When you charted out Mike Morgan’s big league career it looked like a Vasco de Gama expedition. It began and almost ended when Morgan was just eighteen years old and the property of the irascible owner of the Oakland A’s, Charley Finley. It was 1978 and Finley had mismanaged the A’s World Champion rosters from the early 70’s into distant memories. He was looking for a way to reignite interest in his team and he decided to try and turn his first round draft choice into a teenage phee-nom. The young Morgan, a native of Tulare, California was not up to the task. Though he started strong with a complete game performance in his big league debut against the Orioles, it quickly became apparent the kid was not ready. After going 0-3, he was sent down to the minors, where he should have remained for at least two or three more years. But patience was not one of Finley’s virtues. Morgan was brought back to Oakland the following year and took quite a hammering in the 13 games he appeared.
The Yankees acquired the tall right hander after the 1980 postseason, in exchange for infielder, Fred Stanley. New York pitched Morgan at the double A level for a year and then called him up to the Bronx and made him part of the parent club’s starting rotation, in 1982. He certainly was more ready to face big league hitters as a 22-year-old. His numbers that season weren’t great but there were moments of brilliance that gave the Yankee announcers opportunities to remind listeners of his phee-nom roots and potential. Evidently, the team’s front office wasn’t listening because that December, they sent Morgan, speedy outfielder Dave Collins and future all-star slugger Fred McGriff to the Toronto Blue Jays for a well-traveled reliever named Dale Murray and somebody named Tom Dodd. It would turn out to be a horrible trade by the Yankee front office.
Morgan would go on to pitch 19 more seasons in the Majors and wear the uniforms of ten more big league teams. He would become an All Star with the Dodgers in 1991, set his career-high in wins with 16 a year later while pitching for the Cubs and win a World Series ring with Arizona in2001. He would pitch until 2002, finally hanging up his glove for good at the age of 42.
|CHC (5 yrs)||30||35||.462||3.83||90||90||0||8||2||0||575.2||569||274||245||51||212||316||1.357|
|ARI (3 yrs)||7||6||.538||4.82||120||5||33||0||0||5||173.2||209||97||93||19||66||93||1.583|
|LAD (3 yrs)||33||36||.478||3.06||107||85||8||11||5||1||600.0||543||236||204||37||154||318||1.162|
|SEA (3 yrs)||24||35||.407||4.70||73||66||4||17||3||1||429.1||499||247||224||51||144||203||1.498|
|STL (2 yrs)||9||14||.391||4.55||35||35||0||1||0||0||209.2||232||111||106||24||65||101||1.417|
|OAK (2 yrs)||2||13||.133||6.12||16||16||0||3||0||0||89.2||121||69||61||8||58||17||1.996|
|CIN (2 yrs)||11||15||.423||4.42||36||35||0||1||0||0||189.1||193||100||93||15||56||122||1.315|
|MIN (1 yr)||4||2||.667||3.49||18||17||0||0||0||0||98.0||108||41||38||13||24||50||1.347|
|TEX (1 yr)||13||10||.565||6.24||34||25||1||1||0||0||140.0||184||108||97||25||48||61||1.657|
|NYY (1 yr)||7||11||.389||4.37||30||23||2||2||0||0||150.1||167||77||73||15||67||71||1.557|
|BAL (1 yr)||1||6||.143||5.43||22||10||6||2||0||1||71.1||70||45||43||6||23||29||1.304|
|TOR (1 yr)||0||3||.000||5.16||16||4||2||0||0||0||45.1||48||26||26||6||21||22||1.522|
I called them the side-winders. Southpaw Clay Rapada and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, Cody Eppley were two of the surprising reasons why the Yankee bullpen never missed a beat in 2012, despite losing the world’s all-time greatest closer, when Mo Rivera tore his ACL just one month into the season. Both guys threw the ball with sidearm motions and both of them did so effectively enough to become work horses for Manager Joe Girardi ‘s AL East Division-winning team.
Eppley was originally drafted by the Rangers in the 43rd round of the 2008 MLB amateur draft. He made his big league debut with Texas in 2011 but was then put on waivers at the opening of the 2012 season. The Yankees claimed him at that time and he was remarkably consistent in most of the 61 games he appeared in while wearing pinstripes. During that 2012 season, he posted an ERA of 3.33 and ended the year with a streak of nine scoreless relief appearances. The biggest difference between the Eppley that pitched for the Rangers in 2011 and the one who performed in pinstripes in 2012 was improved control. The Dillsburg, PA native lowered his base-on-balls per nine inning rate from five with Texas to a bit higher than three as a Yankee.
