Happy Birthday, Casey Cox

Casey Cox Happy Birthday to Casey Cox, my Yankee teammate in 1972 and 1973.  We were part of the Class of 1966 of American League pitchers making their major league debut; he was with the Washington Senators.  The first time we pitched against each other was on July 8, 1966 at Yankee Stadium, the second game of a twilight doubleheader.  This wasn’t exactly a battle of the titans; it was a match up of two fairly crappy teams; the ’72 Yankees were in 8th place, 19 ½ games out, and the Senators were in 9th, 21 ½ games out.

I had given up two runs in the first (including a double to Ken Harrelson and a triple to Frank Howard) and two more in the second.  We picked up three runs in the third off Mickey Mantle’s Home Run, doubles by Joe Pepitone and Ray Barker, and a single by Horace Clarke.  Casey relieved Joe Hannan in the fifth inning after Mickey singled to left and Hector Lopez (pinch running for Mickey) moved to third on Joe Pepitone’s single.  Elston Howard came to bat and hit into a double play, but Hector scored and the game was tied 4-4.  With two outs, Ray hit a deep shot to center – for a moment I thought it was going out – but Don Lock caught it and the inning was over.  Casey pitched again in the sixth, a 1-2-3 inning.  I came up with two outs and Casey struck me out – not an amazing accomplishment, but memorable to me nonetheless since it was a tie game.  I’m glad Ralph Houk didn’t pinch hit for me.

The top of the seventh was no good for me.  Paul Casanova led off with a single, and moved to second on a beautiful sacrifice bunt by Ed Brinkman.  Gil Hodges, the Senators manager, pulled Casey so that Bob Saverine could pinch hit.  Good move.  Bob singled to center and Paul scored and we’re now losing 5-4.  But my team continued to come through.  The new Washington pitcher, Dick Bosman, walked Tom Tresh; Bobby Richardson got to first base on a fielding error by Brinkman, the shortstop, with Tommy moving to second.  Hector executed a pretty good sacrifice bunt, moving Tommy to third and Bobby to second.  Hodges called for an intentional walk to Pepitone, loading the bases.  Elston Howard popped up to first; then Ray Barker hit a two-out single, with Tommy and Bobby scoring.  Now we’re ahead 6-5.  We scored one more run in the eighth when Clete Boyer hit a leadoff triple and later scored.  Dick Bosman got the loss and I was now 8-5, with another complete game but just two strikeouts.

Casey came to the Yankees on August 31, 1973 in a trade for Jim Roland, ending Jim’s four-month career in pinstripes.  He was a very good guy who had the misfortune of pitching for some bad teams – he originally signed with the Reds; timing is everything in baseball.  I’m sorry to report that the Yankees lost all five games Casey pitched in, including an excruciating loss in a game I pitched against the Red Sox; the loss was entirely on me, not Casey.  In 1974, Casey pitched in one game – he entered in the sixth, with the Red Sox ahead 12-5, and gave up three runs in three innings.  The Yankees released him soon after that, and he never pitched in the major leagues again.

A few more things about the baseball career of Casey Cox: he was managed by three baseball greats – Gil Hodges, Ted Williams and Ralph Houk; he had his career year in 1969 when he was 12-7 with a 2.78 ERA, making 13 starts in 52 games; and some excellent hitters like Carlton Fisk and Rod Carew had .143 career batting averages against him.

The other thing I think about when I remember Casey Cox is that he wore #29 and if you follow Yankee history, you know that there is not much longevity associated with guys who wear #29 on the back of their pinstripes.  Of the 55 Yankees who have worn #29, the only one to last more than a few seasons were Francisco Cervelli, Mike Stanton, Gerald Williams, Catfish Hunter, and Charlie Silvera.  Casey originally wore #39, but he wanted #29, which was his number on the Senators and the Rangers.  That switch came about because Sudden Sam McDowell, who was #39, wanted #48.  Before Sudden Sam, the number was worn by a succession of one-season guys: Wade Blasingame (1972), Jim Hardin (1971), Mike McCormick (1970), Rocky Colavito (1968), Bill Henry (1966), Bobby Tiefenauer (1965), Mike Jurewicz (1965), Tom Metcalf (1963), Hal Brown (1962), Earl Torgeson (1961), Duke Maas (1961), and Hal Stowe (1960).  After Casey was traded, #29 was assigned to Tom Buskey, who wore it from April 1973 until April 1974, when he and I were traded to Cleveland; and then Dick Woodson for the rest of that season.  Then Catfish came in 1975.  Later came short-term Yankees like Dave Collins, Paul Zuvella, Al Holland, Luis Aquayo, Dave LaPoint, Mike Humphreys, Ricky Bones, Bubba Trammel, Tony Clark, Tim Redding, Felix Escalona, Octavio Dotel, Kei Igawa, Cody Ransom, Xavier Nady, Anthony Claggett, and Rafael Soriano.  So the best I can say is Good Luck to David Carpenter.

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