Happy Birthday, Jack Aker

Jack AkerHappy 75th Birthday to Jack Aker, a wonderful guy with an amazing slider who was my Yankee teammate from 1969 to 1972.  He spent a little time on the original Seattle Pilots team before the Yankees traded Fred Talbot to get him.  I wrote a lot about him in my book, especially how he was a guy you wanted on your side in a fight. And in Ball Four, Jim Bouton talks about how Charlie Finley wanted to get rid of Jack, who was the A’s union rep, and that’s how he came to be left unprotected in the 1969 expansion draft. The Chief spent eleven seasons in the major leagues, all of them as a relief pitcher; he never started a game.  One of the first times I saw The Chief pitch was in my rookie year, 1966, and the Yankees were in Kansas City to play the Athletics.  He and Fred were on the same team then, and Fred got the win and Jack the save.  I think Jack actually appeared in all three games of that series.  Jack pitched in 38 games during the remainder of the 1969 season, with eight wins, 14 saves, and a 2.06 ERA.
A couple of weeks ago, on Dick Drago’s birthday, I wrote about one game I pitched with Jack Aker that had a huge effect on my life.  It was August 25, 1970.  Steve Kline pitched great for 7 1/3 innings and only let up one run – a seventh inning leadoff homer to Bob Oliver. After he gave up a hit in the eighth, and with a runner at second, Ralph Houk brought in Jack Aker to pitch to Amos Otis. Jack had a sore back and hadn’t pitched in about two weeks. He seemed to be doing fine, but after one pitch, the pain returned and he could not continue. Houk called me in to get the last two outs. Dick was pitching magnificently. He had given up a run in the second when Bobby Murcer doubled and Danny Cater drove him in, when he took the mound in the top of the ninth, we were tied, 1-1. Roy White singled, stole second, and advanced to third on Cater’s infield hit. Then Jim Lyttle drove him in with a single. I came in for the bottom of the ninth and gave up a leadoff walk to Oliver; the Major then brought in Lindy McDaniel to close, and the Yankees won 2-1. I got the win by pitching to four batters. An important win because I finished the season 20-11, but I only got the opportunity because poor Jack got hurt.

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