Tagged: Hector Lopez

Happy Birthday, Hector Lopez

Hector LopezHappy Birthday to my teammate, Hector Lopez, whose magnificent career as a major league baseball player crossed with mine for just one year.  His final season came in 1966, my rookie year.  I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with this Yankee great.  Headley started out, as many Yankees did, with the Kansas City Athletics.  He came to New York in a 1959 trade and retired there seven years later.  I met Headley for the first time during Spring Training 1966 in Fort Lauderdale.

The first game Hector and I played in together was on May 22, 1966, the second game of a Sunday doubleheader at Yankee Stadium against the Minnesota Twins.    I wasn’t pitching badly – I had only given up two hits before Tony Oliva tripled to lead off the fourth and Bob Allison hit a sacrifice fly to Mickey Mantle in center field, and we were losing 1-0.  Elston Howard doubled to left to lead off the eighth and Hector Lopez pinch hit for me.  Ralph Houk put Horace Clarke in to run for Ellie, and Hoss was able to get to second after Hector hit a deep shot to center.  Hoss scored on Roy White’s single, tying the game.  White advanced to second on Bobby Richardson’s hit, and scored on Joe Pepitone’s double to left. The Yankees won 2-1, my third career victory – in part thanks to Headley.

On August 4, 1966, we were playing the Angeles at Anaheim Stadium.  I was pitching and Headley was playing Right Field.  I remember the game because it was my worst performance of the season.  I have up two runs and two hits in the bottom of the first.  In the second, gave up a leadoff single to Buck Rodgers, who moved to second on Bobby Knoop’s single. They both advanced a base on Ed Kirkpatrick’s groundout.  Then the pitcher, Marcelino Lopez, hit an infield single, with Rodgers scoring and Knoop moving to third.  Jose Cardenal came to the plate with runners on first and third and one out and hit a triple to Headley in right field.  Headley misplayed the ball, removing the option of getting Jose at third.  Instead, two more runs scored.  Jay hit an RBI single and I was gone after 1 1/3 innings, having given up six runs.  So after Dooley Womack finishes the inning, Headley comes up to me in the dugout and apologizes for the play.  Imagine that, this classic Yankee apologizing to a rookie who just pitched horribly.  “Sorry, Peta,” he said.  “I owe you one.”  What a great guy!

Happy Birthday, Casey Cox

Casey Cox Happy Birthday to Casey Cox, my Yankee teammate in 1972 and 1973.  We were part of the Class of 1966 of American League pitchers making their major league debut; he was with the Washington Senators.  The first time we pitched against each other was on July 8, 1966 at Yankee Stadium, the second game of a twilight doubleheader.  This wasn’t exactly a battle of the titans; it was a match up of two fairly crappy teams; the ’72 Yankees were in 8th place, 19 ½ games out, and the Senators were in 9th, 21 ½ games out.

I had given up two runs in the first (including a double to Ken Harrelson and a triple to Frank Howard) and two more in the second.  We picked up three runs in the third off Mickey Mantle’s Home Run, doubles by Joe Pepitone and Ray Barker, and a single by Horace Clarke.  Casey relieved Joe Hannan in the fifth inning after Mickey singled to left and Hector Lopez (pinch running for Mickey) moved to third on Joe Pepitone’s single.  Elston Howard came to bat and hit into a double play, but Hector scored and the game was tied 4-4.  With two outs, Ray hit a deep shot to center – for a moment I thought it was going out – but Don Lock caught it and the inning was over.  Casey pitched again in the sixth, a 1-2-3 inning.  I came up with two outs and Casey struck me out – not an amazing accomplishment, but memorable to me nonetheless since it was a tie game.  I’m glad Ralph Houk didn’t pinch hit for me.

The top of the seventh was no good for me.  Paul Casanova led off with a single, and moved to second on a beautiful sacrifice bunt by Ed Brinkman.  Gil Hodges, the Senators manager, pulled Casey so that Bob Saverine could pinch hit.  Good move.  Bob singled to center and Paul scored and we’re now losing 5-4.  But my team continued to come through.  The new Washington pitcher, Dick Bosman, walked Tom Tresh; Bobby Richardson got to first base on a fielding error by Brinkman, the shortstop, with Tommy moving to second.  Hector executed a pretty good sacrifice bunt, moving Tommy to third and Bobby to second.  Hodges called for an intentional walk to Pepitone, loading the bases.  Elston Howard popped up to first; then Ray Barker hit a two-out single, with Tommy and Bobby scoring.  Now we’re ahead 6-5.  We scored one more run in the eighth when Clete Boyer hit a leadoff triple and later scored.  Dick Bosman got the loss and I was now 8-5, with another complete game but just two strikeouts.

Casey came to the Yankees on August 31, 1973 in a trade for Jim Roland, ending Jim’s four-month career in pinstripes.  He was a very good guy who had the misfortune of pitching for some bad teams – he originally signed with the Reds; timing is everything in baseball.  I’m sorry to report that the Yankees lost all five games Casey pitched in, including an excruciating loss in a game I pitched against the Red Sox; the loss was entirely on me, not Casey.  In 1974, Casey pitched in one game – he entered in the sixth, with the Red Sox ahead 12-5, and gave up three runs in three innings.  The Yankees released him soon after that, and he never pitched in the major leagues again.

A few more things about the baseball career of Casey Cox: he was managed by three baseball greats – Gil Hodges, Ted Williams and Ralph Houk; he had his career year in 1969 when he was 12-7 with a 2.78 ERA, making 13 starts in 52 games; and some excellent hitters like Carlton Fisk and Rod Carew had .143 career batting averages against him.

