New York’s disappointing fifth-place finish in the A.L. East in 1982 prompted ownership to point the team in a different direction heading into 1983. Having gone through three managers the previous year, George Steinbrenner decided to rehire Billy Martin for a third tour of duty with the club, moving Clyde King, who finished out the 1982 campaign as skipper, into the front office. After unsuccessfully trying to build his team around speed the previous year, Steinbrenner realized that he also needed to adopt a different philosophy when determining the composition of his ball club.
Upper management revealed its new plan of attack to the public on December 1, 1982, when it announced the signing of free agent Don Baylor. The slugging Baylor, who hit 24 home runs and knocked in 93 runs for California the previous year, earned A.L. MVP honors in 1979, when he led the Angels to the Western Division title by hitting 36 home runs and leading the league with 139 runs batted in and 120 runs scored. Upon Baylor's signing, George Steinbrenner stated he had acquired the "take-charge" hitter his team needed in the middle of its batting order.
Barely one week later, the shift to power continued when New York signed hard-hitting Chicago White Sox outfielder Steve Kemp to a free agent contract. The Yankees planned to play Kemp in right field, allowing them to move Ken Griffey to first base, where he might rest his aching knees. To make room for Griffey at first base, they subsequently traded Dave Collins, pitcher Mike Morgan, and minor league first baseman Fred McGriff to the Toronto Blue Jays for right-handed relief pitcher Dale Murray and a minor leaguer.
The changes the Yankees made to their lineup helped to marginally improve their offense. After finishing eighth in the American League in runs scored the previous year, New York scored the fifth most runs in the junior circuit in 1983. Baylor earned the money the Yankees paid him by placing second on the team with 21 home runs, 85 runs batted in, 82 runs scored, and a .303 batting average. He also provided the team with leadership on the field and in the clubhouse. Kemp, though, proved to be a huge disappointment, hitting only 12 home runs, driving in just 49 runs, and batting only .241.
New York’s change in philosophy helped the team improve its standing in the A.L. East. Although the Yankees finished third in the division, seven games behind the first-place Baltimore Orioles, they posted a regular-season record of 91-71. Aside from the addition of Baylor, solid performances by Ken Griffey, Roy Smalley, and Graig Nettles made the Yankee batting order one of the better ones in the junior circuit. Griffey led the team with a .306 batting average. Shortstop Smalley hit 18 homers and batted .275. The 38-year-old Nettles had a bounce-back year, hitting 20 home runs and driving in 75 runs. Meanwhile, Dave Winfield had his second consecutive outstanding season in pinstripes, finishing among the league leaders with 32 home runs and 116 runs batted in, while also batting .283 and scoring 99 runs. Winfield earned A.L. All-Star honors, a spot on The Sporting News All-Star Team, and his second straight Gold Glove.
Joining Winfield on both All-Star squads was Ron Guidry, who anchored New York’s pitching staff. The slightly-built left-hander finished 21-9, with a 3.42 ERA and a league-leading 21 complete games. Guidry also won his second consecutive Gold Glove.
Other Yankee pitchers who excelled were Goose Gossage and Dave Righetti. In what turned out to be his final season in pinstripes, Gossage won 13 games in relief, saved 22 others, and compiled a 2.27 ERA. Righetti finished 14-8 with a 3.44 ERA. He also provided Yankee fans with arguably their greatest thrill of the year on July 4th. Working the final game before the All-Star break, Righetti threw a no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox during a 4-0 Yankee victory. The no-hitter was the first thrown at Yankee Stadium since Don Larsen tossed his perfect game against the Dodgers in the 1956 World Series.
Yankee fans also were treated to another rather unusual event of a completely different nature some three weeks later. With the Yankees holding a 4-3 lead over the Kansas City Royals with two men out in the top of the ninth inning, George Brett hit a two-run homer off Goose Gossage that apparently gave Kansas City a 5-4 advantage. However, New York manager Billy Martin subsequently objected that Brett’s bat contained an illegal amount of pine tar. The umpires upheld Martin’s claim, nullifying Brett’s home run and sending the Royals third baseman into a rage. Although the commissioner’s office later overruled the umpires’ decision, the contest came to be known as “The Pine Tar Game.”By Bob_Cohen
- Billy Martin, Clyde King, Dave Collins, Dave Righetti, Dave Winfield, Don Baylor, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, George Brett, George Steinbrenner, Graig Nettles, Jerry Mumphrey, Ken Griffey, Sr., New York Yankees, Rich Gossage, Ron Guidry, Roy Smalley, Steve Kemp, Willie Randolph