1968 will forever be remembered as the “Year of the Pitcher”. Denny McClain of the Tigers won 31 games, the last pitcher to win 30 in a single season. Bob Gibson of the Cardinals pitched to a record low 1.12 ERA; Cleveland’s Luis Tiant led the AL with a 1.60 ERA. San Francisco’s Juan Marichal was 26-9. On and on. Only one batter in the American League, Carl Yastrzemski, batted over ,300….just barely at .301.
And 50 years ago this month, slugger Rocky Colavito, called on in relief, recorded a victory in his final season with the Yankees. Yep, the Rock got the win.
Colavito, a superb outfielder with a strong right arm, hit .374 home runs in a 14-year career, including 42 to lead the AL in 1959.
On August 25, 1968, Colavito pitched 2.2 scoreless innings against Detroit, and wound up with a victory when the Yankees rallied from a 5-0 deficit to win 6-5. Colavito came on in relief in the fourth inning, and retired two batters to strand a couple of runners.
The Yankees got a run back in the fourth, and then struck with two outs in the sixth. Bill Robinson hit a three-run homer followed by a Bobby Cox solo blast that tied the score at 5-5. Colavito then walked and scored what proved to be the winning run on a Jake Gibbs single. Lindy McDaniel finished off the Tigers in the ninth to earn the save.
In the second game, Colavito homered against Mickey Lolich to spark another Yankee comeback and a 5-4 win for a doubleheader sweep.
The Tigers were good enough to win the World Series in 1968, but had a tough August weekend in the Bronx. In a Friday twi-night doubleheader (I was there), the Yankees won the opener 2-1, and then the two teams battled to a 3-3, 19 inning tie ended with curfew, with McDaniel pitching seven perfect innings in relief. On Saturday, the Yankees beat McClain 2-1 behind Mel Stottlemyre.
According to the rules of the time, the Friday game counted as a tie but had to be played again as part of the Sunday doubleheader where Colavito made history.
The Yankees played yet another doubleheader on Monday and shortstop Gene Michael pitched three innings in a 10-2 loss to California. The Stick gave up five runs to the Angels, but none of them were earned. On Tuesday the Yankees again split with the Angels. It was the Yanks fourth doubleheader in five days, including the 19-inning tie.
Rocky Colavito had an outstanding career. He hit four home runs in a game in Baltimore in 1959. Before the 1960 season, Colavito was traded to Detroit for Harvey Kuenn. For the only time in baseball history, a HR champ was traded for a batting champion. There was outcry in Cleveland following the deal.
Rocky Colavito also pitched three scoreless innings in a 1959 mound appearance with Cleveland. His lifetime ERA is 0.00. You can’t do better than that.
You have to go back nearly 60 years to find a Yankee debut like the one Giancarlo Stanton had in his first game in pinstripes. On April 19, 1960, the Yankees opened the season at Fenway Park with a 9-4 victory over the Red Sox.
That day, a guy named Roger Maris, an outfielder acquired from the Kansas City A’s in the off-season, batted lead-off for the Yankees that day and doubled.
Maris later hit a pair of of home runs and singled in another run. He finished with four hits, four RBIs and a 5-2-4-4 line.
The Rajah won the AL MVP in 1960, and lost the World Series in seven games to Bill Mazeroski and the Pirates. The following year Maris hit 61 home runs to break Babe Ruth’s record, won the MVP again, and helped the Yankees beat the Reds in five games in the World Series.
For the record, Stanton homered twice, doubled and drove in four runs to lead the Yankees to a 6-1 win over the Blue Jays in the opener. He finished 5-3-3-4 for the game.
The Sportslifer has several connections to Aaron Boone and family, dating back more than half century. The karma appears real as the Yankees announced their 35th manager.
For openers, I was in the house at Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS at Yankee Stadium when Aaron Boone homered in the 11th inning to beat the Red Sox 6-5 and send the Yankees to the World Series.
In September of that season, I saw Aaron belt a solo homer in a 15-5 victory over the Tigers.
Two years before, at Game 3 of the 2001 ALCS, I saw Aaron’s older brother, Bret, hit a two-run homer against Mark Wohlers (yep, the former Braves closer) to cap a seven-run sixth inning and lead the Mariners over the Yankees 14-3. The Mariners won a record 116 games that year, but the Yanks won the series in five games.