Eppley performed poorly during New York’s 2013 spring training season and his struggles continued at the beginning of the regular season. After he was rocked by the Red Sox for four runs in his second appearance in 2013, the Yanks sent him down to Triple A. (Note: Clay Rapada was released by New York on the same day.) His struggles continued with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and by June of that year, the organization gave up on the right-hander and released him.
Since they were both middle inning relievers, Eppley and Rapada often were called upon to warm up together in the tight spaces found in most AL Stadium bullpens. Since they both threw sidearm, Rapada had to use the left-side bullpen mound and Eppley the right one to avoid smashing their pitching hands together on a simultaneous sidearm warm up delivery. Eppley shares his October 8th birthday with this former Yankee outfielder, this former Yankee starting pitcher and this one-time Yankee hitting coach.
|NYY (2 yrs)||1||2||.333||3.97||61||0||15||0||0||0||47.2||50||23||21||3||17||33||1.406|
|TEX (1 yr)||1||1||.500||8.00||10||0||1||0||0||0||9.0||11||8||8||3||5||6||1.778|
His real name was Francesco Stephano Pezzolo and he holds a dear place in my heart because he was the first player of Italian descent to play for the New York Yankees. He was a legendary slugger in the Pacific Coast League before joining the White Sox in 1911. He played four seasons in Chicago and then a year with the Philadelphia Athletics. The Yankees got him in 1918 and he spent his last four Major League seasons in a New York uniform. He was the starting Yankee right-fielder for two of those years and he was also Babe Ruth’s first Yankee roommate. His best season in New York was 1920 when he drove in 79 runs and hit .295. San Francisco-born Italian Americans who followed Bodie to the Yankees and credited him as their inspiration included Joe DiMaggio, Tony Lazzeri, and Frankie Crosetti.
After he hit just .172 in 1921 both his Yankee and Major League playing careers were over. He went back out west and continued playing in the Pacific Coast League for a while, eventually migrating to Hollywood where he began his second career as an electrician in the movie industry. Bodie became well known on movie sets and created friendships with several of the leading actors and actresses of his day. He died in 1961 at the age of 74.
|NYY (4 yrs)||385||1524||1357||149||369||67||28||16||196||27||111||108||.272||.330||.398||.728|
|CHW (4 yrs)||517||2002||1756||193||480||74||33||20||246||43||148||233||.273||.333||.387||.720|
|PHA (1 yr)||148||635||557||51||162||28||11||7||74||13||53||40||.291||.356||.418||.774|
With the Bronx Bombers in another postseason, fans will hear the name of Yankee batting coach, Kevin Long mentioned several times during New York’s current playoff run. This year, he’s being credited with helping Curtis Granderson get more effective at bats against lefthanders and helping Derek Jeter end his long slump in the second half of the just completed regular season. Last night during his post game interview, the great Andy Pettitte indicated that Yankee teammate Lance Berkman told him that he had spent some time with Long the last few days and adjusted his hitting stance. Berkman then went out and hit a homer and double to help put New York up 2-0 in their 2010 LDS against the Twins.
Giving hitting coaches credit and press is relatively new in baseball. I believe it really got started with Charley Lau. Lau coached hitting for several teams, including the Yankees but he seemed to gain most of his attention when he tutored hitters in the very good Kansas City Royal lineups that used to challenge New York for the AL Pennant every year in the mid-to-late seventies. Before that, about the only time you might have heard or read a hitting coach’s name in the media would have been when they were hired or fired.
The 1961 Yankees were considered by many to be one of the great offensive teams of all times. So who was the hitting coach for that powerful bunch of home-run hitting sluggers? You have to be a pretty loyal and long-time pinstripe fan to remember him. His name was Wally Moses and the most remarkable thing about him coaching hitting on that particular team was that Wally himself was a singles hitter during his 17 year career as an AL outfielder with the A’s, White Sox and Red Sox. But upon closer inspection, even though he averaged just 7 home runs per year during his career, he did figure out how to develop a power stroke in 1937, when he hit 25 round-trippers for Philadelphia. The Yankee hitters he coached absolutely loved Wally because he made them feel so good about themselves as hitters. A grateful Ralph Houk once begged him never to leave.
If one of the reasons today’s Yankees are winning postseason series is because they’ve learned to play “Long” ball, I guess you could also say that Moses helped lead those 1961 Yankee bats to the promised land. Wally was born on October 8, 1910 in Uvalda, GA and passed away in 1990.