Happy Birthday to Tommie Reynolds who played the outfield for the A’s, Mets, Angels and Brewers in a career that spanned eight years, from 1963 to 1972. I didn’t know Tommie well, but I liked him because he hit .118 against me in my career. But I remember one game he surprised me. He was back for his second tour of duty with the A’s in 1969 and they were playing at Yankee Stadium. The A’s pitcher, Lew Krausse, had tied the game with a Home Run, and Tommie followed up with a double. Luckily, I was able to calm down – credit for that goes to a kid named Thurman Munson, who was playing in his second major league game. We won the game 5-1, and I pitched a complete game.
Happy Birthday to Tony Muser, who played for the Red Sox, White Sox, Orioles and Brewers during a nine-year MLB career. I saw him play for the first time in 1969, when he was a September call-up for the Red Sox. It was his first game at Yankee Stadium and he was batting in the top of the ninth. He hit a two-out RBI single off Jack Aker to tie the game. The Red Sox brought in Sparky Lyle to pitch — never a good thing for the other team – but The Count gave up a single to Bobby Murcer and the Yankees won the game on a walk-off RBI single by Thurman Munson. Tony was a good guy, and I was proud when he became the Royals manager.
Happy Birthday to Vida Blue, a six-time All-Star who pitched in the major leagues for seventeen years and won the American League Cy Young and MVP in 1971. He was an amazing southpaw and I always enjoyed watching him pitch – except when he was up against me. I remember the first time I saw him. It was July 29, 1969 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. This was his second major league game and he was starting against Stan Bahnsen. He pitched perfect baseball for the first three innings. He gave up a double to Bill Robinson in the fourth and a single to Bobby Murcer in the fifth, but otherwise the Yankees were having trouble hitting this guy. He gave up two hits and two runs in the sixth, and no hits in the seventh. In the eighth, Vida walked Robinson and then have up a Home Run to Joe Pepitone. That put the Yankees ahead, 4-3. The A’s came back in the eighth, with a single by Rick Monday, a triple by Ramon Webster and a single by Bob Johnson to take a 6-4 lead.
I remember another game during the summer of 1971, a real pitcher’s duel between Vida and Mel Stottlemyre. Both of them pitched complete games. Vida had ten strikeouts, Mel pitched a three-hitter. The Yankees scored one run in the first, off a single by Thurman Munson and a double by Roy White; Tugboat scored on a ground out by Felipe Alou, and the Yankees won it 1-0.
Happy Birthday to Larry Biittner, who played for the Senators, Rangers, Expos and Cubs during a 14-year major league baseball career. Even though we played in the same league for four seasons, I only faced Larry in one game. It was August 31, 1972 and we were playing the Senators at Yankee Stadium. He was the leadoff hitter in the top of the second and I hit him with the pitch. He grounded out in his next appearance and I struck him out the next two times. I remember that game only because I pitched a five-hit shutout, a complete game with seven strikeouts. We won 7-0 in a game that the Yankee offense was particularly good: Horace Clarke was 3-for-4 with a Home Run; Thurman Munson was 2-for-5 with two RBI’s; and Bobby Murcer hit a 3-run homer.
Happy Birthday to Mike Adams, an outfield who played in 100 major league games between 1972 and 1978. The only time I faced Mike was on April 29, 1973. I was pitching the second game of a Sunday doubleheader against the Twins at Yankee Stadium, and Mike was the starting left fielder. I gave the up the only Twins run of the game in the second inning. Joe Lis reached first on rare error by Graig Nettles, and moved to third on Danny Thompson’s double. Dan Monzon walked to load the bases, and Phil Roof singled to right, scoring Lis. It would have been two runs, but Matty Alou threw Thompson out at home in beautiful plays by Matty and Thurman Munson. With runners on second and third, Mike flew out to Matty. I walked Mike in the fifth and he lined out to Bobby Murcer in his last At-Bat against me I the seventh.