My Dad took me to my very first Yankee game in 1958 at the original Yankee Stadium. Ray Boone, Aaron’s grandfather, had a solo home run and later a three-run double that day against future Hall of Famer Whitey Ford. The White Sox won 7-1.
Bob Boone, Ray’s son and Aaron and Bret’s father, was a catcher who enjoyed a 15-year MLB career.The only time I ever saw him play was in spring training in1981 when the Phillies played the Yankees in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Graig Nettles and Goose Gossage (54) celebrate playoff win over Red Sox in 1978 at Fenway.
I’ve been watching Yankee baseball since I was a kid. My earliest memories go back to the 1957 World Series, when the Yankees lost to the Milwaukee Braves in seven games.
I always wanted to pull together a 25-man team of my favorite Yankees. Not necessarily the best, but the Yankees I liked the most.
You’ll note Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio are missing; that’s because I never saw them play. And there are no current Yankees on this team, they’re for future consideration.
Here are the starters and reserve, including seven starting pitchers and three relievers.
C – Yogi Berra – Got rings? Yogi has 10, most of any player in history.
1B – Don Mattingly – Hit a record 6 grand slams in 1987, the only grand slams of his career.
2B – Willie Randolph – Quiet leader, member of the 1977 and 1978 World Champions.
3B – Graig Nettles – His play at the hot corner was a turning point in the 1978 World Series.
SS – Derek Jeter – The Captain is #6 on the all-time hit list with 3465.
OF – Mickey Mantle – The switch-hitter, #7, hit some of the longest HRs in MLB history.
OF – Bernie Williams – Another in a long line of great Yankee center fielders.
OF – Bobby Murcer – He wasn’t the next Mantle, but he was damn good.
P – Whitey Ford – All-time Yankee leader with 236 wins and a .690 wining percentage.
P – Mel Stottlemyre – Arrived at the end of a dynasty, had 40 career shutouts.
P – Ron Guidry – Enjoyed one of the great seasons ever in 1978, 25-3 with a 1.78 ERA.
P – David Cone – Helped put the Yankees over the top in 1996, was perfect in 1999.
P – Andy Pettitte – Clutch lefty, his 19 post-season wins are the most by any pitcher.
RP – Mariano Rivera – Simply the greatest closer in history with 652 saves.
RP – Goose Gossage – Fearsome bullpen presence, saw his Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
C – Thurman Munson – Hit safely in 28 of 30 post-season games, died in a plane crash in 1979.
1B – Bill Skowron – The Moose hit a home run in my first game at Yankee Stadium
IF – Bobby Richardson – Only World Series MVP on a losing team, 1960 vs. Pittsburgh.
IF – Gil McDougald – Utility man, Rookie of the Year in 1951, later coached baseball at Fordham.
OF – Roger Maris – Still holds the American League single season HR record with 61 in 1961.
OF – Reggie Jackson – Mr. October, hit three HRs vs Dodgers in 1977 World Series clincher.
OF – Paul O’Neill – The Warrior, a mainstay of Yankee championship teams in 1996, 199-2000.
P – Jim “Catfish” Hunter – George’s first big free agent signing, won 23 games in 1975.
P – David Wells – Saw him pitch a perfect game in 1998 against the Twins.
RP – Sparky Lyle – Stolen from the Red Sox, provided pomp and circumstance out of the bullpen.
1B Chris Chambliss; 3B Clete Boyer; OF Lou Piniella; OF Roy White; P Orlando Hernandez; P Jim Bouton
Fifty-six years ago today, September 20, 1958, the Yankees were no-hit by knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm. And discounting Houston’s six-pitcher no-hitter against New York in 2003, the Yankees haven’t been no-hit since – although they came close on numerous occasions.
Eight times since the Wilhelm gem the Yankees have entered the ninth inning without a hit. And each time they managed to break up a no-hitter in their last at bat.
In 1967, on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, Boston left-hander Billy Rohr took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against Hall of Famer Whitey Ford. Rohr was one strike away from history when Elston Howard hit a soft single into right-center field. Rohr beat the Yankees in his next start, but won just one more game in the majors after that.
In the space of one month in 1970, Yankee second baseman Horace Clarke broke up three possible no-hitters in the ninth. Jim Rooker of Kansas City, Sonny Siebert of Boston and Joe Niekro of Detroit were the victims.
