Tagged: Lindy McDaniel

Monument Monday: Bill Monbouquette

Bill MonbouquetteTomorrow would be the 79th birthday of Yankee pitcher Bill Monbouquette, who died at the beginning of this year after a valiant fight with acute myelogenous leukemia.  Bill had a great eleven year baseball career, spending eight years with the Red Sox, followed by the Tigers, Yankees and Giants.  Aside from his statistical accomplishments that included a 20-game win season and three All-Star games (including one as the American League’s starting pitcher), Bill was also the last starting pitcher to face Satchel Paige, then 59-years-old and playing in one game for the Kansas City Athletics on September 25, 1965.  Bill was also the last hitter Satchel ever struck out.   I was a college student from Chicago in 1962 and listened on the radio as Bill threw a no-hitter against Early Wynn and my team at the time, the White Sox.  And anyone who had ever thought about pitching knew about his 17-strikeout game against the Senators in 1961.  He was popular in Boston – I think he grew up not far from Fenway Park – but baseball is baseball and after the 1966 season (and before the team became the improbable vault to the 1967 World Series), Bill was traded to Detroit for a handful of prospects.

After Bill became a Yankee, he told me about his own major league debut, against the Tigers in 1959 at Fenway, with all his family and friends watching.  I can still hear him telling it.  It was the first inning.  He walked the first batter, and then gave up a single to Billy Martin.  Now there were runners on first and third and Al Kaline was up; a run scored when Kaline hit into a fielder’s choice that Boston third baseman Frank Malzone bumbled.  Now the bases were load and Bill got the next two batters out.  Then Billy Martin stole home.  That’s a heck of an introduction to MLB.

The first time I watched Bill pitch in person was on April 14, 1966.  The weather in New York was so cold the day before that the game was postponed to a doubleheader – that’s how we played the second and third games of my rookie season.  He pitched a complete game and struck out six (Roger Maris twice), and the Tigers won 5-2.  He beat us again in June in a tough 4-3 loss; Bill actually came in relief, blew the save, and then got the win.  I didn’t face him in any of the four games against the Yankees that’s season.

The Tigers released him ten games into the 1967 season, and the Yankees were able to sign him.  His first game wearing the Pinstripes (#40) was on June 2, against the Tigers.  He pitched the eighth and ninth innings, faced seven batters, and gave up one hit.  In 33 games, he had a 2.33 ERA – and 56 strikeouts in 135 innings.  He won the final game of that season with a complete game against the Athletics.   The Yankees traded him to the Giants in June of 1968, who would be the Yankees closer until we got Sparky Lyle four years later.  And for McDaniel, we got Lou Piniella, who would play a key role in ending the Horace Clarke Era and returning the Yankees to their glory.  In a weird sort of way, the Yankees got Bill Monbouquette for free and turned him into Sweet Lou.

One thing the Yankees and Red Sox have in common is that they take care of their own.  When Bill first got sick in 2007, the Red Sox launched a massive campaign to get fans to enter the National Marrow Donor Registry as a way of saving his life.  He had a stem cell transplant and that gave him several more years.

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

Happy Birthday, Rocky Colavito

ROcky Colavito batHappy Birthday to Rocky Colavito, whom I believe never put any curse on the Cleveland Indians.  Rocky was the first major leaguer I ever saw up close.  It was in April of 1963.  Dave Duncan and I were both prospects at the time and we were among a group of players invited to try out for the Kansas City Athletics.  We went out to eat, and a group of Detroit Tigers who were in town came to the same place for dinner.  Rocky was a Home Run hitting superstar in 1963 and was very recognizable, and I was in awe of him.    I never stopped, largely because he earned it; Rocky had a .391 career batting average when I was the pitcher.

The first time I pitched to Rocky was on June 7, 1966 at Cleveland Stadium.  Rocky hit a leadoff single to start the second inning.  And I remember the fourth inning well, because I struck out the side, including Rocky and Leon Wagner.  The Yankees won that game 7-2, the fourth win of my fledgling career, and I struck out nine batters.