Happy Birthday to Bill Zepp, who made his major league debut on August 12, 1969 as a pitcher for the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees were ahead 10-3 in the bottom of the eighth when Bill took the mound in relief of Jim Kaat. He got Roy White, Bobby Murcer and Thurman Munson out in his 1-2-3 inning at Yankee Stadium. Bill was an okay pitcher; in 1970, he was 9-4 with a 3.22 ERA. I remember him having some real testicular fortitude. After just one full season in the majors, he refused to sign a contract extension and said he would either play for his hometown team, the Detroit Tigers, or retire. He got the trade. But he only lasted less than half the season before an injury ended his career.
Among the guys I really enjoyed playing with was Dave LaRoche, who was traded to the Cleveland Indians during the 1975 Off-Season for another good pitcher, Milt Wilcox. The first time I saw him pitch was in his Yankee Stadium debut on July 19, 1970 when he was a rookie for the California Angels. He entered the game in relief in the eighth, taking over for Rudy May with a 5-2 lead. The first batter he faced was Horace Clarke, who grounded out. Then he struck out Bobby Murcer. In the ninth, he got Thurman Munson out. To me, getting Lemon and Tugboat out in your Yankee Stadium debut is a big deal. And that was Dave’s first major league save.
His Tribe debut was on April 12, 1975 in Milwaukee. It was the same day Dennis Eckersley made his major league debut. I was the starting pitcher that day, and I had nothing. Sometimes pitchers have days like that. I gave up a one-out walk to John Briggs, who reached third on Hank Aaron’s double. I intentionally walked the sometimes scary George Scott, and then Don Money hit an RBI single, scoring John. It could have been worse; I got the relay from Charlie Spikes in right and threw it to Johnny Ellis, the catcher, who tagged Hank out at home. Then it did get worse. Sixto Lezcano doubled, scoring George and moving Don to third. Charlie Moore, whom I wrote about on his birthday last month as being nearly impossible for me to get out, hit a two-run double. The Brewers led, 4-0. Frank Robinson pulled me in the bottom of the second after giving up a leadoff Home Run to Robin Yount and walking Bob Coluccio. Dave came in to pitch in the seventh – one of four pitchers the Tribe used that day – and he gave up no runs. But we lost, 6-5.
I never got to play with Ed Herrmann and that was my loss. He didn’t play for the Yankees until the season after I was traded. He was a great guy, an outstanding competitor, and he died way too young in 2013 after waging a valiant battle against prostate cancer. I battled that twice. It’s important that baseball fans remember those who made a contribution to the game, and since Ed was an All-Star in 1974 (along with Thurman Munson), I thought it was appropriate to reminisce about his career.
I faced Ed a bunch of times as a pitcher – I recall he doubled off me once in a game I lost to the White Sox in 1973 – but the story I remember most had nothing to do with me or the Yankees. Rollie Fingers was one of the great relief pitchers of all time (although I remain partial to Sparky Lyle) and most hitters didn’t have much luck once he got to the mound. But Ed wasn’t afraid of Rollie because Rollie had trouble getting Ed out. I looked up the exact numbers and Ed was 13-for-26 against Rollie between 1969 and 1978. In 1971, the year the A’s captured their first pennant since Connie Mack managed them forty years earlier in Philadelphia, Ed was particularly impossible for Rollie to get out.
It is often overlooked that Rollie was a starting pitcher in 1970 and that’s how he began the 1971 season. When the A’s came to Chicago for their first White Sox series that April, Ed beat Rollie up. He went 2-for-2 with a two-run double and a single during the 4 2/3 innings that Rollie pitched. Ed’s next opportunity was in Oakland that summer; by then Rollie was the closer and Ed hit a two-out ninth inning Home Run off him. The next time Rollie faced Ed in late September, Ed was the leadoff hitter in the top of the ninth and the White Sox had the lead. Rollie hit Ed with the pitch. But Ed was a patient man, and while he had to wait eleven months, he hit a first-pitch single off Rollie the very next time he faced him.
