For the first four years of my career, I was one of two Peterson’s to play major league baseball. I want to remember the life of Cap Peterson, no relation, who played for the Giants, Senators and Indians during his eight year career. When I first came up with the Yankees, Cap was with the Giants. I met him in 1967, after San Francisco traded him for Mike McCormick. Cousin Cap was really tough on me in his first few plate appearances. It was April 12, 1967 at D.C. Stadium and I was matched up with Joe Coleman. I got jammed up in the first inning, when Frank Howard hit a two-out RBI triple, followed by me walking Cap. Fortunately I got Ken Harrelson to fly out. The second inning – my last one – was worse. After successive errors by Shortstop John Kennedy and First Baseman Ray Barker, I walked the pitcher to load the bases. Then I walked Ed Brinkman. Fred Valentine drove in two runs with a single to left. After intentionally walking Hondo, Cap drove in two more runs with a double to center. Jim Bouton came in relief, walked Harrelson, and Ken McMullen hit a grand slam Home Run. We lost 10-4. Cap hit a double in his next at bat against me a few weeks later, but he ended up with a .211 career average against me. Tragically, Cap died in 1980 of kidney disease at age 37. He would have been 73 today.
Happy Birthday to Hank Allen, who played for the Senators, Brewers and White Sox from 1966 to 1973. The Yankees opened the season at D.C. Stadium with President Lyndon Johnson throwing out the first pitch. Mel Stottlemyre pitched opening day and the Yankees won. I was the pitcher in the second game, and this was the first time I saw Dick Allen’s little brother. The problem for me was that I didn’t make it to his At-Bat. I gave up an RBI triple to Frank Howard in the first, and had a much worse second inning. I have up five runs and Jim Bouton came in to replace me. I had to wait until August 27, when the Yankees returned to Washington, to actually throw a pitch to Hank. It was the bottom of the first with two outs and runners on second and third; he grounded out to Charley Smith at third to end the inning. After getting a leadoff walk against me in the fourth, he flew out to Roy White in right in the sixth and I struck him out in the eighth. The Yankees won 8-2. Hank had a lifetime .269 average against me; that was higher than his brother, Dick, whose career average was .250 off my pitching. I never faced the third Allen brother, Ron, who played only in the National League.
One Hall of Famer that eluded the New York Yankees was Frank Robinson, despite repeated attempts to get him in pinstripes. As early as 1965, the Cincinnati Reds were shopping this superstar at winter meetings. My understanding was that the Reds owner thought Robby was an “old 30” and that his body would not withstand much more of a baseball career. He was anxious to trade him while the value remained high. There was talk that the Reds had offered him to the Astros for Jimmy Wynn and a relief pitcher named Claude Raymond, but that Houston turned them down. The Yankee deal I heard about – I had just finished by third year in the minor leagues at the time – was that the Yankees would send and Joe Pepitone to the Reds for Robby and pitcher Jim O’Toole. A couple of weeks later, the Yankees traded catcher Doc Edwards to the Cleveland Indians for Lou Clinton and that seemed to end their search for a power-hitting outfielder. Maybe it was a metaphor for the Horace Clarke Era. The Reds did trade Robby, to Baltimore for Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun and Dick Simpson. Robby won the Triple Crown in his first season with the Orioles.
After winning three AL pennants with Robby and the 1970 World Series, the Orioles put him on the trading block again. The Yankees tried to put a deal together. The problem, I was told, was that Harry Dalton wanted Mel Stottlemyre or me. Mel was the ace of the staff and I was the #2 pitcher coming off a 20-win season. Lee McPhail countered with Stan Bahnsen, and the Dalton wanted Steve Kline and Mike Kekich too. The Yankees were unwilling to decimate their pitching staff for one superstar outfielder.
Apparently the Mets were in a similar situation. The Orioles wanted Tom Seaver for Frank Robinson, straight up, and the Mets said no. The counter from Baltimore was at least two other pitchers from a list that included Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Jon Matlack, Tug McGraw, and Gary Gentry – and they Danny Frisella. The Mets said no to that too.
Most players followed the winter meetings carefully, because you never knew what would happen and how it might affect your life. But the Yankees, still owned by CBS – the George Steinbrenner Era was still a few years away – didn’t do much after they traded Bill Robinson for Barry Moore. The Washington Senators offered Frank Howard for cash the Yankees didn’t have, and the Cleveland Indians were shopping star pitcher Sudden Sam McDowell, but they apparently wanted a lot of cash too. The Boss would have had them both in pinstripes.
In 1971, after losing the AL pennant to the Oakland A’s, the Orioles traded Robby to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a group of prospects that included future Yankee Doyle Alexander. The Orioles had Don Baylor and Terry Crowley coming up and wanted to give them more playing time. And Robby was making what was then a huge salary – about $125,000 – and they wanted to unload the expense. The Yankees had shown interest in him then, but they got busy making the “blockbuster deal” that sent Bahnsen to the White Sox for Rich McKinney and missed out. After the 1972 season, the Dodgers traded Robby to the California Angeles, in what really was a blockbuster trade: the Dodgers sent Robby and Bill Singer, an excellent pitcher, to the California Angeles for pitcher Andy Messersmith, Bobby Valentine and Ken McMullen.
After the Boss bought the Yankees and brought Gabe Paul over as the GM – and after Charlie Finley refused to allow the Yankees to hire Dick Williams as their manager — there was some serious talk about hiring Robby to become baseball’s first black manager. Mr. Paul had been GM in Cincinnati when Robby was the NL Rookie of the Year and MVP, and was a huge Frank Robinson fan.
