Jan 4, 2021

Bill Denehy: Interesting Story On The Player Traded For Mets Manager Gil Hodges (1967)

William Francis Denehy,
was born March 31st 1946 in Middletown, Connecticut. The six foot three, right hander was signed by the New York Mets, right out of high school, just one of two players to come out of Middletown High.

The Mets were anxious to get some young talent up to the big leagues. In 1965 impressed, leading the NY Penn. League in wins, going 13-9 with a 2.78 ERA. He was promoted to AA Williamsport winning nine of eleven decisions, with a 1.97 ERA, 100 strike outs in 128 innings.

In the Mets minor leagues, Denehy was considered just as good as the young exciting Tom Seaver. They were noted as 1A & 1B in no particular order by Spring Training 1967. Both pitchers did well & made the club going north.

Trivia: Denehy is pictured to the left of Tom Seaver, on
Seaver's 1967 Topps Rookie Card.

Mets Career: Denehy debuted in the fifth game of the 1967 season, facing the Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium. He pitched well, striking out eight in 6.1 innings of work, but gave up a two run HR to Dick Allen. The Mets were shut out 2-0 by Phillie pitcher, Larry Jackson. Jackson had won 15 games the previous year & led the NL with 24 wins, just three years earlier while with the Cubs.

Denehy would go 0-4 in his first four starts but his ERA was only 3.47. In a May 3rd game, against the Giants at Shea, in front of 28,531 fans, he hurt his arm, pitching a slider to Willie Mays. It was later understood, he had a torn rotator cuff, but the Mets kept it a secret.

He was then used in relief & as a starter, but the injury affected his throwing. On May 28th, in the first of a twin bill against the Braves at Shea, he earned the only victory of his career. Although he served up long balls to Joe Torre & Clete Boyer, Tommy Davis had his biggest day in his short Mets career, hitting a three run HR, collecting four hits & driving in five runs, leading to the 6-3 victory.

At the end of June, Denehy was 1-7 with a 4.50 ERA in 15 appearances & was sent down to the
minor leagues.

He was given multiple cortisone shots, stating that he was given many as 57 that season. Many years later he was told, no one should take more than ten cortisone shots in an entire life time, as it is a risk to the eyes. Years later in 2005, he lost vision in his right eye. The matter worsened & by 2019 he was diagnosed legally blind.

Big Trade For the Mets: At the end of the 1967 season, he was still considered a top pitching prospect, as no one knew about his injury. As the Mets were negotiating to get Gil Hodges back to New York from the Washington Senators, three players were offered in a deal, but it was Denehy that the Senators wanted. 

The Mets got Gil Hodges, who was to be their manager, in exchange for Denehy & $100k. He remains one of the very few players to ever be traded for a manager.

Denehy would pitch just two innings, in three appearances for Washington, spending most of the year in the minors. The next year he was traded to the Cleveland Indians, as Hodges led the Amazing Mets to the World Championship.

He would get drafted back by the Mets in December 1969, going 7-4 with a 3.29 ERA at AAA Tidewater in 1970. He was then traded to the Detroit Tigers along with Dean Chance , for Jerry Robertson before the 1971 season. He made 31 appearances for the '71 Tigers going 0-3. before ending his career. 

Bean Ball: '71 Tiger manager, Billy Martin was infamous for having his staff throw at batters
heads. In a game against the Red Sox, Denehy beaned Reggie Smith, Smith broke free from catcher Bill Freehan's grasp & threw a punch just missing Denehy.

Overall in his three year career, he was 1-10 with a 4.56 ERA,with 74 Ks & 72 walks in 57 appearances.

His baseball hardships led him to heavy drinking & drug abuse.

Retirement:
After his playing days, he later became a coach in the Boston Red Sox, minor leagues from 1981-1983. From 1985 to 1987 he was coach at the University of Hartford, with Jeff Bagwell. He was fired after making remarks about an opposing coach after a bench clearing brawl.

Legally Blind: As a result of the many cortisone shots he took, he began suffering with serious eye issues in 2005. He would eventually lose sight in his right eye & as the problems worsened, he was legally blind by 2019. Due to the fact that players from those days have no pension, the eye problems hurt him financially. The Baseball Assistance program has provided him some assistance. It is a sad story for a once top prospect. 

In 2014 he began to share his life with his guide dog, Kane. 
Quotes- Bill Denehy: "He's absolutely fantastic, If there is a fault it's with me. I let too many people pet him, when he's working, kids & women. He's a chick magnet".

Drama: In 2019 while living in Orlando, Florida, a dishonest, female caretaker, was accused of stealing almost $17,000 from him over time, she was arrested.

Book:
His anger toward Marvin Miller, the players who settled on the 1981pension deal & his former employers, led him to write the book; "Rage, The Legend of Baseball Bill Denehy" in 2014.

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