Classic Yankees: Ralph Terry

No one wants to be the goat, especially of a championship game. If so, you want the chance to redeem yourself.

Ralph Terry got that chance… with a bit of good fortune mixed in.

Terry came up with the Yanks, was sent to KC for “seasoning” (the criticism of the 1950’s being that KC was like a Yankees “farm team” but on the major league level) and then came back to star for the Yankees after getting his feet wet in KC.

At the age of 20, Terry pitched in three games for the 1956 Yankees, going 1-2, 9.45 in three starts with an ERA+ of 42.

He was 1-1, 3.05 in 1957 for the Yanks, ERA+ 120 in two starts and five relief appearances, when he was dealt to the Kansas City Athletics in the same deal in which the Yankees dumped Billy Martin after the Copacabana incident. Woody Held and Bob Martyn also went to KC. The Yanks got Ryne Duren, Harry Simpson and Jim Pisoni from KC.

For KC, Terry went 4-11, but had a good 3.38 ERA, ERA+ 117. For the season he deserved better than 5-12. His ERA was 3.33 and he had an ERA+ of 117. He started 21 games and relieved in 7 more.

He went 11-13, 4.24 in 1958, ERA+ 93, with 33 starts and 7 relief efforts.

He was 2-4, 5.24, ERA+ 77 in mid-1959 when KC dealt him back to the Yankees. He had started 7 games and relieved in two. Along with Terry, the Yanks also got Hector Lopez. Leaving the Bronx were 1956 WS star Johnny Kucks, as well as Tom Sturdivant and Jerry Lumpe.

For the rest of that 1959 season, Terry went 3-7, 3.39 for the Yankees. He had sixteen starts and eight relief appearances. His 1959 total record was 5-11, 3.89, ERA+ 96, with 23 starts and 10 relief appearances.

In 1960, Terry went 10-8, 3.40 with an ERA+ of 106. He started 23 games and relieved in 12 more.

Then came the World Series. Terry started Game Four, and pitched well, giving up three runs in the fifth after two were out. He went 6 1/3, giving up the 3 runs, but wound up taking the loss because the Yanks lost the Game 3-2. That loss evened up the series at two games apiece.

In Game Seven, down 9-7, Terry came in to get the last out in the bottom of the eighth, getting Don Hoak to fly to left. Terry had been up and down in the bullpen all game, which became a later criticism of Casey Stengel.

We all know what happened next. The Yanks rallied to tie the game at nine in the top of the ninth.

Terry remained on the mound for the bottom of the ninth. His first pitch was a ball. Bill Mazeroski hit Terry’s second pitch over the wall at Forbes Field to give the Pirates the championship, 10-9. The Yankees had won 10-0, 12-0 and 16-3, but it takes four games to win the World Series, and the Yankees never got win #4, losing all the close ones.

Mazeroski’s HR remains the only walk off HR to win Game 7 in WS history (Joe Carter’s walk off HR, which gave Toronto the 1993 WS, came in Game Six).

Terry was the goat. For the series, he was 0-2, 5.40.

Terry rebounded to go 16-3, 3.15 in 1961. He started 27 games, relieved in four more, and had an ERA+ of 118. He started Game 2 of the WS, and gave up 4 runs, 2 earned, in 7 innings. It was the only loss the Yanks had in the series (6-2). Terry gave up a 2-run HR to Gordy Coleman.

Despite the Yanks winning game 5, the final game of the Series with a 13-5 blowout, Terry took a ND, getting knocked out after just 2 1/3 innings in which he gave up three runs on a 3-run HR by Frank Robinson.

Terry then had the best season of his career in 1962. Back then, there was just one CYA, given to the best pitcher in all of MLB, not one for each league like we have today. Had it been like today, Terry may have won the AL CYA. Instead, the only award for that year went to the Dodgers’ Don Drysdale.

Terry went 23-12, 3.19, ERA+ 118. He led the AL in wins, GS (39, and he also relieved in four more games), IP (298 2/3) and batters faced, and led the majors in HR given up (40, and you thought Hughes coughed up a lot this year!). He was named to the All-Star team and finished 14th in the MVP balloting (won by Mantle, with Richardson as the runner-up. Rookie of the Year Tommy Tresh finished 12th).

