Today is the 32nd anniversary of the Pine Tar Incident, a legendary controversy involving George Brett on July 23, 1983. I don’t need to repeat what happened – anyone who reads my posts already knows the story. But it’s nice when all of us can take a moment and reflect on how much we love this game and how much joy it brings into our lives every day, on good days and on bad ones. And as we remember Pine Tar Day, please allow me to remember the two managers in that game, Billy Martin and Dick Howser, and say how brilliant they both were and how much I miss them.
A little bit of Yankee trivia regarding the often overlooked job of bullpen coach. When I made the team in 1966, the beloved Jim Hegan was in his sixth season in the post. Shanty got pushed out in 1974, mostly because he was a Ralph Houk man and Bill Virdon wanted his buddy Mel Wright. Mel originally signed with the Yankees in 1950, but never wore pinstripes. Mel and Bill became close when they played for the same Yankee farm teams in the early 1950’s. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1954, along with Virdon and another minor leaguer, Emil Tellinger, for future Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter. He was on Virdon’s staff with the Pirates, Astros and Expos too. And he died way too young at age 54. Sometimes coaches are the flotsam and jetsam of baseball, with their careers dependent upon who the manager is.
Over the coming days, I’ll write a little bit about the other Yankee coaches who were around during my time with the team: Loren Babe, Frank Crosetti, Whitey Ford, Elston Howard, Dick Howser, Mickey Mantle, Wally Moses and Jim Turner.