Tagged: Thurman Munson

Rollie Fingers couldn’t get Ed Herrmann out

Ed HerrmannI 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.

Sparky Lyle’s only extra-base hit as a Yankee

Thurman Munson Sparky LyleAs 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, Jack Heidemann

Jack HeidemannHappy 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.

Would you pick Martin Cott over Thurman Munson?

Thurman MunsonOne of the benefits of the Horace Clarke Era was that the Yankees got to pick early in the Amateur Draft.  I was in my third season as a Yankees pitcher in 1968 when they had the #4 overall pick.  It was a talented pool of prospects, with many first round picks making it to the major leagues.  Three teams had a chance to beat out the Yankees to grab Thurman Munson: the Mets (#1 pick), who took Tim Foli instead; the A’s (#2 pick), who went with Pete Broberg; and the Astros (#3 pick), whose choice was a catcher named Martin Cott, who played three seasons in the minor leagues and was then, for reasons I do not know, out of baseball.

For extreme trivia buffs, other Munson First Round ’68 teammates: Bobby Valentine (#5, by the Dodgers); Greg Luzinski (#11, by the Phillies); future Yankee Rich McKinney (#14, by the White Sox); and Gary Matthews (#17, by the Giants).

Happy Birthday, Willie Randolph

Willie RandolphHappy Birthday to Willie Randolph, whose emergence as the Yankees regular second baseman marked the end of the Horace Clarke Era and the genesis of the George Steinbrenner Era that restored the Yankee Tradition of winning.  I missed Willie by a year and a half.  The Yankees traded me to Cleveland in April 1974, and Pittsburgh traded him to New York after the 1975 season.  His rookie season was the first Yankee pennant since 1964, when I was a sophomore minor leaguer.  His place in Yankee history is solid, and I’m pleased that the team chose to honor him last month.  (Note: Don’t rush through this post, it has a tear-jerker ending.)

The first time I saw Willie up close was on May 18, 1976, a 4 ½ hour, 16-inning game at Cleveland stadium.   I was pitching against Catfish Hunter, who gave up three hits and three runs in the top of the first.  I faced Willie for the first time in the second inning, and he hit a two-out single to center.  I got him out the next two At-Bats.  We had a 6-1 lead in the top of the ninth.  I gave up singles to the first two batters, Lou Piniella and Graig Nettles, and that’s when Frank Robinson gave me the hook.  Dave LaRoche entered in relief and struck out Otto Velez.  Then Willie was up.  He hit a single to left, loading the bases.  Dave walked Rick Dempsey and gave up a two-run single to Sandy Alomar.  After walking Roy White, Tom Buskey came in to pitch and promptly gave up a two-run single to Thurman Munson.  That tied the score 6-6.

Sparky Lyle pitched six innings in relief, which explains why the Indians couldn’t get a seventh run.  He was awesome, as he always was.  In the 16th, Jim Kern gave up five runs – the fifth run was on a one-out RBI double to Willie.

I only pitched once more to Willie, on May 27, 1976 at Yankee Stadium, and he went 0-2 against me.  In the fifth inning, I gave up a two-run Home Run to Mickey Rivers, and after giving up a single and wild pitch – and with the game tied 3-3, I was done.

What I didn’t know at the time was just how done I was.  The next day the Indians traded me to the Texas Rangers for Ron Perzanowski.  And within the next three weeks, a shoulder injury ended my baseball career.

So for me, 5/27/76 would be the last time on the mound for Yankee Stadium (not including an Old Timer’s Day).  The last batter I would face there was Thurman Munson, my friend and my old catcher.  That was fine by me.

Happy Birthday, Goose Gossage


Happy Birthday to Hall of Famer Goose Gossage, one of the greatest closers in the history of baseball.  I never got to play with Goose on the Yankees, and as a starting pitcher that was my loss.  No disrespect to Lindy McDaniel, but history would be treating me just a little better if I had Goose on my side.  The guy was incredible.  Goose’s rookie year was Sparky Lyle’s first in pinstripes.  They went up against each other on two consecutive days.

Goose’s first game against the Yankees was during his rookie season of 1972.  The Yankees were in Chicago and this was the first time Goose was facing us. The date was June 3, 1972.   It started as a matchup between Stan Bahnsen, who had been dealt to Chicago in that crappy-for-us Rich McKinney deal, and Freddie Beene.   This was one of the highest scoring games I can remember – we won 18-10.  Goose entered the game at the start of the seventh, and the Yankees were losing 10-8.  He was impressive – a 1-2-3 inning, getting Ron Bloomberg, Thurman Munson and Jerry Kenney out.  And he was just as impressive in the eighth, getting Bernie Allen, Felipe Alou and Horace Clarke out – another 1-2-3 inning.

