It was June of 1966 and the New York Yankees were dissolving faster than a wet Alka Seltzer. Two season’s earlier, the team had fallen three runs short of winning a World Series, but here they were, just twenty month’s later, floundering in seventh place in the AL standings. Everybody knew they needed major help immediately and that included their competition. It was fun for the other AL teams to watch the once mighty Yankees get their comeuppance. Even if their own ball clubs were in need of players, no other AL franchise was willing to help much with New York’s retooling effort via a trade except of course the good old Kansas City A’s. But unlike in years past when the A’s would serve up outstanding talent like Roger Maris, Clete Boyer and Hector Lopez to their Big Apple brethren, Kansas City’s front office had been taken over by the eccentric and extremely stingy Charley Finley in the early sixties. Well aware that the Yankees had exploited the A’s in previous player transactions, Finley refused to even deal with New York for years and when he finally did, the trades were no longer one-sided affairs.
So when a deal between the Yankees and A’s was made in June of 1966, instead of being announced with a bold back page headline in the New York City tabloids, it received a paragraph at the end of that day’s Yankee game recap. “The Yankees traded their former starting pitcher Bill Stafford, outfielder Roger Repoz and reliever Gil Blanco to Kansas City today in exchange for A’s catcher Bill Bryan and starting pitcher Fred Talbot.”
As things turned out, it was one of those trades that had little impact on either team. Talbot was immediately inserted into the Yankees’ starting rotation. He would go 7-7 for the Yankees during the balance of the 1966 season and then 6-8 the following year. But his ERA was north of four both those seasons and in 1968 he was demoted to the Yankee bullpen. He did worse as a reliever, finishing the year at 1-9. The Yankees traded him to the Pilots in 1969, getting Jack Aker in return, who turned out to be a great closer for New York during the next three seasons. Talbot, on the other hand did little for the Pilots except become fodder for Jim Bouton’s best-selling “Ball Four” chronology of the Pilot’s 1969 season. He then found himself back pitching with the A’s in 1970 and ’71, his final two big league seasons. He finished his 8-year career with a 38-56 record. Update: Talbot passed away on January 11, 2013, at the age of 71.
|NYY (4 yrs)||14||24||.368||3.99||89||52||14||6||0||0||374.1||357||193||166||43||147||183||1.346|
|OAK (4 yrs)||15||19||.441||4.40||63||46||10||2||1||1||286.1||277||148||140||34||122||163||1.393|
|CHW (2 yrs)||4||5||.444||3.68||18||12||0||3||2||0||78.1||85||32||32||7||24||36||1.391|
|SEP (1 yr)||5||8||.385||4.16||25||16||2||1||1||0||114.2||125||58||53||12||41||67||1.448|
By 1969, getting a Yankee in a pack of Topps Baseball cards wasn’t as much a thrill for me as it had been just a few years earlier. First of all, I was fifteen years old by then and the allure of collecting those cardboard mini posters was losing its pull on me. Secondly, by that year the Yankees had evolved into pretty bad baseball team. Mickey Mantle had finally retired and Joe Pepitone was the only remaining starting position player on the club to have also started for the last Yankee team to play in a World Series five years earlier. So it was most likely in one of the very last individual packs of Topps baseball cards I would purchase (until I started buying them for my own sons fifteen years later) that I got the card pictured here. I’m sure that when I took a look at the two prospects pictured on it I hoped to myself that the card’s title, “Rookie Stars” would prove to be appropriate. It would not, in either player’s case. I’m also sure that at the time I did not realize that Topps had misspelled Jerry Kenney’s first name and I’m positive I mispronounced Len Boehmer’s last name, pronouncing it Bo-mer instead of the correct way, which is Bay-mer.
A native of Flint, Missouri, Boehmer had been signed by the Reds out of St Louis University in 1961, and spent almost all of the next seven years playing minor league ball in Cincinnati’s farm system. He had one minuscule mid-season two-game call-up with the Reds in 1967. The Yankees had picked him up in a trade in September of that same year. After one decent year with New York’s triple A team in Syracuse, he made New York’s parent club’s roster out of spring training in 1969 as Pepitone’s primary back-up at first base. He got off to a horrid start at the plate that year and he was 0-26 as a Yankee and 0-29 as a big leaguer when he was called in to replace Pepitone in the eighth inning of a game against the Red Sox, after the whacky first baseman had been ejected from the game. The Yankees were trailing 2-1 in the ninth when Boehmer’s first big league hit, a single tied the game. Advancing to second on the throw to home plate, he scored the winning run when Roy White singled him home.
Back in 1969, the Yankees often flew regularly scheduled commercial flights to road games. It was customary for the team’s managers, coaches and front line players to be given all the first class seats on those flights and the subs would be assigned to coach. Boehmer’s reward for his big hit that night in New York was seeing his named cross of the coach-section on the seating list for that evening’s impending flight to Detroit which was posted in the Yankee locker room after the game and instead penciled in the first class section.
Boehmer would go on to get 18 more base hits for New York that season and then spend most of the next two years back in Syracuse. After one more brief three-game mid season call-up to the Bronx in 1971, the Yankees released Bohmer and his big league career was over.
|NYY (2 yrs)||48||121||113||5||19||4||0||0||7||0||8||10||.168||.223||.204||.427|
|CIN (1 yr)||2||3||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000||.000|
I used to get mad at Al Downing every fall. As a nine and ten year-old kid who thought he knew everything about baseball, I blamed Downing for helping convert the Yankees from perennial World Series winners to World Series losers. After all, he lost his only start against the Dodgers in the 1963 4-game sweep disaster and then in 1964, Downing pitched in three of the four games the Yankees lost to the Cardinals that year.
Since then of course, I’ve matured a bit and fully realize that the Yankee’s sudden October misfortune was not Al’s fault. He was actually one of the better pitchers in the American League during the seven full seasons he pitched for New York. During his first five years in pinstripes he was a double digit winner and he led the AL in Ks with 217 during the 1964 season. He was 72-56 during that time and he threw a dozen shutouts. For comparison sake, Andy Pettitte has thrown three shutouts during his 13 plus seasons in pinstripes.
The Yankees traded Downing to the A’s after the 1969 season in return for Danny Cater. He ended up in Los Angeles, pitching for the Dodgers by 1971 and he had his first and only 20-game victory season that included five more shutouts. Downing’s last year with the Dodgers was also his final big league season and he finished his career with 123 victories and 24 shutouts. He will probably be most remembered for giving up Hank Aaron’s 715th home run. He also got a chance to pitch in another World Series game as a Dodger in 1974 against Oakland. Unfortunately, he lost that one too.
Downing was born on this date in 1941, in Trenton, NJ. He shares his June 28th birthday with this former Yankee DH, this one-time NY back-up first baseman and a former teammate and pitcher who was born on the same exact day as Downing.
|NYY (9 yrs)||72||57||.558||3.23||208||175||18||46||12||2||1235.1||1014||492||443||96||526||1028||1.247|
|LAD (7 yrs)||46||37||.554||3.16||170||120||18||25||12||1||897.2||814||380||315||68||326||532||1.270|
|OAK (1 yr)||3||3||.500||3.95||10||6||0||1||0||0||41.0||39||19||18||5||22||26||1.488|
|MIL (1 yr)||2||10||.167||3.34||17||16||1||1||0||0||94.1||79||47||35||8||59||53||1.463|