I read an article in the New York Times last night about the trade deadlines and it mentioned an old story of how Dan Topping and Tom Yawkey met for drinks at Toots Shor’s in 1947 and agreed to trade Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams. Both owners believed their home park would be better for the other hitter. The deal fell through the next morning when the Red Sox insisted that Yogi Berra be added to the trade.
The Baltimore Orioles were one of the toughest teams I ever played against. They won the World Series in 1966, my rookie year, the American League Pennant in 1969 (the first time there was a Divisional Series), the World Series in 1970, and the AL Pennant in 1971. They had an unreal team: Boog Powell at first, Davey Johnson at second, Mark Belanger at short, Brooks Robinson at third, Andy Etchebarren was the catcher, and they had Frank Robinson, Paul Blair and Don Buford in the outfield. And they had great pitching – one year it was four 20-game winners: Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally and Pat Dobson. So because they were so good in 1970, I feel compelled to recall one game between the Orioles and the Washington Senators that year – maybe just to embarrass my friend, Rick Reichert.
It was June 20, a Sunday afternoon at RFK, and it was Earl Weaver managing against Ted Williams. The game was tied 2-2, and in the top of the twelfth inning, with nothing more than a pair of walks, a pair of popups, and an error by Mike Epstein, the Orioles scored and took a 3-2 lead. In the bottom of the twelfth, Jim French drew a leadoff walk, and with one out, Rick came up to the plate to pinch hit for Lee Maye. He hit a walk-off, two run homer and delivered a rare and excruciating loss to the first-place Orioles. It was an amazing moment.
I had to look up the details, but I remember the game. The Yankees had lost to the Red Sox more than an hour earlier. We were 2 ½ games out of first place at that point and we all stuck around the clubhouse to find out how the Orioles game was going.
This one will test your baseball memory: Happy Birthday to Rich Hand, who pitched for the Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers and California Angels during a four-year career that went from 1970 to 1973. Keep reading, since there is an obscure Yankee connection. I pitched against him once, on August 31, 1972 when the Rangers played us at Yankee Stadium. Rich had the misfortune of playing for some weak teams (I know what that’s like) and he had some promise. One year he had over 100 strikeouts. He was a nice guy and I don’t mean to embarrass him when I say that the Yankees played great that day – memorable because Horace Clarke hit a Home Run that day, and Bobby Murcer hit a three-run homer. Rich did strike me out once. I pitched a complete game, five hits, and seven strikeouts – bringing my record to a mediocre 14-13.
And for extreme Yankee trivia buffs: After four innings, Ted Williams, who was managing the Rangers, brought in Casey Cox to pitch. Casey gave up successive RBI doubles in the fifth to Horace Clarke and Bobby Murcer. Then he settled down and pitched 1-2-3 innings in the sixth and seventh. I must have impressed Lee McPhail, because before the day was over, Casey was a Yankee – he came over to us in a trade for another pitcher, Jim Roland. Jim’s tenure with the Yankees lasted all of four months.