Results tagged ‘ starting pitcher ’

April 3 – Happy Birthday Art Ditmar

art.ditmarCasey Stengel fell in love with Art Ditmar during the 1959 and 1960 regular seasons. The “Ol Perfessor” had good reason to. Ditmar won 13 games in ’59 and then surprised everyone by leading the Yankees back to the World Series in 1960 by going 15-9. But that’s when Casey overplayed his hand with the right-hander. He gave the Winthrop, MA native the start in Game 1 against the Pirates instead of Whitey Ford. Ditmar lasted only an inning and took the loss. By holding Ford out of Game 1, Stengel could only pitch his left-handed ace twice if the series went to seven games and that of course is exactly what happened. Ditmar got hit hard and yanked early again in Game 5 while Ford pitched complete game shutouts in Games 2 and 6. After the Yankees lost the Series on Bill Mazeroski’s historic game-winning home-run, Stengel was fired and Ditmar’s Yankee career was on borrowed time. During his four-plus seasons in pinstripes, Art went 47-32 with a 3.24 ERA and 11 saves.

Ditmar may have been a big goat in the 1960 Series but he went to court years later to prove he wasn’t the only goat. When Mazeroski hit his home run, the announcer, Chuck Thompson, mistakingly said that the Pirate second baseman had hit a pitch from Ditmar instead of the actual pitcher at the time, Ralph Terry. When one of those “taste great – less filling” Miller Beer commercials repeated the same error in the 1980’s, Ditmar attempted to sue for damages, claiming the advertisement held him up to undeserved public ridicule and might be costing him autograph, special appearance and memorabilia revenues. The judge hearing the case threw the suit out of court.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA FIP G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1957 NYY 8 3 .727 3.25 3.24 46 11 12 0 0 6 127.1 128 55 46 9 35 64 1.280
1958 NYY 9 8 .529 3.42 3.96 38 13 13 4 0 4 139.2 124 71 53 14 38 52 1.160
1959 NYY 13 9 .591 2.90 3.58 38 25 7 7 1 1 202.0 156 75 65 17 52 96 1.030
1960 NYY 15 9 .625 3.06 4.36 34 28 3 8 1 0 200.0 195 77 68 25 56 65 1.255
1961 NYY 2 3 .400 4.64 4.73 12 8 1 1 0 0 54.1 59 33 28 9 14 24 1.344
9 Yrs 72 77 .483 3.98 4.19 287 156 61 41 5 14 1268.0 1237 649 561 138 461 552 1.339
KCA (5 yrs) 25 45 .357 4.97 4.58 119 71 25 21 3 3 544.2 575 338 301 64 266 251 1.544
NYY (5 yrs) 47 32 .595 3.24 3.89 168 85 36 20 2 11 723.1 662 311 260 74 195 301 1.185
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/16/2014.

April 2 – Happy Birthday Mike Kekich

kekichToday’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is best known for his involvement in one of the most publicized deals in both Yankee and Major League Baseball history. The trade did not take place between two ball clubs and did not require anyone to switch uniforms. Instead, after a dinner party one evening at the home of New York Post sportswriter, Maury Allen, Yankee pitchers Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson agreed to trade families. Kekich’s wife and two daughters would move in with Peterson and Fritzie’s wife and two sons would live with Kekich. As it turned out, Kekich got the short end of that deal.

The left handed fire-baller was once considered the next Sandy Koufak, when the Dodgers drafted him in 1964. He got a chance to pitch with the great one the following season, when LA brought him up for a look-see as a 20-year-old, just before the All Star break. Kekich’s problem on the mound was control. He walked almost as many as he struck out. The Dodgers used him as a starter in 1968 and when he finished that year with a 2-10 record, he was traded to the Yankees for outfielder Andy Kosco. The only thing I remember about that transaction was that it officially converted my big brother Jerry into an ex-Yankee fan for life because for some reason, Andy Kosco was his favorite player.

Over the next four seasons, Kekich evolved into a decent starter for some pretty mediocre Yankee teams. In fact, by 1971, the Yankees had put together a five-man rotation that looked as if it could help get the Yankees back into the pennant picture for seasons to come. In addition to Kekich and Peterson, it included ace Mel Stottlemyre, Stan Bahnsen and Steve Kline, all of whom were younger than 30 and each of whom won in double figures during that ’71 season. Instead, the Yankees proceeded to inexplicably trade Bahnsen for some guy named Rich McKinney and then Peterson and Kekich made that infamous trade of their own.

