Bobby Brown started his Yankee career during the tumultuous 1979 season, when he was acquired from the Blue Jays in June of that year. At the same time New York traded for Brown, George Steinbrenner, replaced Manager Bob Lemon with Billy Martin. After winning two straight World Championships, New York was floundering in that year’s AL Pennant race. The “Boss” thought Lemon had lost control of the team and especially center-fielder Mickey Rivers. The Yankee owner felt Martin was the guy who could make the Yankees and “Mick the Quick” play hard again.
Instead, Rivers continued to drift and on August 1, 1979, the speedy outfielder was dealt to the Rangers. That same day, Thurman Munson crashed his plane and the rest of the 1979 baseball season suddenly didn’t matter to anybody.
In one of his best moves as Yankee owner, Steinbrenner then approved the hiring of long-time Yankee coach Dick Howser as the team’s new skipper. The Yankees also swung a deal for the young Mariner center-fielder, Rupert Jones. Everyone thought Jones would become the Yankees next great center fielder. Fortunately for Bobby Brown, that didn’t happen.
With Jones struggling to keep his average over .200, Dick Howser began playing Brown in the middle of his outfield during that 1980 season. Brown’s speed helped him cover the huge dimensions of center field in the old Yankee Stadium and it helped him steal 27 bases that season. Howser also liked the fact that Brown was a switch hitter. Bobby responded well, hitting .260 and poking 14 home runs in his official rookie season. But the Howser-Brown mutual admiration society was about to get disbanded.
Howser was fired by an irate Steinbrenner after the Yankees got knocked out of the 1980 playoffs in three-straight games by the Royals. Brown went hitless in that series, which did not go unnoticed in the Yankee front office. At the very end of New York’s 1981 spring training season, New York traded Jones to the Padres for San Diego’s talented center fielder, Jerry Mumphrey. That trade signaled the official end of Brown’s career as the Yankee’s starting center fielder.
Bobby began the 1981 season in Columbus and then got called back up to the parent club in late May. He remained in pinstripes during the rest of that strike-shortened 1981 season, but he hit only .226. Still, the Yankees kept him on their post-season roster, which ended up giving Brown one more opportunity to make Steinbrenner livid. It happened during the pivotal Game 4 of that year’s Fall Classic against the Dodgers. Yankee Manager, Bob Lemon had inserted Brown as a pinch runner for Oscar Gamble in the sixth inning with the Yankees ahead 6-3. But instead of putting Jerry Mumphrey in center the following inning, Lemon sent Brown out to play the field. Mumphrey was considered to be a much better defensive outfielder than Brown. Later in the game, with the score tied 6-6, Brown misplayed Rick Monday’s blooper into a double, which led to a two-run inning and a Dodger victory and a deadlocked Series. Los Angeles would go on to win the next two games and the World Championship. The following April, Brown was playing for the Mariners.
The Yankees actually traded for Bobby Brown two different times. They originally acquired him in 1978, when he was still a minor leaguer in the Phillies’ organization but then lost him to the Mets in the 1978 rule 5 Draft. In that trade with the Phillies, the Yankees got Brown and outfielder Jay Johnstone for reliever Rawley Eastwick. When New York traded Bobby Brown to the Mariners in 1982 they got starting pitcher Shane Rawley in return. This makes Brown the only Yankee in history who was traded to the team and from the team for guys who shared the name Rawley.
There was another pretty famous Bobby Brown in Yankee history, a third baseman during the late forties who went on to become a medical doctor and then the last president of MLB’s American League. There have also been lots of Yankees who like the two Bobby Brown’s, have names (or nicknames) with the same first and last initial. Here’s my line up of the most notable of those alliteratively monikered Bronx Bombers:
Chris Chambliss – 1b
Steve Sax – 2b
Tommy Tresh – SS
Red Rolfe – 3b
Frank Fernandez – c
Mickey Mantle – of
Bobby Bonds – of
Chad Curtis – of
Shane Spencer – dh
Mike Mussina – p
Red Ruffing – p
Goose Gossage – rp
Bobby turns 59-years-old today. He shares his May 25th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and minor league pitching instructor.
