, when he was pitching for the Glens Falls White Sox in upstate New York, a Chicago affiliate in the AA Eastern League. His team used to play the Yankees’ Albany-Colonie affiliate in the same league and since both ball parks were within an hour’s drive of my home, the local papers covered both teams pretty extensively. Drabek was the ace of the Glens Falls staff, so I was pretty excited when I read the news that the Yank’s had acquired him as the player to be named later in their 1984 mid season deal that sent shortstop Roy Smalley to the White Sox. I then got a chance to see Drabek pitch live a couple of times because the Yanks assigned him to Albany in 1985 and he put together a 13-7 record there with a 2.99 ERA.
After his best years with Pittsburgh, the Yankees tried to bring him back as a free agent when his contract with the Pirates expired after the 1992 season. The New York GM at the time, Gene Michael made offers to Drabek, David Cone and Jose Guzman in an effort to bolster the Yank’s anemic starting rotation, but when none of the three responded fast enough, Michael withdrew the offers and went after Jimmy Key and Jim Abbott instead.
In an interview with a Houston Astros’ fan newsletter after he retired, Drabek said he left the game after the 1998 season because he had completely lost his stuff. It got to the point where the veteran right hander was afraid to pitch and had to literally force himself to take the mound. By then, he had made over $30 million in his career, so he decided to go home and spend time with his very talented children. One of those kids, Drabek’s son Kyle evolved into the highly coveted number 1 overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft. Unfortunately, the younger Drabek has struggled in his three attempts at the majors and was back in the minors in 2013, still recovering from his second Tommy John surgery.
|PIT (6 yrs)||92||62||.597||3.02||199||196||1||36||16||0||1362.2||1227||506||457||112||337||820||1.148|
|HOU (4 yrs)||38||42||.475||4.00||118||118||0||16||5||0||762.2||787||372||339||71||219||558||1.319|
|NYY (1 yr)||7||8||.467||4.10||27||21||2||0||0||0||131.2||126||64||60||13||50||76||1.337|
|BAL (1 yr)||6||11||.353||7.29||23||21||1||1||0||0||108.2||138||90||88||20||29||55||1.537|
|CHW (1 yr)||12||11||.522||5.74||31||31||0||0||0||0||169.1||170||109||108||30||69||85||1.411|
After nine and one half seasons with the Angels, Witt came to New York in 1990 in the horrible Yankee trade that took Dave Winfield out of pinstripes. George Steinbrenner’s disgraceful efforts to use a brain-damaged con-man named Howie Spira to dig up dirt on his star outfielder had poisoned Winfield’s relationship with the Yankee front office. In trading for Witt, the Yankees were hoping to put the whole sad situation behind them while at the same time acquiring a veteran right-hander with one of the league’s best curve balls for their very weak starting rotation. Witt had won 109 games for the Angels but had gone 9-15 in ’89 and was 0-3 at the time of the trade. I realized Winfield was no spring chicken back then, but I clearly remember thinking at the time that the Yankees were getting the short end of that deal and I was right.
Witt won just eight more games during the next three plus seasons for New York. He spent most of that time including all of 1992 on the injured reserve list. Winfield went on to give the Angels two decent seasons of production and still had enough in the tank to drive in 108 runs for the 1992 Toronto Blue Jays and help them win a World Championship. Witt retired in 1993 after collecting $7.5 million Yankee dollars to appear in just 27 games. In 1997, he became the pitching coach of a California High School’s baseball program.
Witt shares his birthday with the first catcher in franchise history to start in that position for five straight seasons.
|CAL (10 yrs)||109||107||.505||3.76||314||272||22||70||10||6||1965.1||1932||926||820||167||656||1283||1.317|
|NYY (3 yrs)||8||9||.471||4.91||27||27||0||2||1||0||143.0||134||86||78||16||57||90||1.336|
After pitching briefly for Cincinnati in 1894, this southpaw native of Dayton, Kentucky signed with the Pirates in 1897 and became a four-time twenty game winner by the time he was 27-years-old. He teamed with Happy Jack Chesbro and Deacon Phillipe to give the Bucs three of the top starting pitchers in all of baseball at the turn of the century and that trio led Pittsburgh to two straight NL Pennants in 1901 and ’02, just before there was a World Series. But during that 1902 season, Tannehill was involved in a bizarre incident that would end up having a dramatic impact on New York Yankee franchise history.
After a Pirate game in August of that season, Tannehill got into a fight with one of his own teammates and dislocated his throwing shoulder. Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss accompanied his injured pitcher to the hospital where Tannehill was administered ether so that a doctor could maneuver the injured shoulder back into its socket. While under the influences of the anesthetic, the patient started talking and one of the shocking things he told Dreyfuss was that he and several of his teammates, including Chesbro had been secretly talking with Ban Johnson, the president of the new American League. Johnson had offered the players $1,000 apiece to jump to the new league in1903. Dreyfuss responded by giving Tannehill, Chesbro and Pirate catcher Jack O’Connor their unconditional release and all three became members of the 1903 New York Highlanders, an AL team that had just been relocated to New York from Baltimore.
Chesbro won 21 games for the new club, but Tannehill struggled in his new surroundings and finished 15-15. He hated pitching in New York’s Hilltop Park complaining that a cold Hudson River wind that constantly blew across the ball field was harmful to his pitching arm. He also had a tough time getting along with his new manager, Clark Griffith and that relationship suffered an irreparable break when Griffith suspended Tannehill’s best buddy, O’Connor during the season.
The unhappy southpaw requested a trade back to Cincinnati, where the air was warmer and he could be near his family in Kentucky. Instead, in December of 1903, New York traded him to the Red Sox. Even though it was not his first choice, the change of scenery and getting away from Griffith did wonders for Tannehill’s pitching. He became a 20-game winner for a fifth and sixth time during his first two seasons in Beantown and in the process, got some revenge on his old Hilltopper skipper, when his 21-11 season in 1904 was instrumental in helping Boston edge out New York for the 1904 AL Pennant.
He continued pitching till 1911 and then became a minor league umpire and major league coach after his playing days were over. He passed away in 1956, at the age of 84.
|PIT (6 yrs)||116||58||.667||2.75||192||171||20||149||17||5||1508.0||1561||663||461||11||243||466||1.196|
|BOS (5 yrs)||62||38||.620||2.50||116||106||10||85||14||1||885.2||836||332||246||24||154||342||1.118|
|WSH (2 yrs)||3||5||.375||3.69||13||11||2||7||1||0||92.2||96||44||38||1||28||22||1.338|
|CIN (2 yrs)||1||1||.500||7.02||6||2||4||1||0||1||33.1||43||37||26||1||19||8||1.860|
|NYY (1 yr)||15||15||.500||3.27||32||31||1||22||2||0||239.2||258||123||87||3||34||106||1.218|
This right hander followed his older brother Harry out of the Pennsylvania coal mines to become a big league pitcher. Harry was a three-time twenty-game-winner for the Tigers. Stan would reach that magic number four times in a row with the Indians between 1918 and 1921 and then once again as a Senator, in 1925.
He was one of the best spitball pitchers in the history of the game and his greatest moment came during the 1920 World Series when he pitched and won three complete games, giving up just two earned runs and leading the Indians to their first ever championship. The Senators released him in June of the 1927 season. Coveleski sat out the rest of that season and thought about retiring but he couldn’t resist an offer to pitch for Miller Huggin’s World Champion Murderer’s Row team the following year. He won five of his six decisions as a Yankee but his ERA was almost six. New York released him in August of 1928. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969, by the Veteran’s Committee along with his former Yankee pitching mate, Waite Hoyt. He passed away in 1984 at the age of 94.
|CLE (9 yrs)||172||123||.583||2.80||360||305||47||194||31||20||2502.1||2450||972||779||53||616||856||1.225|
|WSH (3 yrs)||36||17||.679||2.98||73||70||1||26||6||1||500.2||515||205||166||8||162||111||1.352|
|PHA (1 yr)||2||1||.667||3.43||5||2||2||2||1||0||21.0||18||9||8||0||4||9||1.048|
|NYY (1 yr)||5||1||.833||5.74||12||8||2||2||0||0||58.0||72||41||37||5||20||5||1.586|
One of the things that always confused me is how guys who could not hit well at the big league level somehow become highly respected hitting coaches for Major League teams. Remember Charley Lau? Here’s a former player who couldn’t crack a starting lineup during the eleven years he played in the bigs because he averaged in the two-fifties, yet if you ask George Brett who it was that made him one of baseball’s great hitters, he credits Lau. The same mystery applies to bad pitchers who become great pitching coaches. Leo Mazzone was considered one of the game’s great ones during his tenure in that role with Bobby Cox’s Braves yet he wasn’t good enough to pitch even to a single batter at the Major League level.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was considered a top Yankee pitching prospect in the late 1980′s, when the team was in desperate need of starting pitchers. Drafted by New York out of the University of South Florida in the seventh round of the 1987 draft, Dave Eiland was being pegged as the next great Yankee right-hander after he was named the International League’s Pitcher of the Year in 1990. But he was a bust for the Yanks and the two other teams he pitched for at the big league level between 1988 and 2000, finishing his playing career with a 12-27 record and a career ERA of 5.74.
That’s when he turned to coaching. The Yankees hired him as a minor league pitching coach and he immediately impressed the organization with his ability to effectively work with young pitchers. He quickly worked his way up the New York farm chain, establishing an excellent rapport with prospects like Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain along the way. That’s why it seemed to make sense when the Yankees announced Eiland would replace Ron Guidry as the Yankee pitching coach in 2008. Brian Cashman was betting the team’s postseason chances on the young arms of Hughes, Kennedy and Chamberlain that year and he felt Eiland was the guy who could successfully transition them from minor to major league pitchers. That did not happen.
