Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is the only ex-Yankee no longer playing the game, who still thanks Scott Boras every time he gets his paycheck. Bob Brower was one of the most versatile athletes ever to graduate from Brooklyn’s James Madison High School and was the very first one to letter in four varsity sports in a single school year. Though he was only five feet eleven inches tall and weighed 185 pounds, he could hit baseballs amazingly long distances. He attended Duke University on a football scholarship but gave it up to play baseball for the Blue Devils as a walk-on.
He signed with the Rangers in 1982 as an un-drafted free agent and made his big league debut with Texas, four years later. He worked his way into the team’s fourth outfielder slot by 1987 and put together his best big league season that year, hitting 14 home runs and averaging .261. When he slumped the following season, Texas traded him to the Yankees for shortstop Bobby Meacham.
A month after the Yankees acquired Bower, Claudell Washington, New York’s starting center fielder in 1988, signed a free agent deal with the Angels. That meant Brower would compete for the job in his first Yankee spring training camp against two other young Yankee outfielders, Roberto Kelly and Stanley Jefferson. Brower’s playing time prospects grew even brighter when it was announced that Dave Winfield’s bad back would force him to sit out the entire ’89 season.
Unfortunately for Brower, his exhibition season effort was hampered by a sore groin and a tender throwing shoulder. When the season started, he found himself on the disabled list and it was Kelly who started in center. and veteran Gary Ward in right. Dallas Green, the Yankee skipper that season, gave Brower his chance two weeks later and he seemed ready to take advantage of it. He had five hits in his first four games in pinstripes, his batting average was .385 and he had scored three runs. But the good hitting wouldn’t last and when he began to press at the plate, his defense also suffered. In a mid-May game against California, he committed two costly errors in the outfield and then got picked off first base with the Yankees trailing 4-0. Green, who by then was suffering under the full wrath of Boss Steinbrenner, expressed his displeasure with the young outfielder’s defensive lapses.
What really killed Brower’s chances to make it in the Bronx, however was the team’s acquisition of Jesse Barfield during the first month of the ’89 regular season. With veteran Mel Hall already ensconced as the team’s fourth outfielder, the roster became two crowded to keep Brower and he was sent to Columbus.
He spent most of the next three seasons in the minors, trying to make it back to the big leagues, but he never would. Instead, he accepted a job with a young baseball agent named Scott Boras. The two had met when Brower was a student athlete at Duke. Boras became Brower’s agent. He is now vice president of Boras Corporation.
|TEX (3 yrs)||230||592||513||95||125||18||3||15||57||26||63||107||.244||.326||.378||.704|
|NYY (1 yr)||26||75||69||9||16||3||0||2||3||3||6||11||.232||.293||.362||.656|
I began paying attention to the White Sox starting pitching rotation right around 1980. That was the season a former Yankee minor league phee-nom named Lamarr Hoyt made his first big league start for Chicago and went an impressive 9-3 in his rookie year. The Yankees had included Hoyt in the package of players they used to acquire shortstop Bucky Dent from the White Sox three seasons earlier and I had kept an eye on Hoyt’s progress ever since.
The Chicago rotation Hoyt joined that season included some very good young pitchers headed by 21-year-old Britt Burns, who led the staff with 15 victories that season. Hoyt and Burns were joined by 22-year-old left-hander Steve Trout and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Rich Dotson. Dotson was a 21-year-old rookie at the time, who finished the year with an impressive 12-10 record. Back then, the Yankee rotation by contrast was ancient but still effective, with 39-year-old Luis Tiant, 37-year-old Tommy John and 35-year-old Rudy May helping 29-year-old Ron Guidry win the AL East. Yankee fans like me couldn’t help but notice the young guns being assembled in the Windy City and wish our favorite team was as well-stocked with fresh young arms.
Dotson had a superb start to his sophomore year. By June 9th of the ’81 season, the young right-hander was 7-3 and four of those seven victories were complete game shutouts. Two days later the season stopped when players went on strike. The disruption clearly bothered Dotson, who went just 2-5 during the second half of the split season.
The Cincinnati native would reach his apex as a pro two years later when he went 22-7 to help lead the White Sox to an AL West Division flag. It looked as if he was on his way to becoming one of baseball’s premier right-handed pitchers after he started the ’84 season with 11 wins in his first 15 decisions and made the All Star team. But he fell apart in the second half of that year and the White Sox collapsed in the standings. A circulatory problem was later discovered in Dotson’s throwing shoulder and it limited him to just nine starts in 1985. After two more losing seasons in Chicago, he was traded to the Yankees in November of 1987, for outfielder Dan Pasqua.
Ironically, both Steve Trout and Britt Burns had preceded their former pitching mate to the Bronx in earlier deals and both had failed miserably. Dotson fared better in pinstripes than both of them, winning 12 games for New York in 1988, but his ERA hit five and the Yankees finished in a disappointing fifth place in the AL East. When he continued to struggle the following year, new Yankee manager Dallas Green demoted Dotson to the bullpen and a few weeks later, the pitcher was given his unconditional release. He retired after the 1990 season with a lifetime record of 111-113.
|CHW (10 yrs)||97||95||.505||4.02||254||250||4||50||11||0||1606.0||1594||799||718||156||637||873||1.389|
|NYY (2 yrs)||14||14||.500||5.13||43||38||2||5||0||0||222.2||247||136||127||35||89||91||1.509|
|KCR (1 yr)||0||4||.000||8.48||8||7||1||0||0||0||28.2||43||29||27||3||14||9||1.988|
Back in the second decade of the last century, Eddie Collins was considered to be the best second baseman in the American League and today’s birthday celebrant was thought to be the junior circuit’s second best second sacker. For most of that decade, Del Pratt played for the lowly St. Louis Browns. I say lowly because during Pratt’s six years with the team, the Browns’ cumulative record was 380-542 and their highest finish in the standings was fifth place. Things got so bad for the franchise that the suspicious Browns’ owner, who’s last name happened to be “Ball,” accused several of the team’s players of purposely playing poorly so that they’d be traded to a more successful franchise. Pratt reacted angrily to the accusation and actually sued the owner for slander. While his case was still in the courts, Pratt was ironically traded to the Yankees, which sort of indicated that the best way to get traded was not to lay down on the job but instead, to sue your boss.
In any event, Pratt spent three very productive years patrolling the middle of the Yankee infield. He averaged .295 in pinstripes and drove in 97 runs in 1920, his first and only season as a teammate of the great Babe Ruth. Just before Christmas of that same year, the Yankees dealt Pratt to the Red Sox in a deal that brought Waite Hoyt to New York. After two seasons in Boston and two more in Detroit, Pratt retired with 1,996 career hits and a .292 lifetime batting average. He was born in Walhalla, SC, in 1888. He shares his January 10th birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher and this one-time Yankee outfielder.
|SLB (6 yrs)||905||3763||3394||386||957||179||72||21||455||174||239||305||.282||.332||.396||.728|
|NYY (3 yrs)||420||1775||1578||218||465||83||22||10||208||46||121||74||.295||.348||.394||.743|
|BOS (2 yrs)||289||1248||1128||153||352||80||17||11||188||15||97||30||.312||.369||.442||.811|
|DET (2 yrs)||222||827||726||99||222||50||6||1||117||12||56||19||.306||.362||.395||.757|