We have nine hitters on the Yankees’ All-Supernova squad, and Jimmy Key was the surprising first pitching addition to the team. Now, we have to decide who will take the role of left-handed reliever.
Relievers are usually the most difficult position to predict when it comes to year-to-year performances. Virtually every team has had a few bullpen arms with outstanding results over a brief period, but weren’t able to sustain it long-term. There are many names to choose from in Yankee history, and I’m sure that each fan will have different preferences based on personal connections.
If your favorite reliever wasn’t picked, be sure to drop his name in the comment section and talk a little bit about what made him special in your eyes. To join Key on the left-handers’ side of our roster, I went way back into the mid-1940s to add Joe Page.
Career NYY stats: 57-49, 3.53 ERA, 790 IP, 76 Saves, 3x All-Star, 2x World Series champion
Aside from having one of the coolest profile pictures on Baseball Reference, if you look up Page’s career numbers, what made him special may elude you. The southpaw reliever only had 7.6 career bWAR, and an unimpressive 1.45 WHIP, but as we’ve learned in this series, there’s the more context to a player than his final stat line.
Page was born on October 28, 1917, in Cherry Valley, Pennsylvania. He worked with his father in coal mining as a breaker boy as a teenager. Page managed to make the most out of his left arm and become a successful big leaguer, but before that, he almost lost his leg in a terrible car accident.
Page didn’t draw a lot of attention from scouts, because that accident basically sidelined him from sports between the ages of 18 and 20. However, all that manual labor he did from a young age helped him build up a few pounds of muscle and start throwing harder.
While playing semi-pro ball, the future Yankees closer was passed up by many teams, including his hometown Pirates, until Bill Haddock advised that the Yanks took a better look at him. That ultimately led to Page signing with New York in 1940.
Page bounced around through the Yankees’ minor league system until finding some success with the Newark Bears in 1942. However, his major league debut wouldn’t come before more adversity hit his life. Over two years, Page lost his mother, oldest sister, and father. Page also was passed over by the military because he still suffered scars from that car accident that injured his leg.
Page was a starter over his first couple of seasons, and despite some success that included an All-Star appearance in 1944, it didn’t come without plenty of turbulence. Page struggled with control and also routinely fought with manager Joe McCarthy over his extracurricular activities.
Despite plenty of skepticism, Page would go on to find tremendous success in 1947, finishing more games and pitching exclusively out of the bullpen. That year, he went 14-8 with a 2.48 ERA, good for a 142 ERA+. He saved 17 games over 141.1 innings, and even earned a fourth-place MVP finish.
To understand Page’s impact that year, and even more so, the perception of said impact, he received more first place MVP votes than Ted Williams, and only one fewer than MVP winner Joe DiMaggio. “Fireman” Page, as he became commonly known, was one of the first dominant Yankees relievers, and he helped the ballclub win championships in 1947 and 1949, both against the then Brooklyn Dodgers.
Page wasn’t destined for a long career with the way he carried himself, but he managed to reach the mountain top and at one point become the highest-paid reliever in baseball. Although his peak was short-lived, there was nothing common about Joe Page.