One of the things that always confused me is how guys who could not hit well at the big league level somehow become highly respected hitting coaches for Major League teams. Remember Charley Lau? Here’s a former player who couldn’t crack a starting lineup during the eleven years he played in the bigs because he averaged in the two-fifties, yet if you ask George Brett who it was that made him one of baseball’s great hitters, he credits Lau. The same mystery applies to bad pitchers who become great pitching coaches. Leo Mazzone was considered one of the game’s great ones during his tenure in that role with Bobby Cox’s Braves yet he wasn’t good enough to pitch even to a single batter at the Major League level.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was considered a top Yankee pitching prospect in the late 1980’s, when the team was in desperate need of starting pitchers. Drafted by New York out of the University of South Florida in the seventh round of the 1987 draft, Dave Eiland was being pegged as the next great Yankee right-hander after he was named the International League’s Pitcher of the Year in 1990. But he was a bust for the Yanks and the two other teams he pitched for at the big league level between 1988 and 2000, finishing his playing career with a 12-27 record and a career ERA of 5.74.
That’s when he turned to coaching. The Yankees hired him as a minor league pitching coach and he immediately impressed the organization with his ability to effectively work with young pitchers. He quickly worked his way up the New York farm chain, establishing an excellent rapport with prospects like Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain along the way. That’s why it seemed to make sense when the Yankees announced Eiland would replace Ron Guidry as the Yankee pitching coach in 2008. Brian Cashman was betting the team’s postseason chances on the young arms of Hughes, Kennedy and Chamberlain that year and he felt Eiland was the guy who could successfully transition them from minor to major league pitchers. That did not happen.
Eiland however, escaped front office wrath for the failed experiment and when the Yanks won the World Series in 2009, the young pitching coach was credited for helping AJ Burnett overcome the inconsistencies in his delivery to finish wit a 13-9 record and a huge win in Game 2 of that year’s Fall Classic.
It all unraveled for Eiland in June of the 2010 season when Eiland took a mysterious leave of absence from his Yankee coaching responsibilities for most of the month of June, citing personal family issues as the reason. During his leave, AJ Burnett literally fell apart, going 0-5 and never again reaching the comfort or performance level in Pinstripes he had enjoyed during his first season in the Bronx. Though it wasn’t officially given as the reason, most Yankee fans and pundits suspect it was Eiland’s leave that caused the team to dismiss him after the 2010 season and bring in current pitching coach, Larry Rothschilds. Eiland has since landed on his feet, getting the pitching coach position for the Kansas City Royals in 2012.
|NYY (5 yrs)||6||10||.375||5.23||36||28||5||0||0||0||160.0||193||109||93||24||48||58||1.506|
|TBD (3 yrs)||6||12||.333||6.54||39||26||1||0||0||0||137.2||181||111||100||16||48||71||1.663|
|SDP (2 yrs)||0||5||.000||5.38||17||16||0||0||0||0||75.1||91||54||45||6||22||24||1.500|
The Washington Senators would become perennial last place finishers in the American League by the 1950s, but in the roaring twenties, they seemed at the early stages of developing a dynasty. Under kid manager, Bucky Harris, they had won the 1924 World Series and just got nipped from winning their second straight Fall Classic, by the Pirates in 1925. That Senator team had a solid pitching staff led by two aging right-handers, Walter Johnson and Stan Coveleski, who would both end up in Cooperstown. But after falling to fourth place in ’26, the Senators knew they needed to get younger arms into their rotation and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant became one of them.
His real name was Irving Darius Hadley, but everyone called him “Bump,” after a popular storybook character from that era named Bumpus. Hadley was born in Lynn, MA on July 5, 1904 and attended Brown University. He would go 14-6 during his rookie season with the Senators but Washington’s 89 victories that year would leave them in third place behind both the Yankees and the Philadelphia A’s. Those two teams would pretty much dominate the junior circuit for the next 15 seasons while the Senators would not make it back to a World Series until 1965, when they were known as the Minnesota Twins. Hadley would pitch for Washington until 1932, when he was traded to the White Sox, who quickly traded him to the Browns. He would then lose 20 games in both the 1932 and ’33 seasons for St Louis and find himself back with the Senators, by 1935. That’s when fortune shined upon him.
