Deep in the Heart of Pinstripes

 

The Glove Club: Bobby Richardson

Of the great New York Yankees teams of the 1960s, the most under-rated player – amid a roster of perennial All-Stars – was second baseman Bobby Richardson.

Bobby  Richardson was a five-time Gold Glove winner at second base for the Yankees. He retired with a .979 fielding percentage.

Bobby Richardson was a five-time Gold Glove winner at second base for the Yankees. He retired with a .979 fielding percentage.

A career .266 hitter, Richardson twice batted .300 or better (and led the American League with 209 hits in 1962). But his bat wasn’t what kept him in the lineup. Nor was it needed. In a lineup that featured hitters such as Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Bill Skowron, Yogi Berra and Tom Tresh, the Yankees had plenty of run-producing support.

What made Richardson most valuable to five consecutive American League pennant winners was his consistent defense at second base. He was the Gold Glove winner at that position every year from 1961-1965. And he rarely took a day off, averaging 159 games per season over that five-year period. He retired with a .979 fielding percentage.

He was the anchor in an infield that featured Skowron (and later, Joe Pepitone) at first base, Clete Boyer at third, and Tony Kubek (with help from Tresh) at shortstop. All of them were All-Stars, as was Richardson (seven times).

In the World Series (Richardson played in seven), he was a dynamo at-bat and in the field. His bat in the 1960 World Series (11 hits, 12 RBIs) made him the Most Valuable Player (the only World Series MVP selected from the losing team). And he set a record with 13 hits in the 1964 World Series.

Of course, it was his final-out catch of a blistering Willie McCovey line drive that saved the 1962 World Series for the Yankees, the only major league team he ever played for.

Tom T’s Home Runs Come in Threes

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(June 6, 1965) Three consecutive home runs by outfielder Tom Tresh led the New York Yankees to a 12-0 whitewashing of the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium.

Left fielder Tom Tresh launched home runs in his first three at-bats as the Yankees shellacked the Chicago White Sox 12-0.

Left fielder Tom Tresh launched home runs in his first three at-bats as the Yankees shellacked the Chicago White Sox 12-0.

Tresh hit a two-run homer in the first inning to chase White Sox starter Juan Pizarro. He followed up with home runs in the third and fifth innings against reliever Bruce Howard. Tresh finished the game with four hits in five at-bats with five RBIs.

Yankee left-hander Al Downing pitched the three-hit shutout for New York, striking out nine White Sox batters. Third baseman Clete Boyer and catcher Doc Edwards each added a pair of RBIs for the Yankees.

The game was the second half of a doubleheader between the Yankees and White Sox. The Yankees also took the opening game 6-1 behind the four-hit pitching of Whitey Ford and Hal Reniff.

Tresh went two for three in the first game, with a double and a walk, scoring two runs and driving in another. For the day, Tresh batted six for eight with six RBIs. He would finish the 1965 season with a .279 batting average, 26 home runs and 74 RBIs.

It would also be the season when he would win his only Gold Glove.

Birds Survive Mantle’s Bomb

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(October 15, 1964) — In what would be his final postseason game, Mickey Mantle today hit a three-run homer, but it wouldn’t be enough as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the New York Yankees 7-5 to take the seventh game of the 1964 World Series.

In his last World Series appearance, Mickey Mantle hit his 18th World Series home run, the most in major league history.

In his last World Series appearance, Mickey Mantle hit his 18th World Series home run, the most in major league history.

Mantle’s home run was his third of this World Series and the eighteenth World Series home run of his career, the most in major league history.

The game’s two starting pitchers – Bob Gibson for the Cardinals and Mel Stottlemyre for the Yankees – spun shutout innings until the bottom of the fourth. The Cardinals scored first when Ken Boyer singled to lead off the inning and eventually scored on a throwing error by shortstop Phil Linz. Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver stole home for the Cards’ second run, and Dal Maxvill singled to drive in the inning’s third run.

The Cardinals added 3 more runs in the fifth inning on Lou Brock’s solo home run and RBIs from Dick Groat and McCarver.

Mantle’s blast came off Gibson in the sixth inning. Bobby Richardson and Roger Maris were on base and scored on Mantle’s home run.

Ken Boyer (left) and Clete Boyer both hit solo home runs in the Cardinals’ 7-5 seventh-game triumph in the 1964 World Series. It marked the first time 2 brothers on opposing teams homered in the same World Series game.

Ken Boyer (left) and Clete Boyer both hit solo home runs in the Cardinals’ 7-5 seventh-game triumph in the 1964 World Series. It marked the first time 2 brothers on opposing teams homered in the same World Series game.

The Cardinals added another run in the seventh inning on Ken Boyer’s solo home run, his second of the Series. The Yankees’ final two runs came on ninth-inning home runs from Linz and Clete Boyer. (This was the only World Series game ever to feature home runs by brothers on opposing teams.)

Gibson went the distance for the Cardinals to win his second game and the Series’ MVP award. Gibson struck out nine Yankees batters.

Mel Goes Yard Without Leaving It

 

Lights Out – Mel Stottlemyre’s Inside-the-Park Grand Slam Beats the Red Sox

When: July 20, 1965

Where:  Yankee Stadium, New York, New York

Game Time: 1:59

Attendance: 24,594

It was becoming the summer of denial for the New York Yankees. And denial wasn’t working.

Mel Stottlemyre not only pitched a complete game against the Red Sox (his tenth of the season) but also hit an inside-the-park grand slam home run on his way to a 6-3 victory.

Mel Stottlemyre not only pitched a complete game against the Red Sox (his ninth of the season), but also hit an inside-the-park grand slam home run on his way to a 6-3 victory.

