Happy 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 to Jackie Warner, who played Right Field for the Angels in 1966. I faced Jackie once, on May 7, 1966 at Anaheim Stadium and Marcelino Lopez was pitching for the Angels. He went 0-for-3; the biggest problem I had that day was Rick Reichardt, who hit a triple and then scored off Norm Siebern’s single. I pitched a four-hitter, a complete game, and the Yankees won, 3-1. That was the last time I pitched against Jackie. And I say this with no disrespect: in fourteen At-Bats against Yankee pitchers, Jackie never got a hit. He was traded after that season to Kansas City for ex-Yankee Roger Repoz, but never got back to the majors.
Happy Birthday to Norm Siebern, a former New York Yankee, who played major league baseball from 1956 to 1968. Norm came up through the Yankee organization and was part of a trade that would have historic significance to the Yankees and to the game of baseball. After the 1959 season, the Yankees traded Siebern, Hank Bauer, Don Larsen and Marvelous Marv Throneberry to the Kansas City Athletics for Roger Maris, Joe DeMaestri and Kent Hadley. Norm later played for the Orioles, Giants, Angels and Red Sox. He has two World Series rings –with the Yankees (1956 and 1957) – and played in the 1967 World Series with the Red Sox. I faced Norm for the first time during my rookie season. It was May 7, 1966 and we were playing the Angels at Anaheim Stadium. Marcelino Lopez was pitching for California and Norm was at First Base. I’ll never forget it; I had been in the majors for about three weeks, and I was pitching really, really well. In the first four innings, I retired the first twelve batters. Yes, I was pitching a perfect game. Then in the fifth, Rick Reichardt hit a leadoff triple to Mickey Mantle in center. I got Jackie Warner out. Then Norm comes up to bat and hit single to left, scoring Rick. I threw a complete game and got the win, and Norm drove I the only run California scored that day.
Outfielder Nate Mikolas of the Pulaski Yankees continues his offensive tear. He went 2-for-4 tonight with 2 runs and an RBI, and now has a .339 batting average. He’s 13-for-37 over the last ten days, and he hit for cycle last weekend. With Second Baseman Billy Fleming (.444) advancing to the Trenton Thunder AA team last week, Nate is now the team’s leading hitter, and in contention for the Appalachian League batting title. I really enjoy watching for how this young player does every day.
I’ve got Wisconsin on my mind tonight, especially because two Wisconsin guys almost stopped me from winning 20 games in 1970. Watching Nate got me thinking about another Kenosha, Wisconsin native, Dick Bosman, who was an exceptional American League pitcher. We were both rookies in 1966 and both pitched until 1976. Dick was with the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers until he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in 1973. I joined him on the Tribe pitching staff the next season. Before that we pitched against each other a few times. I remember one game where the Senators were playing the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. It was July 5, 1970 and I was having my career year and got to pitch in the American League All-Star game nine days later. Dick hit a single off me in the bottom of the third inning, and scored on Frank Howard’s two-run double. We were tied 2-2, though Dick was pitching better than me that day, and in the bottom of the eighth, Rick Reichardt – another Wisconsin native — hit an RBI single that knocked me out of the game. We wound up losing 7-3.
Happy Birthday to Don Mincher, who was a strong hitter and would be more widely known had he played for contending teams during a long and highly regarded baseball career. One bit of trivia to start: Don was the starting first baseman in the first game of the Seattle Pilots in 1969, along onetime Yankees Steve Whitaker and Mike Hegan. (I never got any starts against the Pilots that historic season.) I faced Don several times during my career and generally did fine against him; I looked up his average and he hit about 50 points less against me than he did against others. The game I remember was against the California Angels on April 28, 1967, before a scant crowd at Yankee Stadium. In the second, my friend Rick Reichardt hit a single to a shortstop named John Kennedy. Jose Cardenal walked, moving Rick to second. Then Don comes up and hits a three-run homer. I don’t think I even turned around; I knew it was gone when I heard the sound of the ball hitting the bat. I gave up 173 Home Runs during my career, and pitchers don’t forget any of them. I gave up another run that inning, putting the Angels ahead 4-1. I made it through the next three innings fine, and in the fifth Horace Clarke pinch hit for me. The Yankees won the game 5-4, with Steve Whitaker carrying the team with an RBI single and a Home Run. Tom Tresh homered, and the Yankees went ahead in the eighth when Charley Smith scored on Elston Howard’s sacrifice fly. Dooley Womack got the win, and I got to enjoy serving up one of Don Mincher’s 200th career Home Runs.