In case you didn’t know it, Ed was the grandson of Marty Herrmann, who played major league baseball for the Brooklyn Robins in 1918. Marty Herrmann pitched in one game, in a game against the Cincinnati Reds managed by Christy Mathewson. What an amazing baseball legacy.
As long as people were willing to listen to me talk about my one career Triple 47 years ago today, I figured I could relay another memorable hit by one of my favorite pitchers: Sparky Lyle’s only extra base hit as a New York Yankee. It was June 3, 1972, a Saturday afternoon in Chicago. Freddy Beene started the game against Stan Bahnsen. We were down two runs going in to the top of the ninth, and Goose Gossage was on the mound as the White Sox closer. We tied the game, 10-10, after a single by Rusty Torres, a walk by Bobby Murcer, and singles by Roy White and Ron Blomberg. Goose, in a rare blown save, was gone after three batters. The Countess came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth and had a 1-2-3 inning. He did the same thing in the tenth and eleventh innings. He gave up one hit in the twelfth, but Pat Kelly got stranded.
Bobby Murcer led off the top of the thirteenth with a single of Bart Johnson and advanced to second on Roy White’s walk. Bloomie hit a shot to Carlos May in left, but it wasn’t deep enough for Lemon to score. Then Thurman Munson hit a three-run Home Run. Jerry Kenney hit a grounder to short, but was safe at first because of Rich Morales’ throwing error. The second out of the inning came when Bernie Allen flew out to left.
So now the Yankees are up 13-10 and with two outs Ralph Houk kept Sparky in the game. He hit a double that went between Carlos and Jay Johnstone in center, scoring Kenney. He made it to second huffing and puffing, unaccustomed to running to first yet alone an extra base, but that huge smile, sort of like Tweetie Bird looking at Sylvester, is what I remember most. But that wasn’t the best part. Horace Clarke came up to bat and hit a single to center off the first pitch, and The Countess had to run from second to home. He made it, huffing and puffing again – this time I saw no smile. What I would give to watch him do that again!
Apparently unsatisfied with a five-run lead, the Yankee offense continued to rally. Rusty walked and Bobby Murcer hit a three-run Home Run. We went into the bottom of the thirteenth leading the White Sox, 18-10.
The Countess, maybe still a little tired from all that running, scared all of us just a little bit. He gave up a leadoff walk to Dick Allen, who moved to second off Jay’s groundout and to third on Bill Melton’s single. Chuck Brinkman, pinch hitting for the pitcher, singled to left, but Dick couldn’t score off Heeba. So Sparky had the bases loaded, one out, and I think he was still out of breath from all that running. But it was over quickly: Tom Egan hit into a double play. Sparky Lyle was the best!
Happy Birthday to Jack Heidemann, an infielder for eight seasons in the 1970’s. We were teammates on the Cleveland Indians briefly in 1974. The Yankees traded me there on April 26, and Jack was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals on June 1. While our time was brief, it was an honor to play with him. He was a smart ballplayer and a genuinely nice guy. And he was among the large group of players who interrupted their careers to serve in the military, and on his birthday, I thank him for his service to our country.
Thinking about Jack, the game I remember most was one I watched from the bench. It was August 3, 1971, a night game in Cleveland. Jack was playing Shortstop. Bobby Murcer was on first, Thurman Munson on third, and Roy White came to the plate with one out. Heeba hits a ground ball to Eddie Leon, the Indians Second Baseman. Eddie made a horrible throw to Jack, which put him directly in front of Bobby Murcer, who was sliding into second. Jack suffered serious injuries to his knee and was out for the rest of the season. It was awful. And let me say this – we are all extremely competitive on the field for each play of every game, but none of us like it when a fellow ballplayer gets hurt the way Jack did.
Even though we were on the same team for about 35 days, Jack and I were on the field at the same time only once: May 24, 1974 at Cleveland Stadium. He came in as an eighth inning defensive replacement for John Lowenstein at Third Base, but had no opportunity to make a play. Still, as a pitcher, it was reassuring to know Jack had my back. He was an excellent infielder.