There was nobody on a pitching mound in 1965 that could deny Mel Stottlemyre was not the ace of the New York Yankees. With Whitey Ford a year from retiring, Stottlemyre was the hot pitcher that would front the rotation for 11 years. On a very dreary June 20, 2015, Mel Stottlemyre brightened the skies for every single Yankee fan that day with a heartfelt adlibbed speech in front of 48,092 people who packed Yankee Stadium for Old Timers Day. That day, the man who wore the interlocking N-Y forever, earned his place in pinstripes forever. On January 13, 2019, a spirit went to heaven as the pitching coach of the Yankees during their best years passed at age 77.
Mel’s popularity transcended generations, all of whom thought of him as their own. His plaque in Monument Park will forever serve to celebrate the significance of his legacy. We extend our deepest condolences to Mel’s wife Jean & the entire Stottlemyre family. – Hal Steinbrenner pic.twitter.com/wc3X2jbiQ3
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) January 14, 2019
Melvin Leon Stottlemyre, Sr. was born on November 13, 1941 as the middle of five children born to Vernon Stottlemyre (1916-2011) and Lorene Ellen Stottlemyre (1920-1994) in Hazleton, Missouri, a small locale in the Ozark Mountains. The Stottlemyre family came out of Missouri for several generations, but in the 1950s, the family settled in Mabton, Washington, a small city of 900 between Yakima and Kennewick. There, he met Jean Mitchell, a native of Yakima. They married in November 1962.
Stottlemyre, who stood 6’ 1” and weighed 180 pounds was a pitcher who also played shortstop for Mabton High School. However, after accepting a scholarship to Yakima Valley Junior College (now just Yakima Valley College), he played in a summer league when his college baseball career and college studies fell off. The Milwaukee Braves scouted Stottlemyre at a workout in Yakima, but rejected him for his lack of velocity. Despite that, Yankees scout Eddie Taylor (1901-1992), saw the 19-year old Stottlemyre and signed a minors deal with the right-hander in 1961. There were no negotations and no bonus, but they made a deal anyway as Vernon and Lorene gave full support.
Stottlemyre rushed through the Yankee minors, including a dominating performance in the International League (AAA). They were impressed enough to call him up in the middle of a pennant race in 1964. On August 12, Stottlemyre pitched a complete game seven-hitter featuring his slider, which Chicago White Sox batters were mystified with all day. Stottlemyre, thrusted right into a pennant race, helped a shaky 1964 Yankees rotation led by Al Downing, Whitey Ford and Jim Bouton win the pennant. In the 1964 World Series, manager Yogi Berra put Stottlemyre in to face St. Louis Cardinals ace Bob Gibson for game two. Stottlemyre beat Gibson that day, allowing seven hits on the way to an 8-3 win for the Bombers.
Unfortunately, everything fell apart in game six. A poor through from Phil Linz caused Stottlemyre to hurt his shoulder fielding a play. This resulted in a lot of hits and affected his delivery in the 1964 World Series, giving up four runs. That would be the last taste of playoff baseball for Stottlemyre as a player. CBS bought the Yankees from Del Webb and Dan Topping in 1965. That followed with the Yankees suffered their first losing season since 1917. Despite that, Mel Stottlemyre made it clear he was the ace of the staff. He threw 18 complete games in 37 starts during 1965, making the All-Star Team. Stottlemyre finished with a 2.63 ERA in the 1965 season.
Something went afoul in 1966 as he started off well, but collapsed during the second half. This resulted in someone who lost 20 games a season after winning 20. However, Stottlemyre made adjustments under the coaching of Ralph Houk and Jim Turner and returned to being the ace of the staff. For the 11 years that Stottlemyre pitched, he was the ace, despite a torn rotator cuff in 1974. That torn rotator cuff ended his career at age 32, and the Yankees released him in 1975 after pain kept him from pitching. In pinstripes, Stottlemyre threw a 2.97 ERA with 40 shutouts and 152 complete games. The man was the ace.
Stottlemyre left the Bronx for his place in Washington and Jean. Their three kids, Mel Jr., Todd and Jason were at home. When the new Seattle Mariners offered a job as a roving pitching instructor, Mel Sr. became a coach. However, he abruptly resigned in 1981 when Jason Stottlemyre died at age 11 after facing leukemia since 1976. Despite that, the Yankees drafted Todd in 1983 and the Houston Astros took Mel Jr. in 1990. Mel Stottlemyre returned to the pitching coach ranks in 1984 as coach with the New York Mets. He helped lead Doc Gooden, Ron Darling, Bobby Ojeda and Sid Fernandez to the 1986 World Series championship.
After dismissal in 1993, the Astros took on Stottlemyre for the 1994 and 1995 seasons. In 1996, Joe Torre and George Steinbrenner offered him to become pitching coach of the New York Yankees. Stottlemyre moved to help Andy Pettitte, a young pitcher who the Yankees were very high on. From 1996 to 2000, Stottlemyre won four rings in the Bronx.
However, tragedy would strike Stottlemyre again in 1999. Doctors diagnosed him with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. In 2000, he got a stem cell transplant, at which point, he was ready to retire. Stottlemyre fought through the disease and stayed on until the end of the 2005 season. He did coach one more year with the Seattle Mariners in 2008, before retiring for good.
Mel and Jean returned to Issaquah, Washington and lived a life of retirement. In 2015, with the grace of his doctor, the Yankees brought Stottlemyre and the family to the Bronx on Old Timers Day. That day, they gave Willie Randolph a plaque in Monument Park. However, as Michael Kay announced the family, it became clear that the classy Yankees had something else in mind. With Jean and Mel Jr. at his side, he revealed the Monument Park plaque that bore his face and his name. After the gifts were presented, the former Yankee ace walked without his cane to the podium and gave a heartfelt speech to the crowd. He thanked the fans and the team for all their support and there was not a dry eye in the house.
Sunday night, we lost one of the greatest men to wear pinstripes. However, with the struggles he faced as a college student, player, father and human, we can all look up to Mel Stottlemyre when we talk about fighting through disease. Mel fought through immense pain and poor reactions to chemotherapy, but every chance he got to go fishing in Washington he did. The Yankees in heaven now have their pitching coach, and he fought a good battle to be remembered forever. Rest in peace Mel.
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR25 at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.