The family swap worked out for Fritz and Susanne Kekich. The two are still married today. Marilyn Peterson and her two boys left Kekich days after the exchange took place and the pitcher’s personal life and baseball career were pretty much turned upside down. After starting the 1973 season as a Yankee, Kekich was traded to Cleveland for a pitcher named Lowell Palmer. He lasted just one season with the Indians and then started pitching on any team and in any country that would have him. During that period of his life Kekich almost died when he ruptured his spleen trying to break up a player brawl in a Venezuelan league game and almost died again when his motorcycle struck a police car in California. By 1980 he was playing baseball in Mexico by day and enrolled in a course to become a medical doctor, at night. That didn’t work for him either.

Eventually, Kekich did remarry and now lives in New Mexico. He was born in San Diego on this date in 1945. He shared his wife with Peterson and he shares his April 2nd birthday with another former Yankee starting pitcher and this former Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA FIP G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1969 NYY 4 6 .400 4.54 4.07 28 13 6 1 0 1 105.0 91 58 53 11 49 66 1.333
1970 NYY 6 3 .667 4.83 4.65 26 14 4 1 0 0 98.2 103 59 53 12 55 63 1.601
1971 NYY 10 9 .526 4.07 3.87 37 24 5 3 0 0 170.1 167 89 77 13 82 93 1.462
1972 NYY 10 13 .435 3.70 3.84 29 28 0 2 0 0 175.1 172 77 72 13 76 78 1.414
1973 NYY 1 1 .500 9.20 6.18 5 4 0 0 0 0 14.2 20 15 15 1 14 4 2.318
9 Yrs 39 51 .433 4.59 4.16 235 112 48 8 1 6 860.2 875 485 439 80 442 497 1.530
NYY (5 yrs) 31 32 .492 4.31 4.09 125 83 15 7 0 1 564.0 553 298 270 50 276 304 1.470
LAD (2 yrs) 2 11 .154 4.38 3.49 30 21 2 1 1 0 125.1 126 66 61 11 59 93 1.476
TEX (1 yr) 0 0 3.73 4.21 23 0 8 0 0 2 31.1 33 16 13 2 21 19 1.723
CLE (1 yr) 1 4 .200 7.02 5.19 16 6 4 0 0 0 50.0 73 47 39 6 35 26 2.160
SEA (1 yr) 5 4 .556 5.60 4.91 41 2 19 0 0 3 90.0 90 58 56 11 51 55 1.567
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/16/2014.

April 1 – Happy Birthday Phil Niekro

Talk about a perfect birthday celebrant for April Fools’ Day, this five-time All Star’s legendary knuckleball fooled thousands of Major League hitters during a 24-year career. The late Bobby Murcer once said that trying to hit Niekro’s signature pitch was like trying to eat jello with chopsticks. The Pitcher once told a Baseball Digest columnist that his goal was to throw the knuckler right down the heart of the plate and let the ball do the rest. He confessed to having no idea where his pitches would end up but either did the hitter. “Knucksie” spent 21 seasons pitching for the Braves before signing with the Yankees in 1984, as a free agent. In his two seasons in pinstripes, he won 32 games including his 300th career victory in 1985. Only five other Major League hurlers won more games than Niekro did during the two seasons he pitched in the Bronx.

Following the 1985 season, New York signed Phil’s younger brother Joe, also a knuckleballer, as a free agent. The Neikro’s were looking forward to pursuing and eclipsing Gaylord and Jim Perry’s record for most ML victories by two brothers, as Yankee teammates. That didn’t happen. Right before their 1986 spring training camp broke, the Yankees played a cruel and early April Fools joke on the Niekro siblings when they unexpectedly released Phil. Both Niekro’s were bitter about the decision claiming the New York front office knew the only reason Joe signed with the team was the opportunity to pitch with his older brother. Phil pitched for two more seasons, retiring in 1987 with a lifetime record of 318-274. He also won five Gold Gloves and made five All Star teams during his long career. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1997. The Niekro boys did become the winning-est set of siblings in league history with 538, surpassing the Perry’s by nine victories.

