Happy Birthday to Don Demeter, an 11-year MLB veteran who must have liked me because he had a lifetime batting average of .417 against me. He first showed his dominance over me at the plate early in my rookie season. It was May 17, 1966 and the Yankees were playing the Tigers in Detroit. We had a good first inning: Denny McClain walked three consecutive batters, and we scored two runs on a sacrifice fly by Roger Maris and a single by Roger Repoz. But that would be the end of the Yankee run production for the day; Denny settled down to pitch a two-hitter with eight strikeouts. After a Maris double and an intentional walk to Elston Howard in the fourth, no other Yankee would get on base.
As for me, I pitched okay for the first four innings, but let’s just say I was no Denny McClain. I had a 1-2-3 first, and after giving up a second inning double to Al Kaline, I got the next three guys out. The next two innings were fine. I gave up a fifth inning leadoff homer to Bill Freehan, followed by Ray Oyler’s double. Oyler scored on a sac fly, tying the game at 2-2. In the sixth, Norm Cash doubled, and then Don Demeter came up. He hit a powerful shot over the left field fence, putting the Tigers ahead, 4-2. Ray Barker pinch hit for me in the seventh. The Tigers won 7-2, putting my rookie record at 2-3. During our next series against Detroit, Don homered off me too, but this time the Yankee offense came through and we won 6-3.
Finally, Happy Birthday to Mike Stanley and Bob Shirley, who played for the Yankees long after I left — that means they’re much younger than me!
Happy Birthday to former Detroit Tigers infielder Jake Wood. I faced Jake for the first time during my rookie season, and I remember the game well – mostly because of how badly it started. It was June 11, 1966 and it was my second time pitching in Tiger Stadium. (Let me start by saying that the first time was a disaster. I gave up four runs in six innings and lost the game to Denny McClain.) Before I even took the mound, my teammates came through. Tom Tresh led off with a walk and stole second on Bill Freehan – and that was no easy task. Bobby Richardson signed, moving Tresh to third. Tresh scored on a Roger Maris groundout, and Richardson scored on Joe Pepitone’s single to center. The lead narrowed quickly. After I walked the leadoff batter, Don Wert, I faced Jake Wood and hit him with the pitch. Don Demeter drove him home with a single. I struck Wood out in the third, a 1-2-3 inning for us. The Tigers tied it up in the fifth with a Dick McAuliffe leadoff Home Run. Wert singled, and Wood bunted to third moving Wert to second. Luckily Norm Cash, who could be frightening at the plate, grounded out. My lead increased when Elston Howard hit a two-run Home Run. Don Demeter hit a one-out homer in the sixth and Ralph Houk too me out. The Yankees won, 6-3, thanks to some outstanding relief pitching from Hal Reniff, and I got the win.