Stottlemyre always had a special place in my baseball memories of both the Yankees and the Mets. He had a proven track record for being a pitching guru, and the results show it. Personally, I credit him more than almost any other person for the success of both organizations in their respective decade of dominance. It seems like the Mets were terrible for a long time, Stottlemyre joined and they started winning. He left, and they became terrible again. Before he joined the Yankees, they had not been to the playoffs in 15 years. As soon as he got here, the Yankees spoiled us with annual trips to October and the World Series. He left, and it seemed like the dynasty was over and we were mortal again. I know that many other people worked hard for the successes in those years, but it seems eerie how closely the time lines match his tenure with both teams.
He was with the Mets from 1984 to 1993. When he joined, they were on a 7-year run of finishing in last or second to last place. Immediately they began a 7-year run of coming in first or second in their division, including two trips to the playoffs and one World Series. After a couple of years off, he joined Joe Torre and the Yankees in 1996. Fifteen years since playing in October, eighteen since a ticket tape parade. We all know what happened next – World Series wins in three of the next four years, two more trips to the World Series after that, and playoffs in each of his 10 years on the Yankees.
As a player, he had the misfortune of playing on some pretty bad Yankee teams between 1964 and 1974. To give you an idea, in 1972 he had an ERA of 3.22 and still managed to get 18 losses. In eight of his 11 years as a pitcher, the Yankees finished 15 games or more out of first place. Even so, he accumulated 164 wins over his career. In fact, his career ERA (2.97) is BETTER than the average ERA of all Hall of Fame pitchers’ careers combined (2.98). He was a 5-time All-Star, and he was in the Top 20 of MVP votes 3 times. Despite being on losing teams for most of his playing career, good luck finding quotes of him complaining.
Everyone knows someone who is battling cancer. It is a terrible disease, despite all the medical research going into finding a cure and developing treatments in the meantime. We all remember his courage and determination in 2000 when he wore the chemo pump under his uniform and was told he had 3-5 years to live. His survival this long is miraculous, but this disease is not something that just goes away.
This hits close to home for me, as it probably does for many of you. My father is a cancer survivor, and I remember how it felt getting that news, and how it affected everyone around the family. I will tell you that I am a guy that believes in prayer. So, I ask you to remember to pray for him, for his health, and for his family, that they get the support they need and that they stay strong emotionally. If you are not the praying kind, maybe you can remember Mel and his family, and be grateful for the loved ones in your life. There are also charities to which you can give. This is not a plug, but there is a link at the top of the Bleeding Yankee Blue page for the charities that we have talked about, and a few focus on cancer research and support. Life is short, and it can be tragic. I am praying that Mel and his wife get through this and that things go as well as they can for them.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row
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