Mel Stottlemyre thought he had been forgotten, but the truth was, that was impossible.
It was Old-Timers’ Day 2015, and Stottlemyre, battling cancer and needing a doctor’s clearance just to take the trip from his home in Seattle, sat in the dugout near his cane, a little shrug to his demeanor. All the other players had been called out on that day – the day the Yankees were ostensibly honoring No. 30, Willie Randolph – but not him.
But it was then that Stottlemyre, who died in a Seattle hospital Sunday at the age of 77 from complications due to multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer, was shown exactly how unforgettable he was. The 30 on the grass was for him, too. The plaque Joe Torre held was for him. The cheers were for him.
And Stottlemyre, the Yankees ace turned pitching coach who was at the forefront of some of the biggest moments in New York baseball history, was being immortalized in Monument Park.
On Monday, a day after Stottlemyre died, the baseball world was again reminded of his indelible mark on the sport – both for the Yankees, where he played his entire career and then helped mold the likes of Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, and for the Mets, too. As a pitching coach, he fostered the arms of a generation – Dwight Gooden, Bobby Ojeda, Ron Darling – and was part of the 1986 world championship coaching staff. He was known as a pitcher’s pitching coach, and his staff loved him for it. All told, he won five World Series as a coach, the one with the Mets and the rest with the Yankees' dynasty teams of the late ‘90s.
“Mel was a better person than he was pitching coach,” Ojeda said. “He was a person I aspired to be, but I never made it.”
Added Gooden: “Mel was more than a pitching coach to me. He was a dear friend. Everything I accomplished in the game was because of him. He taught me so much more than balls and strikes. I’ll miss him dearly.”
For Stottlemyre, it all began in that rookie season of 1964 – one where he was called up in August and immediately made a name for himself, using that devastating sinker to help the Yankees clinch their fifth straight pennant. He battled Bob Gibson three times in that seven-game World Series against the Cardinals, eventually faltering in Game 7. He was 9-3 that season with a 2.06 ERA.
The five-time All Star had a 2.97 ERA in a decade in baseball, with 1,257 strikeouts. But despite reaching the World Series only three months into his major-league career, that would be the last time Stottlemyre would make the playoffs as a player. Instead, he made his name as the bright spot in a dark time. The Yankees' only true ace early in his tenure, he led the American League in complete games, batters faced and innings pitched in 1965, and went 20-12 in 1966, the first of three 20-win seasons. Overall, he went 164-139 with 152 complete games and 40 shutouts. Stottlemyre tore his rotator cuff in June 1974 – an injury that, at the time, had no surgery to correct it – and was released by the Yankees before the beginning of the 1975 season, ending his pitching career.
There was bad blood with the Yankees after that, and Stottlemyre coached for the Mets and the Astros before finally making peace with George Steinbrenner and signing on as Joe Torre’s pitching coach from 1996-2005, where he was largely credited with shaping the pitching staff that won all those rings.
“I am sorry to hear of Mel’s passing,” Torre said in a statement. “Mel was a role model to us all and the toughest man I have ever met. Sometimes a manager hires a friend to be their coach but with Mel, as with Zim [Don Zimmer], he was my coach who became a dear friend and someone who became very special to me.”
During that tenure, in 2000, Stottlemyre revealed that he had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a disease of the plasma cells in the blood that can manifest in bone pain, kidney failure and neurological problems. His disease went into remission, returning in 2011.
The tense relationship with Steinbrenner, though, reared itself again and eventually led to Stottlemyre’s resignation in 2005; he coached one more year with the Mariners, in 2008, before his retirement. Any resentment with the Yankees, though, was left behind as the years passed – and that was never so certain than on that day in 2015, when Stottlemyre was ushered to home plate by Pettitte and honored while surrounded by his family, including his wife, Jean. He is also survived by his sons, Mel Jr., a pitching coach, and Todd, a former major-league pitcher.
“Beyond his tremendous accomplishments as a player and coach, Mel Stottlemyre was beloved for his class, dignity and fighting spirit," the Yankees said in a statement. "His contributions to different eras in our history guided us through difficult times and brought us some of our greatest all-time success. As a result, Mel’s popularity transcended generations, all of whom thought of him as their own. His plaque in Monument Park will forever serve to celebrate the significance of his legacy.”
It was clear on that day that the plaque held tremendous meaning to Stottlemyre, the man who thought he had been forgotten.
“Today, in this stadium, there is no one happier to be on this field than myself,” he said then, holding back tears. “I’ve been battling a dreaded disease for quite some time. I’ve had so much help from my family over here and I can’t say enough about you people, how supportive you have been of me over the years,” he added, pointing to the cheering fans.
“If I never get to come to another Old-Timers' Game, I will take these memories that I have today.”
Playing career: Yankees, 1964-74
 Career pitching record: 164-139, 2.97 ERA, 1,257 strikeouts 152 complete games, 40 shutouts
 Major-league debut: Aug. 12, 1964
 Rookie season: 9-3, 2.06 ERA (Pitched Games 2, 5 and 7 in the 1964 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, going 1-1 with a 3.15 ERA)
 All-Star appearances: Five (1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970)
 20-win seasons: Three (20-9 in 1965, 21-12 in 1968, 20-14 in 1969)
 Coaching career: Mets pitching coach, 1984-93; Astros pitching coach,1994-95; Yankees pitching coach,1996-2005; Mariners pitching coach, 2008
 World Series titles as a pitching coach: Five (1986, Mets; 1996, 1998-2000, Yankees)