Terry’s WS woes continued in Game 2. Despite pitching well, he lost again, 2-0 to the Giants Jack Sanford, Sanford’s CG 3-hit shutout besting Terry’s 2 runs in 7 IP effort. The second run Terry gave up was on a HR by (cue foreboding music here) Willie McCovey. That win evened the series at one apiece.

Terry came back to win Game Five of that Series 5-3 to put the Yanks up 3 games to 2. Game 5 was pushed back one day due to rain, and was played on 10/10/62. Terry went all the way, 9 IP, 3 R. He gave up a HR to Jose Pagan. Tresh’s 3-run HR in the bottom of the 8th was the difference, then came a travel day and rain, rain and more rain (as I’m sitting here currently awaiting Hurricane Sandy some 50 years after the rains interrupted the 1962 WS).  After the travel day and three days of rain, Game Six was finally played on 10/15/62, and Ford lost it.

That set up Game 7, Terry vs. Sanford at Candlestick Park for the title.

The Yanks scored a run in the fifth on a DP groundout, and heading into the bottom of the ninth, that was the only run scored in the ballgame. Meanwhile, Terry had a two-hit shutout going.

Matty Alou beat out a drag bunt to start off the inning. Terry rebounded by striking out both Matty’s brother Felipe and Chuck Hiller. Willie Mays doubled to right, but the wet grass and a great play by Roger Maris meant that the ball didn’t get to the fence. Maris was able to cut it off beforehand and Alou was held at third.

Up came… McCovey, who had homered off Terry in Game 2.

Over at third, Clete Boyer was sure McCovey, a lefty hitter, would be walked in order to set up a force at any base. Of course Terry, in facing Cepeda next, would have to throw strikes or face walking in the tying run. Boyer was also afraid of being the goat—of not being able to handle a hot smash that the righty hitting Cepeda might hit at him.

Out to the mound came the “Major,” Yankees manager Ralph Houk. To Boyer’s surprise, Houk didn’t order the intentional walk, but said “I don’t know what I’m doing out here. What do you want to do?” To Boyer’s further surprise, Terry said he’d pitch to McCovey with the tying run (Matty Alou) at third and the winning run (Willie Mays) at second.

Terry was facing being the goat again.

McCovey hit a long ball down the RF line… foul.

Terry then threw a pitch a bit inside. He wanted to jam McCovey, but “Stretch” bent his body backward and hit a line drive shot that looked like it would be a game –winning hit, especially with Mays, a great base runner, at second.

But fortune intervened for Terry. McCovey’s smash was hit right to Yankees’ second baseman Bobby Richardson, who snared it for the out. Terry was carried off the field as the WS MVP. A video of the winning Yankees entering their locker room shows Richardson holding up his glove, with the ball still in it. A popular “Peanuts” cartoon of the day has Charlie Brown lamenting “Why couldn’t McCovey have hit the ball three feet higher?” A few weeks later, Brown is still lamenting, wondering if it could have been a foot higher. The myth is one foot either way and the Giants win it. Actually it would have taken more than that since it was hit directly at Richardson. A lot depends on how quickly Bobby could have reacted.

McCovey always said that it was the hardest ball he ever hit. Meanwhile, the Yanks wouldn’t win another World Series for 15 years. It would take the city of San Francisco another 48 years to experience their first World Series championship.

After that 1962 Series, a few months later, Whitey Lockman couldn’t sleep. In the middle of the night, he called Elston Howard. Never mind the three hour time difference and the fact that it was the middle of the night (this from a recent story I read). Lockman, the Giants former third base coach (and the first baseman on the 1951 and 1954 NY Giants WS teams), was wondering if he should have sent Matty Alou on Mays’ double. Howard told Lockman to go back to sleep, claiming that Alou would have been out by 15 feet.

With a bit of luck, Terry was redeemed.

Although just 26, Terry didn’t have much left in him. Maybe it was the innings he put up in 1962 and 1963. In 1962 it was 298 2/3 innings. He went 17-15, 3.22, ERA+ 109 in 1963. He led the league in GS (37, with three more relief appearances) and CG (18). He threw 268 innings and led the AL in WHIP.

He didn’t start in the series. He did relieve Al Downing in Game 2, and gave up one run in three innings.

Things went downhill for Terry in 1964, at an age when he was just 28. Often you’ll hear people talk about how many innings a Koufax, Drysdale, Hunter, Stottlemyre, etc. put up. Consider this. Koufax’s elbow forced him to retire at the age of 30. Drysdale and Stottlemyre ran into torn rotator cuffs at the ages of 32, 33. Hunter was forced to retire at age 33.