Rocky became a Yankee at the end of his career.  The Dodgers had released him around the 1968 All-Star break and the Yankees signed him a few days later.  It was very cool when Rocky arrived in the clubhouse and put on the Pinstripes with #29 across his back.  And he was a Bronx-born guy and felt very comfortable playing in New York.  We were playing the Washington Senators at Yankee Stadium and Rocky was in the lineup, playing Right Field and batting sixth.  In his first At-Bat, he hit a deep fly ball that I thought might be a homer, but Del Unser caught it at the warning track.  The next time he came to the plate was in the bottom of the fifth. The pitcher was Joe Coleman.  It was still a scoreless game, but the Yankees had something going: Joe Pepitone hit a leadoff single, and moved to second on Andy Kosco’s hit.  Rocky hit a Home Run, the 370th of his career and his first in Pinstripes.   I was pitching the day Rocky hit the last Home Run of his great career, on September 24, 1968 against the Cleveland Indians.

The other story to tell when talking about Rocky as a Yankee was the time he pitched.  He was 35-years-old and near the end of his career on August 25, 1968, the first game of a Sunday doubleheader against his old team, the Detroit Tigers.  Future Yankee Pat Dobson was on the mound for the Tigers. s Ralph Houk was short on pitchers and was trying not to go to his closers until the end of the game.  Detroit had taken a 5-0 lead when The Major pulled Steve Barber and turned to Rocky, who entered the game with one out and runners on first and second.  Rocky got Al Kaline and Willie Horton out to end the inning.  Rocky came back to pitch the fifth and sixth innings.  He walked two in the fifth, but gave up no hits and no runs.  In the sixth, he gave up a double to Al Kaline, who was left stranded; he even struck out Dick Tracewski.

But wait, there’s more.  In the bottom of the sixth, the Yankees took the lead, 6-5, off Home Runs by Bill Robinson and Bobby Cox.  Rocky walked and scored the go-ahead run on Jake Gibbs’ single.  The Major brought in Dooley Womack and Lindy McDaniel to finish the game, and Rocky got the win.  One hit, no runs, and a strikeout.  And in the second game, Rocky played Right Field and hit a Home Run off Mickey Lolich; the Yankees won 5-4 and swept the doubleheader.

Happy Birthday, Andy Messersmith

Andy MessersmithHappy Birthday to former Yankee pitcher Andy Messersmith, who is 70 today. Bluto was a great pitcher, and his challenge to the reserve clause helped pave the way for ballplayers to determine their own destiny. I was gone by the time free agency came to be, but I sure remember Bluto as a dominating pitcher for the California Angels, and later for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I was the Yankees starting pitcher on August 12, 1968, the first time Bluto pitched against the team he rooted for as a kid in Toms River, New Jersey. I gave up a run in the second, and we took the lead off Mickey Mantle’s two-run homer in the sixth. Rick Reichardt tied it up with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth. With the score still tied 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Ralph Houk brought in Lindy McDaniel to pitch after I surrendered two-out singles to Jim Fregosi and to Rick. In the ninth, Bill Robinson hit a leadoff double, and moved to third when Tommy Tresh bunted safely. With the score tied, no outs, and runners on first and third, Bill Rigney pulled starter George Brunet and brought Bluto in to pitch. Bluto have up an RBI single to Jake Gibbs, putting us ahead, 3-2. He got Bobby Cox to fly out to Don Mincher at first, and struck out Lindy. Then Roy White drove Tommy home with a single. That was it for Bluto. We won 5-2.

I pitched against him again during his first visit to Yankee Stadium two weeks later. It was a Monday night doubleheader and I started the first game against Dennis Bennett. We fell behind in the fourth when that Reichardt guy hit an RBI single for the first run of the game. I tied it up in the bottom of the inning when I hit a sacrifice fly to Rick in left, scoring Tommy. We took the lead in the sixth when Dick Howser hit a two-out double, scoring Bobby Cox. That’s when Andy came in to pitch. He got Bill Robinson out to end the inning. The Mick led off the seventh with a single, and moved to second on Heeba’s single. Andy Kosco bunted The Mick to third and Heeba to second. Bluto struck out Tommy, but then gave up a two-RBI double to Frank Fernandez. After walking Bobby intentionally, I got up to bad with two outs and runners on first and second. I belted a double past that Reichardt guy, scoring Frank and Bobby. We won 6-2.

