On Monday, we got the sad news that Mel Stottlemyre passed away at the age of 77.
He’s received plenty of recognition since the news came out, and some in general over the years. (The Yankees gave Stottlemyre a Monument Park plaque in 2015.) However, he doesn’t quite get the recognition as some others with similar careers. For example, Stottlemyre has a career ERA+ of 112 in 2661.1 career innings. As a Yankee, Andy Pettitte put up a 115 ERA+ in 2796.1.
A lot of that probably has to do with the era he played in. For a team that sells its history and championships as much as the Yankees do, someone like Stottlemyre is going to get lost. Unfortunately after his rookie year, the rest of his career came during one of the longest playoff-less streaks in Yankees’ history, even though it was hardly the five-time All-Stars’ fault.
As you can imagine for someone of his résumé, Stottlemyre threw a lot of great games over the years. Here are five of the best.
After dropping both games of a doubleheader, the Yankees fell 3.5 games back of first place Baltimore in the AL on August 11, 1964. Even worse, those two games came against the White Sox, who they were now 2.5 games behind for second place. Those were the circumstances in which Stottlemyre made his major league debut.
He was given the ball in the extremely crucial game on August 12th, and he more than held his own. In his first major league game, Stottlemyre threw a complete game against the White Sox, picking up the win. He allowed three runs—two earned—on seven hits and a walk.
Four days later, he gave up just one run in 8.2 innings against the Orioles. In his first ever games in the bigs against the two other main AL contenders, Stottlemyre allowed four runs in 17.2 innings. Pretty good way to acquaint yourself. The Yankees came back to win the AL pennant, and he was a major reason.
The lone playoff appearance of Stottlemyre’s career came in that rookie 1964 season.
After a very good couple months, he got MVP votes despite not making his debut until that August game against Chicago. As for the World Series, he was thrown right into the fire and given the start in Game Two. His opposition that day? Oh, only just Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.
Stottlemyre more than held his own, allowing just two runs on five hits and two walks in the first eight innings. Meanwhile, the Yankees tagged Gibson for four runs, and opened up the game against the Cardinals’ bullpen in the top of the ninth. The Cardinals picked up a run in the ninth, but Stottlemyre’s complete game allowed the Yankees to win 8-3 and even the series at one.
The Cardinals got the last laugh, winning the series and handing Stottlemyre the loss in Game Seven. However, the rookie allowed just seven earned runs in 20 innings in the series. Sadly, he would not get a chance to avenge that loss or win a World Series as a player.
While it wasn’t as good as his MVP-winning season the year before, Denny McLain was still incredibly dominant in 1969. He would go on to win the AL Cy Young for the second straight year, tying with Mike Cuellar. In one game early on in that season, Stottlemyre one upped him.
The Yankee starter retired the first 14 batters he faced in Detroit that day, getting his perfect game broken up by a Jim Northrup double in the fifth. The only two runners to get on base for the Tigers after that came on errors. The Yankees cruised to a 4-0 win.
This game tied for Stottlemyre’s career-high game score at 88. The other time he did that was against the Angels three years prior. If you’re wondering how good an 88 game score is, Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game was 94. An 88 is very, very good.
According to Baseball Reference WAR, Stottlemyre had the fourth best season of any AL pitcher in 1969. However, just like the rest of his career, he did not receive any Cy Young votes that season.
For some reason, a Yankees’ west coast road trip included a pit stop in Minnesota in 1972. In between series at the Athletics and the Angels, the Yankees had to go play three games against the Twins. For a team that was tangentially still in the AL East race, that was probably annoying.
The trip started well, as the Yankees took two of three at the eventual World Series winning A’s. However, they then dropped the first game in Minneapolis. For the second game, they handed the ball to Stottlemyre. What followed was his longest ever scoreless outing.
With Bert Blyleven on the mound for the Twins, the two starters traded scoreless innings back and forth for ten innings. While both allowed over ten runners a piece, neither team could cash in and score. Stottlemyre himself nearly got it done when he led off the tenth with a double, but no one could bring him all the way around.
Blyleven was replaced in the 11th, and the Yankees took advantage when Bernie Allen homered off reliever Wayne Granger. In the bottom of the inning, Stottlemyre came back out, but was replaced after allowing a single. Sparky Lyle came in and finished things off. The Yankees won 1-0 in 11 innings, with Stottlemyre throwing 10 scoreless innings and getting the win.
There are plenty of other games that could have gone on this list. As someone who was born basically 17 years after Stottlemyre’s last game, there are probably plenty of others I don’t realize the significance of just looking at box scores. Feel free to tell us about your favorite Mel Stottlemyre game!