Happy Birthday to Gary Waslewski, who pitched with me on the New York Yankees in 1970 and 1971. I started following Gary when he was called up by the Red Sox during the summer of 1967 after seven seasons in the minor leagues because I followed a lot of young pitchers, especially when they were pitching for your greatest rival. And I was glued to the television set on October 11, 1967 when he was picked to start Game 6 of the World Series. (I admit I was not rooting for him – I could never root for Boston to win anything!) With just 42 innings of major league experience in only 12 MLB games, Gary did just fine. Boston had a 3-2 lead when he left the mound in the top of the sixth inning after walking Roger Maris and Tim McCarver. The Red Sox beat the Cardinals 8-4, forcing the historic Game 7.
The first time I saw Gary pitch was on May 10, 1968 at Yankee Stadium. He pitched a complete game, striking out six, but the Yankees won 2-1. After that season, Boston traded him to the Cardinals for Dick Schofield; six months later, St. Louis sent him to the Expos for Mudcat Grant. The Yankees got him a little less than a year later for Dave McDonald. Joe Verbanic got optioned to Syracuse to make room for him. Gary’s first game in Pinstripes was on May 19, 1970 at Yankee Stadium. He came in relief for John Cumberland. A month later, he started a game against the Red Sox, pitched well, and the Yankees won 3-2.
The first time Gary came in to pitch in relief for me was on July 9, 1970 at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. I had a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the fifth, but gave up three runs on singles by Bobby Grich, Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, and a double by Brooks Robinson. That’s when Ralph Houk took me out. Gary came in with two outs and a runner on second and got Davey Johnson to ground out. We took the lead in the top of the sixth when Marcelino Lopez walked Horace Clarke with the bases loaded, and then gave up an RBI single to Jerry Kenney. We beat the Orioles 7-5.
The Yankees released Gary at the end of Spring Training 1972 and he pitched for the Oakland A’s after that.
A little Jack Heidemann trivia: he was the Indians #1 draft pick (11th overall) in the 1967 Amateur Draft. The Yankees, thanks to the Horace Clarke Era, had the first overall pick and that’s how Ron Blomberg got his pinstripes. This was another talented pool, with guys like Jon Matlack (Mets, 4th overall), Big John Mayberry (Royals, 6th overall), Ted Simmons (Cardinals, 10th overall), Dave Rader (Giants, 18th overall) and Bobby Grich (Orioles, 19th overall). Guys like Vida Blue, Dave Kingman, Don Baylor and Jerry Reuss went in the second round. I’m glad to be friends with Bloomie – and I’d like to keep it that way — so I won’t speculate whether Lee McPhail made the right call.
I was sorry to learn of the passing of former Orioles outfielder Andres Mora, who died last week at the age of 60. I remember facing him in 1976, his rookie season, and my last one. It was the bottom of the 8th inning and I was pitching for the Texas Rangers at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. We had a 6-1 lead. Mark Belanger hit a single to left and moved to second on Bobby Grich’s groundout. Lee May hit a single to left and Belanger scored. Then Mora came to the plate. He hit a solid single to left, moving May to second. Paul Blair drove in May with a double to left. With Mora at third, Frank Lucchesi pulled me and Steve Foucault in relief got Ken Singleton to pop up to Roy Howell at third to end the inning. Rest in peace, Andres Mora. Your fans will always remember your contribution to the game.