Skip Pitlock – 1975 Topps
December 7, 2010
I Thought You Needed To Register Your Skip Pitlocks?
“Is Holly there? It’s Skip…Skip Pitlcok.”
“What? Not home?”
“She’s never home…are you trying to keep her away from me?”
Face it, would you let your daughter date a Skip Pitlock?
Though Lee Patrick Thomas Pitlock is a mouthful, perhaps Skip was a better choice of moniker.
For an 11th round draft pick, Pitlock breezed through the San Francisco system at first. After starring at Southern Illinois, Skip went 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA at Great Falls and Fresno (then in the California League) and started 1970 all the way up at AAA Phoenix. A 10-3, 2.46 mark with eight complete games convinced the Giants he was ready for prime time.
Frankly, he was about the only option left to back up Perry and Marichal. Rich Robertson, Frank Reberger, Mike McCormick, Miguel Puente and Ron Bryant were all found wanting. So on June 12, 1970, Pitlock faced the Cardinals.
It was a memorable entrance to major league baseball – and it proved that the majors were a wee bit tougher on pitchers than Ole Miss in the CWS.
Brock doubles, Cardinal doubles him in. He’s wild pitched to third and scores on a Carl Taylor sac fly. It’s 2-0 before the 8,634 at Candlestick had a chance to freeze. Later, Bob Gibson swats a bomb off of poor ol’ Skip and the Cards prevail 4-1.
After that start he doesn’t do half bad. While he is 5-5 with a 4.66 ERA, that’s better than those aforementioned hurlers. You’d have to think that he’d be in the mix for a rotation spot in 1971.
The Giants contend for and win the NL West in 1971. Bryant, Don Carrithers, Steve Stone and John Cumberland help to settle the rotation down. Pitlock is left at Phoenix all year, and with good reason. He’s not good. A 7-11, 6.40 mark puts him behind Jim Barr, Randy Moffitt and Jim Willoughby as well as the four already in San Francisco. But Skip’s still young. He has time.
Well, San Francisco kept him down on the farm – at arms length away, just like the mother not wanting her precious snowflake to date a Skip Pitlock. He’s 8-10 with a 3.31 ERA but still doesn’t get a call up. Even though the Giants go from 90 wins to 69 – even though the only team they beat in the NL West in 1972 is the Padres, Skip sits at AAA. Carrithers regresses, Jerry Johnson is more arsonist than fireman, Marichal goes an unlucky 6-16, and Cumberland implodes. But Skip is down at Phoenix with Moffitt, Willoughby and Gary Lavelle playing for retirees and tourists.
I don’t know why the Giants became disenchanted with Pitlock. Did he whizz in Charlie Fox’ Wheaties? Did he hide Willie McCovey’s truss? At any rate, he was only 25, he was a lefty and he had some ML experience, and the Giants were eager to get anything for him. They traded him in early 1973 to the White Sox for a has-been and a never-was.
He must have been excited to play for a team near his hometown of Elmhurst, IL. Perhaps the nuns at Immaculate Conception High would organize field trips to Comiskey.
Instead, he had a summer in Iowa. Have you been in Iowa in the summer? It’s hot, humid and there’s corn. Lots and lots of corn. For some variety there are severe thunderstorms and tornadoes thrown in there, and maybe a pig farm or two.
“I’m young, lefthanded and just spent my fourth year in AAA,” thought Pitlock (well, maybe). “Do I have a future in this game? Is it my name? Is it my moustache?”
Well, finally. Chuck Tanner picks Pitlock for a bullpen role in 1974. He makes 40 appearances (five of them spot starts), and again doesn’t totally embarrass himself, going 3-3 with a save and a 4.43 ERA. Eight times during the season, he came in to the game in the third (or earlier). On August 13, Bart Johnson got clobbered, and Skip came in the second inning and held the Orioles to just one more run the rest of the game. In an era, especially in Chicago, where a long reliever was a much needed commodity, Pitlock seemed to secure his future. He even had a baseball card!
I can’t say what happened, nor the circumstances, but it didn’t end well.
Pitlock made the club to begin 1975. I think the White Sox settled on Pitlock, Jim Otten, Terry Forster, Jack Kucek, Rich Gossage, and Cecil Upshaw in the pen backing up Wood, Kaat, Bahnsen and Osteen as they broke camp and went to Oakland.
Game three of the season, April 10, 1975. Stan Bahnsen, way overused by Chuck Tanner the past few years, starts and runs into trouble in the bottom of the third. Reggie! Jackson hits a three run bomb and then Joe Rudi doubles. Tanner’s seen enough, already. In comes Pitlock to face Billy Williams.
Williams cracks a single. Rudi scores. Tanner comes out and takes Skip out of the game. In comes Goose Gossage.
Over the next few days, Bill Gogolewski and Dan Osborn join the pen. Pitlock, Otten and Kucek disappear back to the minors. Otten and Kucek make it back to the bigs at some point, but Billy Williams was the last batter Skip faced in the bigs.
Well, he’s still a commodity, somewhat, at least he is to Charlie O. Finley. On June 15, Finley needed to shore up his staff and trades for Bahnsen and Pitlock. He gives away lefty Dave Hamilton and a young center fielder – something Oakland doesn’t really need with Reggie!, Rudi, Claudell Washington and Billy North around.
Chet Lemon was his name. They can’t all be good trades.
Even though there usually was a merry-go-round in Oakland, Pitlock never gets the call back to the bigs. He pitched OK in Tucson in 1975, but was released from there in 1976 and finished up in Salt Lake City for the Angels AAA team. And when a team in dire need of pitching like the Angels doesn’t call you up, and your ERA is 6.75, you may want to put that Southern Illinois education to use.
Which is what he did. Even though 1977 was an expansion year, and the has-been the Giants got for him in 1973 pitched in the big leagues for the first time since 1970 (Chuck Hartenstein), Skip didn’t appear in any major or minor league games.
I wonder, though, if the name had something to do with it. How many assistant GM’s had to stifle a laugh when their secretary said, “Someone is here to talk to you about a job -Skip Pitlock is coming.”
“THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID!”
(Ok, that’s lame…but…I didn’t know how to end this saga…)