|SDP (3 yrs)||221||528||480||76||116||15||5||8||57||49||39||91||.242||.296||.344||.640|
|NYY (3 yrs)||198||586||542||77||138||16||6||14||56||33||36||114||.255||.299||.384||.683|
|SEA (1 yr)||79||267||245||29||59||7||1||4||17||28||17||32||.241||.288||.327||.614|
|TOR (1 yr)||4||12||10||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||1||.000||.167||.000||.167|
John Montefusco was good at fast starts. In his September 3, 1974 Major League debut for San Francisco, he was called in from the bullpen in the visitor’s half of the first inning with the Giants trailing their arch rivals, the Dodgers, 4-2. Not only did he go on to pitch nine innings of one-run relief to get the win, he also homered in his first-ever big league at bat against the LA knuckleballer, Charlie Hough. Then in 1975, his official rookie season, Montefusco went 15-9 with a 2.88 ERA to win the NL Rookie of the Year award. The young right-hander became the talk of baseball and was even turned into baseball royalty when sportscaster Al Michaels gave the Long Branch, NJ native the nickname “The Count.”
Montefusco continued his outstanding pitching during his sophomore season with 16 wins, a 2.84 ERA, getting selected to his first and only All Star team and leading the league with six shutouts. But in those first two seasons he had also pitched 500 innings of baseball and although he would have some decent years during the rest of his professional career, he would never again be the pitcher he was in 1975 and ’76 in San Francisco.
The injuries began in 1977 and by 1981, the Giants had traded him to the Braves, where he won just two games that season and pitched just 77 innings. Still, when he became a free agent at the end of that year, the Padres signed him. Montefusco won 10 games during his first season in a Padres uniform and was 9-4 in August of the following year when the Yankees acquired him in a trade for a player to be named later and couple of hundred thousand of George Steinbrenner’s dollars. (The player to be named later turned out to be Dennis Rasmussen.)
That 1983 Yankee team was trying to catch Baltimore in the AL East Pennant race and they were hoping Montefusco would strengthen their starting rotation. He certainly did that. The Count put together one of his patented fast starts for New York and I remember it very well. He got six starts down the stretch and won all five of his decisions. The Yankees couldn’t catch Baltimore but it wasn’t Montefusco’s fault and Bronx Bomber fans were hoping he’d continue his winning ways the following year. The Yankee front office was more than hoping, they were betting on it. They gave the pitcher a 4-year, $3 million contract that October. But by then, he was 34 years-old and his right arm had just about quit on him. He went 5-3 in 84 and then spent the rest of his Yankee contract on the DL.
When he retired, he got involved in harness horse racing as a driver and owner. He also became a minor league pitching instructor for the Yankees. Then in 1997, his name was back in the New York tabloid headlines when he was convicted of assaulting his wife.
Update: The above post was originally written in 2011. After finally being acquitted of the most serious assault charges made by his ex-wife, it was reported that Montefusco told the judge he would never be a defendant in a court room again for any kind of offense. The Count actually spent two years in jail after being arrested on those charges because he reportedly couldn’t afford bail. He then became a pitching coach for an independent minor league club based in Somerset, New Jersey, that was managed by former Yankee, Sparky Lyle. He quit that job in 2005. Montefusco’s Yankee seasonal stats and big league career totals are listed at the end of this post.
I’ve also put together a lineup of some of the most notable players who have played for both the Yankees and Giants during their big league careers:
The Count shares his March 25th birthday with this former switch-hitting Yankee outfielder.
|SFG (7 yrs)||59||62||.488||3.47||185||175||2||30||11||0||1182.2||1143||514||456||90||383||869||1.290|
|NYY (4 yrs)||10||3||.769||3.75||24||18||2||0||0||0||112.2||115||51||47||13||30||43||1.287|
|SDP (2 yrs)||19||15||.559||3.77||63||42||9||2||0||4||279.2||271||131||117||23||73||135||1.230|
|ATL (1 yr)||2||3||.400||3.49||26||9||4||0||0||1||77.1||75||32||30||9||27||34||1.319|