Aug 17, 2015
The first of four episodes derived from a Skype interview with coach Gil Patterson who shares some intimate history with his career in baseball. Coach Gil was first round draft pick five times! Once right out of high school and then after some college experience with three other teams before signing with his dream team, the New York Yankees. Gil played with some of baseball histories all-time greats during their famed 1977 World Series. But all was not roses and ticker-tape parades. He shares what happens when injury takes you out of the game, and a creative solution that returned him to the game he loves.
Welcome to Tips & Tricks from ProFile Sports. I am your host Diana Barrows. Today we have a conversation for you with Coach Gil Patterson he is the director pitching with the New York Yankees and a friend of mine and we're going to reminisce about his history and how he
began his career in baseball. About the recruiting system the way it was, and the way things have changed.
Now this conversation covers quite a few areas. He has some advice for coaches, for parents and for athletes coming up who are going into the recruiting system now. So we're going to probably break this conversation into a few segments. May be as many as four installments to cover each of the topics thoroughly and not make them too long.
I hope you will enjoy the podcast. We're glad that you're listening in.
So if you're ready Gil?
Okay, I am Gil Patterson, director of pitching for the New York Yankees and I've always actually dreamed of being a Yankee. I grew up in Miami Florida. I had five brothers and a sister… and my mom raised all of us [alone]. I was very lucky to have a mom like that. Anyway, since I was five, baseball was everything I always wanted to do.
Growing up, I used to have a 4.0 average… well that was when you totaled my four classes together it was 1.0 + 1.0 + 1.0 + 1.0 [sic.]
But I did receive a scholarship. I also got drafted five times. The first time was with the Cardinals right out of high school. But my mom said “NOPE! You're going to school!” So I went to a junior college. [Miami Dade College – incidentally it was the same school that Bucky Dent graduated from]…and it helped me mature. I probably would not have been ready to sign a professional contract as a high school senior.
After two years of going to college, back in those days, this is in 1973, 1974, and 1975 they had two drafts per year. I was drafted in the first round four times; by the Astros, the Padres, by the Dodgers and then eventually, my dream team, the Yankees.
In those days, they had what they called the Secondary Phase. It would be like today; if someone was drafted and they didn't get signed… in January - there was like a special pool. And on the one hand it's a nice place to be in, because you're in elite company. But it's not on the same stage as every other player in the country. But still, I was lucky enough to get through two
two years of college. As a matter of fact, Bobby Richardson (former Yankee) was the
Head-coach at South Carolina and if I didn't sign, I was going to go there. But I was glad that I did sign with the Yankees in June of 1975.
Then I pitched that summer in the New York-Penn league (which most players do) – whether it be out of high school or college and then usually you get sent to instructional league. So that year, pitching-wise, I pitched a lot! Over a-hundred innings in college, one hundred innings in Oneonta and then about 70 innings in Instructional League. So that was a lot of innings… maybe even back in those days. And we know how things have changed with innings and care for the arm. But I had over two hundred and seventy innings.
My first spring training in 1976. I signed in June of ‘75. I walked into the room and there is
Thurman Munson, Chris Chambliss, Willie Randolph, Bucky Dent, Graig Nettles, Roy White,
"Mickey" Rivers, Catfish Hunter ya know and Reggie Jackson…
Diana: dream come true time?
Gil: It sure was!
Diana: What did that feel like? Catfish Hunter?…
Gil: …Well, ya know… there was this … I think he might be in the Hall of Fame, there was a reporter there for the New York Times back in the day; Phil Pepe…
…and so as I walked into the room there was also Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Billy Martin,
Elson Howard and Mickey Mantle! …And Mickey Mantle was probably the one I sat there and just stared at and just said [to myself] there is Mickey Mantle!
…and Phil said; “What's it like Gil?”
And I said; Phil, can you imagine? In two or three years they're gonna say; “We were in Gill Patterson's first spring training!”
Diana: LOL Good come-back! Did you really feel that way?
Gil: “Well, you know, you have to feel like that! You know?
Diana: “Where you faking it or did you really feel like that?
Gil: Oh I meant it! Yeah. I promised Mr. Steinbrenner 300 wins.
