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.