Bridging the Yankees’ Bullpen Gap

 

Oh, What a Relief: Marshall Bridges

The career of left-handed reliever Marshall Bridges was nearly as quick as his formidable fastball. During the 1962 season, he was the ace of the New York Yankees’ bullpen.

Bridges was signed by the New York Giants in 1953. He bounced around the minor leagues for the next five seasons, winning 18 games in 1956 and 16 games for AAA Sacramento in 1958. Used primarily as a starter in the minors, Bridges would make only five starts at the major league level.

Marshall Bridges made his major league debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1959 at age 28.

At age 28, Bridges finally made his major league debut in 1959 with the St. Louis Cardinals. He appeared in 27 games with the Cardinals, going 6-3 with a 4.26 ERA in his rookie season.

Bridges opened the 1960 season in the Cardinals’ bullpen, but was used sparingly. Through July, he had pitched only 31.1 innings in 20 relief appearances with a 3.45 ERA. On August 3, he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Cincinnati Reds. In the final two months of the 1960, Bridges was outstanding for the Reds, going 4-0 in 14 appearances with a 1.07 ERA.

Bridges was less effective in 1961, struggling at 0-1 with a 7.84 ERA when he was sent back down to AAA. Following the 1961 season, he was traded to the New York Yankees for catcher Jesse Gonder.

In 1962, with the New York Yankees’ relief ace Luis Arroyo sidelined, Marshall Bridges was thrust into the role of closer, and he responded with the best season of his career: 8-4, 3.14 ERA and 18 saves (second most in the American League).

Bridges must have expected to spend the 1962 season in the shadow of southpaw Luis Arroyo. Arroyo had astounded the baseball world in 1961, setting a major league record with 29 saves and winning 15 games in relief. But a sore arm disabled Arroyo for most of the 1962 season, and Bridges was thrust into the closer’s role. He responded with the best season of his career: 8-4 with a 3.14 ERA and 18 saves. In Game Four of the 1962 World Series, Bridges had the dubious distinction of being the first American League pitcher to surrender a grand slam home run.

In 1963, Hal Reniff and Steve Hamilton took over the closer’s role for the Yankees. Bridges was limited to only 23 appearances, turning in a record of 2-0 with a 3.82 ERA and only a single save. He was purchased by the Washington Senators and was 1-5 with a 3.71 ERA over his final two major league seasons.

After a return to the minors. Bridges retired in 1967 at age 36. In seven major league seasons, Bridges was 23-15 with 25 saves and a 3.75 ERA.

 

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