In the second game, which I got to see most of — The Major didn’t believe in sending guys home early – starter Bill Harrelson loaded the bases and with two out, Andy came in to pitch again. Mickey Mantle came up to pinch hit for Charley Smith, and Bluto struck him out. We lost that game; Andy got the save.

Happy Birthday, John Knox

John KnoxHappy Birthday to John Knox, who played Second Base for the Detroit Tigers for parts of 1972 to 1975.  I faced John once, on September 30, 1973 against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium.  I recall this game vividly because it was my last game of the season and nearly 42 years later, our loss still stings.  We were ahead 4-2 going in to the top of the eighth, and I have up leadoff singles to Tom Veryzer and Ike Brown.  Ralph Houk replaced me with Lindy McDaniel, a good relief pitcher who just had a bad day.  He walked three and gave up three singles – including a two-RBI hit by John.  We lost, 8-5.

Happy Birthday, Sparky Lyle

Sparky LyleHappy 71st Birthday to Sparky, my friend and teammate and the best relief pitcher I ever played with.   When the Yankees traded Danny Cater to the Red Sox for Sparky in March of 1972, it changed my life for the better.  We hit it off immediately and had lots of fun together.  Jim Turner, the Yankees pitching coach, once called our group “The Nursery” because of all the childish pranks we pulled, and we wore that as a badge of honor.  I enjoyed every minute I played with The Count, and one of the reasons is that our team got significantly better because of his arrival.

I remember Sparky’s Pinstripe debut on April 19, 1972.   We were ahead of the Brewers 3-0 in the top of the ninth. Mike Kekich had given up just two hits when Ron Theobold hit a two-out single, followed by John Briggs’ Home Run.  Ralph Houk brought in The Count to pitch to George Scott, who grounded out on the second pitch.  The first time he came to my rescue was on May 21, against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.   I was off to a miserable start and was 0-6 so far that season.   I went in to the top of the ninth with a 6-1 lead, and quickly have up successive singles to Duane Josephson, Rico Petrocelli and Phil Gagliano.  With the bases loaded and two out, The Major brought The Count in to pitch, and I got my first win of the year.

Another memorable game from early in The Count’s Yankee career came in his second appearance for us, against the Oakland A’s on April 25, 1972.  It was a pitcher’s duel between Sparky and Rollie Fingers.  Steve Kline and Catfish Hunter were the starters and the game was tied 3-3 going into the ninth inning.  Sparky had a 1-2-3 inning, followed by Rollie walking Rich McKinney and facing four batters.  Sparky had a 1-2-3 tenth; Rollie had a little more trouble.  He gave up a two-out walk to Bobby Murcer, who moved to second on Roy White’ single and got stranded there when Rollie got Felipe Alou out.  In the eleventh, gave up a one-out hit to Joe Rudi and walked Reggie Jackson – then he struck out Sal Bando and Mike Epstein.   With two outs in the bottom of the eleventh, The Major sent Ron Blomberg to the plate to pinch hit for Sparky.  Bloomie walked, but then Rollie got Jerry Kenney out to end the inning. Mike Hegan hit an RBI double off Lindy McDaniel in the top of the twelfth, and Rollie had a 1-2-3 inning to get the win.  It didn’t take long for our team to understand that the Era of Lindy McDaniel was over and there was a new fireman in town.   One of my greatest regrets was that I wasn’t around for Sparky’s Cy Young season.