The Yankees were on the prowl for more starting pitching and they made a deal with the Senators that put Hadley in pinstripes. He went 14-4 during his first season in New York for Manager Joe McCarthy’s 1936 Pennant-winners and then pitched the game of his career, winning a classic 2-1 pitcher’s duel against Freddie Fitzsimmons of the New York Giants in Game 3 of the ’36 Series. Hadley would go 13-7 for New York in 1937, but during that season, he would also throw a “brushback” pitch that ended the playing career of the great Mickey Cochrane and almost killed the Tiger player-manager.
Hadley remained in pinstripes until 1940 and won four rings during his stay in New York. Though he was overshadowed by Hall-of-Famers, Red Ruffing, and Lefty Gomez on that great Yankee pitching staff, Hadley played a significant role in that team’s success, going 46-26 in the four World champion seasons and 2-1 in those postseasons. After falling to 3-5 in 1940, the Yankees sold Hadley to the New York Giants. The 1941 season would be his last in the majors. He later became a pioneer and very popular television broadcaster for the Boston Red Sox and Boston Braves. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1963, at the age of 58. His overall big league record was 161-165.
|WSH (7 yrs)||68||71||.489||3.98||233||162||45||66||6||10||1299.0||1270||668||575||44||572||601||1.418|
|NYY (5 yrs)||49||31||.613||4.28||140||79||31||29||3||6||753.1||778||422||358||55||375||309||1.531|
|SLB (3 yrs)||38||56||.404||4.53||124||101||18||38||5||5||759.1||765||432||382||52||431||360||1.575|
|NYG (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||6.23||3||2||1||0||0||0||13.0||19||10||9||1||9||4||2.154|
|PHA (1 yr)||4||6||.400||5.01||25||9||12||1||0||3||102.1||131||69||57||13||47||31||1.739|
|CHW (1 yr)||1||1||.500||3.86||3||2||1||1||0||1||18.2||17||8||8||2||8||13||1.339|
It took eight years but the New York Yankees finally gave up on their trouble-prone first baseman, Joe Pepitone. When they did, New York traded the Brooklyn born slugger they signed out of high school for another Brooklyn born slugger they signed out of high school. The deal took place between the Yankees and Astros and the new guy was Curt Blefary. Nicknamed “Clank,” Blefary became a great high school ballplayer in Mahwah, NJ. The Yankees gave him an $18,000 bonus to sign and agreed to pay his college tuition. Like Pepitone, Blefary came with some baggage, lots of cockiness and a very hot temper. It might have been the reason New York’s front office did not do everything it could to protect Blefary from being stolen by the Orioles in what was known as a first-year waivers transaction.
He quickly worked his way through the Orioles system and joined the Big Birds in 1965. He enjoyed immediate success, belting 22 home runs, driving in 70 and beating out the Angel pitcher, Marcellino Lopez for that season’s AL Rookie of the Year Award. Originally a catcher, he was converted into an outfielder in Minor League ball but he also caught and played some first base with Baltimore. He was not very good defensively at any of those spots.
He helped the Birds capture the 1966 World Series with a solid sophomore season and then had his third straight 20-HR year in ’67 while also driving in a career-high 81 runs that year. But when his batting average fell to .212 in 1968, the new Orioles’ manager, Earl Weaver told the press that Blefary would have to compete for a starting position in 1969. Curt’s resulting complaining probably helped get him traded to the Astros in the deal that brought Mike Cuellar to Baltimore.
Blefary played one season in Houston and had an OK year but the spacious Astrodome was not conducive to his left-handed pulling stroke. Astro manager, Harry Walker tried to convince his new outfielder to hit to all fields but as usual, Blefary resisted the advice.
