By 1992, even the most loyal and optimistic Yankee fans were wondering if our favorite baseball team would ever be winners again. George Steinbrenner had gotten himself suspended for life but not before he presided over the disembowelment of his ball club. The Stump Merrill era had just ended and somebody named Buck Showalter was now skippering the club.
Melido Perez was the ace of Buck’s pitching staff that year,which should tell you just how bad that staff was. It was clear to me that if the Yankees were ever going to be contenders again, the team had to find some special arms.
That’s why we all got pretty excited when today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant showed up in the Bronx during the dog days of August that year. A native of Tampa, Sam Militello was a tall fireballing right-hander who had just won two consecutive pitcher of the year awards in the Yankee farm system. When he won his first three big league decisions the immediate reaction of Yankee Universe was not just joy but also “where the hell have they been hiding this kid and why?”
Unfortunately, Militello’s brilliance did not last. He lost his next three decisions and was then shelved for the remainder of the ’92 season with a tired arm. He bounced back with a strong spring training performance and the Yanks brought him north to start the ’93 season. After his first three regular season appearances however, his ERA was near seven and he couldn’t get the ball over the plate. The Yanks sent him down at the end of April. It was his inability to throw strikes and a series of arm injuries that prevented Militello from ever again throwing a pitch in the big leagues.