Monument Monday: Ron Klimkowski

RON KLIMKOWSKIRon Klimkowski was one of my favorite Yankees.  He was warm and friendly all the time.  We called him Bela, because we thought he looked like the Count Dracula actor, Bela Lugosi.  In my book, I wrote a lot about him on a personal level.  But he had some talent as a pitcher also, and was proud of his Yankee alumni status until he died of heart failure at the young age of 65 in 2009.  Bela was part of two important trades involving Yankee veterans: originally signed by the Red Sox, he was the Player-To-Be-Named-Later in the trade that sent Elston Howard to Boston for the 1967 pennant race and World Series.  Four years later, the Yankees sent him to Oakland, along with Rob Gardner, for Felipe Alou.  Bela was from New York and New Jersey and he loved being a Yankee, so he signed with the Yankees after the A’s released him thirteen months later.

I remember Bela’s major league debut.  It was September 15, 1969.  He was a September call-up from Syracuse.  The Yankees were home against the Detroit Tigers, and Stan Bahnsen was pitching against Denny McClain, who was again dominating the American League.  It was still a little weird seeing Tommy Tresh in a Tiger uniform, even though his trade for Ron Woods had happened a couple of months before.  Ralph Houk pinch hit for Stan in the bottom of the sixth, and Bela arrived on the Yankee Stadium pitcher’s mound for the first time in the top of the seventh.  We were down 2-0.  The first MLB batter he faced was Cesar Gutierrez, who had come in to replace Tommy at Shortstop in the first inning.  Cesar grounded out to Jerry Kenney at shortstop, providing Bela with his first major league out.  He quickly got five more: Jim Northrup and Al Kaline, then Norm Cash, Willie Horton and Tommy Matchick in the eighth.  He gave up a hit, his first, to Bill Freehan in the ninth, but then retired Dick Wert, Denny and Cesar, consecutively.  So Bela was off to a great start: three scoreless innings, facing ten batters, and giving up one hit.  The problem for Bela, not his fault, was that Denny gave up just two hits the entire game, and scored his 23rd win of the season.

On September 24, The Major decided to start Bela, who pitched magnificently against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.  Maybe Bela just wanted to show Tom Yawkey what he gave up.  He pitched nine full innings, giving up no runs and just three hits.  The problem for Bela, again not his fault, is that the Yankees couldn’t get anything going offensively.  In the top of the tenth, with runners on first and second and one out, The Major sent Frank Tepedino up to  hit for Bela.  No doubt the right move.  Unfortunately, Teppie flied out.  Then Horace Clarke popped up to second to end the inning.  Jack Aker and Lindy McDaniel threw scoreless tenth and eleventh innings, respectively.  And no runs were scored off of Stan Bahnsen in the twelfth and thirteenth.  Of course the Yankees couldn’t score off the Bosox reliever, Sonny Siebert, who gave up just one hit in 4 2/3 innings.

George Scott hit a leadoff infield single off Stan in the bottom of the fourteenth; Scott got to second of a well-executed bunt by Tom Satriano.  Stan walked Dalton Jones, who came in to pinch hit for Sonny..  Then Mike Andrews doubled to left, scoring George.  As you can imagine, it’s extraordinarily painful to lose a 1-0 game to Boston in the fourteenth inning.  What was worse was that this was the best game of Ron Klimkowski’s baseball career.

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

Monument Monday: Loyd Colson

Loyd ColsonLoyd Colson was drafted by the Yankees in 1967, their first pick in the 28th round.  Of the 77 players the Yankees drafted that day, only five ever wore the pinstripes, and Loyd was one of them.  Just making it to the major leagues is an extraordinarily tough task, and while Loyd’s career was short, he still made it. I’m sure he will never forget the thrill of standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium, and while he never made it back, our team was honored to have him there and grateful for his strong showing that day.  So today’s installment of Monument Monday is dedicated to all the young players who made it to the major leagues, even if for only a short time, and I want to recognize their monumental achievements.