Gil: And I’m only 299 short. I may still have a few innings maybe left…
Diana: But you have a World Series ring! So…
Gil: I do. But, I wouldn't mind being like "Ernie" Banks either. Let me have the twenty years…
Let me have the twenty years! But I mean… don't get me wrong. I feel blessed. And you know
in everybody's stages, a lot of times, (unless maybe you're in the Hall of Fame), you
always feel like; maybe as a competitive athlete that you wanted more.
You know? Little League kids who didn’t play in High School, wished they had played in High School. High School kids who didn't play in College whish they had played in College.
And the college kid who played in college wishes that they had made it to the big leagues. So there is always a step…
you know? And everyone, to a certain degree, should be awfully thankful for what they achieved. Whether it be a college player because there are hundreds if not thousands, if
not tens of thousands that wanted to play in college. and like I said; it just kinda continues to
Just like you said with confidence… it's extremely important to
be humble! I think humility is a great quality. Humility isn't thinking less of yourself. I can still feel awfully good about myself, but it's also giving some credit to others. And I think that's an
important key. It is not taking anything away from me to say; “This person is very
good, and this person is very good. Boy is wish”… There's nothing wrong with that. And you
know what I think? A lot of times athletes fall into that; “It's all about them” you know? Sometimes where teams go… (the teams where everyone's giving) you know, it's like; “What can I do to help you?” Rather than “What can I get from you?”
And who knows? Maybe along with God, my mom certainly had some direction in making
me become the person I am.
Diana: Can you go a little deeper about that for us Gil?
Gil: Alright. Growing up… my father ran away with another woman when I was twelve. I had one older brother, five younger brothers and a sister. And my mom raised us all by herself. So we had to pull together as lots of people in families do. that's not the worst thing that's ever happened to someone, and it’s not the best. Everyone has to deal with adversity in your life.
I was lucky enough to have a mom that kept us all together.
I played with the Yankees that second year after telling Phil
Pepe that “they would remember me” and I went 9 in 2 as a
twenty-year-old in double A. Including a no-hitter. Then I got
moved to triple-A and finished the season 7in 2 including two
As a twenty-year-old I was 18 and 4 with Bobby Cox managing me.
Diana: Wow! How fast we picking then?
Gil: About 106
Diana: Oh my God!
Gil: I’m teasing.
Diana: I almost believed you! LOL
Gil: You believed me? No. But you know - as you get older, the stories - they
Diana: Like fishing.
Gil: … The stories always get a little bit bigger. J
you threw a little bit harder… but you know, it was funny. Because sometimes I read
articles. And I think Phil Pepe wrote that I threw 95 you know, because I tried to
come-back as a left-hander. A left-handed pitcher after the surgeries.
But I am not going to tell you that velocity isn’t important. It is.
Velocity is very important! Even in today's day-and-age. People throw harder now.
But if you still can’t throw the ball where you want to… If you
don't throw the ball real hard and have some type of movement…well then you had better command it.
I'm not gonna say there aren't any major league pitchers that can’t command…
Guys still walk four and five-a-game in the big leagues. But commanding your fastball is
really the key! As I work with our minor league pitchers, and you and Joe Sperele work with armature pitcher wanting to become college pitchers or pro pictures… that competitive spirit…
(that relentless warrior) may be the biggest key. But after that, you better command the baseball!
Because if you don't… I don't care if you did throw 106. If you can't throw it over the plate, you’re just gonna get oooos and ahhhs…and you’re gonna be spinning your wheels.
So I pitched that ‘76 season. about another 200 innings during the season. Then they sent me to winter ball [in the Dominican Republic] and Bobby Cox wasn’t managing me then…and if I remember right, I won five or six games down there …and lost a few. And I remember the day when my arm felt like it pulled right out of the socket!
Diana: Holy Cow!…So this was prior to the 77 season?
Diana: Well the kids need to know about your seventy-seven World Series. I wanna talk a little
bit about that
Gil: …and that's just the part. It was during 77 when I pitched for them, it
was… Well it's interesting… because so many times you tell people not to pitch with pain.
It was like a knife in my shoulder! And they kept saying no one can throw the
ball like you can (when your arms not hurt) and that's why Mr. Steinbrenner said (when
those things happened) he said that I had a job for as long as I wanted to with the
Yankees. He was very very very good to me. And ya know, there was a few times I left the Yankees and came back… That seventy-seven year I'm thinking (just like you said before
Diana) I'm taking; “Boy! These people think I'm good now…wait till they see me when I don't have a knife going through my shoulder! And that's when really the shoulder injury started. The
Rotatory-cuff tears. I was a third one that ever had the rotatory-cuff tear (procedure) done.
