|Stottlemyre helped extend the post-war Yankees dynasty one more year (NYT)|
In an 11-year playing career spent entirely with the New York Yankees, Stottlemyre distinguished himself as one of the best pitchers in franchise history. A five-time All-Star, Stottlemyre averaged 15 wins per season while compiling a sparkling 2.97 ERA for his career. He was also a workhorse, topping 250 innings every year from 1965-1973 and leading the American League in complete games twice.
That success on the mound served Stottlemyre well over the next three decades, first as a roving instructor and then as a pitching coach. He tutored some of baseball's best hurlers during stints with the Mariners, Mets, Astros, and Yankees, including Dwight Gooden, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Felix Hernandez, Mike Mussina, and the great Mariano Rivera. While he never won a World Series as a player, his teams won five championships with him on the bench.
Stottlemyre's greatest accomplishment on the field, however, was helping pitch the Yankees to the 1964 pennant as a 22-year-old rookie. After winning 104 games and the pennant in '63, New York got off to a slow start in '64 under new skipper Yogi Berra, who had trouble reining in the same players who'd been his teammates and drinking buddies the year before. When Stottlemyre arrived in August to stabilize the rotation, the Yanks were in third place and 3 1/2 games out of first, putting them in jeopardy of missing the World Series for the first time in five years.
The season seemed to be slipping away when Stottlemyre took the hill for his first Major League start on Aug. 12 against the second-place Chicago White Sox, who had taken the first two games of a four-game set at Yankee Stadium. Having lost seven of their previous nine, the Yankees were in desperate need of a spark from the fresh-faced 22-year-old, who was leading the International League (AAA) with 13 wins, six shutouts and a 1.42 ERA at the time of his call-up.
Stottlemyre answered the bell, tossing a complete-game seven-hitter to halt New York's skid. Even the offense appeared rejuvenated, bashing four homers in support of the rookie, who hadn't even received an invitation to Spring Training just a few months before. It was, in the words of New York sportswriter Til Ferdenzi, "movie script stuff."
Stottlemyre's next pressure-packed start came four days later in Baltimore against the first-place Orioles, led by eventual league MVP Brooks Robinson. That didn't faze Stottlemyre, however, who limited the O's to just one run on five hits over 8 2/3 sterling innings. A rare error by Clete Boyer with two outs in the ninth prevented Stottlemyre from notching his second straight complete game, but once again he had come up big for the Yankees.
Stottlemyre wasn't getting much help from his teammates, however, who promptly dropped six in a row before his next turn on Aug. 22, falling 5 1/2 games back of the Orioles and seemingly out of the race. The sputtering Yankees once again turned to Stottlemyre to stop the bleeding, and once again he responded, delivering a complete-game shutout in the nightcap of a doubleheader at Fenway Park to keep their pennant hopes alive.
The win proved to be a turning point, igniting a furious 30-11 run by the Yankees to close out the season that featured six additional Stottlemyre victories -- three of which were complete games. He won five straight starts during the heart of that stretch, including the game that moved New York into first place for good on Sept. 17. When the dust settled in early October, Stottlemyre had gone 9-3 with a 2.06 ERA across 96 innings, helping New York overtake Chicago and Baltimore in the standings to capture the pennant by a single game.
After putting the Yankees over the top during the regular season, he nearly did the same in the World Series. After New York lost Game 1 in St. Louis, Stottlemyre bested the Cardinals' Bob Gibson in Game 2 to even the series. The duo squared off again in Game 5 at the Stadium, with Stottlemyre twirling seven innings of two-run ball. The Yankees lost in the 10th, however, after Tim McCarver belted a crushing three-run homer to put St. Louis up in the series. The Yanks bounced back to win Game 6, forcing a Game 7 showdown between Stottlemyre and Gibson, both of whom were working on two days' rest.
The pair traded zeroes through three innings before Stottlemyre stumbled in the fourth, giving up three runs after shortstop Phil Linz threw away a potential double play ball. Berra lifted his young star for a pinch-hitter in the top of the fifth, only to watch the bullpen immediately surrender three more runs in the bottom of the frame. A 6-0 deficit against Gibson proved to be insurmountable for even the mighty Yankees, who rallied for three homers but ultimately fell short, losing 7-5.
Still, the future appeared bright for Stottlemyre, who appeared poised to be the next great Yankee ace. He lived up to his end of the bargain in '65, winning 20 games even as the team crumbled around him. Despite toiling for generally mediocre clubs, he established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball over the next decade, ranking fifth in wins and second in innings from 1965-1973. Had his career not ended when he was just 33 years old, he'd probably be in the Hall of Fame, alongside several pitchers he later went on to coach.
So while the Yankee dynasty died a painful death in the mid-60s, Stottlemyre helped wring one more pennant out of its aging core, proving to be one of the most impactful midseason call-ups in baseball history. It may not have had the ending he or his teammates wanted, but it still made for a pretty good story.