There have been a total of four 300-game-winning pitchers who wore the Yankee pinstripes during their careers. They are listed below in order of their lifetime victories:

Roger Clemens – 354
Phil Niekro – 318
Gaylord Perry – 314
Randy Johnson – 303

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA FIP G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1984 NYY 16 8 .667 3.09 3.51 32 31 1 5 1 0 215.2 219 85 74 15 76 136 1.368
1985 NYY 16 12 .571 4.09 4.71 33 33 0 7 1 0 220.0 203 110 100 29 120 149 1.468
24 Yrs 318 274 .537 3.35 3.62 864 716 83 245 45 29 5404.0 5044 2337 2012 482 1809 3342 1.268
ATL (21 yrs) 268 230 .538 3.20 3.46 740 595 81 226 43 29 4622.1 4224 1922 1645 392 1458 2912 1.229
CLE (2 yrs) 18 22 .450 4.90 5.04 56 54 1 7 0 0 334.0 383 209 182 42 148 138 1.590
NYY (2 yrs) 32 20 .615 3.59 4.11 65 64 1 12 2 0 435.2 422 195 174 44 196 285 1.419
TOR (1 yr) 0 2 .000 8.25 7.79 3 3 0 0 0 0 12.0 15 11 11 4 7 7 1.833
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/16/2014.

March 31 – Happy Birthday Chien-Ming Wang

wang.jpg

He’s back and I wish I could honestly end this sentence with the phrase “he’s better than ever,” but that would be a stretch. That’s because in 2006 and 2007 when this elegant Taiwanese right-hander was throwing his hard sinking slider every fifth day in the Yankee rotation, he was one of the very best pitchers in baseball.

If it had been any other player in that fateful day’s Yankee lineup besides Jorge Posada on first base when Chien-Ming Wang laid down that bunt against the Houston Astros, Wang might still be a Yankee today.

At the time, Wang was on his way to earning his eighth victory of the 2008 season against just two defeats. Because it was an inter-league game being played at the NL team’s home park, there was no DH and Wang had to take at bats. Leading 3-0 in the sixth, Wang came to the plate with men on first and second with one out. He attempted a sacrifice but Astro pitcher Roy Oswalt was able to field the bunt and make the throw to third in time to nail the very slow Posada. The play forced Wang to become the baserunner at first. That’s when the floodgates opened for the Yankee offense as they proceeded to score six runs. Unfortunately for Wang and the Yankees, as he was running the bases to score the second of those six runs, he tore a tendon in his right foot and his season was over. As it turned out, so was the Yankees’ thirteen year streak of playoff appearances and effectively, so was Wang’s Yankee career.

My point is this. If its Jeter or A-Rod or Abreu on second at the time, Oswalt probably forgets about the play at third and goes to first for the second out of the inning.

I was a big fan of Wang despite the fact that he never seemed to pitch well in the playoffs. He had a 55-26 career record with New York. Five years ago at his time I was hoping he’d settle in as the number three starter behind CC and AJ and have a great year. That didn’t happen. When he did come back from his foot injury, probably a bit too early, he wasn’t able to replicate his old delivery and hurt his throwing shoulder.  He underwent shoulder surgery and signed with the Nationals, finally making it back to a big league mound in late July of 2011. He got 11 starts for Washington during the second half of that season. He finished with a 4-3 record and the Nats re-signed him to a $4 million deal to pitch for them in 2012. He then regressed and Washington let him walk at the end of the 2011 season. I thought his career was over. But then came the 2013 World Baseball Championships during which Wang pitched 12 effective innings for his native Taiwan.

The Yankees signed him to a minor league deal after that tournament but released him so he could pitch for the Blue Jays. He put together two great starts for Toronto in 2013 but then faltered and got released. The Reds signed him to a minor league contract and he began the 2014 season pitching in their farm system.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2005 NYY 8 5 .615 4.02 18 17 0 0 0 0 116.1 113 58 52 9 32 47 1.246
2006 NYY 19 6 .760 3.63 34 33 1 2 1 1 218.0 233 92 88 12 52 76 1.307
2007 NYY 19 7 .731 3.70 30 30 0 1 0 0 199.1 199 84 82 9 59 104 1.294
2008 NYY 8 2 .800 4.07 15 15 0 1 0 0 95.0 90 44 43 4 35 54 1.316
2009 NYY 1 6 .143 9.64 12 9 2 0 0 0 42.0 66 46 45 7 19 29 2.024
8 Yrs 62 34 .646 4.37 136 126 3 4 1 1 792.1 858 407 385 59 234 364 1.378
NYY (5 yrs) 55 26 .679 4.16 109 104 3 4 1 1 670.2 701 324 310 41 197 310 1.339
WSN (2 yrs) 6 6 .500 4.94 21 16 0 0 0 0 94.2 117 59 52 13 28 40 1.532
TOR (1 yr) 1 2 .333 7.67 6 6 0 0 0 0 27.0 40 24 23 5 9 14 1.815
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/16/2014.