The defending American League champions were reeling from lineup-altering injuries and age that were catching up with the team just as Johnny Keane had assumed the managerial reins. The team’s record was 19-26 by the end of May, with the Yankees (and, probably, the rest of the league) holding their collective breaths, waiting for lightning to strike and the Yankees to jump back into pennant contention.

It wasn’t to be. A 17-12 June brought the team close to the .500 mark, but an 8-9 start to July left the team in sixth place, 12.5 games behind the league-leading Minnesota Twins and six games behind the fifth-place Detroit Tigers.

The sole bright spot in the season came from the same arm that practically willed the Yankees into the 1964 World Series. After being called up to New York on August 12, 1964, right-hander Mel Stottlemyre went 9-3 down the stretch with a 2.06 earned run average. He showed the same effectiveness in the first half of 1965, going 9-5 with a 2.81 ERA when he faced the visiting Boston Red Sox on July 20.

When the Yankees were stumbling to a sixth-place finish in 1965, Stottlemyre picked up where he left off in 1964. He finished the 1965 season at 20-9 with a 2.63 ERA and a league-leading 18 complete games.

When the Yankees were stumbling to a sixth-place finish in 1965, Stottlemyre picked up where he left off in 1964. He finished the 1965 season at 20-9 with a 2.63 ERA and a league-leading 18 complete games.

Only Stottlemyre’s performance in that game exceeded his own standards for excellence – both from the mound and from the batter’s box.

That evening Stottlemyre pitched a complete game against the Red Sox. (His 18 complete games in 1965 would lead the American League, as would his 291 innings pitched on his way to winning 20 games.) Stottlemyre allowed a run in the first inning off Jim Gosger’s lead-off home run.  And he allowed two more runs in the eighth inning on two hits, a fielder’s choice and a sacrifice fly.

Between the first and eighth innings, Stottlemyre allowed no runs, but collected four RBIs of his own.

Gosger’s home run held up as the Boston lead until the fourth inning, when a Bobby Richardson single and a Tony Kubek home run off Boston starter Bill Monbouquette gave the Yankees the lead at 2-1.

In the bottom of the fifth, Joe Pepitone led off with a walk, followed by Clete Boyer’s single. Monbouquette walked Roger Repoz, loading the bases for Stottlemyre. He lined the ball to deep center field, clearing the bases and scoring himself for an inside-the-park grand slam.

That one swing resulted in half the home runs and RBIs that Stottlemyre would have that season. And the victory, his tenth, represented half the games Stottlemyre would win as the Yankees stumbled to a sixth-place finish, the team’s worst showing in 40 years.

 

Third Best Yankee

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Clete Boyer

Clete Boyer was an outstanding third baseman for the New York Yankees for the better part of the 1960s. The recognition attracted by Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson in Baltimore overshadowed the day-in, day-out excellence of Boyer’s play at third in New York. Yet he was an essential component in the Yankees’ success in the first half of the 1960s.

The infield for the pennant-winning Yankees teams of 1963-1964: (left to right) 3B Clete Boyer, SS Tony Kubek, 2B Bobby Richardson, and 1B Joe Pepitone.

The infield for the pennant-winning Yankees teams of 1963-1964: (left to right) 3B Clete Boyer, SS Tony Kubek, 2B Bobby Richardson, and 1B Joe Pepitone.

Boyer was signed as a bonus baby in 1955 by the Kansas City Athletics. As one of the bonus babies in that era, he was required to spend at least two seasons on the major league roster. He appeared in 47 games for the A’s in 1955, batting .241, and played in 67 games, hitting .217, in 1956.

In June of 1957, Boyer was sent to the Yankees to complete an earlier 10-player deal that had brought pitchers Art Ditmar and Bobby Shantz to the Yankees. Then, according to baseball rules at the time, he could be sent to the minors, and was. He stayed in the Yankees’ minor league system through 1958, hitting .284 for New York’s AAA club in Richmond, Virginia,  with 22 home runs and 71 RBIs. He played 64 games for Richmond in 1959 before being called up to New York, where he hit .175 in 47 games with the Yankees. But now he would be in the big leagues to stay for the next dozen years.

Boyer won the third base position with the Yankees in 1960 and hit .242 in his first full season with 14 home runs and 46 RBIs. In 1961, his batting average slipped to .224 (with 11 home runs and 55 RBIs), but his defense was superb. He led all American League third basemen (including Brooks Robinson) in assists and double plays, and was second in putouts to Cleveland’s Bubba Phillips. (He would lead AL third basemen in putouts in 1962.) Boyer anchored the “hot corner” on the Yankees outstanding infield that included Tony Kubek at shortstop and Bobby Richardson at second base.

Boyer raised his batting average to .272 in 1962, with 24 doubles, 18 home runs and 68 RBIs. In 8 seasons with the Yankees, Boyer hit for a combined .241 and averaged 12 home runs and 45 RBIs per season.

In November of 1966, the Yankees traded Boyer to the Atlanta Braves for Chi-Chi Olivo and Bill Robinson. Boyer hit .245 for the Braves in 1967, with career highs in home runs (26) and RBIs (96). Injuries limited his playing time in 1968, but he rebounded in 1969 by hitting .250 with 14 homers and 57 RBIs. He also won the Gold Glove in 1969.

After batting .246 in 1970, Boyer was released by the Braves in May of 1971 and finished that season playing with Hawaii in the Pacific Coast League. He spent his last three seasons as a player in Japan, retiring after the 1975 season.

Boyer batted .242 over his 16-year major league career, with 1,396 hits and 162 home runs.