Laura Albanese/newsday.com
 
OAKLAND -- Two-sport standout Kyler Murray, who is under contract with the A's, officially declared for the NFL Draft ahead of Monday's midnight ET deadline, further magnifying a most momentous decision. By opting in to the NFL Draft, a move that is essentially procedural, Murray remains within the confines of his deal with the A's -- which includes a $4.66 million signing bonus following his first-round selection in last June's MLB Draft -- but he must now decide whether to honor it.
While time remains for Murray to come to a final decision, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Monday that Murray "has informed the Oakland A's of his intention to follow his heart to the NFL, where many project him to be a first-round pick. "He always can change his mind, but his mind has been made up," Schefter added. Murray is due in big league camp with the A's by Feb. 15, while the NFL Combine begins on Feb. 26. That means the 21-year-old will likely have to officially choose one sport -- it's already been determined that he can't play both in the same year -- in the coming weeks, assuming Oakland prevents him from attending the combine. The A's are doing their part to keep Murray on the diamond. On Sunday, they sent their top executives to meet with Oklahoma's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in Dallas in hopes of enticing him to a baseball career with a sweetened deal; sources told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi that MLB officials were vetting the A's proposal of a Major League contract for Murray, who is repped by power agent Scott Boras. Thus far, it's believed that such a deal was not initially discussed as an inducement to help the two sides strike a deal following the Draft -- an arrangement prohibited by MLB. That bodes well for approval of a new deal with the A's, and Murray's entrance into the NFL Draft does not prevent him from agreeing to one. It's key that any additional money coming to Murray now isn't considered part of his original signing bonus because of the penalties clubs face when exceeding their bonus pool allotments. The A's, who worked with a total bonus pool of $9,553,200 at last year's Draft, selected Murray with the ninth pick overall. That put in place an agreement that would allow Murray to play one more season of college football with Oklahoma. Then historic numbers came for the dynamic quarterback, and a Heisman. Now, he is drawing first-round projections from NFL insiders despite his slight frame. Should the A's sway the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Murray to pick baseball over football with a Major League contract that would guarantee him more money, Murray would have four Minor League option years rather than the usual three, because MLB rules grant a fourth option for players expending their third option year before completing five Minor League seasons. Under this scenario, Murray would need to join the A's full-time at the latest by the 2022 season. On the other hand, if Murray fully commits to the NFL, he would have to return his signing bonus to the A's. However, the club would not receive a compensation pick in this June's MLB Draft, only retaining Murray's professional baseball rights. Murray, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the A's No. 4 prospect, hit .296/.398/.556 with 10 home runs, 47 RBIs and 10 stolen bases with 189 at-bats as a redshirt sophomore with Oklahoma last spring. Murray's father, Kevin, faced a similar quandary in 1982. Drafted out of high school in the 18th round by the Brewers, the elder Murray signed with Milwaukee for $35,000. He hit .161 over 41 games in the Appalachian League before deciding to quit baseball and attend Texas A&M to play quarterback.
Jane Lee/MLB.com
 
Jacob deGrom received a record-setting raise and four other key members of the Mets' stout roster more than doubled their respective salaries while avoiding an arbitration hearing.
Reigning National League Cy Young Award winner deGrom agreed to a one-year, $17 million deal on Friday in his second year of arbitration eligibility. His $9.6 million raise eclipsed the record raise ($9.5 million) American League MVP Award winner Mookie Betts had received just a couple of hours earlier.
The Mets also reached agreements on one-year deals with each of their other unsigned arbitration-eligible players: Noah Syndergaard($6 million), Zack Wheeler ($5.975 million), Michael Conforto ($4.025 million) and Steven Matz ($2.625 million).
While Wheeler gained a raise of slightly more than $4 million, Conforto's salary jumped $3.42 million and Syndergaard received a $3.025 million pay increase. Matz made $577,000 last year.
Now that deGrom has learned his salary for the upcoming season, the focus will be on whether he receives a multiyear deal before potentially hitting the free-agent market for the first time in 2021. The 30-year-old right-hander was a near unanimous Cy Young Award winner after posting an MLB-low 1.70 ERA over a career-high 32 starts in '18.
Wheeler's resurgence and return to health served as a key reason the Mets produced the NL East's best record over the season's final three months. The 28-year-old right-hander, who missed the 2015-16 seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery, posted a 2.06 ERA over his last 15 starts.
Conforto belted a career-best 28 homers in a career-high 153 games, but the 25-year-old outfielder's OPS (.797) was down from his 2017 All-Star season (.939).
After producing a 6.08 ERA in just 13 starts while dealing with irritation of the ulnar nerve in his left elbow during the 2017 season, the 27-year-old Matz remained healthy throughout most of last season, posting a 3.97 ERA over 30 starts.
Mark Bowman/MLB.com