March 28 – Happy Birthday Vic Raschi

VicRaschiCard.jpgI will always have a special affinity for Victor John Angelo Raschi, even though I never saw him throw a pitch in a single big league game. That’s because he started his professional and Yankee career in my home town of Amsterdam, NY, pitching for the Amsterdam Rugmakers in 1941. At the time, the Rugmakers were New York’s minor league affiliate in the old Canadian American League.

Notice that year, 1941 again. Raschi was born on March 28, 1919 in West Springfield, MA. That was not a particularly good time to be born if you turned out to be an aspiring big league baseball player. Why? Because just as you reached the age at which most professional baseball careers began, your country got involved in WWII and you were called to serve. So after going 10-6 for the Rugmakers that first season and becoming a legend in my home town, Raschi got to spend just one more season in the Yankee farm system before  joining the air force for the next three years.

By the time he returned, in 1946, the Springfield, Massachusetts native was already 27-years-old and by the time he became a starter for New York he was 29. For a half-dozen seasons from 1948 to 1954, this fire-baller was as good as any pitcher in baseball. Raschi was a three-time twenty-game winner for the Yankees, compiling a .706 winning percentage and a 120-50 record during his nine years in pinstripes. He combined with Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat to give New York one of the top trio of starters to ever pitch in the same Yankee rotation and that rotation led them to five straight World Series victories from 1949 to 1953.

Unfortunately, Raschi’s Yankee career ended on a sour note when he complained vociferously about a pay cut the Yankees forced upon him after he went 13-6 in 1953. Yankee GM George Weiss sold the then 34-year-old veteran to the Cardinals. It turned out to be the right move by the heartless Weiss as Raschi never again had a winning season in the big leagues. If military service had not stalled the start of his career, I feel Raschi would be in Cooperstown today. He died in 1988 at the age of 69. It was Yankee announcer, Mel Allen who gave this great Yankee right-hander the nickname, “The Springfield Rifle.”

Raschi shares his March 28th birthday with this former Yankee reliever and this one too.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1946 NYY 2 0 1.000 3.94 2 2 0 2 0 0 16.0 14 7 7 0 5 11 1.188
1947 NYY 7 2 .778 3.87 15 14 0 6 1 0 104.2 89 47 45 11 38 51 1.213
1948 NYY 19 8 .704 3.84 36 31 2 18 6 1 222.2 208 103 95 15 74 124 1.266
1949 NYY 21 10 .677 3.34 38 37 0 21 3 0 274.2 247 120 102 16 138 124 1.402
1950 NYY 21 8 .724 4.00 33 32 1 17 2 1 256.2 232 120 114 19 116 155 1.356
1951 NYY 21 10 .677 3.27 35 34 0 15 4 0 258.1 233 110 94 20 103 164 1.301
1952 NYY 16 6 .727 2.78 31 31 0 13 4 0 223.0 174 78 69 12 91 127 1.188
1953 NYY 13 6 .684 3.33 28 26 2 7 4 1 181.0 150 74 67 11 55 76 1.133
10 Yrs 132 66 .667 3.72 269 255 5 106 26 3 1819.0 1666 828 752 138 727 944 1.316
NYY (8 yrs) 120 50 .706 3.47 218 207 5 99 24 3 1537.0 1347 659 593 104 620 832 1.280
STL (2 yrs) 8 10 .444 4.88 31 30 0 6 2 0 180.2 187 103 98 24 72 74 1.434
KCA (1 yr) 4 6 .400 5.42 20 18 0 1 0 0 101.1 132 66 61 10 35 38 1.648
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/16/2014.