Happy Birthday, Hector Lopez

Hector LopezHappy Birthday to my teammate, Hector Lopez, whose magnificent career as a major league baseball player crossed with mine for just one year.  His final season came in 1966, my rookie year.  I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with this Yankee great.  Headley started out, as many Yankees did, with the Kansas City Athletics.  He came to New York in a 1959 trade and retired there seven years later.  I met Headley for the first time during Spring Training 1966 in Fort Lauderdale.

The first game Hector and I played in together was on May 22, 1966, the second game of a Sunday doubleheader at Yankee Stadium against the Minnesota Twins.    I wasn’t pitching badly – I had only given up two hits before Tony Oliva tripled to lead off the fourth and Bob Allison hit a sacrifice fly to Mickey Mantle in center field, and we were losing 1-0.  Elston Howard doubled to left to lead off the eighth and Hector Lopez pinch hit for me.  Ralph Houk put Horace Clarke in to run for Ellie, and Hoss was able to get to second after Hector hit a deep shot to center.  Hoss scored on Roy White’s single, tying the game.  White advanced to second on Bobby Richardson’s hit, and scored on Joe Pepitone’s double to left. The Yankees won 2-1, my third career victory – in part thanks to Headley.

On August 4, 1966, we were playing the Angeles at Anaheim Stadium.  I was pitching and Headley was playing Right Field.  I remember the game because it was my worst performance of the season.  I have up two runs and two hits in the bottom of the first.  In the second, gave up a leadoff single to Buck Rodgers, who moved to second on Bobby Knoop’s single. They both advanced a base on Ed Kirkpatrick’s groundout.  Then the pitcher, Marcelino Lopez, hit an infield single, with Rodgers scoring and Knoop moving to third.  Jose Cardenal came to the plate with runners on first and third and one out and hit a triple to Headley in right field.  Headley misplayed the ball, removing the option of getting Jose at third.  Instead, two more runs scored.  Jay hit an RBI single and I was gone after 1 1/3 innings, having given up six runs.  So after Dooley Womack finishes the inning, Headley comes up to me in the dugout and apologizes for the play.  Imagine that, this classic Yankee apologizing to a rookie who just pitched horribly.  “Sorry, Peta,” he said.  “I owe you one.”  What a great guy!

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