If they played under today’s big league structure with three different divisions and two wild card teams. The 1985 Yankees would have definitely made the postseason and quite possibly won a World Series. That team finished with 97 wins. In Yankee franchise history, only the 1954 Bronx Bomber team won more regular season games (104) and failed to reach postseason play. That ’85 team had a potent offense, which included Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Ricky Henderson plus perennial all-star, Don Mattingly, who was at the peak of his career. They finished two games behind the Blue Jays that year and if you had to lay the blame anything, it would have to be the thinness of the club’s pitching staff. Ron Guidry won 22 games that year and 46-year-old Joe Niekro somehow managed to flutter his knuckleball enough times to win 16 more. They also had closer Dave Righetti doing his thing in the bullpen. After those three however, you really did need a score card to figure out who was on the mound at any given time for New York. That is unless it was Rich Bordi doing the pitching. That’s because the mustachio’d San Francisco-born right hander was 6’7″ tall, making him an easy read for Yankee fans back then.
Pitching for that particular Yankee team, however was anything but easy as Bordi soon found out. He had originally been drafted and signed by the A’s in 1980. In fact he was the last guy ever signed by Oakland’s eccentric owner, Charley Finley, which explains why he was also rushed into his big league debut that same year. By 1984, he had landed in Chicago with the Cubs, where he put together his best season with a 5-2 record as a starter and some-time reliever. That December, the Yanks sent Ray Fontenot and Brian Dayett to the Cubs for Bordi, Henry Cotto, Ron Hassey and somebody named Porfi Altamirano.
Bordi joined a Yankee team that was supposed to have been managed the entire season by Yogi Berra. George Steinbrenner had made that promise to his skipper before the season started. After a 6-10 start, “the Boss” broke that promise by firing Yogi and replacing him with Billy Martin.
Suddenly, poor Bordi, a modestly skilled big league pitcher found himself working for two men who had become famous for making the lives of modestly skilled big league pitchers miserable. The big Californian didn’t do that badly. He became a mainstay of Martin’s bullpen, appearing in a total of 51 games that year which included three starts. He finished the season with a 6-8 record, 2 saves and a decent 3.21 ERA.
I thought we’d see him in a Yankee uniform the following year but I was wrong. He and prospect Rex Hudler were traded to the Orioles for outfielder Gary Roenicke. Then I thought I would never again see him in a Yankee uniform. I was wrong again. The Yankees brought him back to New York as a free agent in 1987. That year, Lou Piniella had taken over as Yankee skipper and Bordi finished the season with a 3-1 record but a sky high ERA and New York released him. He was out of the big leagues by the following year. He returned to California and I believe he is now a scout for the Cincinnati Reds. I bet you he’s glad he doesn’t work for Billy Martin or George Steinbrenner any more.
He shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher, this long-ago Yankee outfielder and also this now demolished shrine of Major League Baseball.
|OAK (3 yrs)||0||1||.000||3.86||5||2||2||0||0||0||11.2||11||7||5||0||6||6||1.457|
|CHC (2 yrs)||5||4||.556||3.81||42||8||11||0||0||5||108.2||112||52||46||13||32||61||1.325|
|NYY (2 yrs)||9||9||.500||4.33||67||4||22||0||0||2||131.0||137||69||63||12||41||87||1.359|
|SEA (1 yr)||0||2||.000||8.31||7||2||2||0||0||0||13.0||18||12||12||4||1||10||1.462|
|BAL (1 yr)||6||4||.600||4.46||52||1||22||0||0||3||107.0||105||56||53||13||41||83||1.364|
At the time of the trade, it was considered one of the biggest in Yankee franchise history. Pitcher Ernie Shore and outfielder Duffy Lewis had been perennial stars on the great pre WWI Boston Red Sox teams. Both, however, had joined the Navy in 1918 and missed an entire season. Before they returned from service in 1919, the duo had been traded to New York along with another very good veteran Boston pitcher named Dutch Leonard in exchange for four players and $15,000. After the deal was made, Yankee skipper Miller Huggins was thrilled and told members of the press that the trade filled the two biggest weaknesses the Yankees had on their roster and he expected the team would be in the thick of the 1919 AL Pennant race as a result of this deal.
Duffy Lewis was a native of San Francisco who cut his baseball teeth in the Pacific Coast League. His real name was George and he had made his big league debut with Boston in 1910, when he joined Tris Speaker and Harry Hopper to form one of the great outfields in Red Sox franchise history. The trio helped Boston win World Series in 1912, ’15 and ’16 and Lewis added lots of luster to his reputation as a clutch hitter when he averaged .444 against the Phillies in the 1915 Fall Classic and .353 the following fall against Brooklyn.
