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Ron Guidry

Ron Guidry

Position(s):
P, CF, OF
Nicknames:
Louisiana Lightning, Gator
Born:
August 28, 1950
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Left
Height:
5' 11"
Weight:
161 lbs
Major League Debut:
7-27-1975 with NYA
Allstar Selections:
1978 CY, 1978 ML, 1978 TSN, 1982 GG, 1983 GG, 1984 GG, 1984 RC, 1985 GG, 1986 GG

In 1978, left-hander Ron Guidry was as dominating as any pitcher had ever been in one season. That year, the Cajun hurler won his first 13 decisions, posted a major league low 1.74 ERA, and went 25-3 to win the American League Cy Young Award. He earned his 25th victory in the special one-game playoff against the Red Sox in Fenway Park on the last day of the season. Guidry won 20 games twice more for the Yankees, for whom he pitched his entire 14-year career, a rarity in the George Steinbrenner/Free Agent era.

Biography:
Guidry was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, and began his career pitching briefly in the 1975 and 1976 seasons. During the 1970s, Yankee management made a policy of acquiring pitchers through trades and free agent signings. As a result, Guidry did not find a regular place in the Yankee rotation until 1977, when he was 26 years old. Even then, there were those who felt that the 5'11" 160-lb lefty was too small to pitch effectively and last in the major leagues. Guidry dispelled the notion by going 16-7 that year and perfecting the wicked slider that became his bread and butter pitch. He went on to lead the majors in victories from 1977 through 1987 with 168, posting records of 18-8 (1979), 21-9 (1983), and 22-6 (1985). He is fourth on the all-time Yankee victory list (170), second in strikeouts (1,778), sixth in games and innings, and tied for sixth in shutouts (26). Guidry compiled a 5-2 postseason record, 3-1 in World Series play.

Guidry's success and durability were attributable in part to the fact that he was an outstanding athlete. He won five straight Gold Glove awards (1982-1986) and was twice used briefly in the outfield.

In 1977 and 1978 those two years combined, Guidry went 4-0 in the postseason with 3 complete games in 5 starts, allowing only nine earned runs in 371⁄3 innings pitched.

In 1978, Guidry posted a career year, one of the best in the modern era. Against the California Angels on June 17, he struck out a Yankee-record 18 batters. Guidry's 18-strikeout performance is usually cited as the launching pad of the Yankee Stadium tradition of fans standing and clapping for a strikeout with two strikes on the opposing batter.

For the season, Guidry went 25-3, in a season that is among the top 10 for winning percentage in baseball history. He led the league with a sparkling 1.74 ERA, 25 wins, a .893 winning percentage, 9 shutouts, 248 strikeouts, and 6.15 hits allowed per 9 innings pitched. He held batters to a .193 batting average, .249 on base percentage, and .279 slugging percentage. He was particularly effective with 2 outs and runners in scoring position (.152/.221/.253), and in the 9th inning of games (.119/.200/.136). Guidry's success during 1978 was due in large part to mastering the slider. He began throwing the pitch the year before, and was able to use the sharp-breaking slider to complement his great fastball throughout the season.

He claimed the American League Cy Young Award. Guidry also finished second in American League Most Valuable Player voting to Boston Red Sox slugger Jim Rice.

Guidry's 25th win of the regular season was his most significant, as he was the winning pitcher in the Yankees' 5-4 win over the Boston Red Sox in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park in Boston to decide the American League East division winner. The game is best known for Bucky Dent's seventh-inning, three-run home run off Mike Torrez (who, as a Yankee pitching mate of Guidry's just the year before, had recorded the final putout of the 1977 World Series) that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead. In the second inning of that game, Guidry himself had given up a home run to Carl Yastrzemski—the only home run a left-hander would hit against him all season.

Later that month, the Yankees again won the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers. No American League pitcher posted an earned run average as low again until Boston's Pedro Martínez in 2000.

Coincidentally, in all three of Guidry's losses in 1978, the winning pitcher on the opposing team threw left-handed and had the first name "Mike." He lost 6-0 to the Milwaukee Brewers and left-hander Mike Caldwell on July 7, lost 2-1 to the Baltimore Orioles and left-hander Mike Flanagan on August 4, and lost 8-1 to the Toronto Blue Jays and left-hander Mike Willis on September 20.

Over the next seven seasons, Guidry amassed a 113-57 win-loss record. Guidry also won the Gold Glove Award five straight times (1982–86). However, arm problems that began in 1981 finally began dramatically affecting his performance. He started 1989 on the disabled list before beginning a rehabilitation assignment in June at Triple-A. When he didn't impress the Yankee management with his performance at Columbus, he retired from baseball on July 12, 1989.

Awards and Honors:
As well as winning the 1978 Cy Young Award, Guidry was named The Sporting News AL Pitcher and Major League Player of the Year. Guidry was named "Lefthanded Pitcher" on The Sporting News AL All-Star Teams in 1978, 1981, 1983 and 1985. Guidry also finished in the top 10 in the American League Cy Young voting six times (1977–79, 1981, 1983 and 1985) over a nine-year span.

On August 7, 1984, Guidry struck out three batters (Carlton Fisk, Tom Paciorek and Greg Luzinski) on nine pitches in the ninth inning of a 7-0 win over the Chicago White Sox. Guidry became the eighth American League pitcher and the 20th pitcher in Major League history to accomplish the so-called "immaculate inning." He was the first pitcher to do so in the 9th inning of a complete game, a feat which has since been matched only once.

Guidry served as co-captain of the Yankees along with Willie Randolph from March 4, 1986 until July 12, 1989.

Ron Guidry's number 49 was retired by the New York Yankees in 2003.

His number 49 was retired on "Ron Guidry Day," August 23, 2003. The Yankees also dedicated a plaque to hang in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. The plaque calls Guidry "A dominating pitcher and a respected leader" and "A true Yankee." Each living Yankee previously so honored was on hand for the ceremony: Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson and Don Mattingly.

Coaching career
Guidry joined Yankee's Manager Joe Torre's coaching staff as pitching coach in the 2006 season, replacing Mel Stottlemyre. Under Guidry's tenure, the Yankees' pitching staff enjoyed mixed results. The pitching staff's ERA decreased from 4.52 in 2005 to 4.41 in 2006 under his first year of coaching, though in 2007, the team ERA increased to 4.49 (or 17th overall in the Major leagues).

However, Guidry was criticized in 2007, because the highly-acclaimed pitching staff was underachieving. The Yankees pitching staff in 2007 walked the sixth most batters overall in the Major Leagues; this was the most walks in a season for a Yankees pitching staff since the 2000 season. Torre's departure from the Yankees following the 2007 ended Guidry's tenure as pitching coach. Though he was interested in returning to the Yankees for the 2008 season, he was not offered a position on new manager Joe Girardi's coaching staff. He did return to the Yankees as a spring training instructor.

Resources:

Wikipedia, Baseball Library

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