Wednesday, August 12, 1964, and Mel Stottlemyre and Mickey Mantle help celebrate Mel’s debut in the major leagues, a complete-game 7-hit shutout of the White Sox at Yankee Stadium.
Passed up by the Milwaukee Braves at a tryout in 1961 because he didn’t throw hard enough, the Yankees instead took a flyer on the reserved right-hander from Mabton, WA, and when Whitey Ford went down with an injury in mid-1964, young Mel got the call. The rookie helped to stabilize the rotation as he went 9-3 with a team best 2.06 ERA as the Yankees captured the AL pennant. Mel was rewarded with 3 starts in the 1964 World Series, besting Bob Gibson in Game 2 at Sportsman’s Park with a complete game 8-3 victory.
Stottlemyre’s Yankee career, though, is famously a case of bad timing, as the Yankees’ fortunes fell as he continued to rise. A 5-time All-Star in the “lean years” in the Bronx, Mel won 20 games 3 times, led the league in complete games twice, piled up 40 shutouts in his 11-year Yankee career and was an overall work horse for the Bombers, averaging 272 innings in his full seasons.
Unfortunately, a torn rotator cuff in early 1974 ended his playing career prematurely, without a championship, but he made up for it in his long career as a pitching coach, with 5 rings to his ledger, one with the Mets in 1986, and four with the Yankees in 1996 and 1998-2000, a plaque in Monument Park dedicated to him in 2015.
Stottlemyre was “a throwback to a winning tradition in those years of mediocrity”, said legendary sportswriter Phil Pepe. And not unlike Yankees such as Gehrig and DiMaggio before him, carried himself with a quiet dignity that we can all admire and strive to emulate.
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