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One career Yankees start, one complete game: Dick Starr’s Bronx tenure

One rookie pitcher in 1947 had quite the day for his first and only Yankee start

St. Louis Browns Team Portrait Photo by FPG/Getty Images

If you threw a complete game in your first major league start, you would expect that team to give you another go, maybe even in a couple days.

That did not happen for Dick Starr. He got just one career start as a Yankee, but he at least made the most of it.

The Pennsylvania-born Starr was signed by the Yankees before the 1941 season when he was 19 or 20 years old. He spent two seasons in the minors before enlisting in the military and serving in World War II. When the pitcher returned from service in 1946, he put up impressive numbers in the South Atlantic League and found himself in the upper levels of the Yankees’ system in the following year. Another solid season soon saw him get the call to the majors.

Starr made his MLB debut on September 5, 1947, coming out of the bullpen. He would come in as a reliever for all of his first three appearances, allowing one run in 3.1 innings. By September 16th, the Yankees had already wrapped up the AL pennant. Playing a doubleheader against the St. Louis Browns that day and likely looking to go easy on their important pitchers with the World Series ahead, they decided to give the ball to the rookie in the day’s opener.

In the first inning, Starr worked into and out of a bases-loaded jam, but then did allow a run in the second inning. After that, he settled into a bit of a groove where he would put a Browns’ runner on base but then mange to work around them and keep St. Louis off the board. As that was happened, the Yankees’ offense got going. They scored seven runs across the third, fourth, and fifth innings, giving Starr a lead to work with.

As that happened, Starr mostly kept moving along. In the eighth, Wally Judnich led off for the Browns with a home run. However, that only cut the Yankees’ lead to 7-2, so Starr was allowed to keep going. He allowed one more run with two outs in the ninth, but finished the game off after that. In his first ever major league start, Starr threw a complete game, allowing three runs in an 8-3 Yankees win. It admittedly wasn’t exactly the most efficient complete game as he allowed eight hits and seven walks, but he finished it off nonetheless.

There were still a handful of games left in the season, but the Yankees didn’t use Starr again, in either the regular season or the playoffs. He was given a $750 share of the World Series winnings after the Yankees beat the Dodgers.

Despite his efforts near the end of the ‘47 regular season, Starr was put back in the minors again to start ‘48. He didn’t light the world on fire that season, and only returned to the majors for a one-game September cameo out of the bullpen.

After the 1948 season, Starr was included in a trade that sent him to the team he threw his first start against: the Browns. However, it was far from some sort of blockbuster. The two players the Yankees acquired in the deal were Fred Sanford and Roy Partee. Sanford would be a perfectly fine swingman for the Yankees over the next couple seasons, however Partee would never play an MLB game for the team.

Starr’s lone Yankees start thankfully wouldn’t also be his lone MLB start. He made fairly regular appearances for the Browns, including 33 starts from 1949-51. However, he wasn’t particularly great other than an above average year in ‘49. He was later traded to the Washington Senators during the ‘51 season, and threw 61.1 innings for them that year which would be his final one in the majors. He continued playing in the minors through 1956, but never made it back to the bigs.

Dick Starr is not the only Yankee whose entire Yankee starting pitching career consists of one complete game and nothing else, but he’s the most recent. In current era baseball, you’re unlikely to let a rookie pitcher go all nine innings, especially when they weren’t even that sharp to begin with. However by chance if anyone else ever does, it seems extremely likely that they’d get at least one more start as a Yankee.

Sources

https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/dick-starr/

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/starrdi01.shtml

https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA194709161.shtml