March 25 – Happy Birthday Mike Nagy

nagyThis right-hander was born and grew up in the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx and was disappointed when the Red Sox pursued him as an amateur instead of his hometown Yankees. It was “Bots” Nekola who scouted Nagy and convinced the Red Sox to select the 6’3″ pitcher in the sixth round of the 1966 amateur draft. Nekola was the guy who also signed Carl Yastrzemski.

After an OK first year in the low minors, Nagy developed arm trouble and barely pitched during his second. He then did just well enough in 1968 to get invited to Boston’s ’69 spring training camp. It was during that exhibition season that Nagy accomplished something that had eluded most of his Red Sox teammates. He actually developed a close relationship with the surly Boston skipper, Dick Williams. Even though he didn’t make that year’s Opening Day roster, he was brought up to the parent club in early April, when Williams quickly became disenchanted with two other young Red Sox pitchers who had.

Nagy then rewarded his manager’s confidence in him by putting together an outstanding 12-2 rookie season as a member of Boston’s starting rotation, while posting an ERA of 3.11. That was a good enough performance to help the then-21-year-old hurler finish second to the Royals’ Lou Piniella in the 1969 AL Rookie of the Year vote and give the Fenway faithful good reason to be optimistic about the youngster’s future.

There were however, two things that happened during Nagy’s first big league season that did not bode well for his future. The first was his high walk-rate. He issued 106 bases-on-balls or just about five passes for every nine innings he pitched. He also lost his guardian angel, when Williams was let go at the end of the ’69 season.

After serving a six month hitch in the reserves, Nagy’s second season got off to a late start. When he struggled as a starter, his new manager, Eddie Kasko demoted him to the bullpen for a time and Nagy hated pitching in a relief role, later admitting that he had let the move shake his self-confidence. He also hurt his arm that second season and ended up spending his final two year’s with the organization, bouncing back and forth between Boston and Louisville, trying to recapture the groove he was in during his rookie season. He never did.

Nagy ended up getting traded to St Louis in 1973 and then to Texas before landing back in the minors. When it became pretty clear he was not going to get a spot on any big league roster he made the decision to pitch in Mexico and became a star player south of the border for the next four years. When his playing days were over, he returned to his old Throggs Neck neighborhood and began a successful career in real estate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s