Mel Stottlemyre, whose work as both a Major League pitcher and pitching coach made him one of the most respected men in the game, died Sunday in Seattle after a lengthy battle with bone marrow cancer. He was 77.Stottlemyre was a five-time All-Star, winning 20 games on three separate occasions
Mel Stottlemyre, whose work as both a Major League pitcher and pitching coach made him one of the most respected men in the game, died Sunday in Seattle after a lengthy battle with bone marrow cancer. He was 77.
Stottlemyre was a five-time All-Star, winning 20 games on three separate occasions during an 11-year career. Stottlemyre pitched his entire career (1964-74) with the Yankees, appearing in only one World Series -- the seven-game 1964 Fall Classic won by the Cardinals, only two months after making his big league debut.
But Stottlemyre would collect his share of championship rings in his second career, becoming one of the most respected and successful pitching coaches of his era.
He served in that capacity for the Mets from 1984-93, guiding a staff led by Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez that helped win the 1986 World Series. Stottlemyre served as the Astros' pitching coach in 1994-95 before joining Joe Torre in the Bronx in 1996, starting a decade-long run that saw the Yankees win four World Series titles and six American League pennants.
Stottlemyre left the Yankees after the 2005 season, though he would serve one last term as a big league pitching coach, working for the Mariners in 2008.
Stottlemyre is survived by his wife, Jean, and two sons, Todd and Mel Jr., who both pitched in the Major Leagues. A third son, Jason, died of leukemia in 1981 at age 11.
"Beyond his tremendous accomplishments as a player and coach, Mel Stottlemyre was beloved for his class, dignity and fighting spirit," Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. "His contributions to different eras in our history guided us through difficult times and brought us some of our greatest all-time success. As a result, 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.
"His passing is a tremendous loss to the Yankees and all those in the baseball community, and we extend our deepest condolences to Mel's wife, Jean, and the entire Stottlemyre family."
"We owe Mel so much gratitude for what he contributed to this organization," the Mets said in a statement. "The success we enjoyed in the '80s, including the world championship in 1986, was a direct result of his working closely with our young pitching staff. He was a true gentleman. Our condolences go out to his wife, Jean and two sons, Todd and Mel, Jr."
Gooden and Darling, both of whom worked with Stottlemyre as rookies, said they were touched by Stottlemyre as a coach and as a person.
"Mel was more than a pitching coach to me. He was a dear friend," said Gooden, National League Rookie of the Year in 1984 and Cy Young Award winner in '85. "Everything I accomplished in the game was because of him. He taught me so much more than balls and strikes. I'll miss him dearly."
"One of the classiest men I have ever known on or off the field. A wonderful pitching coach and father figure to the young pitchers on our Mets teams in the 1980s," Darling said. "Devotion to his wife Jean, his sons and his pitchers will never be forgotten by New York or those he mentored. Today is the saddest day."
Stottlemyre also helped shape the careers of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, who worked with him for most of their first decades with the Yankees. Stottlemyre and bench coach Don Zimmer were Torre's two most trusted advisors during the late-1990s championship run. They were never far from the manager's side.
"I am sorry to hear of Mel's passing," Torre said in a statement. "Mel was a role model to us all and the toughest man I have ever met. Sometimes a manager hires a friend to be their coach, but with Mel, as with Zim, he was my coach who became a dear friend and someone who became very special to me. I send my deepest sympathies to his wife Jean, boys Mel Jr. and Todd as well as the entire Stottlemyre family."
In 2000, Stottlemyre was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, undergoing a stem-cell transplant and four months of chemotherapy. He went into remission, but the cancer reappeared in 2011.
"He was such a wonderful man," said retired reliever Mike Stanton, who worked under the guidance of Stottlemyre with the Yankees from 1997-2002 and again in 2005. "He and his family had gone through so much with his physical issues. When I think about the time I had with Mel, there's nothing but pleasant thoughts. He had a great sense of humor. Even when he wasn't feeling well, he always had a positive word. He was always very upbeat and looking to help. He's going to be sorely missed. This one hurts."
In 2015, the Yankees surprised Stottlemyre by honoring him with a plaque on Old-Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium.
"This is, without a doubt, the biggest surprise I've ever had," Stottlemyre said that day. "Today, in this stadium, there is no one that's happier to be here on this field than myself.
"If I never get to come to another Old-Timers' Game, I will take these memories that I have today, and I will start another baseball club, coaching up there whenever they need me."
Mariners president and CEO Kevin Mather said in a statement: "Mel was an outstanding pitcher, earning his place among the best Yankees pitchers ever, and won five World Titles as a pitching coach, as well as the thanks and respect of a legion of pitchers he coached from youth baseball to the Majors. But more than that, he was truly one of the great gentlemen of our game. I was honored to get to know him when he was our pitching coach, and was always pleased to see him in Seattle or in the ballpark when his son, Mel Jr., coached for us. Our thoughts are with his wife Jean, sons Mel Jr. and Todd, and his grandchildren."
While Stottlemyre's coaching career brought him the greatest team success, his work on the mound should not be forgotten.
Signed by the Yankees in 1961, Stottlemyre made his big league debut in 1964 and proved to be a savior, going 9-3 with a 2.06 ERA to help the Yankees win a fifth consecutive American League pennant. He opposed Bob Gibson of the Cardinals three times in that World Series, winning Game 2 and losing in the decisive Game 7.
That would prove to be the Yankees' last pennant until 1976, two seasons after a torn rotator cuff had forced the right-hander to retire.
Stottlemyre won 20 games in 1965, making his first AL All-Star team despite the Yankees' rapid descent toward the bottom of the standings. He lost 20 games in 1966 as the Yankees finished in last place, then won 21 in 1968 and 20 more in 1969. He finished with a career record of 164-139 and a 2.97 ERA in 360 games, starting all but four of those appearances.
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.