The Goon Squad. That's what Yankee coach Frank Howard nicknamed the part-time New York players who got stuck taking most of the long bus trips during spring training and, upon reaching their destination, ripped "into opposing pitchers. A number of Gooners have continued to contribute to the Yankees' success during the regular season, but catcher Mike Stanley, outfielder Dion James and first baseman-catcher-outfielder-DH Jim Leyritz have helped the most as New York has remained on the tail of the front-running Tigers in the American League East. Says Stanley, the self-appointed leader of the Gooners, with a smile, "Without us this team would be scuffling."
Stanley, 29, who played from 1986 to '91 with the Rangers, signed a minor league contract with the Yankees on Jan. 21, 1992. A month into this season he replaced Matt Nokes as the regular catcher on the strength of his superior defensive skills, but he has come through at the plate as well, hitting .308 with eight homers through Sunday.
James, 30, was picked up by New York after the Indians released him in 1990. He got extra playing time this year because of injuries to outfielders Danny Tartabull and Bernie Williams, and at week's end he was batting .306, including .323 when he has filled in as leadoff hitter.
Leyritz, 29, was the Yanks' Opening Day catcher in 1991, but by May 17 of that year, after struggling at the plate, he was back with Triple A Columbus. He blasted the Yankees for sending him down without giving him more of a chance. "I never expected to be seen again in New York," Leyritz says.
But he stuck with the Yanks all of last year and hit .257. This season the need for a righthanded DH, coupled with an injury to first baseman Don Mattingly, has given Leyritz more starting time. Through Sunday he was hitting .331 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs.
The Goon Squad has given the Yankees one of the most versatile teams in the league. While the cleanup hitters were batting .223 through Sunday, the players hitting eighth in the order were batting .329; while the number 3 spot in the order had produced 26 RBIs, the leadoff spot had produced 47.
How's this for a bullpen by committee? The last seven saves by the Rockies through Sunday were credited to six different pitchers, live of whom got their first saves of the season. On June 15 Colorado needed five relievers to get the last five outs of a 12-4 loss to the Dodgers. The next night the Rockies needed four relievers to get the last four outs of a 7-6 win over Los Angeles....
The Angels called up pitcher Hilly Hathaway on June 16. His full name is Hillary Houston Hathaway. "It's my dad's name," he says. "I don't know how much further back it goes, and I don't want to find out."...
Tom Glavine of the Braves threw a 79-pitch complete game last week, becoming only the fourth pitcher since the start of the 1987 season to throw fewer than 80 pitches in a nine-inning complete game. On April 27 the Pirates' Tim Wakefield threw 80 balls in a game.