So Goose comes out for the top of the ninth, protecting a 10-8 lead.  He gave up singles to the first three batters: Rusty Torres, Bobby Murcer and Roy White, who drove in Rusty.  10-9, runners at first and second, no outs, and Bloomie is up.  Chuck Tanner pulled Goose for Steve Kealy, who gave up an RBI single.   The score remained tied until the top of the 13th, when the Yankees had an extraordinary inning:  Thurman Munson and Bobby Murcer both hit a three-run homers: The other RBI’s came from two unlikely sources: Horace Clarke and Sparky, who drove in a run with a beautiful double to left.  Sparky pitched five innings, holding the Chisox to just three hits for the win.

The next day, Goose came in to relieve Dave Lemonds in the sixth inning.  The White Sox were ahead 2-1, but Lemonds got in some trouble.  With runners on first and second, Roy White hit an RBI single to tie the game.  Tanner pulled Lemonds and Goose got Felipe to hit into a double play.  But with Bobby on third, Goose threw a wild pitch and the Yankees were now up 3-2.  In the seventh, Goose faced an unusual offensive threat: Hal Lanier, who singled to right, stole second, and go to third of another wild pitch.  Then Gene Michael laid down an absolutely beautiful bunt and Hal scored.

The White Sox came up in the bottom of the ninth, and the Yankees starter – some guy named Kekich – was three outs away from a complete game.  With one out, he walked Bill Melton and then gave up a hit to Mike Andrews.  With runners on first and second, Ralph Houk pulled Mike and brought in Sparky to close.  Then Tanner put Jorge Orta in to run for Andrews, and pulled the next batter, shortstop Rich Morales, for a pinch hitter, Dick Allen.  Allen belted a Home Run over the left field fence.  The White Sox won, 5-3, and another rookie, Cy Acosta, got the win.

Goose got his first win against the Yankees on August 22, 1972, a 5-4 game in Chicago.  The losing pitcher? That would be me.

Happy Birthday, Kerry Dineen

Happy Birthday to Kerry Dineen, who played the outfield for the Yankees ever so briefly in 1975 and 1976.  While I missed playing with Kerry on the Yankees, I remember him from my last spring training in Fort Lauderdale in 1974 and he was impressive.  The Yankees were high on him as a prospect.  He got called up for a few games in 1975 when Elliot Maddox got hurt, and – I looked it up – he hit .364 playing in seven games over a six day period.  I don’t know why he didn’t get a September call-up.   But in Cleveland, a week before I was traded to Texas, I paid attention to Kerry’s big game because my friend Thurman Munson was playing left field.

It’s a good story.  The Yankees were on their way to George Steinbrenner’s first pennant. On May 20, 1976, the Yankees and the Red Sox had a brawl, and Mickey Rivers and Lou Piniella got hurt in the fight; with Maddox and Ron Blomberg already on the DL, it left Billy Martin with a shortage of outfielders to play the next day.  The way I heard it, Kerry was actually taking batting practice in Syracuse when he got a call telling him that needed him in the Bronx in time for the 8 PM game.  The Yankees started Roy White in center, Thurman in left, and Oscar Gamble in right.  (Fran Healy was catching, in case you are wondering.)  Billy used Rick Dempsey to pinch hit for Oscar, and Rick wound up playing right for a bit.

The Yankees were behind by a run going into the bottom of the ninth and they rallied.  Otto Velez pinch hit for Jim Mason and hit leadoff double and came out of the game so Sandy Alomar could run for him.  Successive sacrifice flies by Willie Randolph and Roy White brought Alomar home, tying the game at 4-4.    Dempsey got a hit in the tenth and Billy put Kerry in to run for him.

In the bottom of the twelfth, Kerry came up to bat with two outs and runners on second and third.  He did a walk-off single and the Yankees won 5-4.  It was his moment, but it didn’t last.  He played four games for the Yankees that spring and never wore pinstripes again.  After the season was over, he was traded to the Phillies for some guy Sergio Ferrer.  Anyone ever hear of him?

The other good story is that not long after Kerry got sent back to the minors in 1975, the Yankees brought up a promising young pitcher named Ron Guidry.  Gator got Kerry’s uniform, #49.

Here’s a photo of Thurman Munson playing Left Field against the Red Sox on May 21, 1976.  Thurman almost robbed Jim Rice of a Home Run; instead, it was a double.  Thurman could do it all!