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Tag: el duque

Havana’s Son


Head on over to Victory Journal and dig into Brin-Jonathan Butler’s story on our man El Duque (lavishly illustrated by Mickey Duzjj).

Picture This

I’m proud to host a week of Yankee illustrations by talented Summer Anne Burton. If you are not following her work, be sure to bookmark her site: Every Hall of Famer.


Sir Duke

Man, do I ever miss El Duque. He was the king of style.

If you’ve never read The Duke of Havana, put it on your holiday wish list. Reads more like a Graham Greene novel than a baseball biography.

El Duque Leaves the Game

Orlando Hernandez has officially retired.

Other Yankees have been around longer. Other Yankees contributed more to the last dynasty. And certainly, many other Yankees were consistently better. But El Duque is one of the first guys I think of from that era. As a morbidly pessimisstic fan in those days (I think I’ve evolved past the morbid part in the intevening decade), no other starter inspired security like El Duque.

I’ll never forget the first inning of the 1999 ALDS against the powerful Rangers lineup. Pudge doubled with one out and El Duque faced the heavy hitters. He gave the lefties Greer and Palmeiro nothing at all and walked them both to load the bases. But the righties Gonzalez and Zeile he attacked with his full arsenal and exploited their aggression with ever-widening sliders until he had them fishing for pitches a foot outside.

And if there was a more crucial postseason game in the three-peat than his his ballsy victory in Cleveland in Game Four of the 1998 ALCS, I don’t know if I want to remember.

His pitching style was unforgettable and almost impossible to replicate on the stick-ball blacktop, though it didn’t stop us from straining our gluts giving it a try. His feisty confidence was refreshing and his arguments with Posada during mound visits were always entertaining.

When he walked those Texas lefties, there was no doubt it was part of a master plan. Perhaps that plan was a little foolish and left too little margin for error, but I don’t think El Duque ever worried that it wouldn’t work. And watching at home, I wasn’t worried either, which is probably why he was my favorite starter.

The Yankees had two players during the most recent dynasty who delivered performances vastly better than their career statistics would have you believe was possible. The great Mariano and El Duque. Mariano went from Hall of Famer to statistical impossibilty in the Postseason and El Duque, a quality middle-of-the-rotation arm, turned into Bob Gibson.

His baseball-reference page will have my kids wonder what all the fuss was about. I can’t wait to tell them.

Before This Did You Really Know What Life Was?

Can I kick it?

Aw, yes you can.

Man, I miss El Duque, don’t you?

Sound Familiar?

After splitting the first two games of the 1998 ALCS, Andy Pettitte took the mound looking to give the Yankees an important edge, but  lost Game 3 and the Yankees’ World Series outlook darkened. The Yankees’ fourth starter took the mound amid uncertainty and pitched one of the best games of his career.

I would love to see Orlando Hernandez come running out of the bullpen, tonight, but he’s probably not going to. The Yankees need AJ Burnett to summon his inner-Duque tonight. And though I’m sure you’re sick to death of reading about Cliff Lee, check out the first nine games (eight starts, one relief appearance) of Duque’s postseason career versus the first eight of Cliff Lee’s.

You’re looking at two of the best postseason stretches in history, and apart from the walks (which is more about style than effectiveness in this case), they’re almost identical. El Duque eventually faltered, hopefully Cliff Lee never does. That is, as long as his next postseason appearance comes in a Yankee uniform. If he’s got one more for the Rangers, I hope it’s a stinker.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver