• Remembering Eddie Lee Whitson

    Posted by on April 30th, 2010 · Comments (5)

    Ian O’Connor catches up with Ed Whitson

    Ed Whitson will talk about the booing, the hate mail, the death threats, and what Javier Vazquez needs to do at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon, but first he would like to share a piece of trivia about his turbulent stay in New York.

    Every time an athlete struggles to cope with the brightest lights of the biggest city, Whitson’s name is summoned by default.

    Drop a critical World Series ball, and you’re Bill Buckner. Miss a critical Super Bowl kick, and you’re Scott Norwood. Blow a 3-foot putt on a Masters Sunday, and you’re Greg Norman.

    Let the jeering Yankee Stadium masses rattle you out of your pinstripes, and you’re Eddie Lee Whitson.

    “It’s like working in an office and your boss comes in and says, ‘You suck,’ after you’ve tried your best,” Whitson said. “Now multiply that by 50,000 bosses, all of them telling you that you suck, and imagine what that feels like.

    “You feel like everybody’s against you, and sometimes you just want to quit. But you can’t ever quit.”

    “I was in awe of being in Yankee Stadium and the big city,” Whitson said. “Some people can handle it, and some people can’t. … You dream about pitching in Yankee Stadium as a kid, but it can be pretty overwhelming for a guy coming out of a small hometown and smaller media markets. I was so excited, I tried to overthrow everything.”

    Finally, with his world collapsing around him, with the June 11, 1985, crowd booing him on introduction, Whitson decided enough was enough.

    “I wasn’t going to put myself under that pressure anymore,” he recalled. “I said to myself, ‘The hell with it. I’m just going to throw it, and wherever it goes it goes.'”

    Steinbrenner traded Whitson and his 5-2 record back to the Padres in July, traded the pitcher back to a quieter, saner culture and his favorite fishing spot on Lake Poway.

    “George is a great human being,” Whitson said. “He never once said a bad word about me, and he honored every single thing he told me he’d do.”

    There’s no sabermetric measure to capture what goes on in a guy’s head. It’s not listed on his Strat-O-Matic card. And, the mental/emotional side of baseball is huge.

    Life is easy when you’re living a dream. It’s not easy, at all, when you’re caught in a nightmare.

    Comments on Remembering Eddie Lee Whitson

    1. Evan3457
      April 30th, 2010 | 9:41 am

      Some interesting things to note about 1985 Ed Whitson.

      He was never moved to the pen.
      He was never sent to the minors.
      He was never designated for assignment.
      He didn’t get traded.
      They did pull him from the rotation for a start here or there, but he wound up with 30 games, 30 starts.
      The manager who left Whitson in the rotation all season was everyone’s favorite genius, Billy Martin, who took over for Yogi Berra very early in the year.

      And, in his last start of the season in Toronto, with the Yankees facing elimination, he didn’t pitch great, but he lasted until 2 outs in the 5th inning, and a strong Blue Jays team didn’t score on him. The Yanks went on to win the game, 4-3, but they were eliminated the next day. (Phil Niekro won his 300th game in the series finale, and the Yanks wound up 2 games out.)

    2. April 30th, 2010 | 12:13 pm

      Thanks for posting that. Ian O’Connor did a terrific job with that piece. Very well done.

    3. Tresh Fan
      April 30th, 2010 | 12:17 pm

      During his time with the Giants in SFCA he was known as “Easy Ed” Whitson.

    4. redbug
      April 30th, 2010 | 5:34 pm

      George may have been good to Whitson but he certainly wasn’t to others. But he wasn’t nice to a whole lot of others.

      Curtesy of the NY Times:

      “The secretary George fired for bringing him the wrong sandwich.

      The secretary George humiliated in front of a group of reporters because she brought him the wrong tax form.

      Jim Beattie, who he said looked “scared stiff” pitching in Boston and had demoted in the middle of the game.

      Mike Griffin, a pitcher of whom he said, “Mike Griffin has fooled us long enough.”

