Saturday, January 24, 2009
Tom Tresh: What Might Have Been
The Yankees' Switch Hitter Was Similar to His Idol, Mickey Mantle.
© Harold Friend
Jan 17, 2008
After winning the 1962 Rookie of the Year Award, it was expected that Tresh would join the other Yankees greats. It was not to be.
Tom Tresh batted .315 at Richmond, the top Yankees’ farm team, in 1961. He became a Yankee in 1962 and after hitting .286 with 20 home runs and 93 RBIs, the Yankees’ switch hitting shortstop won the Rookie of the Year Award. At the age of twenty-five, it was expected that he would go on to be one of the all time great Yankees, but that didn’t happen.
World Series Hero
Tresh took over for Tony Kubek at shortstop in 1962 because Tony had to serve in the army. When Tony returned at the end of the season, Tresh moved to left field and helped to defeat the Giants in the 1962 World Series by hitting a three run home run to win pivotal Game 5 and making a great catch of a wind blown Willie McCovey line drive to preserve a 1 run Yankees’ lead in Game 7.
But Tresh would match his rookie year in only one other season. His home run total increased to 25 in his 1963, but his RBI total dropped to 71 and he hit only .269 as an outfielder, since Kubek returned from the army. In 1964, Tom’s batting average dipped to .246 with only 16 home runs. He made a comeback in 1965, hitting .279 with 26 home runs, but the Yankees had been sold to CBS and they entered the Mike Burke era of disingenuousness. Burke was in charge when the Yankees traded Roger Maris to the Cardinals for Charlie Smith and Clete Boyer to the Braves for Bill Robinson. He kept telling the fans that they were important, but he really meant that their money was what was important.
The Yankees Finished Tenth
In 1966 the Yankees finished last in the ten team American League. Tresh hit .233 with 27 home runs. Some attributed his poor season to the fact that he tried to play third base for ten weeks but he followed his .233 with seasons in which he hit .219, .195, and .182 before he was traded to the Tigers on June 14, 1969.
Tresh's Bad Right Knee
Part of the problem was that Tresh had a bad right knee. Tresh hurt the knee when he made a quick stop and throw and caught his right knee in the grass along the left field foul line in a 1967 exhibition game. Tresh said that “It felt like the bottom part of the leg had separated from the top part.” There was cartilage damage and the knee was never the same.
Mantle Was His Idol
It is ironic that Tresh suffered similar injuries as his idol, Mickey Mantle. Both were switch-hitting shortstops who were moved to the outfield and whose careers were affected by knee problems. When Mickey retired, Tresh was affected greatly, not knowing that he too would soon no longer be playing for the Yankees. In March, when it was apparent that Mickey would not play, Tresh told reporters that “I don’t think anybody misses Mickey right now because we haven’t seen him in five months. But in a couple of months, that’s when it’ll sink in. I know it will for me. Mickey’s locker is next to mine at the Stadium. After every game, I’d go and get a beer for both of us and we’d sit and discuss the game. And I used to ride up to the ballpark with Mickey when we stayed at the same hotel. I’ll miss him as a friend.” Three months later, Tresh was traded to the Tigers for Ron Woods. He retired after the season.