Wanted–one Black Border; Yankees’ star and Coach Stottlemyre dead at 77

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Hi all. Posts in the offseason are few and most of them are a painful effort to write. God knows this one counts in that category. News of the death of former Yankee star and later pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre was a rare cause to stop the press around here.
In 1971, that wonderful year when I discovered baseball, I mostly followed the Mets. But if they weren’t on I would dial around and see who else was on. It turned out the Yankees were a good bet to be on the air. I didn’t know it but this was in the depths of the Yankees’ doldrums between 1965 and 1976. Stottlemyre and Fritz Peterson were about as good as it got for the 1971 Yankees. Stottlemyre, a native of the state of Washington was summoned from AAA Richmond in August 1964 when a hip injury to Whitey Ford left the Yankees’ pitching staff in dire straits. While he wasn’t on their 40-man roster, he had been 13–3 for the AAA Virginians and would go 9–3 for the Yankees as they charged down the stretch to the 1964 pennant. After game 1 it became clear that Ford now had arm trouble. Jim Bouton won games 3 and 6 but Stottlemyre had to face the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson 3 times. Mel won in game 2, got no decision when game 5 went to extras, and was soundly beaten in game 7. Nobody could know that Stottlemyre would never approach another pennant as a player. It got late early for some of the Yankees (Roger Maris, Bobby Richardson and Tony Kubek,) and nobody from the minors could do the job. Mickey Mantle forced himself to play in the late sixties and did no good for his legacy. Ford himself finally had his arm go for good in 1967. The result of all these events was a number of second-division finishes including last place in 1966. That team was so brutal Stottlemyre lost 20 games for them, leading the league. As bad as his teams were over a space of years, Stottlemyre won 20 games 3 times and was named an All-Star 5 times. He hit an inside-the-park grand slam in 1965, launching one 457 feet to the gap in Death Valley, left center field at the old Yankee Stadium. He managed to circle the bases before any Red Sox outfielder could field the ball and throw it in. He tore his rotator cuff in 1974, and with no cure available at the time his career was done with a 164–139 record. Before he returned to the Yankees he came to fame as the Mets’ pitching coach with such pitchers as Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, David Cone and bobby Ojeda. Stottlemyre spent a decade in Flushing before going back to the Yankees. He coached the Yankees’ pitchers from 1996–2005 earning 4 World Series rings.
He had suffered from cancer as early as 2000 but it returned in 2011 and his health was poor after that. His plaque went up at Yankee Stadium in 2015. R I P

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