I read an article in the New York Times last night about the trade deadlines and it mentioned an old story of how Dan Topping and Tom Yawkey met for drinks at Toots Shor’s in 1947 and agreed to trade Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams. Both owners believed their home park would be better for the other hitter. The deal fell through the next morning when the Red Sox insisted that Yogi Berra be added to the trade.
A little Yankee trivia: Darrell Evans was drafted by the Yankees in 1966 as a 2nd Round pick, but did not sign. I remember he was not an easy get: at various points, the Cubs, Tigers and Phillies drafted him but couldn’t get him to ink his contract. Howdy Doody finally signed with the Kansas City Athletics, only to be picked up by the Braves in the 1968 Rule 5 Draft. He went on to enjoy a great baseball career that included 414 Home Runs. As a pitcher, I guess I am a little relieved that he enjoyed such a long career in the other league, so I never had to face him. The Home Run threat, combined with how often Howdy Doody would draw a walk, made him especially formidable.
Darrell got called up by the Braves about seven weeks into the 1971 season, replacing Clete Boyer as the regular Third Baseman. Imagine if he had signed with the Yankees. No doubt he would have won the starting 3B job over Jerry Kenney and later Celerino Sanchez. Howdy Doody might have changed the history of the Horace Clarke Era. But when reality sets in – and before you start cursing poor Dan Topping all over again – remember that if the Yankees had Darrell Evans at third, they might never have traded for Craig Nettles – and no Yankee fan can imagine life without Craig Nettles. So it was all for the best.
Fred Talbot came to the Yankees about two months into the 1966 season, when Dan Topping traded Gil Blanco (my old minor league teammate), Roger Repoz and Bill Stafford to the Kansas City Athletics for Talbot and catcher Bill Bryan. I called him Zack – the story about why is in my book. His Yankee debut came on June 12, 1966 at Tiger Stadium, starting the second game of a Sunday doubleheader against Mickey Lolich. He had a lead before even taking the mound, after Elston Howard hit a three-run Home Run in the top of the first. Zack retired the side 1-2-3. In the second, Clete Boyer hit a leadoff Home Run, and after Lou Clinton flied out, Zack came up to hit for the first time in pinstripes. He singled to center, and that was it for Lolich, who was replaced by Orlaayndo Pena after just 1 1/3 innings. Zack went to second on Tom Tresh’s single, and scored on a single by Mickey Mantle. Let’s push the pause button for a moment: Zack is in pinstripes for the first time, throws a 1-2-3 inning, gets a hit off Mickey Lolich, and scores his first run as a Yankee on an RBI single by Mickey Mantle. Life is good. Or maybe in baseball you just have to savor the moment, because things can change quickly. If there is one thing I know, it’s that.
Zack takes the mound in the bottom of the second with a 6-0 lead. He gives up a leadoff single to Al Kaline, who moves to second on Fred’s wild pitch and to third on Jim Northrup’s single. Bill Freehan hits a pop up in foul territory that Elston Howard caught, for one out. Then Gates Brown hits a single to right, with Kaline scoring the Tigers’ first run and Northrup moving to second. Zack got a little nervous with Northrup taking a big lead off second, and Larry Napp, the umpire at home plate, called a balk. Now Detroit had runners on second and third, with one out. But Zack settled down, and got Ray Oyler and pinch hitter Jerry Lumpe out to end the inning. With one out in the third, he gave up a single to Jake Wood, and then Norm Cash hit a two-run homer. Now it’s 6-3. The Yankees added a run in the fourth on Tresh’s Home Run.
The fourth would be it for Zack; Ralph Houk brought in Steve Hamilton to pitch after Brown singled and Oyler walked. He left his Yankee debut with a 7-3 lead. The Yankees wound up winning, but not easily. The final score was 12-10. For any 20-something year old, standing on the mound with Mickey Mantle is center and Ellie Howard behind the plate is a magical moment, and I’m glad my friend Zack had a strong showing.
Monument Monday is a weekly tribute to the Pitchers I knew during my baseball career. Click here to view last week’s tribute to Pedro Ramos.