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Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #296, Don Hood (Article 57)

by Paul Semendinger

(Continuing a series…)



27 games. Don Hood pitched in all of 27 games for the Yankees. They were all in 1979.

And, the lefty did well.

He went 3-1, 3.07 with one save. Not bad.

***

The Yankees acquired Don Hood, who had previously pitched for the Orioles and Indians in his career, on June 15, 1979. They picked up Hood in exchange for Big Cliff Johnson who it was determined had to go.

Playful? Serious? Whatever… the jury is out on this, but Cliff Johnson and Goose Gossage got in a fight in the shower. The result was a broken thumb for the Goose and a quick trip out of the Bronx for Cliff.

In return, the Yankees got Don Hood.

***

Don Hood was a serviceable pitcher. He could start or relive. In fact, as a Yankee he started six times and pitched out of the bullpen 21 others. In short, he started six and finished nine others. If that doesn’t speak to versatility, I’m not sure what does.

***

I often wonder about players like Don Hood, who came to the Yankees in 1979, especially the ones who arrived during the season. In less than two months after he was acquired, Thurman Munson would crash his plane and die.

What must that have been like? What must it have been to be the new guy, or one of the new guys, on a team with many close veterans, all grieving the loss of their captain?

I can’t imagine that Hood had much of a chance to get to know Thurman Munson.

And then he was gone – a death that rattled the franchise – a franchise that Hood was part of, but probably also, in a strange way, very removed from as well. He was on the inside (I imagine) but also able to observe all of this from somewhat of a distance.

In many ways, it must have been horrible. When we grieve, it’s good to have our close friends and loved ones with us. Guys like Don Hood probably had to grieve alone or somewhat in isolation.

No one has ever told the story of the players on the team like Don Hood, guys who were Yankees but were not part of the championships and who probably didn’t know Thurman Munson all that well.

I truly wonder what that whole experience was like.

All these years later, and now so removed by all the stories, and time, I wonder if Don Hood even remembers his exact emotions at the time.

***

Thinking about all of this made me wonder how many times Don Hood even pitched to Thurman Munson. It wasn’t many.

After being acquired by the Yankees, Don Hood pitched in ten games for the Yankees before Thurman Munson died. But, he only pitched to Thurman on five occasions. Only five.

Often when Don Hood came into the game, the catcher wasn’t Munson, it was Jerry Narron.

Research can turn up things that most people don’t know… and I was surprised by what I found here.

In Thurman Munson’s last ever game, he played… first base.

In the game he played before that, he was the DH.

And in the two games before that game, he also played first base.

Thurman Munson didn’t catch in any of his last four games in the Major Leagues. Amazing. (I didn’t know that.)

The last time Thurman Munson caught in a game was July 27, 1979.

The last pitch thrown to Thurman Munson, from Rich Gossage, never reached him. After leaving Gossage’s hand, that ball was never touched by another player, rather it sailed off into the night – a walk-off home run by Cecil Cooper of the Milwaukee Brewers. That’s amazing, the last pitch Thurman ever called ended up as a walk-off homer in a game the Yankees lost to the Brewers.

And now, just because I can’t resist:

Cecil Cooper hit three home runs against the Yankees that day. He hit them off three different pitchers – Ed Figueroa, Ron Davis, and Goose Gossage

In that game, the Yankees pitchers, as a staff, struck out no batters. None.

The last batter that struck out with Thurman Munson behind the plate was Dickie Thon of the California Angels on July 24, 1979. The Yankees pitcher was Luis Tiant.

***

In total, Don Hood pitched in 27 games as a Yankee. He went 3-1, 3.07 with one save.

After the season, Hood was a Free Agent. He signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, but his 1980 Topps baseball card pictured him as a Yankee.



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