Last week I wrote about the longest games played at Fenway Park and that brought me back in touch with an old Fenway friend, Bob “Steamer” Stanley, who is a very rare breed. He pitched 13 seasons in the big leagues and all of them with the Boston Red Sox. He pitched in 637 games, started 85 of them, won 115 and threw 21 complete games. He finished a game 376 times, saved 132 of them and fired seven career shutouts. He was a starter, a closer and a long man who on two occasions threw more than nine innings in relief.
Stanley twice finished in the top 10 in Cy Young Award voting and in 1983 he finished 15th in voting for the American League MVP.
He was as versatile a pitcher who ever wore a Red Sox uniform, making the squad as a 22-year-old in 1977, he appeared in 41 games, starting 13, finishing 13, hurling three complete games (including a shutout) and he notched three saves. He finished the year 8-7 with a 3.99 ERA and was a key component to a Red Sox pitching staff that won 97 games.
The 1978 season saw Stanley’s versatility stretched in the bullpen as the Red Sox had five different pitchers record saves, Stanley led the pack with 10 of them. He also started three games. He finished the season 15-2 for a winning percentage of .882, still a Red Sox record, all the while leading the team in saves and with a 2.60 ERA. On a staff that included Dennis Eckersley and Luis Tiant the argument could be made that Stanley was the Red Sox most valuable pitcher. More on ’78’ later.
“The Steamer” in 1978.
The following two seasons saw Stanley bouncing back and forth between the starting rotation and the bull pen. In 1979 he became the third man in the Red Sox starting rotation. He won 16 games, led the team in shutouts, pitched 216+ innings and made his first all-star team. But in 1980 he was primarily back in the pen. Manager Don Zimmer did start him 17 times and he even threw a shutout, however 35 of his 52 appearances came from out of the bullpen where he recorded 14 saves.
In 1981 Ralph Houk replaced Don Zimmer as the Red Sox manager and Stanley’s new boss had ‘The Steamer” working strictly out of the bullpen.
Houk, “the Major”, piloted the Sox from 1981 through 1984.
Under Houk, Stanley made the transition to exclusively coming out of the bullpen. He was the closer in 1982, ’83’ and ’84’, recording 33 saves in 1983. He won eight games had a 2.85 ERA and made his second all start team.
Stanley had 132 saves in 13 years with the Red Sox, five as their closer.
He remained the closer through the memorable 1986 season and in ’87’ went back to the starting rotation. it did not prove successful as he went 4-15. Returning to the bullpen he finished his career with respectable seasons in both 1988 and 89.
Bob Stanley’s last year as the Red Sox closer was 1986.
In 2000 Bob “The Steamer” Stanley took his rightful place in the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame. He was not the best pitcher to ever wear a Red Sox uniform however you would be hard pressed to find a pitcher who was more versatile.
Stanley was not only versatile, he also appears to be covered with teflon. What? His nickname was the “Steamer” but it could easily have been “Teflon Man”. Bear with me.
In order to understand, we must revisit two not so pleasant moments in Red Sox history. The first took place at Fenway Park on October 2, 1978. All I’ll say about that game is Bucky Dent and you’ll get the rest. However here are some things you may not know.
It is widely held that Dent’s homer beat the Red Sox in that 1978 playoff game and although I would not minimize its impact I will contend that there were more significant events which contributed to that loss. However, that’s for another day. For the purposes of today you simply need to know that Red Sox pitcher Mike Torrez, for lack of a better phrase, “wore the collar” for that loss for a long time. The goat horns were planted on his head by the media and there they stayed.
Ron Guidry, 1978 Cy Young Award winner.
The reality is, and you may think I’m crazy, Mike Torrez actually pitched at least as good a game as Guidry that day. Now you will never know that just by looking at the box score, but I was there and not only that I’ve watched that game at least a half a dozen times and I will stick to my guns. Back to the game.
Following Dent’s home run, Mickey Rivers walked and Zimmer came and got Torrez, replacing him with guess who? That’s right Bob Stanley. At the plate was Yankee catcher Thurman Munson and on Stanley’s first pitch, Rivers stole second. Munson followed with a double to left center giving the Yankees a 4-2 lead. Lou Pinella flied to Jim Rice in right field to end the inning. The Red Sox did not score in their half of the seventh and Stanley resumed his work in the eighth.
Reggie Jackson lead off and deposited a Stanley offering deep into the center field bleachers giving the Yankees a 5-2 lead. The Red Sox fought back with two runs but the rest as they say is history!
It is alleged that when the ball trickled through Bill Buckner’s legs at Shea Stadium in game six of the 1986 World Series that Mike Torrez was heard to say, “now I’m off the hook”.
Bob Stanley (46), Mookie Wilson (1) and Bill Buckner (6).
We all know the story, Sox up two, two outs, one strike away from a World Series Championship, yada, yad, yada. However, lost in all of it is that Bob Stanley uncorked a wild pitch which tied this game and put the winning run on second.
Now I know enough about baseball to know that it takes a collective effort to win and lose a baseball game, any baseball game. And Bob Stanley is in the Red Sox Hall of Fame as well he should be! But I have always been dumbfounded as to how Stanley has always dodged two of the most lethal bullets in Red Sox history.
Psssst, the Red Sox won their fourth in a row last night, a complete game 6-1 win by Jon Lester.
And so it is on this day in Fenway Park history, May 15, 2012.