So the December 4, 1969 trade of Pepitone for Blefary was a case in which each team was sort of getting rid of a “problem personality.” The big difference was that Pepi really did not want to leave Yankee Stadium and Blefary couldn’t wait to get there. The old Stadium’s right field porch was perfect for Blefary’s swing and he had hit bunches of home runs (12) when he played there as a visitor with Baltimore. Unfortunately, he did not produce the same results as a member of the home team. He hit just .212 with nine home runs in 99 games during his first season as a Yankee. After an even worse start the following year, he was traded to the A’s for pitcher Rob Gardner.
Blefary shares his July 5th birthday with this Hall of Famer who became one of the Yankee’s greatest relievers, this former Yankee pitcher & pitching coach and this one-time Yankee starting pitcher from the 1930’s.
|BAL (4 yrs)||567||2249||1886||264||451||64||13||82||254||15||299||289||.239||.347||.417||.764|
|OAK (2 yrs)||58||130||112||16||27||4||0||5||13||0||15||16||.241||.333||.411||.744|
|NYY (2 yrs)||120||357||305||38||64||7||0||10||39||1||46||42||.210||.317||.331||.648|
|SDP (1 yr)||74||122||102||10||20||3||0||3||9||0||19||18||.196||.320||.314||.633|
|HOU (1 yr)||155||632||542||66||137||26||7||12||67||8||77||79||.253||.347||.393||.740|
I never agreed with the the Yankee’s decision to sign the Goose as a free agent during the 1977 post season. Sparky Lyle had just won the AL Cy Young Award the season before and the Yankees had won the World Series. They did not need a closer and adding another one to the team was the type of overkill that could only end up disrupting team chemistry in the long run. When I read about Gossage’s signing, I figured Lyle was a goner and I had always been a fan of the “Count.”
I was wrong about Lyle being a goner in 1978. The Yankees did figure out a pretty effective way to keep Lyle in the mix but Gossage emphatically took over the closer’s role and remained the ace of the Yankee pen for a half-dozen seasons, saving 150 games and winning 41 more in the process.
The Yankees finally traded Lyle in 1979, sending him to Texas in a multiplayer deal that put Dave Righetti in Pinstripes. Goose’s shower room brawl with Cliff Johnson helped ruin the Yankee’s 1979 season but in 1980, a big young right-hander named Ron Davis became the Yankee’s set-up man and he and Gossage teamed to deliver what I still consider to be some of the best relief pitching I have ever seen. Unfortunately, George Brett’s three-run shot of Goose in the third game of the AL playoffs that season was not a great moment in Yankee history.
Goose was indeed a monster on the mound and deserves being in Cooperstown but I still think his signing was a matter of greed and not need on the part of Yankee management. Goose was born on this date in 1951, in Colorado Springs, CO.
Goose shares his July 5th birthday with this 1965 winner of the AL Rookie of the Year Award, this former Yankee pitcher and pitching coach and this one-time Yankee starting pitcher from the late thirties.
|NYY (7 yrs)||42||28||.600||2.14||319||0||272||0||0||151||533.0||390||150||127||31||185||512||1.079|
|CHW (5 yrs)||29||36||.446||3.80||188||37||80||16||0||30||584.2||534||269||247||34||288||419||1.406|
|SDP (4 yrs)||25||20||.556||2.99||197||0||157||0||0||83||298.0||255||109||99||19||92||243||1.164|
|OAK (2 yrs)||4||7||.364||3.78||69||0||25||0||0||1||85.2||81||37||36||11||45||66||1.471|
|SFG (1 yr)||2||1||.667||2.68||31||0||22||0||0||4||43.2||32||16||13||2||27||24||1.351|
|PIT (1 yr)||11||9||.550||1.62||72||0||55||0||0||26||133.0||78||27||24||9||49||151||0.955|
|TEX (1 yr)||4||2||.667||3.57||44||0||16||0||0||1||40.1||33||16||16||4||16||28||1.215|
|CHC (1 yr)||4||4||.500||4.33||46||0||33||0||0||13||43.2||50||23||21||3||15||30||1.489|
|SEA (1 yr)||3||0||1.000||4.18||36||0||21||0||0||1||47.1||44||23||22||6||15||29||1.246|