The other thing I think about when I remember Casey Cox is that he wore #29 and if you follow Yankee history, you know that there is not much longevity associated with guys who wear #29 on the back of their pinstripes.  Of the 55 Yankees who have worn #29, the only one to last more than a few seasons were Francisco Cervelli, Mike Stanton, Gerald Williams, Catfish Hunter, and Charlie Silvera.  Casey originally wore #39, but he wanted #29, which was his number on the Senators and the Rangers.  That switch came about because Sudden Sam McDowell, who was #39, wanted #48.  Before Sudden Sam, the number was worn by a succession of one-season guys: Wade Blasingame (1972), Jim Hardin (1971), Mike McCormick (1970), Rocky Colavito (1968), Bill Henry (1966), Bobby Tiefenauer (1965), Mike Jurewicz (1965), Tom Metcalf (1963), Hal Brown (1962), Earl Torgeson (1961), Duke Maas (1961), and Hal Stowe (1960).  After Casey was traded, #29 was assigned to Tom Buskey, who wore it from April 1973 until April 1974, when he and I were traded to Cleveland; and then Dick Woodson for the rest of that season.  Then Catfish came in 1975.  Later came short-term Yankees like Dave Collins, Paul Zuvella, Al Holland, Luis Aquayo, Dave LaPoint, Mike Humphreys, Ricky Bones, Bubba Trammel, Tony Clark, Tim Redding, Felix Escalona, Octavio Dotel, Kei Igawa, Cody Ransom, Xavier Nady, Anthony Claggett, and Rafael Soriano.  So the best I can say is Good Luck to David Carpenter.

Remembering Hal Reniff on his birthday

None of the men I played with are celebrating a birthday today, so I want to remember Hal Reniff, would have been 77 today. It was sad nearly eleven years ago when I learned of his passing. He was my teammate and fellow pitcher on the 1966 Yankees, my rookie season. Hal had a nice career and was especially fortunate to be a rookie on the 1961 World Championship club. In 1963, he led the team in saves and I remember as a first-year minor leaguer watching Porky throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings in the World Series. The first time we pitched in the same game was April 23, 1966 – my Yankee Stadium debut, my second major league game, and my first career loss. And that sure wasn’t Hal’s fault. It was an excruciatingly painful day for me.

The first batter I faced at Yankee Stadium was Luis Aparicio, who got on base with a single hit to me. Then he stole second. I struck out Curt Blefary and Frank Robinson, but then Brooks Robinson hit a single to center and his RBI put the Orioles in the lead. That rattled me a bit, and facing the massive Boog Powell, I threw a wild pitch that but Brooks on second. Thankfully Boog grounded out to Bobby Richardson. I settled down and threw 1-2-3 innings in the second and third.

The fourth inning really sucked. I walked Frank Robinson, who stole second and scored off Brooks Robinson’s single. Paul Blair, who was always an especially tough out for me, hit a two-out single to Mickey Mantle in center, moving Brooks to second. Andy Etchebarren hit another single to Mickey and Brooks scored. Now we’re down 3-0. The Orioles picked up another run in the fifth when Frank Robinson hit an RBI double.

The Yankees finally scored a run in the fifth when Clete Boyer hit a one-out Home Run off Dave McNally. With two outs and no one on base, Ralph Houk sent Hector Lopez in to hit for me. It didn’t help; Hector struck out. Porky came in to pitch in the sixth and faced three batters after Etchebarren hit into a double play; he had a 1-2-3 seventh inning. Elston Howard brought the score to 4-3 when he hit a double, scoring Mickey and Joe Pepitone. The Major sent Lou Clinton in to bat for Porky, and Dooley Womack came in to finish the game. We lost 4-3.

The Yankees sold Porky to the Mets about three months into the 1967 season. That was his last year in major league baseball.

Monument Monday: Pedro Ramos

I’m going to try something called Monument Monday, as a weekly tribute to the Pitchers  I knew during my baseball career.

One of the greatest things about being a young ballplayer is that sometimes you get to actually play on a team with some of the guys you followed as a kid.  Pedro Ramos was a good pitcher and would have done better if he had played for a better team.  But the Washington Senators of the mid-to-late 1950’s finished last in the American League for four of the six years he played there, so his stats don’t really do the man justice.  He was in Cleveland for two years (another bottom half AL club) and came to the Yankees during the 1964 Pennant race.  Always a starter, the Yankees used him in relief; I hesitate to call him a closer, because pitchers threw more complete games than they do today.  During my rookie year, 1966, Pedro pitched in 52 games – pretty amazing for one guy to pitch almost 1/3 of the games —  had a 3.61 ERA and struck out 58 batters in 89 innings.

I think the first time he relieved me on the mound was on May 22, 1966, the second game of a double header against his old team the Minnesota Twins, at Yankee Stadium.  I wasn’t pitching badly – I had only given up two hits before Tony Oliva tripled to lead off the 4th and Bob Allison hit a sacrifice fly to Mickey Mantle in CF, and we were losing 1-0.  Elston Howard doubled to left to lead off the 8th and Hector Lopez pinch hit for me.  Ralph Houk put Horace Clarke in to run for Ellie, and Hoss was able to get to second after Hector hit a deep shot to center.  Hoss scored on Roy White’s single, tying the game.  White advanced to second on Bobby Richardson’s hit, and scored on Joe Pepitone’s double to left.

Pedro came in to pitch the 9th,  got Rich Rollins to ground out, and struck out Sandy Valdespino and Russ Nixon.  That was my third career win, a 2-1 victory over the Twins, and I’ll always be grateful for Pedro for that and for his friendship.