Stottlemyre, Randolph share emotional day
Former Yankees both honored with plaques in Monument Park
NEW YORK -- The day had already been emotional enough for Willie Randolph, and then Mel Stottlemyre was introduced during Old-Timers' Day festivities on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
As advertised, Randolph, the former Yankees second baseman and coach, had already been given a plaque to be hung in Monument Park. But it came as a complete surprise that Stottlemyre, the former pitcher and pitching coach, was also being so honored.
If it's symmetry you desire, both wore the No. 30 during their different eras playing for the Yankees.
"Oh, that made the day extra special," Randolph said. "When the Yankees said they were going to honor Mel, it was like icing on the cake for me to be able to share this honor with him. I wore No. 30 because of Dave Cash, but I grew up as a Yankee fan and Mel was No. 30. So I thought that it was appropriate we do this together."
There also is the matter of Stottlemyre's illness. He was diagnosed in 1999 with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer of the blood that invades the bones. The mean average life expectancy for those who contract that disease is five years. Stottlemyre has been battling it for 16 years, but the disease has obviously taken its toll.
He was helped from the dugout to the field by one-time protégée Andy Pettitte and struggled with the aid of a cane to the podium as he made remarks to the crowd in the ballpark. Later he was assisted in climbing a short step to a table in the room where he answered a few questions from the media.
Stottlemyre had only been given clearance from his doctor to travel here from his home in Spokane, Wash., this past Wednesday. He said it was fortunate she said, 'Yes.'
"It saved me a fight because her and I were going to go a round in the office," Stottlemyre said.
Stottlemyre is 73, and at his age and despite his condition, nothing was going to stop him from coming, said his son, Mel Stottlemyre Jr., a bullpen coach for the D-backs who also took the weekend off to be here with his mom and dad.
The truth is, Stottlemyre had no idea what was in store for him. He just wanted to be at Yankee Stadium so he could be honored with all the other former Yankees, who were introduced one by one, leaving Stottlemyre behind on the dugout bench.
"I was sitting there by myself and I actually thought they forgot me," he said. "I had no clue. My family is very secretive. I can't believe that they were able to keep a secret like that from me."
Stottlemyre Jr. said one of the family members actually let the secret slip.
"But my father didn't catch on," he said.
No matter. Asked how he was feeling under the circumstances, Stottlemyre Sr. said: "Actually, I'm feeling very well right now. I'm on top of the clouds."
Randolph is a native New Yorker from the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, and he toured the old neighborhood this week for a television special. He played for the Yankees for 13 seasons, during their resurgence of 1976-81 when they won the World Series twice and won four American League pennants. A decade later, he was a team captain with the Yanks and finished his playing career for the Mets, whom he would eventually go on to manage.
He and Stottlemyre coached together on the Yankees from 1996-2004 when the club won the World Series four times in five years and won six AL pennants. Randolph was there when both Stottlemyre and manager Joe Torre were stricken with cancer in 1999.
Torre survived prostate cancer and is fine. Stottlemyre is hanging on.
"This is very emotional for me," Randolph said. "I've been reaching out to Mel the last two or three months off and on to just say, 'Hi, how're you doing?' And he's been struggling, obviously, so I didn't expect him to call me back. But he's always been in my heart. We go back to the Mets. My last year in the league , he was the pitching coach.
"So there's a lot of history with Mel. I grew up watching him play. He and Roy White, back in that time [1965-75], were the only reasons to watch the Yankees. They went through some tough years. I'm glad that Mel got the chance to experience the love from the fans and this honor today and not later."
The right-handed Stottlemyre came up to the Yankees in late 1964 and dazzled with a 9-3 record and a 2.08 ERA in 12 starts. He started three games in that World Series, winning Game 2, earning a no-decision in Game 5 and losing in the decisive Game 7 to the Cardinals. It was the last of five AL pennants in a row, and Stottlemyre would never again play in the postseason.
"This is such a shock to me because of the era I played in," Stottlemyre said. "It was an era that for some part over the years the Yankees had tried to forget a little bit. We went from being in the World Series in 1964 to sixth in 1965 and dead last in '66. So it's great for something like this to happen because it tells everybody that I really was here."
And now Stottlemyre and Randolph will forever be in Monument Park.
"It's like a dream come true," Randolph said. "I feel like I've been living a dream for four decades anyway being with the Yankees and other clubs. And then you get a plaque at Monument Park, really? You feel like you're still dreaming, but you just hope that the dream continues."