#30. Mel Stottlemyre. 1941-2019.

Yankee Stadium Frieze

Who knows. If he was born 10 years earlier, and if his career wouldn’t have ended at the age of 32 due to a rotator cuff injury, maybe Mel Stottlemyre would be in the Hall of Fame.

He was that good.

But #30 as a player (and #34 as a coach, because fellow #30, Willie Randolph, was a coach at the same time as Mel), had the misfortune to join a Yankees team as the dynasty was ending.

Mel, 22 and 13-3 at Richmond, was brought up to the Yanks in the middle of August 1964. In his first major league game, vs. Chicago at home, Mickey Mantle hit a HR over the 461 ft. sign and also the 23 ft. high fence/screen for a 502 ft hr.

As for Stottlemyre, he won that game and went 9-3, 2.06 down the stretch. The Yanks needed it, for they won the pennant by just one game. In one game at the end of that season, Mel not only pitched a two-hit shutout, but also went 5 for 5 as a hitter.

Because of an injury to Whitey Ford in game 1 of that 1964 WS, Mel had to start Games 2, 5 and 7. He won Game 2, had a ND in Game 5 and lost Game 7. Each time, his opponent was Hall-of-Famer Bob Gibson.

You thought an ace was on the way and coming off of their fifth straight pennant, that more pennants were forthcoming. You were half right.

Ace yes, but …

In 1965, the dynasty collapsed. Mel never pitched in another postseason game. He did win 20 games in 1965, 21 in 1968 and 20 in 1969. He would be a 5x All-Star. He would pitch in 250 or more innings every year from 1965-1973, leading the AL once, and pitching in 303 innings in 1969. He led the AL in 1965 with 291 IP.

In 1968, he won 21 games for a team that hit .214. He finished 10th in the MVP balloting that year.

He hit an inside-the-park grand slam in 1965.

He went 164-139, ERA 2.97, ERA+ 112 from 1964 to 1974. Had he pitched for the Yogi/Maris/Mantle Yankees instead of the Horace Clarke Yankees, who knows what he could have done.

In comparing pitchers like Catfish Hunter and Jim Palmer to Mel Stottlemyre, Dick Howser mentioned that Mel was better, but he didn’t have the support behind him. Palmer and Hunter, of course are in the HOF. Stottlemyre not.

Mel’s 162 g. average was 16-13, 2.97. Often for teams that couldn’t hit and outside of Murcer and White, had no one strong in those lineups.

He threw 40 shutouts. He led the league in CG twice, and in losses twice. 12-20 in 1966 and 14-18 in 1972. The ERAs were 3.80 and 3.22 in those years. ERA+ of 87 and 92.

From 1965-1973, the seasons where he pitched full-time, he was 17-14, ERA 2.98. 2.98! and an ERA+ of 111. No run support. Players like Maris, Mantle, Howard were aging. Pepitone didn’t become what he should have been. Neither did Ronnie Blomberg. Munson got there in 1970, and for years, all he had were White and Murcer.

At the age of 32 it was all over. Torn rotator cuff. Medical know-how wasn’t what it is today. Career over.

He became a pitching coach and helped the 1986 Mets to a WS title. He went to Houston for a couple of years.

And in 1996, came home. I will say, I was more excited in 1996 for Mel coming back home as pitching coach than I was with Joe Torre being hired as manager.

Mel won 4 WS rings as pitching coach for the Yanks from 1996-2005. He later went to Seattle to work with them.

In 1999, Mel was diagnosed with myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. It’s amazing that he lasted this long and it is a testament to the fighter he was.

It is too bad that Mel pitched in the dark ages of Yankees’ history in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

For had he pitched in the golden era, he’d be remembered as a pitcher as great as Ruffing, Hoyt, Ford, Gomez and Ruffing. And a pitcher he would develop .. Andy Pettite.

And others…

 

Rest in peace, Mel.

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