Obituary: Mel Stottlemyre (1941-2019)

RIP to Mel Stottlemyre, a 5-time All-Star pitcher who went on to become one of the most celebrated pitching coaches in modern times. He died on January 13 in a Seattle hospital from complications of bone marrow cancer. He was 77 years old. He had originally been diagnosed with the disease in 2000, and the cancer returned from remission in 2011. Stottlemyre pitched for the New York Yankees from 1964-1974, and he served as a pitching coach for the New York Mets (1984-93), Houston Astros (1994-95), New York Yankees (1996-2005) and Seattle Mariners (2008). He is the father of former MLB pitchers Todd and Mel Jr.

Stottlemyre got off to a fast start in the major leagues. In his rookie year of 1964, he held the White Sox to 7 hits and 2 earner runs in his MLB debut on August 12. He had a 9-3 record and 2.06 ERA for the Yankees, with 5 complete games and 2 shutouts in 12 starts. He made his first of 5 All-Star teams in 1965 and won 20 games for the 6th-place Yankees. He would win 20+ games three times in his career. He would also lead the AL in losses twice, but that was more of a testament to the quality of those Yankees teams than it was his pitching abilities. The only time he saw the postseason was in his rookie year of 1964, when he went 1-1 in 3 starts against the eventual World Champs St. Louis Cardinals.

The 32-year-old pitcher had to retire in 1974 from a torn rotator cuff. In his 11-year career, he had a 164-139 record with a 2.97 ERA. He struck out 1,257 batters and completed 152 of his 356 career starts. He led the AL in complete games twice, including 24 CGs in 1969.

As a pitching coach, Stottlemyre worked with some of the best pitchers of the era. His teams won five World Series titles — the Mets in 1986 and the Yankees in 1996 and 1998-2000. Many of those pitchers, as well as other teammates and friends, took to Twitter or issued statements to express their appreciation for his work.

He was more than a great pitcher and fantastic pitching coach. He was a father figure and touched so many in a positive way. We lost a great man. RIP Mel Stottlemyre— David Cone (@dcone36) January 14, 2019

Mel was more than a pitching coach to me. He was a father figure to me especially when my dad got sick, he played a major role in all my accomplishments and we certainly accomplished a lot together I’ll miss him dearly. 🙏— Dwight Gooden (@DocGooden16) January 15, 2019

Mel Stottlemyre was class personified. What a battle he waged with multiple myeloma. 20 years ago he was given about 5 years. He never stopped fighting. RIP.— Michael Kay (@RealMichaelKay) January 14, 2019

Mel Stottlemyre was rich in the trait that separates great baseball coaches: Relentless empathy. I remember the day he told reporters, in his stoic manner, about his cancer diagnosis — back in 2001. His handling years and years of illness was remarkable.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 14, 2019

“Beyond his tremendous accomplishments as a player and coach, Mel Stottlemyre was beloved for his class, dignity and fighting spirit. 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.”

New York YAnkees Managing Partner Hal Steinbrenner

Stottlemyre was honored by the Yankees at a 2015 Old-Timers Day with a plaque. The surprised coach thanked the fans and the Yankees for the honor.

“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.”

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