August 11 – Happy Birthday Bill Monbouquette

monboWhen I first started watching Yankee baseball back in 1960, the Red Sox had a horrible team. Ted Williams was about to retire leaving behind a crippled Boston offense and the team’s solid pitching staff from the 1950s had faded away. They basically had three guys back then who were warriors. One was the Bronx born third baseman, Frank Malzone. For some reason, I loved the guy and was secretly wishing the Yankees would trade for him. In their bullpen was a fearsome save machine named Dick Radatz. Known as the “Monster”, the intimidating six foot six inch right-hander won forty games and saved 78 more during his first three years in the league, his ERA never went higher than 2.29 and he absolutely owned Mickey Mantle.

Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was the third stud on those mediocre Boston teams of the early sixties. Bill Monbouquette was a tough kid from Medford, Massachusetts who never gave into big league hitters. He credited Ted Williams with teaching him the most important lesson of his career, stay ahead of the hitters. The right-hander didn’t throw especially hard but he threw strikes and he wasn’t afraid to come inside on anyone. During his prime years  in Beantown, from 1960 until 1965, he won 104 games for the Red Sox, including a twenty-win season in 1963 and a no-hitter in 1962.

Boston traded “Monbo” to the Tigers after the 1965 season. He had a rough first year in MoTown and instead of keeping him on as a bullpen pitcher, Detroit’s front office decided to give him his outright release in May of 1967 and the Yankees grabbed him immediately. I loved the move back then because the great Yankee pitching staffs of the early sixties had vanished. At first, New York skipper Ralph Houk used his new acquisition almost exclusively out of the bullpen. By mid-August, however, Monboquette had worked his way into the starting rotation and ended up winning four of his last six decisions, including an impressive complete-game shutout versus the White Sox. His final numbers during his first year in pinstripes included a 6-5 record, a save and an impressive 2.33 ERA.

Monbo couldn’t continue at that pace the following year and got traded to the Giants for reliever Lindy McDaniel in July of 1968. That would turn out to be his final big league season as a pitcher. He then got into coaching and eventually became Billy Martin’s Yankee pitching coach during the 1985 season.

One of the things I didn’t know about this guy until I researched his career for today’s post was how physically tough he was. On the day he signed with Boston in 1955, the Red Sox invited him and his family to stick around and watch that day’s Red Sox game at Fenway Park. During the contest, somebody spilled beer on Monbouquette’s mother and after a heated exchange, both the pitcher and his dad got into it with the rowdies and ended up in a police holding cell. Nine years later, Monbouquette was trying to parlay his twenty win season into a raise on his then $14,000 annual Red Sox salary. During his super-heated negotiations with Pinky Higgins, who was Boston’s GM at the time, Monbouquette actually decked the guy twice. In 2008, Monbouquette got into the biggest fight of his life when he was diagnosed with leukemia. He underwent a stem cell transplant and beat that too.

Monbo shares his birthday with this former Yankee outfielder and this one too.

1967 NYY 6 5 .545 2.36 33 10 4 2 1 1 133.1 122 39 35 6 17 53 1.043
1968 NYY 5 7 .417 4.43 17 11 2 2 0 0 89.1 92 47 44 7 13 32 1.175
11 Yrs 114 112 .504 3.68 343 263 27 78 18 3 1961.1 1995 910 803 211 462 1122 1.253
BOS (8 yrs) 96 91 .513 3.69 254 228 8 72 16 1 1622.0 1649 755 665 180 408 969 1.268
NYY (2 yrs) 11 12 .478 3.19 50 21 6 4 1 1 222.2 214 86 79 13 30 85 1.096
DET (2 yrs) 7 8 .467 4.64 32 14 9 2 1 0 104.2 121 60 54 14 22 63 1.366
SFG (1 yr) 0 1 .000 3.75 7 0 4 0 0 1 12.0 11 9 5 4 2 5 1.083
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/13/2013.

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