I met Loyd for the first time in February of 1970, when pitchers and catchers reported to spring training in Fort Lauderdale.  He was one of nine new guys on the 40-man roster that the Yankees viewed as integral to regaining their past glory.  The others were (if I remember this correctly) pitchers Larry Gowell (who had 217 strikeouts in 195 innings in the minors the year before), Terry Bongiovanni, Doug Hansen and Bill Olsen, outfielder Rusty Torres, and a trio of infielders – George Zeber, Mario Guerrero and Tim O’Connell.  [One brief footnote to baseball history: one of the players cut to make room for these new prospects was Bobby Cox, who was our Third Baseman for two years.] Loyd had impressed the Yankees during his stint with the Kinston Eagles, the Yankees Carolina League AA team.  He had 125 strikeouts in 120 innings, and a 1.73 ERA.

Going into spring training, there were fifteen guys competing for four open spots on the Yankee pitching staff.  Mel Stottlemyre, Stan Bahnsen and I were expected to be three of the five starters, and Lindy McDaniel, Jack Aker and Steve Hamilton were going to be in the bullpen.  There were six pitchers in contention to be the other starters: Bill Burbach, John Cumberland, Ron Klimkowski, Steve Kline, Joe Verbanic, and this guy named Mike Kekich, who had been traded from the Dodgers.  Also in camp were Rob Grander, Dick Farrell (a veteran National League pitcher who was at the end of his career), Jerry Tirtle, Gary Jones, Terry Ley, Bongiovanni, Gowell, Hansen, Olsen and Colson.  Yankee executives boasted that they had “pitching depth” heading into the 1970 season.  I remember that I was excited.  Entering my third major league season, I pitched the most pre-season innings of the Yankee pitchers and had a 1.55 ERA during spring training.

The four pitchers who made it on the 25-man roster were Burbach, Klimkowski, Verbanic, and Kekich.  Verbanic had missed the entire 1969 season because of a shoulder injury.  He started the season with the Yankees, but was gone in about a month, never to pitch in the major leagues again.  He would eventually be replaced by Cumberland.  Eventually Bile would lose his starting slot to Kline, who got called up in July.

Loyd ColsonSo back to Loyd Colson. Loyd was impressive in spring training and sent to the Manchester Yankees, the AA team, to get some more experience.  He gets called up to the Yankees in September of 1970.  He’s wearing #49 on his back.  I remember his one appearance.  It was September 25, and we were playing the Detroit Tigers in a Friday twi-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.  There were six games left in the season, and we were in second place in the American League East, thirteen games behind the Baltimore Orioles.  Steve Kline was pitching against Mickey Lolich.  After seven innings, we were losing 2-1.  Dick McAuliffe had hit a solo homer and Elliot Maddox had an RBI double for Detroit; Ron Hansen hit a solo Home Run for us.  Loyd entered the game in the top of the eighth, taking over for Gary Jones, who had left the game for a pinch hitter.

The first major league hitter Loyd faced was Tigers Second Baseman Dalton Jones, who it a fly ball to center that Bobby Mitchell caught for the first out.  [For Yankee memorabilia collectors there is some significance to this, since Loyd and Bobby would share a Rookie Card in the 1971 TOPPS set.  The next batter was Don Wert, who singled to Bobby in center.  Gene Lamont, the Tigers catcher, then hit an RBI double.  This was a tough debut for a pitcher and I recall being impressed by how Loyd settled down and struck out the next two batters, Maddox and Lolich.

In the top of the ninth, Colson led off the inning by striking out McAuliffe.  He gave up an infield single to Mickey Stanley, and then retired Jim Northrup and the always threatening Norm Cash on flyballs.  The Yankee offense threatened Lolich in the bottom of the ninth. Jim Lyttle hit a one-out single to center, and advanced to second when Gene Michael got on base due to Jones’ error.  So with the tying run at first, The Major sends Roy White in to pinch hit for Loyd.  Lolich struck Heeba out, and then won the game when Horace Clarke flied out to right.

So there it is, the history of Loyd Colson.  Not a bad showing: 3 hits, one run, and three strikeouts (and zero At-Bats) in two innings as a pitcher for the greatest baseball team in history.  He came to Fort Lauderdale in 1971, didn’t make the team, and got sent to Syracuse.  He never had another opportunity to play in the majors, but he did have two good innings in pinstripes and all of us are grateful to him for that.

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