In actuality, Lewis was pretty much a singles hitter who was blessed to be part of one of baseball’s all-time best lineups. As it turned out Huggins’ high hopes for both Lewis and Shore (Leonard was sold to the Tigers before he pitched a game as a Yankee) proved to be unfounded. Shore caught the mumps during his first New York spring training camp and would never amount to much of anything in pinstripes. Duffy started in left field for New York in 1919 and averaged just .272, which was 17 points below his career average with Boston. He did drive in 89 run but he was overly aggressive at the plate for a guy with little power and not a good base-runner.
A little over a year after the big trade Huggins pulled a perfect “if at first you don’t succeed try again” maneuver by convincing the Yankee owner Jake Ruppert to go back to Boston owner Harry Frazee and pay him whatever it takes to purchase Babe Ruth’s contract. The “Big Bang” then joined Lewis and Ping Bodie to form the starting outfield for a 1920 Yankee team that won 95 games, which was only good enough for a third place finish in the 1920 AL Pennant race. Lewis, however, had seen his playing time decrease during his second season in New York thanks to the emergence of a Yankee rookie outfielder by the name of Bob Meusel.
The Yanks would finally make it to their first World Series in 1921 and they got there without Lewis, who had been traded to Washington the previous December. He was out of the big leagues for good the following year but he did not hang up his spikes. Instead he returned to the Pacific Coast League, where he continued playing another six years, finally retiring as a player at the age of 39. Duffy would eventually become the long-time traveling secretary of the Boston Braves.
He shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher, this former reliever and also this “house,” which was built by his former teammate.
|BOS (8 yrs)||1184||4884||4325||500||1248||254||62||27||629||102||57||303||465||.289||.340||.395||.735|
|NYY (2 yrs)||248||1005||924||101||251||31||5||11||150||10||8||41||74||.272||.304||.352||.656|
|WSH (1 yr)||27||114||102||11||19||4||1||0||14||1||1||8||10||.186||.252||.245||.497|
When long-time baseball fans think of the 1986 season, the New York team that made the biggest impression that year was the Mets. Thanks in no small part to Bill Buchner’s defensive deficiencies, that Davey Johnson led squad won the Amazin’s second-ever world championship. But the Buchner miscue would have never had the opportunity to happen if it were not for the performance of the Mets superb pitching staff during the 1986 regular season. With all five starters winning in double digits, a lefty and righty closer each saving over 20 games and a staff ERA of just 3.11, that year’s Met offense usually only needed to score just three runs to win most games. The result was an incredible 108-win season for the tenants of Shea Stadium.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, only one Big Apple baseball team had a richness of pitching that year. Over in the Bronx, the Yankees were battling the Red Sox for the AL East Pennant with a starting staff that included a quickly aging Ron Guidry, an ancient and disgruntled Joe Neikro and youngsters Doug Drabek and Bob Tewksbury. Not one of the four won more than nine games that year, so how on earth did that team amass 90 victories and at least give Boston a fight for the Pennant? The answer was the two DRs and l don’t mean doctors. Dave Righetti was the best closer in baseball that season, leading the AL with 46 saves while being asked to pitch more than an inning over thirty times. The other DR was Dennis Rasmussen. He went 18-6 as a starter, becoming the ace of a staff that was in desperate need of an ace to emerge.
The Yankees had acquired Rasmussen in the 1984 trade that sent All Star third baseman Graig Nettles to the Padres. Dennis was a huge left-hander, 6’7″ tall and 230 pounds. He went a combined 12-11 for New York during his first two seasons in pinstripes. In ’86 he started strong and stayed strong the entire season. He was 8-2 at the All Star break and then went 10-4 the second half. The Yankees would have been horrible that year without him. So what happened to Dennis? Remember, this was the mid eighties when the Yankee front office was making pitching decisions with a Ouija Board. They traded their big southpaw to the Reds in August of the following season, for starter Bill Gullickson. Rasmussen won four of his five decisions with Cincinnati and went 16-10 the following year. Gullickson went 4-2 for his new team but then migrated to Japan the following season. Rasmussen pitched in the big leagues until 1995, retiring with a 91-77 record. He was 39-24 as a Yankee. He was born on April 18, 1959 in LA.
|SDP (5 yrs)||41||42||.494||3.80||113||110||1||11||2||0||680.0||703||337||287||68||227||13||346||10||1.368|
|NYY (4 yrs)||39||24||.619||4.28||103||96||1||8||1||0||597.1||529||304||284||85||231||2||393||11||1.272|
|KCR (3 yrs)||5||4||.556||4.70||19||10||4||1||1||0||76.2||78||42||40||7||28||3||30||1||1.383|
|CIN (2 yrs)||6||7||.462||4.96||18||18||0||1||1||0||101.2||107||58||56||13||34||4||66||3||1.387|
|CHC (1 yr)||0||0||10.80||3||1||1||0||0||0||5.0||7||6||6||2||2||1||0||1||1.800|