Eiland however, escaped front office wrath for the failed experiment and when the Yanks won the World Series in 2009, the young pitching coach was credited for helping AJ Burnett overcome the inconsistencies in his delivery to finish wit a 13-9 record and a huge win in Game 2 of that year’s Fall Classic.
It all unraveled for Eiland in June of the 2010 season when Eiland took a mysterious leave of absence from his Yankee coaching responsibilities for most of the month of June, citing personal family issues as the reason. During his leave, AJ Burnett literally fell apart, going 0-5 and never again reaching the comfort or performance level in Pinstripes he had enjoyed during his first season in the Bronx. Though it wasn’t officially given as the reason, most Yankee fans and pundits suspect it was Eiland’s leave that caused the team to dismiss him after the 2010 season and bring in current pitching coach, Larry Rothschilds. Eiland has since landed on his feet, getting the pitching coach position for the Kansas City Royals in 2012.
|NYY (5 yrs)||6||10||.375||5.23||36||28||5||0||0||0||160.0||193||109||93||24||48||58||1.506|
|TBD (3 yrs)||6||12||.333||6.54||39||26||1||0||0||0||137.2||181||111||100||16||48||71||1.663|
|SDP (2 yrs)||0||5||.000||5.38||17||16||0||0||0||0||75.1||91||54||45||6||22||24||1.500|
The Yankees stopped making postseason play after the 1981 season because they did not have starting pitching that was good enough to beat some very good Toronto, Boston, Detroit and Milwaukee ball clubs. With a lineup that featured Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield and Ricky Henderson in their prime, they would not have needed a rotation filled with Sandy Koufax’s to make at least a couple more postseason runs during the 14 straight seasons they failed to make the playoffs. Just a few more quality starters from that era would have done the trick; guys like Doug Drabek, Jose Rijo, Al Leiter, Bob Tewksbury and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Oh wait a minute. I forgot. All these guys were Yankees before the George Steinbrenner dominated front-office traded them away for players who would contribute next-to-nothing during their years in pinstripes.
Jim Deshaies was a huge left-hander from Massena, NY. He had played collegiate baseball at LeMoyne, a Division II school outside of Syracuse, NY where he teamed with another future big-league southpaw named Tom Browning to lead the Dolphins to two consecutive college World Series appearances. The Yankees drafted him in the 21st round of the 1982 amateur draft and over the next four seasons he put together a 38-21 record with 11 shutouts and a sub-three ERA as he ascended New York’s minor league ladder. Everybody who saw this kid pitch back then thought he’d be perfect for Yankee Stadium.
He made his big league debut there in 1984 and though he got shelled by the White Sox and took the loss (giving up 8 hits and 4 earned runs in 4 innings pitched) Deshaies did make history that afternoon. He became the 1,000th Yankee to appear in a big league ball game. Six days later, Yankee skipper Yogi Berra gave him his second start in Cleveland and Deshaies got shelled again. That would be his final appearance ever for New York. The following September he was traded to the Astros for knuckleballer Joe Niekro, who’s older brother Phil was also a Yankee at the time and was just about to win the 300th game of his career. Though the trade made it possible for Joe to be the first guy to congratulate his sibling for his landmark victory, the younger Niekro made little impact during his tenure as a Yankees, going just 14-15 before being traded to the Twins in June of 1987.
Meanwhile, Deshaies went 12-5 for the Astros in 1986 and would win a total of 49 games during his first four seasons in Houston. During his official rookie season he also set a record by striking out the first eight batters he faced in a game, the first time that had been done by a Major League pitcher in over 100 years. His best year was 1989, when he finished with a 15-10 record, a career low 2.91 ERA and 3 shutouts. By contrast, the 1989 Yankee starting rotation featured Andy Hawkins with his 15-15 record and four other journeymen who put together a cumulative won-loss mark of just 21-25.
That 1989 season turned out to be the last time DeShaies was able to produce a winning record. He pitched in the big leagues until 1995 and two years later he became a Houston Astro broadcaster, a job he still holds. He shares his birthday with another former Yankee prospect from the 1980s, this one-time Yankee starting catcher and this legendary Yankee GM.
|HOU (7 yrs)||61||59||.508||3.67||181||178||0||14||6||0||1102.0||960||479||449||113||423||731||1.255|
|MIN (2 yrs)||17||25||.405||5.71||52||52||0||1||0||0||297.2||329||194||189||54||105||158||1.458|
|SFG (1 yr)||2||2||.500||4.24||5||4||1||0||0||0||17.0||24||9||8||2||6||5||1.765|
|PHI (1 yr)||0||1||.000||20.25||2||2||0||0||0||0||5.1||15||12||12||3||1||6||3.000|
|SDP (1 yr)||4||7||.364||3.28||15||15||0||0||0||0||96.0||92||40||35||6||33||46||1.302|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||1||.000||11.57||2||2||0||0||0||0||7.0||14||9||9||1||7||5||3.000|