      Tucker Ashford, a third baseman of whom he said, “We’ve seen enough of Tucker Ashford.”

      Dennis Rasmussen, a pitcher, who after giving up home runs in a windblown spring training ball park, prompted Steinbrenner to say, “Columbus, here I come” but who stayed around and was the team’s only double-digit winner with 18 victories.

      Ken Clay, a pitcher who “spit the bit.”

      Dave Winfield, whom he disparagingly labeled “Mr. May” but worse, never understood what a terrific player he was and constantly harangued him.

      Bobby Meacham, whom he ordered sent to the minors after the young shortstop made an error in the fourth game of the season.

      All of Steinbrenner’s public relations men, whom he ordered to stay in their hotel rooms on road trips instead of going out to dinner, in case he wanted to call them.

      Mike Ferraro, whom he fired as third-base coach after Willie Randolph was out at the plate in the 1980 playoffs.

      Art Fowler, Billy Martin’s confidant and pitching coach, whom Steinbrenner fired as a way to get at Martin.

      Yogi Berra, though only if the party isn’t held at Yankee Stadium, because after Steinbrenner fired him 10 years ago, he said he would never return to the stadium as long as Steinbrenner owned the team.

      Ralph Houk, the smartest manager Steinbrenner ever had because he quit after George’s first year as owner.

      Lee MacPhail, who was just as smart as Houk, leaving at the same time, but then having to endure Steinbrenner’s harangues as American League president, such as his thinly veiled threat after the George Brett pine-tar incident, “If I were Lee MacPhail, I’d go house-hunting in Kansas City.”

      Gabe Paul, who replaced MacPhail as general manager and had to hear Steinbrenner belittle him by saying, “What did he ever win before he worked for me?”

      Al Rosen, who as club president was harassed by the owner, via relentless telephone calls, into abandoning his attempt at a winter vacation in the Caribbean.

      Murray Cook, the general manager whom Steinbrenner wouldn’t allow to go to spring training as punishment for losing Tim Belcher in the free-agent compensation pool, even though the rules left him no other choice.

      Woody Woodward, another general manager, who when he was on his way to the airport courageously ignored the owner’s orders to return to Yankee Stadium and kept his plans to take his daughter to Florida State University for freshman orientation.

      Bowie Kuhn, who enjoyed taking Steinbrenner’s money, especially when the commissioner exceeded the limit for club fines, knowing Steinbrenner wouldn’t fight the action because the alternative was suspension.

      Fay Vincent, who maybe could learn — finally — why Steinbrenner opted for a longer suspension than the two-year suspension the commissioner originally wanted to impose.

      Ronald Reagan, who late in his last term as President pardoned Steinbrenner from his conviction for making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon.

      Howard Spira, who even though he might have deserved comeuppance for his bad behavior was a victim of a prosecution New York law-enforcement authorities wanted nothing to do with but which Steinbrenner’s Florida law-enforcement friends quickly and aggressively undertook.

      The 1981 team, the last to play post-season games, as a reminder of what the Yankees were like when Steinbrenner operated the club intelligently.

      Ed Whitson, Dave LaPoint, Andy Hawkins, Mike Witt, Pascual Perez, Dave Collins (for whom the Yankees had no position) and Roy Smalley (whose 1982 acquisition for Ron Davis when the Yankees already had a sound shortstop might have marked the beginning of the end), as examples of the post-1981 Steinbrenner collection of players that has led to the longest pennant drought since the Yankees started winning pennants in 1921.

      John McMullen, who in 1979 said it succinctly and better than anyone ever has: “There’s nothing more limited than a limited partner in the Yankees.””

    5. Raf
      April 30th, 2010 | 11:37 pm

      Whitson was a career mediocrity that lucked into a career year when he hit free agency. That he struggled in NY was more that he was mediocre than him not being able to handle NY. After all he struggled in his other stops in the majors, before and after his time in NY.

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