Yankees’ 20-game winners: Mel Stottlemyre, Bob Shawkey, Vic Raschi …

12 10 2015

This resumes my series on Yankee starting pitchers.

These won’t be all the Yankee 20-game winners, just the ones that didn’t make earlier posts in this series on Yankee starting pitchers. So these are the ones who never won a Cy Young Award or won 200 career games or deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, etc.

They are notable as Yankees for at least one season reaching that important 20-win mark. I present them roughly in the order I regard their importance as Yankees.

Mel Stottlemyre

Stottlemyre won 20 games three times for the Yankees in the late ’60s (when they were lousy teams, finishing around or even under .500). He posted a .690 winning percentage for a team that went .475 in 1965. That isn’t exactly Steve Carlton in 1972 (27 wins for a last-place team), but it’s an illustration of the fact that the starting pitcher is usually the biggest factor in whether his team wins a game.

Stottlemyre, a five-time All-Star, finished 164-139, well below Hall of Fame consideration unless your career is tragically shortened. He is probably best remembered for two things (which are why I moved him to the top of this list; I easily could have started with either of the next two pitchers):

  • Bob Gibson's autograph, with some Cardinal teammates, on a ball belonging to my son Joe.

    Bob Gibson’s autograph, with some Cardinal teammates, on a ball belonging to my son Joe.

    Holding his own as a rookie in head-to-head matchups with Hall of Famer Bob Gibson in the 1964 World Series. Gibson was perhaps the best World Series pitcher ever, but Stottlemyre prevailed in Game Two, leading 4-3 after eight innings and getting a complete-game victory, 8-3, after the Cardinals’ bullpen gave up four ninth-inning runs. Gibson did not give way to the bullpen in Game Five, winning 5-2 in 10 innings (the loss going to Pete Mikkelsen in relief; Stottlemyre gave up one earned run in seven innings). Both pitchers came back on two days’ rest in Game Seven, and Gibson prevailed, 7-5. The Yankees lost the Series, but their rookie pitcher gave an enticing glimpse of what was to come (though, sadly, it was his last World Series as a pitcher).

  • Stottlemyre was pitching coach under Joe Torre for the Yankees from 1996 to 2005, an excellent stretch of Yankee pitching.

The Yankees surprised Stottlemyre this season with his own plaque in Monument Park. Read the rest of this entry »

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Yankee starting pitchers who belong in the Hall of Fame: Reynolds, John and Guidry

28 09 2015

This continues my series on Yankee starting pitchers.

Three Yankee starting pitchers who aren’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame should be there: Tommy John, Ron Guidry and Allie Reynolds.

Roger Clemens also belongs there based on his achievements, but is being kept out of Cooperstown because of suspicion that he used performance-enhancing drugs. I dealt with Clemens in the 300-game-winners installment of this series on Yankee starting pitchers, so I won’t address him here.

I have detailed multiple times why John and Guidry belong in the Hall of Fame, so I will just summarize those arguments and link to earlier posts at the end of this one. Here I’ll primarily make the case for Reynolds, whom I touched on just briefly in 2013.

Allie Reynolds

Allie Reynolds' autograph on a baseball my wife's uncle used to take to Yankee Stadium in the 1950s. Yes, that's Mickey Mantle's autograph to the right. Also outfielder Gene Woodling and pitcher Bob Kuzava.

Allie Reynolds’ autograph on a baseball my wife’s uncle used to take to Yankee Stadium in the 1950s. Yes, that’s Mickey Mantle’s autograph to the right. Also outfielder Gene Woodling and pitcher Bob Kuzava. The ball now belongs to my son Mike.

One of the reasons Reynolds isn’t in the Hall of Fame is the longtime disdain of the Baseball Writers Association of America members for giving any consideration to post-season performance. Their anti-Yankee bias would collapse if they gave any weight to World Series success in Hall of Fame selection. But they cling fiercely to that bias, so championships and post-season performance, which count greatly for selection to the football or basketball halls, mean nothing in selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Golden Era Committee ballot included Reynolds in 2011, but he was snubbed by a committee that chose Ron Santo (who never played in a World Series).

Reynolds was arguably the best pitcher ever in World Series play. The only pitchers with as many World Series wins as Reynolds are Whitey Ford with 10 and Red Ruffing and Bob Gibson, tied with Reynolds at seven. Ford also lost eight games, so his actual dominance doesn’t match that of Reynolds, Ruffing and Gibson, who were all 7-2.

Bob Gibson's autograph, with some Cardinal teammates, on a ball belonging to my son Joe.

Bob Gibson’s autograph, with some Cardinal teammates, on a ball belonging to my son Joe.

Gibson’s 1.82 ERA was better than Ruffing’s 2.63 or Reynolds’ 2.79, and Gibson’s 92 strikeouts beat the 62 for Reynolds and 61 for Ruffing. I would argue that Gibson was the greatest starting pitcher in World Series play, edging out Reynolds.

But here’s what Reynolds did that none of those pitchers did: He saved four World Series games, too, giving him a key role in 11 wins. 

The greatest streak by any team ever in baseball history was the Yankees’ run of five straight world championships from 1949 to 1953. And the greatest pitcher of that greatest dynasty was Allie Reynolds. Here’s what he did in the regular season and World Series during that run: Read the rest of this entry »