Perhaps the most underappreciated pitcher of the last half century, Mel Stottlemyre was one of the most consistent players during the Yankees’ title drought of the 1960′s. While he maintains eleven years of Yankees’ allegiance, Stottlemyre is part of a bittersweet group of Bronxites to not earn a World Series title with over a decade of playing time (right there with Don Mattingly).
Mel first began his MLB career during the 1964 campaign, which would happen to hold the last American League pennant of the Mickey Mantle era. Sporting a 13-3 record, with a sparkling 1.42 ERA in the minor leagues while playing for the Do-You-Remember Richmond Virginians, Stottlemyre earned a call-up to bolster a rotation already containing Whitey Ford and Al Downing. Our featured player continued his minor league success and finished his first big league season at 9-3, with a 2.08 ERA. He would pitch three games against the NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals in the final series of the season; the Yanks were not victorious.
Even though he would never play in another playoff game again, Stottlemyre was capable of pitching a gem every game he threw. In 1965, at 23-years-old, the Washingtonian spun 18 complete games, over 291 innings (which led baseball), receiving the winning decision twenty times. Stottlemyre was an All-Star that year, and would earn the honor again next season despite spearheading baseball with 20 Ls.
1967 through 1973 held much of the same. Stottlemyre would never be confused with Sandy Koufax, but the Yankee won at least 14 games in every season. He went the distance on 114 separate occasions, highlighted by a 1969 with 24 CGs. He tacked on three more All-Star berths. Stottlemyre could even handle the lumber, making his counterpart feel the pain seven times, including one of the inside the park grand slam variety against the Red Sox (that certainly can’t happen anymore). At 32-years-old, Stottlemyre would retire after the 1974 season, due to a torn rotator cuff, with a record of 164-139 with an ERA of 2.97.
But his baseball career would be far from over. A pitching aficionado, Stottlemyre became a pitching coach in 1977. Working for the Mariners as a minor league mentor, Stottlemyre would stay with Seattle for five seasons, join the crosstown Mets for the 1984 campaign to the 1993 season (where Stottlemyre would finally earn his first ring in 1986), help the Astros for two seasons, and return to Yankee Stadium in 1996. Helping veteran pitchers find their grooves, Andy Pettitte excluded, Stottlemyre was part of the Core Four dynasty too. Stottlemyre would resign following the 2005 season, and join the Mariners again as a pitching coach for a short period of time.
Baseball ran in the family; two of his sons would play in the majors. Mel Jr. played for the Royals in 1990, and Todd would play 14 years in the bigs, mainly for the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks. Stottlemyre was not only a bright spot in New York during the dark years, but was also the beacon of light, who helped usher in the successful turn of the century teams. Several generations of fans owe Mel Stottlemyre many debts for many great Yankee memories.