Tagged: Jim Lonborg

Happy Birthday, José Santiago

Jose SantiagoHappy Birthday to José Santiago, who pitched for the Kansas City Athletics from 1963 to 1965, and the Boston Red Sox from 1966 to 1970. The first time I saw him pitch was in 1966, when the Red Sox were playing us at Yankee Stadium. Whitey Ford was pitching against Jim Lonborg. Boston took and, but the Yankees scored two runs in the fourth inning and Billy Herman brought Jose in to pitch. With runners on second and third and nobody out, Jose got the next three batters out.

Monument Monday: Larry Gowell

LARRY GOWELLLarry Gowell was only with the Yankees for a brief time during the 1972 season, but that was enough for him to achieve a sort of immortality in the baseball history books.  It was October 4, 1972 and we were at Yankee Stadium playing the Brewers.  Larry was the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the third and smacked a double off Jim Lonborg that went past John Briggs in left.  Larry was left stranded on second as the next three Yankees failed to drive him home.  But the hit was historic because it was the last game of the season, and as it turned out, he was the last American League pitcher to get a hit before the Designated Hitter rule went into effect the following April.  So Larry’s bat now has a place at Cooperstown.

Thanks to the leadership of CBS (sarcasm intended here), the Yankees got the #1 draft pick in 1967, the third year Amateur Draft.  Larry was their first pick in the fourth round – Ron Blomberg was the #1 pick in the first round.  The first time I saw Larry pitch was the first exhibition game of the 1970 season.  He had a natural slider and his fast ball was as fast as any other Yankee in spring training.  We were Pompano Beach playing the Washington Senators and Larry came in to pitch in the ninth inning.  We were ahead, 6-5.  I think he was a little nervous.  His first batter was Del Unser and he hit him with the pitch.  His second batter was a teenager named Jeff Burroughs, who hit a massive Home Run.

Larry spent the 1972 season with the West Haven Yankees, the Eastern League AA club that was being managed by the Bobby Cox, now a Hall of Fame manager.  He was on fire and the Yankee pitchers were following him closely.  In 26 games, he was 14-6 with a 2.54 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 181 innings.

Larry was a September call-up at a time when the Yankees were in a four-way race for First Place in the AL East.  He made his major league debut in the bottom of the sixth inning on September 21, at County Stadium.  With the Brewers ahead 4-0, Ralph Houk had removed Freddy Beene the previous inning for a pinch hitter, Rusty Torres.  Larry retired the first three major league batters he faced: John Briggs, Ollie Brown and Mike Ferraro.  Then in the seventh, he did the same thing against Rick Auerbach, Jerry Bell (the pitcher), and Ron Theobald.  With two outs, The Major took him out in the eighth so Felipe Alou could hit.  Felipe singled, the beginning of a Yankee rally.  He moved to second on Horace Clarke’s hit, and scored on Roy White’s hit.  The Bobby Murcer hit an RBI single, reducing Milwaukee’s lead to one run.  Unfortunately, Bloomie flied out to end the inning, leaving Roy and Bobby on base.  The Brewers wound up beating us, 6-4, and we wasted a rare ninth inning homer by Bernie Allen.

October 4 was the last game of the season and we had lost four in a row, dropping us to 4th place, 6 ½ games behind the Detroit Tigers.  Since we were out of contention, The Major decided to give Larry the start.   He pitched really, really well.  He gave up his first major league hit in the second to Joe Lahoud, and Briggs hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Dave May, who had doubled.  With the Yankees trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning, no outs and Jerry Kenney on first, The Major pulled Larry for a pinch hitter, Frank Tepedino.  Larry had given up three hits, and had struck out six.  It was an amazing demonstration of pitching for a rookie.    We lost 1-0, as the Yankee bats were not coming through.