After three years in which he went 56-30, ERA 3.19, ERA+ 115 (averaging 19-10, 252 IP per year), Terry dropped to 7-11, 4.54 in 1964. He had 14 starts, 13 relief appearances, and his rotation spot was basically the one usurped by Mel Stottlemyre. His ERA+ was just an 80. He got in one WS game, pitching two scoreless innings of relief in Game 4.

In WS play, Terry was just 2-4, but had a good ERA of 2.93 in six starts and three relief appearances.

In September of 1964, the Yanks sent $75,000 and a player to be named later to the Indians for reliever Pedro Ramos, who then helped them get into the WS. Ramos, however, was picked up too late to be eligible for the WS.

Shortly after the WS ended, it was announced that Terry was the PTBNL.

Terry had one more decent season in him, going 11-6, 3.69 for the 1965 Indians. He started 26 games and relieved in four more. His ERA+ was 95 and he led the majors in least walks/9.

Terry was traded at the beginning of the 1966 season to the KC A’s. He went 1-5, 3.80 in 10 starts and 5 relief appearances for them before being sold to the Mets in August. For the Mets, he went 0-1, 4.74 in one start and ten relief appearances. For the season, he was 1-6, 4.06 in 11 starts and 15 relief appearances, with an ERA+ of 86.

He got into two games, both in relief, for the 1967 Mets, pitching 3 1/3 scoreless innings.

He was just 31 when he pitched in his last major league game.

Terry was 107-99, 3.62 in his MLB career, with an ERA+ of 102, for a 162 g. average of (29 starts, 10 relief appearances) 12-11, 3.62, ERA+ 102.

As a hitter, Terry hit .160-1-26 in 593 at bats.

After baseball, Terry became a professional golfer. He is, as of this writing, now 76 years old.

He wore a few numbers throughout his career, but is most famous for wearing #23 while with the Yankees. The #23 was later retired for Don Mattingly.

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4 Responses to Classic Yankees: Ralph Terry

  1. Les says:

    Let me say that Ralph Terry was a very nice man. As an 11 year old in 1961, I approached him and asked for his autograph. He put his arm around my shoulder and walked 3 city blocks and talked to me about baseball. Something I will never forget. what a great guy, giving me a lifelong memory and a story I tell to most Yankee fans I get to know. I hope he is enjoying his retirement and is in god health.

    • Jack Stewart says:

      He is going to be 80 in Jan 2016. He plays golf every year at out United Way benefit tournament in San Angelo, Texas. And yes, he is a Very Nice Man… More than most know. He is still full of great baseball stories and is one heck of a golf teacher. I have been truly blessed to have met him and followed him watching him play golf…He still lives in Larned, Kansas…and plays golf… 🙂

  2. Joe White says:

    When Mr.Terry was playing for the Indians in 1965 we went to a game he pitched , a night game that he won. We were the last kids hanging around getting autographs. He ended up driving my brother , myself , and a couple other buddies to the Terminal Tower to get the rapid transit.

    When he dropped us off he asked if we were coming to the game the next day. He said he would have tickets waiting for us at Gate A. He said are all 4 for you going to make it? We said we would be there.

    We got there about 10:00 in the morning and waited for the tickets. The policeman at the gate figured he forgot about us because 10 minutes before the game no tickets.Just a few minutes before the game was to start the policeman comes out waving 4 tickets.

    As we are going to the seats we were getting closer to the field and end up with 4 seats right behind the Indians dugout.

    Mr. Terry comes out of the dugout to make sure we were there. He said" Sorry it took so long . I was swapping seats to get you 4 together.

    That was 48 years ago and I will never forget what a kind man he was.

  3. Duane Zandstra says:

    My older brother was in the six-month 1959 army reserves training program. There he met Ralph Terry. My brother took me to a White Sox-Yankee night game at Commisky Park later that summer. The place was packed. When we saw Ralph Terry warming up in the bullpen, we hurried from our seats near the infield to have an opportunity for me to meet him. As a thirteen-year-old, I was walking on air and living a dream when my brother called out, "Ralph" and he responded by saying, "Hi, Chuck." Mr. Terry autographed the ball he was warming up with. Living in a condo now, I still have that ball on display on our entertainment center.

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