When you play in New York, you never know what might happen: Happy Birthday to Eddie Leon, an infielder who played briefly – and I mean briefly – for the Yankees in 1975. I think it’s a really interesting story and worth the full read. Eddie started out with the Cleveland Indians, making his major league debut in 1968. He was The Tribe’s starting shortstop in 1970 and 1971; his bat was fine (he hit .261 in 1971) and he was strong defensively. When Frank Duffy won the shortstop job in 1972, Eddie became expendable and in early 1973 The Tribe traded him to Chicago for Walt “No Neck” Williams. He won the starting job in 1973, but lost it in 1974 to a young rookie named Bucky Dent. After the ’74 season, Eddie was traded to the Yankees for pitcher Cecil Upshaw, who had come to New York as part of the famous Fritz Peterson trade. The Yankees had intended to use him as a utility infielder in 1975 – part of a group that included Sandy Alomar at second, Jim Mason at short, and Fred Stanley as the other backup infielder. Eddie didn’t get much playing time as a Yankee. He sat on the bench for the first 22 games of the ’75 season. On May 4, 1975, Eddie finally made his debut wearing Pinstripes, against the Brewers at County Stadium. Mason came out of the game in the eighth inning for a pinch hitter (No-Neck, who by then had become a Yankee), and Bill Virdon sent Eddie in to play short for the bottom of the eighth. No balls were hit to him. No plays involved him. In the top of the ninth, with a runner on first and two outs, and the Brewers ahead 11-4, Virdon sent in Ed Herrmann to pinch hit. That was the first and last time Eddie Leon played for the Yankees. He was released the next day, and soon after the Yankees purchased Ed Brinkman’s contract from the Texas Rangers. Ed got Eddie’s uniform, #20.
I never got to play with Eddie. I was traded to Cleveland in 1974. But as a player, you remember stories like this one. Regardless of his playing time – one-half inning, no plate appearances, and no plays in the field – he is forever a New York Yankee and that means something.
Happy Birthday to Buddy Bradford, an outfielder who played eleven seasons for the White Sox, Indians, Reds and Cardinals from 1966 to 1976, the same years that I played. I faced him for the first time during our rookie seasons, on October 1, 1966 at White Sox Park. Buddy was the leadoff hitter and started the game with an infield single to Mike Ferraro at third base. He singled again in the bottom of the sixth and scored off Jim Hicks’ hit. In all, he was 2-for-4 that first game, which the Yankees won, 5-3. The game I remember most was June 1, 1976, during my brief time with the Texas Rangers. We were at Comiskey Park and I entered the game in the bottom of the sixth in relief of Steve Hargan. We were ahead 5-3, with the bases loaded and two outs. Buddy was on third. Bill Stein singled to center, scoring Buddy; the inning ended when Juan Beniquez threw out Richie Coggins at home. I have up a leadoff Single to Pat Kelly in the seventh, but then retired Ralph Garr, Bucky Dent and Jorge Orta; our 5-4 lead was protected – for now. In the eighth, I gave up a leadoff double to Jim Spencer. Buddy hit a single to center, scoring Jim and tying the game at 5-5. That was it for me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would pitch just twice more before my career would come to an end. But more importantly, the Rangers won 6-5 in the sixteenth inning off Lenny Randle’s RBI double.
One footnote to my last game with Buddy: After the Rangers won, the White Sox lodged a protest. The Rangers had used Bill Singer as the starting pitcher, and he had pitched 6 1/3 innings. After Singer left the game – and while the game was still going on – the Rangers announced that they had traded Bill, along with Mike Cubbage, Roy Smalley and Jim Gideon, to the Minnesota Twins for Bert Blyleven and Danny Thompson. American League President Lee McPhail turned down Bill Veeck’s protest, saying that while using players after a trade has been agreed to but before it takes effect is permissible, it should be avoided. This trade came four days after my own trade to the Rangers; that’s how this future Hall of Famer and I became teammates, albeit just for a few weeks.