Larry was in contention for a major league roster spot in 1973.  He was cut at the end of spring training, losing out to Casey Cox and Doc Medich.  He didn’t make the team again in 1974; the new manager, Bill Virdon, seemed to judge him based on one bad tenth inning in an exhibition game against the Texas Rangers.  A lot of the hype that spring was about Mike Pazik, a cocky southpaw from Holy Cross who wound up getting traded to the Twins for Dick Woodson.  But Larry Gowell’s time as a MLB pitcher was indeed memorable and historic.  I am glad to have known him.

Monument Monday is a weekly tribute to the Pitchers  I knew during my baseball career.  Click here to read my previous entries.

Happy Birthday, Mike Andrews

Mike AndrewsHappy Birthday to Mike Andrews, who enjoyed a nice career as the Second Baseman for the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox during the time that I was pitching for the Yankees.  Mike hit .308 against me during his eight years in Major League Baseball.  He had 11 RBI’s off me, more than any other pitcher he faced.  Of all the hitters I faced during my eleven seasons as an American League pitcher, only six of them hit more RBI’ off me than Mike: Brooks Robinson, Paul Blair, Boog Powell, Harmon Killebrew, Al Kaline and Bob Oliver.

The first time I faced Mike was on September 24, 1966 – less than a week after he was called up from the minors.  It was his third major league game, the second at Yankee Stadium.  I wrote about this game recently on Rico Petrocelli’s birthday.  Mike went 1-for-3 off me that day, with a one-out single to left.  He got left on base.  Even though I joined the Yankees as a rookie at the start of the 1966 season, this was the first time I had faced our bitter rival, the Red Sox. This was a real unexciting pitchers dual between me and Jim Lonborg (who would win the AL Cy Young Award the next season. I gave up six hits – three of them to Reggie Smith – no runs, and struck out seven. Jim pitched a four-hitter, giving up one run after giving up hits to Mike Hegan and Horace Clarke, with Bobby Murcer driving in the one run of the game with a ground out to second. The other memorable moment was that I hit a ground-rule double in the bottom of the eighth.

After his career ended, Mike went on to have a remarkable second act as Chairman of the Jimmy Fund of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where he has worked to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research and treatment.  What Mike has accomplished in his life is truly incredible, and he is a hero to everyone associated with the game of baseball.

Happy Birthday, Rico Petrocelli

Happy Birthday to Rico Petrocelli, born in Brooklyn 72 years ago today. Even though I joined the Yankees as a rookie at the start of the 1966 season, Ralph Houk didn’t use me against the Red Sox until September 24, a match-up between an 8th place team and a 10th place team at Yankee Stadium. I looked it up and attendance that night was 5,897. This was the first time I faced Rico and got him out four times – three of them on infield pop ups. This was a real unexciting pitchers dual between me and Jim Lonborg (who would win the AL Cy Young Award the next season. I gave up six hits – three of them to Reggie Smith – no runs, and struck out seven. Jim pitched a four-hitter, giving up one run after giving up hits to Mike Hegan and Horace Clarke, with Bobby Murcer driving in the one run of the game with a ground out to second. The other memorable moment was that I hit a ground-rule double in the bottom of the eighth.

Some fans mark the genesis of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry to the Babe Ruth trade, but for this kid from the suburbs of Chicago, it began on Wednesday, June 21, 1967 during a tough 8-1 loss at Yankee Stadium. Tempers were flaring. Our pitcher was Thad Tillotson and in the second inning he beaned Joe Foy, who had hit a Grand Slam Home Run against us the previous day, in the head. That was after he threw a pair of brush-back pitches at him. The next inning, Longborg beaned Tillotson, and players from both teams cleared their benches in defense of our teammates. It got exponentially worse when a verbal argument between Rico and Joe Pepitone turned into a real fight. I remember that Rico’s brother was working at Yankee Stadium as a security guard and he ran out on the field to help his brother. That was the year the Red Sox came from behind to win the American League pennant in what was called “The Impossible Dream.”

I didn’t know Rico well, but he was probably no Fritz Peterson fan: he went 9-for-54 against me, a career .167 average.