Sunday, April 2, 2017

Opening Day, 1965: 3rd Reunion of Old Brownies Turley, Larsen is Scrubbed by Astros as 'Bullet Bob' is Cut

Meet me in Houston?

Don Larsen and Bob Turley were stalwart right-handers for the Browns who both made the trip to Baltimore in 1954.  They were traded together in 1955 to the New York Yankees, in what is still the biggest trade in baseball history, involving 17 players.

Although serviceable for the Browns and Orioles, they always had losing records. It is with the Yankees that both flourished: Don, in 1956 pitching a perfect game in the World Series and Bob, in 1958 winning the Cy Young Award and finishing second in the MVP voting.  Don left the Yankees after the 1959 season, and Bob after the 1962 season.

Don was being used sparingly by the National League champion San Francisco Giants in 1964, so was given a new lease on life by being purchased by Houston Colt 45's general manager Paul Richards in late May. Richards had been Don's general manager in the days of pre-Yankee fame in Baltimore, and had engineered that 17 player deal.  And Richards intended to give Bob a similar opportunity, and invited him to camp in Cocoa, FL.

Turley had retired after the 1963 season, to do a season of coaching for the Red Sox, had come to feel that was a mistake.  Still 34 years-old, Turley regretted: “I should not have quit because I could still throw good.”  Richards gave him that chance in spring training 1965.  Richards and Astro pitching coach (and former Cardinal) Howie Pollet believed that the key for Turley in camp was to speed up his pitching motion above the waist.  "Bob may turn out to be a pleasant surprise," commented Richards to the Sporting News on March 6, 1965.

But despite having pitched his first-ever no-walk complete game with the Los Angeles Angels in 1963, the wildness that had plagued Bob at other points in his career returned in exhibition bouts against the Twins and Mets.  The reunion with Don Larsen was not to be: Bob was cut on opening day.

Meanwhile, Don, who had rewarded Richards' faith in him with a dandy 1964 (4-6, 2.33 ERA for a team that finished in ninth place), relapsed in 1965 as a newly rechristened 'Astro' and was soon traded back to Baltimore.

The GM making the deal to reacquire Don for the Orioles?   Lee McPhail, who had been director of player personnel when Don was a  Yankee!

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