Happy Birthday to Danny Walton, who was my teammate on the New York Yankees from 1971 to 1972. About two months into the 1971 season, the Yankees traded Frank Tepedino and Bobby Mitchell, once considered among the Yankees most promising prospects, to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Yankees viewed Danny as a potential power-hitting outfielder – he had 17 Home Runs the previous season — although they knew he struck out a lot. They wanted him as a right-handed pinch hitter. He hit just one Home Run for the Yankees (a solo shot off Dave McNally in a game the Orioles won 10-4. He also had knee problems that affected his career and played only five games for us before he was optioned to Syracuse to make room on the roster for a young up-and-comer named Ron Blomberg. He spent 1972 in AAA and the Yankees traded him to Baltimore for Rick Dempsey before he ever returned to pinstripes.
I say this respectfully, but as a pitcher I never really feared Danny Walton. The first time I saw him was on May 2, 1970 at Yankee Stadium and I struck him out twice in his first two at-bats. Then I walked him. A week later, we made our first trip to County Stadium in Milwaukee, where the Seattle Pilots had relocated after one year. The next time I pitched to Danny, I stuck him out three times in three at-bats. He didn’t get a hit off me until July. In all, I struck Danny out eleven times in twenty at-bats, and he had a lifetime .200 batting average against me, with no extra base hits and no RBI’s. But Danny got the best of me at the end: two of his four career hits off me came in the final two at-bats against me, when he was with the Minnesota Twins.
Danny missed a lot of time because of his bad knees, but he still put together a career that lasted (on and off) from 1968 to 1980, and I admire that.