The Righty Behind Whitey

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bill Stafford

In the early 1960s, as the New York Yankees were chalking up one American League pennant after another, the leader of the Yankees’ pitching staff was clearly Whitey Ford. But in 1961 and 1962, the Yankees’ starting rotation followed up with two right-handers who piled up a bunch of innings and wins to complement Ford’s Hall of Fame ability. Those two pitchers were Ralph Terry and Bill Stafford.

Bill Stafford had back-to-back 14-9 seasons for the New York Yankees in 1961-1962.

Bill Stafford had back-to-back 14-9 seasons for the New York Yankees in 1961-1962.

Stafford was signed by the Yankees out of high school in 1957. He was called up to the Yankees at the end of the 1960 season, going 3-1 in eight starts, with two complete games, one of them a shutout, and a 2.25 ERA. He appeared twice during the 1960 World Series with no decisions. He pitched five scoreless relief innings in Game Five.

In 1961, Stafford was thrust into the Yankees’ starting rotation, going 14-9 with three shutouts. His 2.68 ERA was second best in the league (to Dick Donovan’s 2.40).

Stafford followed up in 1962 with another 14-9 record on a 3.67 ERA. He had career highs in starts (33), innings pitched (213.1) and strikeouts (109). He was also the starting pitcher of Game Three of the 1962 World Series. Stafford out-dueled the Giants’ Billy Pierce 3-2 with a four-hit, complete game performance. It would be the last World Series appearance of his career.

Stafford won 31 games over his first two-plus seasons with the Yankees. He would win only 12 more games in his career. He injured his rotator cuff early in the 1963 season, and his record slipped to 4-8, with half of his appearances coming out of the bullpen. In 1964 he was 5-0 with a 2.48 ERA, but made only one start. As a reliever that season, he finished 12 games with four saves.

Bill Stafford was 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in four World Series appearances.

Bill Stafford was 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in four World Series appearances.

Stafford returned to a starter’s role in 1965, the first year in the decade that the Yankees wouldn’t win the American League pennant. He finished the year 3-8 with a 3.56 ERA. In the off-season, he was traded with Gil Blanco and Roger Repoz to the Kansas City Athletics for Billy Bryan and Fred Talbot.

Over the next two seasons with the A’s, Stafford would appear in only 23 games, going 0-5 with a 4.04 ERA. He retired in 1967 at age 27 with a career record of 43-40.

 

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