Looking Back - July 18, 1995

This is the first article in a new feature where we'll look back at some less known games in Yankees history.  You might call these games "Not Quite Yankees Classics."

The game on July 18, 1995 that deserves this look-back is actually a contest the Yankees lost, but it featured the return of Dave Righetti, a former star who came back to Yankee Stadium at the twilight of his career for his last great moment in the Bronx.  

Background:

Dave Righetti was acquired by the Yankees in after the 1978 season as part of the trade that sent Sparky Lyle to the Texas Rangers.  A hard-throwing left-hander, Righetti hadn't pitched above AA ball, but he was considered a very strong prospect.  He quickly rose through the Yankees system and was in the big leagues by 1981.

In the strike-shortened 1981 season, Dave Righetti pitched to a 8-4 record with a 2.05 ERA - good enough to win the American League Rookie of the Year award.

Most people remember Dave Righetti for throwing a no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox on July 4, 1983.  

Even though he was a young starting pitcher with tremendous upside, in 1984, Yankees manager Yogi Berra moved Dave Righetti to the bullpen where he was expected to replace Rich "Goose" Gossage as the closer.  Rags thrived in this role saving at least 25 games for seven consecutive seasons.  In 1986, Dave Righetti set the Major League Record (since eclipsed) with 46 saves.  Righetti's 224 saves ranks second all-time in the Yankees record books.  Only Mariano Rivera has more saves as a Yankee.

After the 1990 season, Dave Righetti was granted free-agency and did not re-sign with the Yankees.  Instead he went to his California home to play with the San Francisco Giants where he pitched for three years.  By 1994, Righetti's career was winding down.  He bounced to the Oakland A's and then Toronto Blue Jays, and even spent some time in the minor leagues.  At season's end, his career seemed over.

Convinced he had something left, Righetti signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox who sent him to AAA to learn again how to be a starting pitcher.  After some success in the minor leagues, Righetti was called up the Majors in time to start the second game of a double header against the Yankees.  This would be his first start in Yankee Stadium since September 11, 1983 (a game he lost 5-3 to the Baltimore Orioles).

The Game:

This was the second game of a double-header between the Yankees and the White Sox. Interestingly, the Yankees lost the first game to another former left-handed pitcher who had also thrown a no-hitter in the Bronx, Jim Abbott.  Pitching for the Yankees against Righetti was Jack McDowell, a former White Sox star who had won the Cy Young Award in 1993.

Behind Righetti, the White Sox had future Hall-of-Famers Tim Raines (LF) and Frank Thomas (1b).  Also in the line up for Chicago was future Yankee Robin Ventura (3b).

There were no future Hall-of-Famers in the Yankees' line-up but there were some legendary players that included Bernie Williams (CF), Paul O'Neill (RF), and Don Mattingly (1b).  Mattingly was in the final season of his career.

The White Sox scored first on back-to-back home runs by Tim Raines and Frank Thomas which highlighted a four run outburst to begin the game against Jack McDowell.

The Yankees battled back with three-runs in the bottom of the first; all the runs coming on a Paul O'Neill homer.

The Yankees tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the second inning when Randy Velarde (2b) doubled home Tony Fernandez (ss).  

In the top of the third inning, Dave Martinez blasted a three-run home run to give the White Sox a 7-4 lead.  

Jack McDowell battled for the Yankees, but didn't have his best stuff.  In the top of the fifth inning, he allowed two more runs to score, one on a wild pitch, before being lifted from the game.  The White Sox scored two more runs in the top of the 8th inning, plating 11 runs in all.

But the big story was Righetti.  After Velarde's double. he seemed to settle down a bit.  In the next 5.1 innings, Righetti allowed only four hits, all singles.  Rags struck out only one batter (Jim Leyrtiz), but he coaxed the Yankee hitters into eleven ground outs before being removed after walking Mike Stanley (c) with two-outs in the 7th inning.  

All told, Righetti pitched 6.2 innings, allowing 9 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs.  It wasn't his greatest game, but he earned the win.  It was a great return to the Bronx for a former Yankees hero.

Following this outing, Righetti went on to face (and defeat) the Red Sox in Boston on July 27. That start was the first time Righetti faced the Red Sox since throwing his no-hitter in 1983.  All told, Righetti made nine starts for the White Sox in 1995, winning three and losing two. Righetti's last ever Major League appearance came on September 18, 1995.  In that game, Rags came out of the bullpen one last time to close out an 11-1 loss against the Cleveland Indians. The last batter to ever face Dave Righetti was Billy Ripken.

Righetti struck him out.