Among the guys I really enjoyed playing with was Dave LaRoche, who was traded to the Cleveland Indians during the 1975 Off-Season for another good pitcher, Milt Wilcox. The first time I saw him pitch was in his Yankee Stadium debut on July 19, 1970 when he was a rookie for the California Angels. He entered the game in relief in the eighth, taking over for Rudy May with a 5-2 lead. The first batter he faced was Horace Clarke, who grounded out. Then he struck out Bobby Murcer. In the ninth, he got Thurman Munson out. To me, getting Lemon and Tugboat out in your Yankee Stadium debut is a big deal. And that was Dave’s first major league save.
His Tribe debut was on April 12, 1975 in Milwaukee. It was the same day Dennis Eckersley made his major league debut. I was the starting pitcher that day, and I had nothing. Sometimes pitchers have days like that. I gave up a one-out walk to John Briggs, who reached third on Hank Aaron’s double. I intentionally walked the sometimes scary George Scott, and then Don Money hit an RBI single, scoring John. It could have been worse; I got the relay from Charlie Spikes in right and threw it to Johnny Ellis, the catcher, who tagged Hank out at home. Then it did get worse. Sixto Lezcano doubled, scoring George and moving Don to third. Charlie Moore, whom I wrote about on his birthday last month as being nearly impossible for me to get out, hit a two-run double. The Brewers led, 4-0. Frank Robinson pulled me in the bottom of the second after giving up a leadoff Home Run to Robin Yount and walking Bob Coluccio. Dave came in to pitch in the seventh – one of four pitchers the Tribe used that day – and he gave up no runs. But we lost, 6-5.
For a ballplayer, there are certain times in your career that you are part of history and don’t even know it. That’s what happened to me on April 12, 1975. I was the starting pitcher for the Cleveland Indians and we were playing the Brewers in Milwaukee – the first game of the season for me. I gave up four runs in the first inning, and after Robin Yount led off the second with a homer, followed by a walk to Bob Coluccio, Frank Robinson took me out. Jim Kern and Dave LaRoche pitched well in relief. In the bottom of the seventh, with one out and runners on first and third, Frank brought in a rookie pitcher named Dennis Eckersley to make his MLB debut. Eck walked Don Money to load the bases, then proceeded to get Sixto Lezcano and Charlie Moore out. Eck pitched the eighth, gave up a leadoff hit to Pedro Garcia. Then he struck out Yount, followed by outs for Mike Hegan and John Briggs. The Tribe lost the game 6-5, but Eck’s major league debut was outstanding.
Happy Birthday to Charlie Moore, who played for the Milwaukee Brewers during my last four years in the major leagues. He was statistically the single toughest hitter I faced in eleven seasons as a pitcher. And the funny thing is the first time I saw him, as a 20-year-old late season call-up, I thought he would be easy. I was wrong.
It was September 25, 1973. We were away, I was at the end of a not so great 8-15 season, and the Yankees were three games under .500 and 17.5 game out of first — again, the whole “Horace Clarke Era” thing! Charlie made the third out in a 1-2-3 second inning with a fly ball to Otto Velez in right. In the fourth, I gave up successive singles to Dave May and George Scott. Then Don Money hit a shot to center; May scored and Scott went to third. Thurman Munson made a rare error and Money advanced to second. After Bobby Mitchell flied out to right – Scott wasn’t scoring on Velez’s arm – Ralph Houk gave me the signal to intentionally walk Charlie. Wilbur Howard hit a grounder to Fred Stanley at short, forcing Charlie out at second, but we didn’t get the DP; Scott scored, putting us behind 2-0 Brewers. I saw Charlie for the third time in the seventh when he tried to bunt on Thurman – bad idea. We scored one in the eighth and one in the ninth to tie it, and Lindy McDaniel came in to relieve me in the bottom of the ninth. The Brewers won it in the 13th on Pedro Garcia’s RBI single.
Charlie Moore was going to be no problem, right?
The next time I saw Charlie Moore was on July 1, 1974. By this time, I had been traded to the Cleveland Indians and was starting the second game of a double header (remember those?) at Cleveland Stadium. He went 3-for-3 against me, two singles and a double. We beat the Brewers 9-3, but I couldn’t get Charlie out. I faced Charlie three times in 1975 and once more in 1976 (before the Rangers trade); he went 6-for-8, with a walk. I never struck him out, and the best I could do was get him to fly out to Rick Manning in center. Charlie went 9-for-13, with a career .692 average while batting against me. I looked it up and of the 525 different players who hit against me (more than twice), Charlie Moore has the highest career batting average of them all. How’s that for a little birthday trivia!