Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #254, Doyle Alexander (Article 49)
by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
It’s interesting the way things work. This is the second article in a row about a Yankees pitcher I did not want them to get…at least the second time he became a Yankee. (I was not a baseball fan, quite yet, for Doyle Alexander’s original run as a Yankee.)
I remember being a kid and wondering why the Yankees decided to trade for him. My apprehension proved prescient.
I lived through Doyle II: The Sequel, and like many sequels, it was not very good.
But, as bad as Doyle II was, what happened after he left the Yankees was even more infuriating.
Already in his sixth big league season, Doyle Alexander came to the Yankees in June 1976 as part of that gigantic trade with the Orioles that I have written about in this series numerous times previously. In short, the Yankees gave the Orioles three long-time members of their franchise: a top starting pitcher (Scott McGregor), their closer for many years (Tippy Martinez), and their starting catcher (Rick Dempsey), along with two other pitchers in exchange for Jimmy Freeman, Elrod Hendricks, Ken Holtzman, Grant Jackson, and Doyle Alexander. This may have been the worst trade in Yankees history.
But don’t blame Doyle Alexander. His original run wasn’t all that bad.
In his first go-around with the Yankees, Alexander made 19 starts and won 10 of them putting up a nifty 3.29 ERA. He was a solid starter on the 1976 Yankees and assisted the team in securing the American East pennant.
Alexander did not pitch in the American League Championship Series against the Royals, but he did make a World Series start. In fact, he pitched in Game One.
Think about that for a moment…
In 1976, in the Yankees’ first World Series game since 1964, once they had finally survived the long and dark cold winter, once they finally made it to the promised land, they turned to Doyle Alexander.
It was Doyle against the Big Red Machine.
And the Big Red Machine won.
Alexander went six innings. He allowed nine hits, walked two others, and allowed five runs to score. He took the loss in a series the Yankees would drop in four straight games.
After the 1976 season, Alexander left the big city and signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers. He pitched for Texas for three seasons, the best being his first there (1977) when he won 17 games.
In December 1979, the Rangers traded Alexander to the Braves where he went 14-11, 4.20.
In December 1980, The Braves traded Alexander to the Giants where he went 11-7, 2.89.
You know, ol’ Doyle Alexander wasn’t pitching too badly to that point.
His career through the end of the 1981 season looked like this:
and then, just before the start of the 1982 season, the Giants traded Doyle Alexander to the Yankees for Andy McGaffigan and Ted Wilborn.
Doyle II began.
And it wasn’t good.
It was ugly,
Through May 6, he had made three starts, compiling a 0-2 record. Then he broke his hand. After that, Alexander came back and pitched in 13 game , some as a starter, and some out of the bullpen. He pitched, but he never pitched well.
On September 22, 1982, Alexander’s record stood at 0-7.
On September 28, he won his start to give him his first, and only, victory that season.
A 1-7, 6.08 season is pretty bad.
Worse was the broken hand.
Alexander broke his hand punching the wall in Seatlle after giving up six runs in three innings against the Mariners.
That injury sidelined him from May 6 to July 8.
Doyle II was a bad sequel.
The 1983 Yankees Yearbook, though, talked with optimism as the next season was dawning. It read (in part):
“Don’t judge Doyle Alexander by his record of last season. He didn’t report until late and then broke his right hand. But when he’s healthy, Alexander has proven a very dependable starter…”
The Yankees didn’t believe their own hype. On May 31, 1983, after Alexander went 0-2, 6.35 in eight games (five starts), he was released. (I guess they judged him by his record.)
Doyle Alexander was picked up by the Blue Jays and suddenly figured out how to win. He went 7-6 the rest of the way and then won 17 games in both 1984 and 1985.
He was traded to the Braves in 1986 and then the Braves traded him (for John Smoltz) to the Tigers in August 1987 to help the Tigers in their stretch run. And help he did. BIG TIME. The Tigers finished in first place in the A.L. East that year on the back of Doyle Alexander.
As a Yankee, Alexander couldn’t win.
As a Tiger, he couldn’t lose.
Alexander went 9-0, 1.53 in 11 starts in helping the boys from Detroit reach the playoffs.
And then the bubble burst.
In the playoffs, he went 0-2, 10.00 for the Tigers losing Game One and Game Five as the Twins took the Tigers in just five games to advance to the World Series.
In 1988, for the Tigers, Alexander did well enough going 14-11.
In 1989, he lost 18 games and called it a career.
And that’s the story of Doyle Alexander.