I never was a big fan of Billy Martin. I was too young to remember his playing days with the Yankees in the fifties. When he started managing in the American League, first for the Twins in 1969 and then the Tigers in 1971, I remember trying to learn more about him. Everything I read seemed to indicate he had a great will to win, a strong knowledge of the game but an extremely bad temper. This helped explain why he was fired from his first three managerial positions even after he helped turn losing teams into winners.
When George Steinbrenner became managing partner of the Yankees the perfect storm necessary to bring these two unpredictable forces together in the Bronx had been formed. In the beginning, it worked marvelously. The Yankees got back to the World Series and fans filled the Stadium like never before. It didn’t last long, however. Martin’s dependence on alcohol worsened under the pressure of Steinbrenner’s meddling and the glare of the New York media. Once these fault lines became public during and after the 1977 season, Martin would never again be able to command the respect or support of his players necessary to lead them to championships.
As more and more Yankees and ex-Yankees began talking and writing about their experiences while playing for Martin, a clearer picture of his addiction to alcohol, his emotional insecurity, and his inhumane behavior emerged. What respect I had for his past achievements was quickly replaced by pity for what he had become.
Having written all this it is only fair to point out that there are many people who knew Martin personally and who played with him and for him on a baseball field who loved and deeply respected the guy. My opinions of him were formed from the far-away focus of a typical baseball fan.
He died on Christmas day in 1989 when his truck was driven into a ditch by a friend who was allegedly driving intoxicated at the time of the accident. It has also been reported that the driver and Martin had been drinking all day. May he now be resting in peace.
During his final season as Yankee skipper in 1989, Martin had this right-handed veteran starter who shares his May 16th birthday, on his pitching staff. Martin was not the Yankee manager when this other May 16th born right-hander pitched in pinstripes, during the 1981 season. This former Yankee reliever was also born on that day.
Martin’s record as a Yankee player:
|1954||Did not play in major leagues (Military Service)|
|NYY (7 yrs)||527||1887||1717||220||449||70||18||30||188||19||112||178||.262||.313||.376||.688|
|MIN (1 yr)||108||398||374||44||92||15||5||6||36||3||13||42||.246||.275||.361||.636|
|MLN (1 yr)||6||6||6||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|KCA (1 yr)||73||285||265||33||68||9||3||9||27||7||12||20||.257||.295||.415||.710|
|CIN (1 yr)||103||346||317||34||78||17||1||3||16||0||27||34||.246||.304||.334||.639|
|CLE (1 yr)||73||258||242||37||63||7||0||9||24||0||8||18||.260||.290||.401||.691|
|DET (1 yr)||131||536||498||56||127||19||1||7||42||5||16||62||.255||.279||.339||.619|
Martin’s record as a Yankee manager:
|8||1975||47||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||56||30||26||.536||3|
|9||1976||48||New York Yankees||AL||159||97||62||.610||1||AL Pennant|
|10||1977||49||New York Yankees||AL||162||100||62||.617||1||WS Champs|
|11||1978||50||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 3||94||52||42||.553||1|
|12||1979||51||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||95||55||40||.579||4|
|17||1983||55||New York Yankees||AL||162||91||71||.562||3|
|18||1985||57||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||145||91||54||.628||2|
|19||1988||60||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 2||68||40||28||.588||5|
|Minnesota Twins||1 year||162||97||65||.599||1.0|
|Detroit Tigers||3 years||452||248||204||.549||2.0|
|Texas Rangers||3 years||279||137||141||.493||3.7|
|Oakland Athletics||3 years||433||215||218||.497||2.5|
|New York Yankees||8 years||941||556||385||.591||2.5||2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title|
|16 years||2267||1253||1013||.553||2.5||2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title|
Jim Mecir did not compile extraordinary numbers during his eleven-season career as a big league reliever, but it was a remarkable career nonetheless. This Bayside, New York native was born with two club feet. He underwent a series of surgeries as a child that helped correct much of the defect, but the procedures left him with an atrophied right calf, a fused right ankle and a right leg that was about an inch shorter than his left. Despite all that, he somehow managed to become a successful pitcher in Major League Baseball and I consider that achievement absolutely amazing!
Mecir was drafted in the third round of the 1991 MLB Amateur Draft by Seattle. He spent his first three seasons in the Mariner system being groomed as a starter but was switched to the bullpen after the 1993 season. He made his big league debut in 1995 with two relief appearances for Seattle. That December, he and Jeff Nelson accompanied Tino Martinez to the Bronx in a mini-blockbuster that sent Yankees Sterling Hitchcock and Russ Davis to Seattle.
During the next two seasons Joe Torre inserted Mecir into 51 Yankee games. He went a combined 1-5 with an ERA in the mid five’s which explains why New York left him off both their 1996 and ’97 postseason rosters. In September of 1997, the Yankees sent Mecir to Boston to complete an earlier deal. Two months later he got a break when the Red Sox left him unprotected in the 1997 AL Expansion Draft and he was selected by Tampa Bay.
He found his groove with the Devil Rays and he went a combined 14-4 for them in 1998 and most of ’99 until he was traded to Oakland. Mecir pitched for the A’s until 2004 and then spent a year with the Marlins before hanging up his glove for good.
