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.
I am celebrating an important anniversary today: 47 years ago today, I hit my first and only Triple as a Major League Baseball player. As a guy with a .159 career average, I will never forget that particular extra base hit. The Yankees were playing the White Sox in my old hometown of Chicago, and I was pitching against Gary Peters. We were both awful teams: the Yankees were in 8th place and the Chisox were in 9th. I was leading off the top of the third, and we were down one run. I had walked Buddy Bradford, who scored when Tim Cullen hit a grounder to Tom Tresh at shortstop and threw the ball to First Baseman Mickey Mantle, who missed it. Mickey was a magnificent player and one of the most wonderful men I ever played with, but this was the final season of his extraordinary career and he could no longer run. By the time he got to the ball, Buddy has scored. Cullen had a 2-1 count on me and he threw me a fastball that I clobbered (maybe clobber is an exaggeration, but I’m 73-years-old and it’s my story) to a beautiful spot between Bradford in center and Walt Williams in right. No neck made an incredible throw but I made it to third, albeit narrowly –Sandy Alomar, the White Sox Third Baseman, was a little surprised by that. Here’s the part my teammates enjoyed most: Horace Clarke tried to sacrifice with a fly ball to Tommy Davis in Left Field. Tommy caught the ball and threw it home, and Duane Josephson tagged me a little before I reached home plate. I was out. But that, my friends, is the historic story of my one and only Triple – but not the only time I got thrown out at the plate. More importantly, I think I pitched well: 8 2/3 innings, and the Yankees won 5-4.
(Quick note: I enjoyed playing with No Neck for a brief time when he joined the Yankees in 1974, and I have always been disappointed that I never got to play alongside Sandy, who came to New York shortly after the Yankees traded me to Cleveland.)