The fourth chance for the Yankees to see Frank Robinson in pinstripes came in June of 1974, when he was again on the trading block. Mr. Paul had been negotiating a deal with the Angels that I recall would have brought Robby and Rudy May to the Yankees for Roy White, Bill Sudakis and Dick Woodson. What I heard was that Robby’s contract gave him the right to veto a deal, and when the Yankees refused to pay about $35,000 in relocation expenses, Robby vetoed the trade. That was just a couple of days before I was traded to the Cleveland Indians, where Robby would soon become my teammate and my manager.
You can’t live life on a bunch of what ifs, like how my career would have been different if I has been pitching for a contending team like the Orioles. But I’ll tell you this: I met my soulmate while playing in New York, I got to play with Boog Powell anyway in Cleveland, and I wouldn’t trade my years with the Yankees for anything.
Happy 75th Birthday to Jack Aker, a wonderful guy with an amazing slider who was my Yankee teammate from 1969 to 1972. He spent a little time on the original Seattle Pilots team before the Yankees traded Fred Talbot to get him. I wrote a lot about him in my book, especially how he was a guy you wanted on your side in a fight. And in Ball Four, Jim Bouton talks about how Charlie Finley wanted to get rid of Jack, who was the A’s union rep, and that’s how he came to be left unprotected in the 1969 expansion draft. The Chief spent eleven seasons in the major leagues, all of them as a relief pitcher; he never started a game. One of the first times I saw The Chief pitch was in my rookie year, 1966, and the Yankees were in Kansas City to play the Athletics. He and Fred were on the same team then, and Fred got the win and Jack the save. I think Jack actually appeared in all three games of that series. Jack pitched in 38 games during the remainder of the 1969 season, with eight wins, 14 saves, and a 2.06 ERA.
A couple of weeks ago, on Dick Drago’s birthday, I wrote about one game I pitched with Jack Aker that had a huge effect on my life. It was August 25, 1970. Steve Kline pitched great for 7 1/3 innings and only let up one run – a seventh inning leadoff homer to Bob Oliver. After he gave up a hit in the eighth, and with a runner at second, Ralph Houk brought in Jack Aker to pitch to Amos Otis. Jack had a sore back and hadn’t pitched in about two weeks. He seemed to be doing fine, but after one pitch, the pain returned and he could not continue. Houk called me in to get the last two outs. Dick was pitching magnificently. He had given up a run in the second when Bobby Murcer doubled and Danny Cater drove him in, when he took the mound in the top of the ninth, we were tied, 1-1. Roy White singled, stole second, and advanced to third on Cater’s infield hit. Then Jim Lyttle drove him in with a single. I came in for the bottom of the ninth and gave up a leadoff walk to Oliver; the Major then brought in Lindy McDaniel to close, and the Yankees won 2-1. I got the win by pitching to four batters. An important win because I finished the season 20-11, but I only got the opportunity because poor Jack got hurt.
Happy Birthday to my Yankee teammate, Jerry Kenney. I called Jerry “Lobo,” a nickname given to him by Horace Clarke; he was the Yankees regular third baseman from 1969 to 1972. We first met way back in 1964 as minor league teammates on the Shelby (North Carolina) Yankees in the Western Carolinas League (Class A). Lobo made his major league debut on September 5, 1967 at Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately, I remember the game well. I started against the White Sox, and gave up three runs in the first inning. I had nothing, absolutely nothing. Ralph Houk pulled me in the second after giving up two hits and (accidentally, really) hitting Tommy McCraw with a pitch. With the Yankees losing 5-3, Lobo led off the bottom of the ninth as a pinch hitter for Ruben Amaro and Bob Locker struck him out. But that had to be an exciting night for Jerry, who will always be able to say that he played in his first major league game with Mickey Mantle. #7 came in to pinch hit for Jim Bouton (who replaced me) in the bottom of the second and hit a double, driving in the Yankees third run.
My best memory of Lobo was on September 30, 1970 at Fenway Park. It was the last game of the season and I was going for my 20th win. In my book, I described asking Houk to play someone else at third; I’m sure glad The Major didn’t take player requests. In the fourth, he hit a two-run single to center, driving in Frank Tepedino and Jim Lyttle. The Yankees won 4-3, and I won 20 games for the only time in my career.
Lobo got dealt to the Indians in 1972, in what would be a monumental deal for the Yankees comeback. The Yankees sent him, along with Johnny Ellis, Charlie Spikes and Rusty Torres, to Cleveland for Craig Nettles and Jerry Moses.
Writing about Don Mincher got me thinking about the Seattle Pilots, the expansion team that lasted just one year at Sick’s Stadium before going bankrupt moving and becoming the Milwaukee Brewers. A bunch of my teammates and friends wound up on the Pilots: Mike Hegan, Steve Whitaker, Mike Ferraro, John Kennedy, Steve Barber, Dooley Womack and Jim Bouton, whose time with the Pilots became the focus of his controversial best seller (and one of my favorite books), Ball Four. Two future teammates, Jack Aker and Fred Stanley came to the Yankees from the Pilots.
Steve Whitaker innocently played a role in the Yankees comeback: just two weeks before opening day, the Pilots made a trade with the Royals that sent a promising outfielder named Lou Piniella to Kansas City for Steve. Lou was the 1969 AL Rookie of the Year and Steve had to wear the weird Pilots cap and settle for just being a good guy. With closer Lindy McDaniel expendable because the Yankees got Sparky Lyle for Danny Cater, the Whitaker trade sort of set up the Piniella for McDaniel deal that made Lou my Yankee teammate for the start of the 1974 season. And my trade to Cleveland for Chris Chambliss and Dick Tidrow helped create the winning George Steinbrenner Era. As I keep saying, the Yankees gave up a lot of talent for Chris and Dick, but they clearly got the best of that deal.