Due to his physical deformity, Mecir employed an unorthodox pitching motion and it was often said that the strange delivery actually helped increase the movement on his signature screwball. Today he serves as a motivational speaker.
|OAK (5 yrs)||13||21||.382||3.91||246||0||55||0||0||11||250.2||242||121||20||104||225||1.380|
|TBD (3 yrs)||14||5||.737||3.03||123||0||36||0||0||1||154.1||118||54||8||69||125||1.212|
|NYY (2 yrs)||1||5||.167||5.47||51||0||21||0||0||0||74.0||78||47||11||33||63||1.500|
|SEA (1 yr)||0||0||0.00||2||0||1||0||0||0||4.2||5||1||0||2||3||1.500|
|FLA (1 yr)||1||4||.200||3.12||52||0||13||0||0||0||43.1||39||17||2||17||34||1.292|
Rick Reuschel had been the ace of the Chicago Cubs pitching staff for almost a decade when the Yankees acquired him in exchange for a pretty decent reliever named Doug Bird on June 12, 1981. What was especially weird about the deal was the timing. The Yankees’ 1981 season had been halted after the team’s game on June 11th due to a player strike. Although the season would resume a couple of months later, at the time the Reuschel deal was made, few expected Major League Baseball to be played again that year.
Although Reuschel had had several very good seasons with the Cubs, his pre-strike performance during the ’81 season had not been good. When the work stoppage occurred, the record of the right-hander known as “Big Daddy” was just 4-7. Still, he had won 125 games for Chicago during his first nine seasons with the team and to be able to get him for Bird seemed at the time to be a steal for New York. That’s not how it turned out, unfortunately.
Reuschel did get to pitch in pinstripes the year of the trade, when play resumed in August of ’81. He went 4-4 with a very good ERA of 2.67. He then appeared in three more games during the Yankees 1981 postseason, which included a decently pitched loss against the Brewers in the ALDS and two less than impressive appearances against the Dodgers in that year’s World Series. Yankee fans never again got to see him pitch in a Yankee uniform.
When pitchers reported to the Yankees’ 1982 spring training camp, Reuschel was not one of them. The Yankee front office had discovered that the pitcher’s contract with the Cubs had a deferred payment clause that stretched payments to Reuschel all the way out to the year 2020. Citing the Yankee team owners’ partnership agreement expiration date of 2002, lawyers for the club claimed the organization could not agree to make those payments and needed to restructure the deal. Reuschel protested by not showing up to spring training and eventually the matter was worked out with a two-year contract extension at $280,000 per year. It was the worst $560,000 investment the team ever made.
That’s because when Reuschel did finally show up at spring training, he tore or had already torn his rotator cuff. The injury and the surgery to repair it, kept him from pitching the entire 1982 season and limited his performance in 1983 to just 16 innings of pitching with New York’s Columbus Clippers farm team. The Yankees released him in June of 1984. He worked his way back into shape and once again became a very good big league starter with both the Pirates and Giants.
|CHC (12 yrs)||135||127||.515||3.50||358||343||9||65||17||3||2290.0||2365||1007||891||140||640||1367||1.312|
|SFG (5 yrs)||44||30||.595||3.29||96||90||2||12||3||1||601.0||600||236||220||38||141||283||1.233|
|PIT (3 yrs)||31||30||.508||3.04||91||85||4||22||6||1||586.2||548||227||198||39||144||343||1.180|
|NYY (1 yr)||4||4||.500||2.67||12||11||1||3||0||0||70.2||75||24||21||4||10||22||1.203|
The ace of the 1986 Yankee pitching staff was a tall left-hander named Dennis Rasmussen, who had a career year for manager Lou Piniella’s squad when he went 18-6. He was the only starter to win in double digits for New York that season which helps explain why the Yankee front office had made acquiring a veteran starter a priority during the ’86 off season. That veteran turned out to be Rick Rhoden. The right-handed native of Boynton Beach, Florida had made his big league debut as a Dodger a dozen seasons earlier, in 1974. He helped LA make it to the World Series in 1977 and ’78 and then got dealt to the Pirates for pitcher Jerry Reuss.
It was in the Steel City that Rhoden became one of the NL’s upper tier starters, putting together five straight double digit victory seasons from 1982 through ’86. He also became one of the top hitting pitchers in baseball during that time. The Yankees traded their best young pitching prospect, Doug Drabek along with Brian Fisher and Logan Easley to the Bucs in November of ’86 to get Rhoden and two relievers.
Short term, the deal worked out exactly as the Yankees hoped it would. Rhoden won 16 games for New York in 1987 but it wasn’t enough to keep the team from finishing in fourth place in the AL East that year. When he slumped to 12-12 in ’88, the Yankees gave up on him and shipped him to the Astros for three players most Yankee fans never heard of. That one year as an Astro was Rhoden’s 16th and final big league season. He finished with a 151-125 lifetime record and a career ERA of 3.59.
During his final season in New York, Rhoden got to play for this Yankee manager who shares his May 16th birthday. Rhoden was once traded for this other May 16th born former Yankee pitcher. This former Yankee reliever also shares that same birthday.
|PIT (8 yrs)||79||73||.520||3.51||215||213||1||39||9||1||1448.0||1461||620||565||90||440||852||1.313|
|LAD (5 yrs)||42||24||.636||3.40||118||91||10||21||7||0||670.1||647||283||253||59||203||325||1.268|
|NYY (2 yrs)||28||22||.560||4.09||60||59||1||9||1||0||378.2||390||191||172||42||117||201||1.339|
|HOU (1 yr)||2||6||.250||4.28||20||17||2||0||0||0||96.2||108||49||46||7||41||41||1.541|