I love writing this blog because I learn such interesting things about players who wore the pinstripes. Take today’s birthday celebrant as an example. I very clearly remember when Larry Gowell made his debut with the Yankees way back in 1972. He was considered a very good prospect at the time but he had one serious handicap. He was a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and as such, it was against his religious beliefs to work from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. This meant he could not and did not pitch in any baseball games on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon. Still, his slider was good enough to get him promoted to the Yankees for a cup-of-coffee look see in September of 1972. He would appear in just two games as a Yankee and as a big leaguer, yet he still became part of baseball history.
His first big league appearance was a hitless two-inning relief stint against the Milwaukee Brewers. Two weeks later, Yankee manager Ralph Houk gave the Lewiston, Maine-born right hander his first and only big league start against that same Brewer team. Although Gowell took the loss, he made MLB history when he hit a third inning ground ball double off of Milwaukee’s Jim Lonborg. That hit turned out to be the very last hit by an American League pitcher before the League’s new designated hitter rule went into affect.
Gowell would spend the next two seasons in Syracuse pitching for the Yankees’ triple A franchise. He left baseball after the 1974 season. During my research for this post, I found a reference to Gowell in a book about offshore insurance schemes of all things. Robert Tillman, author of the book alleges that in 1996, Gowell sold a worthless $100,000 promissory note on behalf of a company called Legends Sports, that was supposedly constructing a string of golf courses and entertainment centers in the southeastern United States. The note was supposed to pay the purchaser a twelve percent annual interest but instead, proved to be worthless when it was discovered that the owners of Legends Sports were operating a Ponzi scheme. I wonder if Gowell made the sale of that bond on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon. I hope not because according to his religion, that would have been a sin.
Gowell shares his May 2nd birthday with a Yankee pitcher who got in trouble when he barnstormed with Babe Ruth.
In Leigh Montville’s book about Babe Ruth entitled, The Big Bam, the author clearly makes the case that when Ruth first became a Yankee in 1920, he was one of the crudest, least mature and most undisciplined human beings to ever wear a big league uniform. He ignored all rules and authority of any kind, doing exactly as he pleased when he pleased. One of the rules he ignored was Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ prohibition of post season barnstorming by players who had participated in that year’s World Series. After the Yankees lost to the Giants in the 1921 World Series, Ruth, his Yankee outfield mate, Bob Meusel and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, pitcher Wild Bill Piercy joined a barnstorming team, flaunting the Commissioner’s edict.
Landis reacted quickly and harshly. He fined all three players the amount of money they had collected from their 1921 World Series share and also suspended them for the first month of the 1922 regular season. Ruth shrugged off the punishment because he had already become the highest paid player in the game. Meusel was angry but he too would go on to make good money and several more World Series checks in pinstripes. Piercy, on the other hand really got the short end of the stick. Even though he had shown promise as a pitcher by going 5-4 in 1921, Yankee manager Miller Huggins wanted to send a message to Ruth that his childlike behavior would have consequences. He quickly traded Piercy and a couple of other Ruth partying buddies to the Red Sox. The Sultan of Swat, however, hardly noticed his old teammates were missing and he quickly found new ones to pal around with. Meanwhile, Piercy went 16-33 as a Red Sox and was out of the big leagues for good by 1927.
Piercy shares his May 2nd birthday with a Yankee pitcher who’s religious beliefs prevented him from pitching on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons.
|BOS (3 yrs)||16||33||.327||4.48||82||54||18||21||1||0||429.2||489||269||214||11||201||95||1.606|
|NYY (2 yrs)||5||5||.500||2.98||15||11||3||6||1||0||90.2||91||43||30||4||30||39||1.335|
|CHC (1 yr)||6||5||.545||4.48||19||5||9||1||0||0||90.1||96||52||45||1||37||31||1.472|