Any Yankees player who earns not one, but two, nicknames have to be declared one of the most popular players ever to take the stage at Yankee Stadium. Whether you know him as “Louisiana Lightning” or simply, “The Gator,” you will remember him with a fondness for very few of those who wore the Pinstripes. He resurfaced in, of all places, Syracuse New York this past week to share some stories and comments on the game as it is today. Yanks Go Yard takes you there now.
Yankees fans will always remember the season that Ron Guidry had in 1978 as one of the purest and most dominating performances by a starting pitcher – ever! And for you younger fans, get a load of this. Guidry went 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA, a WHIP under one (.946), made 35 starts with sixteen complete games while pitching 278 innings. And if that doesn’t impress you, consider that he gave up only 53 earned runs the entire season. Oh yeah, he also won the CY Young that year and finished second in the MVP vote.
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But maybe, the most amazing thing about Ron Guidry is that he measured only 5’11” and tipped the scales at just 161 pounds. But he could, as the Boss says, “throw that speedball by you, make you look like a fool, boy”. Still, Guidry has never been able to climb the wall blocking his entrance to the Baseball Hall Of Fame.
But according to Baseball Reference, his overall career stats have Similarity Scores comparable to some of the greats in the game, including the venerable Sandy Koufax. But that is an argument for another day.
Ironically, it was the general manager of the Syracuse Chiefs (Triple A Affiliate of the Washington Nationals), Jason Smorol who brought Guidry in as a guest speaker, explaining that:
"“For now, it’s a Yankees’ town and we’ll keep bringing guys in that the people want. We recognize that we get a lot of good feedback from the fans when we bring in a guy like Ron Guidry.”"
Here a few snippets of the conversation that took place that evening, courtesy of Syracuse New Times:
Replying to a question about George Steinbrenner and whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame, Guidry said:
"“It’s not so much that he changed the game, he changed the Yankees and that team made a lot of teams change what they set out to do and how they went about doing it. Because he was the first one to get into the free agency stuff, everybody else said, ‘OK, this could be lucrative, this could be beneficial to the organization.’ Now, it plays a huge role in a lot of teams’ success.”"
Guidry also didn’t hesitate when it came around to the question of whether or not known steroid users should be admitted to the Hall of Fame. For a conservative “Louisiana Boy”, his response may surprise:
"“If you’re talking about Bonds and Clemens, look, those guys were so good they could have just walked out there and not done anything and they would have still made it. That was their ability. I don’t know if they’ll ever get in; I don’t vote. It’s just a shame that stuff is out there.“I would vote for them, yeah, because I’m looking at what they accomplished before (the alleged steroid use). Because before all of that came out, those guys had already amassed things that most guys don’t amass.”"
"Reggie: “Reggie’s Reggie. He’s not like you or I. He’s flamboyant. He just liked the big stage, and I always felt like he had to have that. There’s a lot of us, we don’t need it. We can perform on the big stage, but we don’t have to have it. I would rather you not know who I am when I go out. Reggie wants everybody to know who he is, and he liked that.”Thurman: “I had Munson at the beginning, so I got spoiled right away pitching to Munson. I shook him off one time on my own and I got my butt chewed out. He called timeout: ‘What are you doing? Don’t think, let me do that.’ I said, ‘OK, dude.’”"
Come this summer, Ron Guidry will relinquish his fishing and hunting gear for a few days to make the trip up North as a participant in the annual Yankees Old Timer’s Day celebration. Yankees fans will look forward to more of his quips and quotes then, but more than anything fans will unleash one of the loudest and warmest cheers of the day when The Gator is introduced.
Because Ron Guidry propelled the Yankees to a World Championship in 1978 (did I forget to mention that?) – and Yankees fans don’t forget.