Saturday, November 12, 2016

Remembering Yankees of the Past: Bob Turley

Robert Lee Turley, also known as Bullet Bob Turley, was born on September 19, 1930 in Troy, Illinois where he spent his High School days attending East St. Louis Senior High School in East St. Louis, Illinois. Turley was used as both a starting pitcher and a relief pitcher there where he caught the attention of Bill DeWitt, the general manager for the St. Louis Browns. Turley attended a workout camp for the New York Yankees before signing with the Browns for a $600 signing bonus in 1948.

Turley pitched for the Browns until the 1955 season when he was traded to the New York Yankees. Turley started off his Yankees tenure with a 17 win season while recording 210 strikeouts and a league-leading 177 walks. Turley led the Yankees staff to a World Series in 1955 against the Brooklyn Dodgers but ultimately fell in seven games. The disappointment didn’t stop there for Turley though unfortunately as he finished his second season in the Bronx with an 8-4 record but with a 5.05 ERA. Despite Turley’s struggles the Yankees were once again back in the World Series and Turley was back to facing off against the Brooklyn Dodgers, this time as a relief pitcher. Turley started Game Six but lost 1-0 against Clem Labine in a pitcher’s duel that forced a second consecutive seven game series between the two clubs. This time the Yankees would get the best of Brooklyn winning the series in seven games. Turley had his first World Series ring.

For the 1957 season Turley developed a curve ball to add to his arsenal and saw immediate dividends with his new pitching throwing the fourth best ERA in the American League, 2.71, and leading the Yankees to their third consecutive World Series berth. Turley won his Game Six start to force a Game 7 but the Yankees would fall to the Milwaukee Braves in seven games, Turley’s second disappointment with the club in the World Series. Turley reinvented himself once again in 1958 as he eliminated his wind up and had his best season of his Yankees tenure. Turley went 21-7 that season including 19 complete games and finished with a 2.97 ERA. Turley still struggled with his command, 128 walks surrendered in 1958, and once again struggled in the World Series against a familiar foe in the Milwaukee Braves. Turley saved the Yankees from elimination with a complete game shutout in Game 5 before coming back in Game Six to get a save I the 10th inning forcing a Game 7. Turley relieved Don Larsen in Game 7 and won his second game in three days with 6.2 innings of relief as he led the New York Yankees to another World Series championship.

Turley won the World Series MVP Award in 1958 while also taking home the Cy Young Award and the Hickok Belt Award which rewarded and recognized the top professional athlete of the year. Turley finished second in the American League’s MVP Award vote losing to Jackie Jensen of the Boston Red Sox to finish out his season. After all the accolades that followed his 1958 season Turley was due for a raise before 1959 and quickly became the highest paid player in Major League Baseball history at the time when he agreed to a deal worth $35,000. Turley started on Opening Day and gave the Yankees a 3-2 victory over the Red Sox but the overuse and abuse on his arm was evident for the remainder of that season. Turley finished the season just 8-11 and the Yankees did not make the World Series for the first time in his tenure, although Turley did bounce back in 1960 recording a 9-3 record with a 3.27 ERA. Turley was back in the New York groove and back in the World Series in 1960 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Turley won Game Two of the series and started Game 7 before Bill Mazeroski hit the home run that walked off the final game of the series and gave the Pirates their World Series victory.

Turley’s ineffectiveness and heavy reliance on his curve ball was explained during the 1961 season when Turley battled through right elbow injuries for much of the season. Turley was reduced to just 15 starts and a 3-5 record and 5.75 ERA before being delegated to the bullpen by manager Ralph Houk. Turley was back in the World Series in 1961 and the Yankees were back to their winning ways defeating the Cincinnati Reds four games to one but Turley did not make an appearance. Turley had bone chips removed from his elbow before the 1962 season and saw a slight improvement in his performance. Turley negotiated with the Yankees to reduce his salary from $28,000 to $25,000 and only gave the Yankees 69 innings and a 4.57 ERA after his bone chip problem flared back up during the season.

The 1962 season would be Turley’s final season in pinstripes and it was one to be remembered for ole Bullet Bob. Turley was named the American League’s player representative for the union and Turley watched, watched being the key word as he did not pitch, as the New York Yankees defeated the San Francisco Giants for yet another World Series victory. Turley was sold to the Los Angeles Angels following the 1962 season with the condition that Los Angeles could return him if they were not satisfied with the deal. Turley lasted until July of 1963 before the Angels released him and allowed him to sign with the Boston Red Sox where he would finish his playing career.

Turley finished his career with a 101-85 record and a 3.64 ERA in his 12 seasons, most of which with the Yankees, including five World Series championships. After the 1963 season Turley agreed to remain with the Boston Red Sox as their pitching coach before ultimately ending his career in the International League with the Atlanta Braves. Turley moved to Alpharetta, Georgia for the final two years of his life before falling to liver cancer at age 82 in Lenbrook, a retirement community in Atlanta, Georgia. Turley was survived by his second wife, Janet, three children, seventeen grandchildren and a whole lot of Yankees fans. Rest in peace Bob as we remember you today.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)