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Report: Mel Stottlemyre ‘doing much better’ after health scare

Former New York Yankees pitcher and pitching coach

Former New York Yankees pitcher and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre admires his Monument Park plaque during the 69th Old-Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium on June 20, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Mel Stottlemyre’s son Todd revealed through various social media posts on Friday that the former Yankees pitcher was fighting for his life in his battle with a rare blood cancer. However, published reports and Todd Stottlemyre himself indicated that he was feeling better Saturday.

Todd Stottlemyre wrote on Facebook on Saturday:

“Our family has been overwhelmed with Joy at the amount of love and prayers for my father and family. Please know that the greatest warrior I have ever known is doing a lot better. He is recovering at God speed and he is looking forward to getting out of the hospital. It’s just a matter of time before he is fishing again. Please share this post so that all the people who have been praying know that their prayers have been answered and that our family is forever grateful. We will continue to pray for the less fortunate during this holiday season. May God Bless You and Merry Christmas.’’

On Friday, he had written: “Calling all prayer warriors during this holiday season. My father is in the hospital fighting for his life. He has battled cancer for 16 years. He is the greatest champion that I have ever met. I’m praying hard for you Dad. I love you pops. Please lock arms with me and pray for all our loved ones who are fighting.”

Under a photo of his father pitching on Instagram, Todd added: “Praying hard for you Dad while you continue to fight cancer. I love you pops.”

The Daily News quoted Stottlemyre’s wife, Jean, as saying that her husband was “doing much better’’ on Saturday. The News reported that Stottlemyre was admitted to a Seattle-area hospital on Wednesday because of what his wife said was a “bad reaction to his chemotherapy medicine” and quoted her as saying, “He’s not in a life-threatening situation right now.”

Stottlemyre, 75, was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma — a disease of the plasma cells in the blood that can manifest in bone pain, kidney failure and neurological problems — in 2000. It is treatable but not curable. After going into remission, Stottlemyre had a recurrence in 2011 and has battled the disease since.

Stottlemyre pitched his entire 11-year career with the Yankees, compiling a 164-139 record and 2.97 ERA despite pitching for some very poor teams. He was named an All-Star five times.

He made his major-league debut on Aug. 12, 1964, and pitched a complete game in a 7-3 victory over the White Sox. Mickey Mantle homered twice in that game, including a tremendous shot to dead centerfield at the old Yankee Stadium. Mantle flung his bat away in disgust, but his drive cleared the 461-foot sign and was said to have gone 502 feet.

Stottlemyre went 9-3 with a 2.06 ERA in the final seven weeks of the 1964 season and was a key reason the Yankees won the American League pennant. He made three starts against the St. Louis Cardinals’ Bob Gibson in the 1964 World Series, going 1-1 with a 3.15 ERA, and lost Game 7 on two days’ rest.

Stottlemyre won at least 20 games in 1965, 1968 and 1969 and lost 20 in 1966. He pitched 303 innings in 1969, leading the league with 24 complete games, and 291 in 1965.

Renowned for his excellent sinker, he frequently struggled in the first inning — when he was too strong and his sinker didn’t sink — and improved later in games as he began to tire.

Stottlemyre hit seven home runs in his career, including an inside-the-park grand slam off Red Sox righthander Bill Monbouquette on July 20, 1965, at Yankee Stadium. He also went 5-for-5 in a two-hit shutout of Washington on Sept. 26, 1964.

Stottlemyre pitched his final major-league game at the age of 32 in 1974 as a rotator cuff injury derailed his career.

Stottlemyre won five World Series rings as a pitching coach — one with the Mets in 1986 and four with the Yankees in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. He also served as a pitching coach for the Astros and Mariners.

Speaking to United Press International’s Milton Richman in 1985, Rookie of the Year Dwight Gooden said of Stottlemyre, “There isn’t the slightest question in my mind how much Mel had to do with whatever I accomplished. He didn’t try to hit me with a hundred different things at once. He made sure I learned one thing first before he went on to the next.

“The biggest thing is you’re able to talk to him. He doesn’t make himself out to be a god. He’s very approachable. You never have any trouble sitting down with him. He’ll listen to you.”

Stottlemyre, who again was Gooden’s pitching coach with the Yankees, resigned in 2005 after a disagreement with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and joined the Mariners in 2008 before his retirement. His sons Todd and Mel Jr. also pitched in the major leagues, and Mel Jr. is the Mariners’ pitching coach.

Stottlemyre’s son Jason — who his father and his brothers said was the best baseball player of the three sons — died at age 11 in 1981 after battling leukemia for five years. He passed away days after receiving a bone marrow donation from his brother Todd, and after his own diagnosis, Mel Stottlemyre has said he drew strength from the way his young son battled the disease.

On June 20, 2015, the Yankees surprised Stottlemyre by giving him a plaque in Monument Park during Old-Timers’ Day. He told the crowd, “If I never get to come to another Old-Timers’ game, I will take these memories that I have today and I will start a new baseball club, coaching, up there, whenever they need me.”

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