Though the Yankees signed this tall, thin right-handed native of Kansas City in 1949, it took him a full decade to get through the organization’s minor league system and make his big league debut in September of 1959. In fact, the only thing that moved slower than John Gabler’s ascent to the Majors was evidently, his fastball.
He didn’t start winning in the minors until 1954, when he was still pitching in the C-level California League. It wasn’t until four years later, when he went 19-7 for manager Ralph Houk’s 1958 Triple-A Denver Bears team that his name made it to the upper portion of the Yanks pitching prospects list and even then, Yankee skipper Casey Stengel had to be convinced Gabler was worth a roster spot.
The pitcher helped his cause with three strong appearances during his end-of-the-year debut in the Bronx in 1959. Still, it probably was the hiring of Eddie Lopat as Stengel’s new pitching coach that enabled Gabler to make the Yankees’ Opening Day roster in 1960. Steady Eddie had been a big winner on the Stengel-led Yankee teams that won five straight world championships between 1949 and ’53, while mastering a low speed repertoire of junk pitches thrown with precise control. He was the perfect pitching coach for Gabler, who threw the same array of pitches as Lopat.
The combination seemed to be clicking when Gabler opened his season with a win, pitching seven scoreless innings in a 4-0 victory over the Red Sox. But after he got hit hard in his next start, the Yanks sent him to the bullpen and he had never really pitched well as a reliever during his long career in the minors.
Still, he hung on with the team until the end of July, when he was reassigned to Richmond. The Senators then selected him in the 1960 AL Expansion draft. Gabler pitched one season in Washington and his big league career was over. He passed away in 2009, at the age of 78.
|NYY (2 yrs)||4||4||.500||3.79||24||5||5||0||0||1||71.1||67||33||30||3||42||30||1.528|
|WSA (1 yr)||3||8||.273||4.86||29||9||11||0||0||4||92.2||104||61||50||5||37||33||1.522|