Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #80, Andy Messersmith (Article 17)
Andy Messersmith was a New Jersey kid. He’s one of only two Major Leaguers to be born in Toms River, NJ. The other guy also pitched for the Yankees – Al Leiter.
Messersmith was one of baseball’s pioneers, one of the very first free agents.
He was also a star, make no mistake about that. Messersmith was a four-time All-Star who won 20 games twice (1971, 1974) and won 19 games one other time (1975).
In 1975, while pitching for the Dodgers, Messersmith led the National League in Starts (40), Complete Games (19), Shutouts (7), Innings Pitched (321.2) and batters faced (1,276).
Think about that. In 1975, Messersmith faced 1,276 batters. That number is off-the-charts crazy when compared to today. Last year (2019) Trevor Bauer led MLB in batters faced with 911. The last time a pitcher faced more than 1,000 batters was 2014 when David Price was on the mound against 1,009 batters. The last time a pitcher faced more than 1,100 batters was 1998 when Scott Erickson faced 1,102 batters. Guys just don’t pitch like that today.
That 1975 season was the third consecutive year that Messersmith faced over 1,000 batters. He faced 1,179 batters in 1974 and 1,105 batters in 1973. (He also faced over 1,00 batters in 1971 (1,170) and 1969 (1,008).
Guys just don’t pitch like that anymore because often times when they do, they seem to end up like Andy Messersmith.
In 1975, Messersmith made 40 starts. Over the rest of his career, he manged only 60 starts.
In 1976, he made 29 starts (pitching 8.0 or more innings in 14 of those games) and was on the shelf by the end of August.
In 1977, now with the Braves, he made 16 starts.
In 1978, he was able to make six starts all season as a Yankee.
After 11 starts in 1979 (again with the Dodgers) his career was over.
To be fair, the injuries he suffered might not have been entirely from overuse. There was a 1977 injury where he fell on his right elbow and had to have surgery. In 1978, with the Yankees, he separated his shoulder while reaching for a ball after a bad throw while covering first base. But, still, all those innings seem a sure fire way to take some life out of an arm… no? All those pitches sure didn’t help matters…
Messersmith’s Yankees career basically lasted from May 29 to July 1, 1978. He went 0-3 in six starts as a Yankee. Arm troubles limited him to short outings. He pitched more than five innings only once. when he went 6.1 innings against the Red Sox on June 26 in a game the Yankees lost 4-1.
On July 1, Messersmith started against the Tigers. He lasted just 1.1 innings.
And that was that.