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.
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.
A little Celerino Sanchez trivia: Chief came to the Yankees in an unusual trade between a MLB team and a club in the Mexican League. The process started in 1969 when the Yankees traded Al Downing and Frank Fernandez to the Oakland A’s for Danny Cater and an obscure guy named Ossie Chavarria, a Panama-born career minor leaguer (1959-1973) who hit .208 in 124 games for the Kansas City Athletics during parts of 1966 and 1967. (Footnote: he hit .222 against me in four games my rookie year.) Ossie never got his pinstripes: he played all the infield positions for the Syracuse Chiefs, batted in the .250-.270 range, but the competition was tough in those days – the Yankees had Horace Clarke, Gene Michael, Jerry Kenney, Frank Baker and Ron Hansen ahead of him. The Yankees were in the market for a new third baseman, and the scouts had identified Chief as a potential star. So after the 1971 season, the Yankees traded Ossie to the Mexico City Tigers in the Mexican League for Chief. Chief, of course, didn’t pan out, and he returned to the Mexican League in time for the 1974 season. Sadly, Chief died young, of a heart attack in 1992 at age 48. But for some reason – likely his name and his role as the transitional third baseman between Jerry Kenney/Rich McKinney and Graig Nettles – he is well remembered by the Yankee fans of the Horace Clarke Era.
Chief hit his only career Home Run at Yankee Stadium on May 12, 1973 off of Baltimore’s Mickey Scott. He was a pinch hitter for the pinch hitter for the designated hitter. Jim Ray Hart started the game against Mike Cuellar, and Ron Bloomberg pinch hit for him when Bob Reynolds came in relief. When Earl Weaver replaced Reynolds with Scott, Ralph Houk sent Chief up. With Bobby Murcer on first, Sanchez hit a shot to left; Al Bumbry tried to grab it, but he could not. That was a great win because we were tied with Baltimore for second on that particular day. Yankees blanked the Orioles 8-0; rookie Doc Medich got the win.
Chief went hitless in his first two major league games; his first hit came at Yankee Stadium, off Mike Paul of the Texas Rangers. It was a two-out hit to left, with an RBI; Roy White scored. His last hit came in his final game as a New York Yankee, and as a major league baseball player. It was the final game of the 1973 season; I was on the mound against Detroit. He came in to the game as a seventh inning replacement for Graig Nettles; facing Fred Holdsworth, he hit a two-out, two-run single to center, driving in Otto Velez and Hal Lanier. And Chief could never touch Wilbur Wood; nine At-Bats in 1972 and 1973, he hit .000 off him.