That's when they start the scare[ at the front of the shoulder] and it goes around to
the other side of the shoulder. Now they do the scope and everything. So it's come a long way – and for the betterment of the game.
That's why some people (even in my position) are doing everything you can to avoid injury. But guys are still getting hurt.
As a pitching coach, that's maybe the biggest objective. Keep your guys healthy!
If you keep’em healthy they have a chance to move on… weather that be to college or to pro ball - or to the minor leagues and then to the big leagues.
But that seventy-seven year (as great as it was…we won the World Series) but then again you know you still feel like (in my case) I wanted to give and help so much! And I didn’t get to give and help as much as I would have liked to.
There are two or three really good things that people have said about me… that I'm gonna remember. I have some clippings that I wanted to show my daughter (who is a cardiologists now) my son (who is seventeen and drives… so I’m up all night when he drives) and my granddaughter (who is one) …There's going to be a few things [to show them] but hey, they don't even have video of me when I pitched. That’s how long ago it was (ha ha ha) . I’m wondering why they have Babe Ruth stuff but they don’t have any Gil Patterson stuff? (laugh)
Diana: I don't know! What’s up with that?
Gil: I know! So Carl Yastrzemski said when I got beat by them 3-1. (I had struck out nine guys in the first five or six innings that I pitched) He said: “That is one of the best young pitchers I’ve ever seen”.
Diana: I heard Gil, that you said “you should have seen me last year!”
Gil: I said that to someone. I don't remember, it could have been Carl. But what
happened as well was Rick Sutcliffe [in an interview] They have an ESPN thing (that I still happen to have)…apparently he was asked if Stephen Strasburg was the real thing? When Stasburg struck out those fourteenth Pirates (I think) in his first game… and he says “You see a lot of prospects coming go…Have you ever seen anyone like Strasberg?” And he [Rick] says “You're right. I have seen a lot of them come and go, but I remember one guy – who if his arm was good - he says, I never would have had a chance, and that was Gil Patterson… so
that was very nice as well. Ron Guidry once said “Everyone wish they were as good
as Gil.” In fact, Ron Guidry was the one that took my spot when I got hurt.
Diana: Irony. Now I want to get to left-handed come back. Which is absolutely amazing!
Gil: About the pitching part…When I had some of my surgeries, I had a daughter at that time and a wife, and we didn't quite have enough money to make ends meet - just going through Worker’s Comp, and stuff like that. So you know, you try to do odd-jobs, park cars one night, cut grass…Whatever you can do while you can still workout.
Well there was a wall. I couldn’t throw right handed, so I just started
throwing left-handed. At the very beginning I threw the ball so hard, but the
ball wouldn’t even bounced back. Eventually I threw it hard enough that it bounced back and maybe even cracked it a couple of times. I remember one spring Whitey Ford, when he saw me throw from the outfield, he said; “What are you doing? Forget your right arm. Go pitch left-handed.
So I pitched in a spring training game left-handed and I did fine. But I continued to try to get the right arm ready to go… if I would have known that I was going to need eight surgeries.
I would have forgotten the right arm and just done it left handed - easily. But I always thought I
was going to do it. And by the time it was all over - it was too late.
Diana: And we met when you were Pitching Coach of the A’s minor team.
How many teams have you been with?
Gil: I started off pitching for the Yankees in ’75. Then in the early eighties I started
coaching with the Yankees that's when Mr. Steinbrenner said you will always have a
job with us. I coached with the Yankees in the early eighties, went to Buckey Dent’s
baseball school. Which is really very good, because I got to work with babies.
You know? 8, 9, 10, 12, 15, 17 and then it was working with pro athletes guys coming
out of high school and college. In fact Al Leiter was one of the pitchers I worked
with. We are still friends today. I saw his first pitch in Oneonta when I was his coach,
and then when I was in Big League Camp, I saw his last pitch as a Yankee. It’s things like that…
Those are things that keep us going as coaches.
Diana: Wow that's great Gil! Now what we're going to do is to stop here and
continue with the rest of this conversation in different installments.
You can find the three next installments on our blog and our website profilesportsapp.com
in the news section or you can just click on the blog going on that same page. If you are an athlete and you would like
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See you in the next Tips and Tricks from segment from ProFile Sports.