Reggie Jackson broke up a Nolan Ryan no-hit bid in 1979 with a one-out single against the Angels’ Hall of Famer. Two years later, Rick Cerone turned the trick against Boston’s Bobby Ojeda. And in 1989, Roberto Kelly ruined Dave Stieb’s perfect game by doubling to left with two outs in the ninth. Kelly then scored on a single by Steve Sax, but Stieb got Luis Polonia to ground out and preserve his 2-1 victory. The last near-miss occurred in 2006, when Robinson Cano hit a line single to left against Baltimore’s Daniel Cabrera with one out in the ninth to break up the no-hitter. Cano was then erased when Bobby Abreu hit into a double play to end the game.
Wilhelm’s no-hitter took place at the old Baltimore Memorial Stadium. Orioles catcher Gus Triandos accounted for the only run of the game with a home run in the seventh inning against Yankee reliever Bobby Shantz, who was pitching in relief of Dan Larsen. Less than two years earlier, Larsen threw the only no-hitter in World Series history as New York beat the Brooklyn Dodgers 2-0.
A total of six Hall of Famers played in the Wilhelm game, Mickey Mantle and pinch-hitters Yogi Berra and Enos Slaughter for the Yankees, and Brooks Robinson, Dick Williams (who made it as a manager) and Hoyt Wilhelm for the Orioles.
Wilhelm was just 3-10 in 1958, splitting the season between Cleveland and the Orioles. He started four games that year, and just 52 in his entire career.
The Astros six-man no-hitter took place on June 11, 2003. Roy Oswalt started for Houston but was injured early in the contest. Pete Munron, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner finished the task.
It was the most pitchers ever to combine on a no-hitter in major league history — twice, four had done the trick. And it was the first time in 6,981 games — the longest streak in major league history – that the Yankees had been no-hit. Between those no-hitter, the Yankees won nine World Series and 15 American League pennants.
To say the Yankees are offensively challenged is a gross understatement. Going into action today, the Bronx formerly known as Bombers were next to last in runs scored in the American League (ahead of only the Red Sox.)
The pitching is not the problem. Despite losing 80 percent of their starting rotation for all or most of the season, the Yankee pitching has been consistent. The bullpen, led by David Robertson and Dellin Betances, has, in fact ,been outstanding.
It’s the Yankee offense that bears scrutiny. Only Brett Gardner, who has been their best player in 2014, is hitting above his lifetime average. It’s easy to point the finger at a starting lineup which is hitting a collective .491 points below their lifetime batting averages. Here’s the ugly truth:
Pos. Player 2014 Career Difference
LF Brett Gardner .276 .269 +7
SS Derek Jeter .273 .311 -38
CF Jacoby Ellsbury .273 .294 -21
IB Mark Teixeira .232 .275 -43
DH Carlos Beltran .240 .281 -41
C Brian McCann .238 .274 -36
3B Chase Headley .250 .265 -15
2B Stephen Drew .170 .259 – 89
RF Martin Prado .163 .289 -126
RF Ichiro Suzuki .277 .317 -40
RF Alfonso Soriano .221 .270 -49
Some random thoughts, rants and muses on the hitless wonders:
- Texeira’s batting average has dipped each year since he joined the Yankees in 2009.
- Free agent acquisitions Ellsbury, Beltran and McCann (or is that McCan’t?, pictured above in case you were wondering) have hit a cumulative 98 points behind their lifetime averages.
- Amazingly, Drew is hitting lower with the Yankees (.170) than the Red Sox (.176).
- Discount relative newcomers Headley, Prado and Drew, the cumulative mark is still .261 under the lifetime mean.
- And we haven’t included utility men Brian Roberts (.237, .276, -39) and Kelly Johnson (.219, .251, -32). That brings the cumulative total below lifetime batting average to -.562
- Don’t forget these are current lifetime averages.If you counted those averages coming into the season, the dropoff would be even more precipitous.
- Jeter gets a pass. He’s played exactly one game in his career when the Yankees were mathematically eliminated. Plus he’s a 40-year-old shortstop.
- Yankees haven’t finished below .500 since 76-86 in 1992, 20 games behind the world champion Blue Jays. Since then they’ve captured five World Series and seven AL pennants while winning 14 divisional titles.