Last year was the 50th anniversary of the first ever MLB draft. On Thursdays, PSA will dust off the old time baseball time machine and have a look back at some of the more fruitful and interesting draft classes in New York Yankees' history.
This week, we'll go back to a year in which gas was just 91 cents a gallon and Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" was released. Here's a look at some of the selections made by the Yankees in the 1982 draft.
LHP Tim Birtsas (Round 2, 36th overall)
The Yankees selected the 6-foot-7 lefty out of Michigan State University with their first selection of the '82 draft (they gained this pick as compensation for losing Reggie Jackson in free agency).
Birtsas never pitched in a single game for the Yankees, but he was included in two very famous trades. Following the 1984 season, the Yankees included the lefty (along with Jose Rijo and others) in a trade with the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Rickey Henderson. Just over three years later, Birtsas and Rijo were included in yet another deal together, this time being shipped to the Cincinnati Reds for the aging outfielder Dave Parker.
Birtsas pitched to a 4.08 ERA in 138 career games (30 starts) over the course of his five year career in the big leagues.
OF Bo Jackson (Round 2, 50th overall)
The two-sport star was first drafted by a baseball team when the Yankees used their second selection of the '82 draft on him. However, Jackson did not sign with the team. He would go on to be drafted two other times by MLB teams: in 1985 by the California Angels in the 20th round, and in 1986 by the Kansas City Royals in the fourth round.
Jackson would go on to play for three teams in his eight-year career, hitting 141 home runs in 694 career games, while also providing numerous stunning plays that will live on in highlights for years to come (see above). And because he's Bo Jackson, he also rushed for 2,782 yards in his all-too brief four year career with the Oakland Raiders.
On a side note, following the Yankees' selection of Jackson, the Reds then took a high school shortstop by the name of Barry Larkin with the very next pick*. Of course no one knew it at the time, but that decision turned out just fine for the Yankees when the Reds passed on another particular high school shortstop in the draft ten years later.
*By the way, have a look at some of the players selected in the second round in '82. It's quite the list. Other than Jackson and Larkin, other notables selected in that round included David Wells (chosen by the Toronto Blue Jays), Barry Bonds (San Francisco Giants, but did not sign), Lance McCullers of the Philadelphia Phillies (and whose son is one of the bright young pitchers for the Houston Astros), future Yankee Scott Kamieniekci (Detroit Tigers) and Kevin Romine (Boston Red Sox), who was selected with the first pick of that round and is Austin Romine's father.
OF Dan Pasqua (Round 3, 76th overall)
Drafted out of William Paterson University in New Jersey, Pasqua hit 88 home runs in his first three-and-a-half seasons in the Yankees' minor league system before being called up in 1985 at age 23.
The lefty-hitting outfielder played three seasons in pinstripes, hitting 42 home runs before being dealt to the Chicago White Sox following the 1987 season, which is where he spent the rest of his career. In his ten seasons, Pasqua hit 117 home runs and drove in 390 while slashing .244/.330/.438.
OF B.J. Surhoff (Round 5, 128th overall)
The Yankees drafted the Rye, New York product out of high school in 1982, yet were unable to sign him as he had already committed to the University of North Carolina.
A few years later, the left-handed hitter jumped 127 spots in the draft, getting taken first overall in the 1985 draft by the Brewers. He reached the big leagues less than two years after signing with Milwaukee, and would go on to have quite a productive career, slashing .282/.332/.413 and amassing over 2,300 hits in his 19 major league seasons, nine of which were spent in Milwaukee (he also played eight years in Baltimore and a couple years in Atlanta).
C Fredi Gonzalez (Round 16, 414th overall)
You may know him today as the manager of the Atlanta Braves, but Gonzalez first entered professional ball with the Yankees.
Drafted out of Miami Southridge Senior High School, the right-handed hitting catcher only hit .199/.314/.298 in his six-year minor league career, never playing above Double-A. Gonzalez then got into coaching, re-entering the professional baseball world with the expansion Florida Marlins in 1992. Gonzalez has since managed for the Marlins (from 2007 to 2010 after Joe Girardi was fired) and the Atlanta Braves, where he took over for managing legend (and another former Yankee) Bobby Cox.
LHP Jim Morris (Round 18, 466th overall)
Morris only pitched in 21 games in his career. However, those 21 games aren't the reason why his life story was turned into a motion picture.
Yes, before Morris finally reached the big leagues as a 35-year-old rookie with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999, the Yankees had the first shot at taking the left-hander, drafting him out of Brownwood High School (Texas). However, he did not sign with the Yankees, and instead enrolled at a community college. He later was drafted fourth overall by the Milwaukee Brewers a few months later in the January secondary draft.
By this point, we almost all know the rest of the story- after an unspectacular five-year minor league career, he returns to Texas to become a high school chemistry teacher and baseball coach, only to be convinced by his players to give his baseball career one more chance.
Morris did, and rode his newfound 96 MPH fastball to the big leagues, pitching in four games in '99 and 16 games in 2000. Ironically, his final big league appearance came on May 8, 2000 against the first team to draft him. The 36-year-old entered with his visiting Devil Rays and the Yankees tied at three in the bottom of the ninth, inheriting a bases-loaded, one-out jam. Morris was unable to provide any relief as he walked Paul O'Neill on four pitches, giving the Yankees a 4-3 win.
(By the way, in the above video, check out the younger Larry Rothschild, who managed the then-Devil Rays from 1998 to 2001).
Overall, 12 of the 47 players the Yankees drafted in 1982 went on to play in the big leagues. Those 12 players produced a total WAR of 74.2, led by Surhoff's 34.3 WAR.