Mickey Mantle will always be my favorite baseball “name” but “Zack Monroe” isn’t too bad a moniker for a ball player either. Both names ended up appearing on Hall of Fame plaques. Of course Mantle’s plaque is in Cooperstown while today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant’s can be found in at the the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame.
This native of that city in Illinois was a two-sports star at home-town Bradley University when the Yankees signed him in 1952. He then played just one season of minor league ball before doing a two-year hitch in the military during the Korean War. He returned to the Yankee farm system in 1955. The right-hander put together two straight 16-win seasons for the Yankees’ single A affiliate in Binghamton and was a stellar 10-2 for their triple A club in Richmond when he got the call to report to the Bronx at the end of June, during the 1958 season. He made his big league debut against the A’s on June 27th of that year. He held the Kansas City lineup hitless in his three-inning relief stint but he gave up four bases-on-balls. It was that inability to throw strikes at the big league level that would come back to haunt him.
Five days later, Casey Stengel gave Monroe his first start in Baltimore and he gave up just one run (and 5-more walks) during his eight-inning appearance against the O’s to earn his first big league victory. He ended up winning four of his five decisions during his rookie season and posting an impressive 3.26 ERA. That was good enough to earn Monroe a spot on the Yankees’ World Series roster that year, but in his only relief appearance against the Braves, he was shelled for three runs in the single inning he got to pitch. That bad October inning against Milwaukee, the 27 walks he issued in the 58 regular season innings he pitched that first year, plus the fact that he was already 26-years-old at the time, most likely soured his long-term potential in the eyes of Stengel and the Yankee brass. Though he made New York’s 1959 Opening Day roster, he found himself back in Richmond in early May, after two straight bad relief outings. He never again pitched in the big leagues.
Monroe shares his birthday with one of the Yankees greatest fourth outfielders of all-time and this one-time Yankee prospect.