More than a star pitcher and accomplished coach, Mel Stottlemyre has a history that serves as a behind-the-scenes tour of five decades of baseball. From Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford to Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry to Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, Stottlemyre connected generations of stars during a remarkable career.
In his long-awaited autobiography, Stottlemyre tells his story in colorful detail, from his days as a rookie sensation on the last of the great Mantle teams to those as trusted pitching coach during the Joe Torre administration. Along the way he takes readers inside the clubhouses of champions—describing the defiance of the '86 Mets, from manager Davey Johnson on down, and recalling the true grit and selflessness that helped make Torre's Yankees a dynasty from 1996 to 2000.
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About the Author
After two years in retirement from his five decades of baseball, Mel Stottlemyre is returning to the game in 2008 as the pitching coach for the Seattle Mariners. He's a native of Washington and lives with his wife in the Seattle area.
John Harper is a sports columnist for the New York Daily News who has covered baseball in New York for more than twenty years. He has co-written four previous books, including A Tale of Two Cities, an account of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry during the 2004 season. Harper lives with his wife and two sons in New Jersey.
Read an Excerpt
Pride and PinstripesThe Yankees, Mets, and Surviving Life's Challenges
Chapter OneCheeseburgers with George
It was the World Series of a lifetime for millions of New Yorkers, but even more so for me. The Yankees and Mets: For all but a few of my forty years in professional baseball, theirs were the only two uniforms I wore. So many memories. So much emotion. If only I could have soaked it all in from my usual front-row seat next to Joe Torre in the dugout. But as the Series began on a chilly Saturday night in the Bronx, I had to rely on recall to experience the feel of Yankee Stadium in October, the buzz inside the big ballpark that is unlike anything else I've seen or felt in baseball.
Oh, I was there that night in the fall of 2000. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. But because it had been barely more than a month since my stem-cell transplant that enabled me to survive multiple myeloma, a rare bone marrow cancer, my doctor would only allow me to attend the game if I stayed in the relatively closed environment of the manager's office. As it was, I had to beg the doctor for that much, since it would be months before my immune system was again strong enough to be exposed to the everyday germs that I would encounter being around people.
So although this was my first time at the ballpark since entering the hospital in early September, I hadn't exactly made a grand entrance. I was driven right up to the press gate, helped down the stairs, and from there I made the walk around the winding corridor, finally entering Joe's office through the side entrance. I was wearing latex gloves to further protect me from exposure to germs, and feeling a bit out of place because of my condition. I wanted so badly to offer some pregame encouragement to our Game 1 starter, Andy Pettitte, one of my all-time favorite pitchers whom I've coached. But the doc wouldn't budge: no contact whatsoever with the players in the club-house. Actually, Andy and I were so close that it probably wouldn't have been a good idea to throw such an emotional curve into his preparation anyway. I was just hoping that knowing I was there would offer him a bit of inspiration.
In Joe's office, I settled in on the couch to watch the game on TV. From there I could feel the rumble from the roars in the stadium above, but as close as I was to the field, just a short walk up the tunnel from the dugout, I still felt strangely detached as the game began. At least I'd been allowed to see and talk with Joe before the game. He had been a lifesaver during my absence, speaking to me almost daily by phone to keep me up to date and ask for my opinion on pitching matters, and I'll always be grateful for that. But then, I wasn't surprised. Over our years together with the Yankees, Joe had become like a brother to me, one of the most loyal, trusting people I've ever known in or out of baseball. Just seeing him briefly had lifted my spirits, and now as the first pitch was thrown I sat alone, trying to concentrate on the TV, just in case I saw something that I might want to relay to either Andy or Joe. Other than an equipment man or club-house kid occasionally popping in to see if I needed anything, I assumed I'd be watching the game by myself.
Then, suddenly, none other than George Steinbrenner came striding into Joe's office, asking me how I felt, which was nice of him, and deciding that he wanted to watch the game with me, which wasn't really what I wanted to hear. George had been great to me during my illness, offering to help me in any way that he could. It is times like this, when any member of the Yankee family is ailing, that George can be the most kindhearted man in the world. He'll use his clout as the owner of the most famous franchise in sports to make sure the person gets whatever he or she needs. When I was in Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital for three weeks in September, my only complaint was that I couldn't see the Yankee games on TV because the Madison Square Garden network wasn't available in the hospital. I mentioned that to Joe Torre over the phone, and one day later, I had MSG on my TV in my room. I was told that Joe had called George, who promptly called Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and, like magic, my TV was the only one in the hospital that picked up the Yankee games. I'm sure it didn't hurt that the mayor was a huge Yankee fan, but I have a feeling that George would have convinced him to make it happen for me even if he were a Mets fan.
Of course, as everyone knows, George has a bully side to his personality as well, famous as he is for his impulsive fits of temper during his thirty-plus years as owner of the Yankees. Little did I know at the time that I would begin to see more of that side of him in the coming years, when we stopped winning championships and he began looking to place blame on one of his favorite targets over the years: the pitching coach. As it was, our relationship was cordial but George and I already had quite a history. I held a grudge against him for about twenty years after I was released from the Yankees as a player in late March of 1975, two years after George had bought the team. At the time I was stunned at first, then furious, because I'd been promised by then-GM Gabe Paul that I would have until at least May to take my time rehabbing a shoulder injury incurred the previous year.
Excerpted from Pride and Pinstripes by Mel Stottlemyre John Harper Copyright © 2007 by Mel Stottlemyre. Excerpted by permission.
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