Birthday Baseball (An Occasional Series): Game 12 – July 12, 1984
By now our readers know the story… I am looking back to see how the Yankees performed on my birthday each year since I’ve been born and then telling the story of what took place on that summer day.
As always, whenever I do research like this, my first two stops are always Retrosheet and Baseball-Reference.
Let’s head back to 1984, July 12 to see what took place in the Yankees game that day.
On Thursday, July 12, 1984, the Yankees opened up the season’s second half at home against the Kansas City Royals. Neither team, to that point in the season has fared very well. The Royals were just 39-43. The Yankees, believe it or not, had played even worse with a 36-46 record.
This game would pit Yankee killer Larry Gura (9-5) against Phil Niekro (11-4). It was a battle of old veterans. Larry Gura was 36 years old. Niekro was 45.
Gura had once been a Yankee. In 1974 and 1975, Gura appeared in 34 games for the Yankees (28 starts, going 12-8). He was traded to the Royals for Fran Healy, a back-up catcher who became Reggie Jackson’s closest friend on the team during the tumultuous 1977 season.
The Royals sent the following lineup into Yankee Stadium:
Willie Wilson – cf
Pat Sheridan – rf
George Brett – 3b
Jorge Orta – dh
Darryl Motley – lf
Steve Balboni – 1b (former and future Yankee)
Don Slaught – c (future Yankee)
Buddy Biancalana – 2b
U.L. Washington -ss
The Yankees countered with the following:
Willie Randolph – 2b
Butch Wynegar – c
Dave Winfield – rf
Don Baylor – dh
Ron Smalley – 3b
Don Mattingly – 1b
Brian Dayett – lf
Bobby Meacham – ss
Omar Moreno – cf
Old Knucksie (Phil Niekro) had easy work of the Royals in the first. The only base runner he allowed was George Brett who walked with two outs.
The Yankees came out swinging against their old nemesis in the bottom of the first. After a Willie Randolph pop out, Butch Wynegar walked. Dave Winfield then singled him over one base. Don Baylor, Roy Smalley, and Don Mattingly all followed with RBI singles giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead. (On Mattingly’s hit, Roy Smalley was thrown out trying for third base. Brian Dayett ended the inning b y popping out.
The Royals threatened to come right back in the second inning. Steve Balboni hit a one out double. Don Slaught followed with a single… but the next two batters were retired by strikeout and pop out and the threat ended as just that – a threat.
Bobby Meacham then began the Yankees’ second inning with a triple. He scored on Omar Moreno’s single to give the Yankees a 4-0 cushion.
In the top of the third inning, the Royals came back with a few runs of their own. Willie Wilson, one of the fastest men still in the game, led off with a walk. He was singled to third by Pat Sheridan. George Brett, another Yankee killer then came up and… struck out. Jorge Orta then popped out to right field for the inning’s second out before Darryl Motley and Steve Balboni drove home runs with singles. The Yankees’ lead was cut to 4-2.
And that’s where the score stayed inning after inning…
The Yankees got a single by Dave Winfield in the third. Nothing else.
The Royals went down in order in the fourth. The Yankees followed suit in their half of the inning.
The Royals went down 1, 2, 3 in the fifth. So did the Yankees.
In the sixth inning, the Royals got a double from Darryl Motley, but nothing else.
The Yankees, that inning, saw Roy Smalley walk in front of a Don Mattingly 4-6-3 double play.
The Royals did nothing in the seventh. The Yankees threatened with a lead-off double by Brian Dayett. Bobby Meacham bunted him to third, but Omar Moreno and Willie Randolph couldn’t drive him in.
The Yankees made a defensive change in the top of the eighth inning, Mike Pagliarulo went to third base to replace Roy Smalley. George Brett then greeted Phil Niekro with a single. That hit ended Niekro’s night.
In came Dave Righetti, the new Yankees’ closer… Hal McRae, a dangerous hitter still, pinch-hit for Jorge Orta. Rags retired McRae on a fly out to Winfield. Darryl Motley also flew out to Big Dave before Steve Balboni struck out.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Yankees scored an insurance run. Butch Wynegar doubled. That ended Gura’s night. Mark Huismann came in to pitch for the Royals. Two batters and two outs later, Mike Pags singled home Wynegar to give the Yankees a 5-2 lead.
In the ninth, Dave Righetti shut down the Royals in order to close out the 5-2 victory for the Yankees. For Righetti, it was his 11th save. For Phil Niekro, the winning pitcher, he was now 12-4. The victory was the 280th of his career.
Of the players in this game, Niekro, Dave Winfield, and George Brett would all one day reach baseball’s Hall-of-Fame.
Next we will head to 1985 with the Texas Rangers heading into New York to face the Yankees. The Yankees will send Ed Whitson to the mound to face the men from Texas…
Yankees Record on July 12 (in this series – since 1968): 11-1
(There were no games played on July 12 in 1971, 1976, 1978, 1981, and 1982.)
Graig Nettles (as a Yankee on July 12): 33 AB, 7 hits (.212), 1 run, 5 strikeouts, 4 walks. 1 RBI (I had hoped that my favorite player would have done better on my birthday.)
Don Mattingly on July 12: 1 for 4 (.250), 1 RBI