November 4, 1953: Roger Slagle
It isn't often a first-round draft pick of the New York Yankees throws a perfect two innings of relief and never gets to sniff a big-league mound again, but that's exactly what happened to Roger Slagle, who made his one-and-only appearance on September 7, 1979 at Tiger Stadium. Slagle turns 66 today.
Slagle is one of just five players in major-league history to pitch at least two career innings and not allow a baserunner. Still, it wasn't enough for the University of Kansas alum. By the 1979 season at age 25 and with three previous seasons of minor-league experience under his belt, Slagle was primed to break out. In Single-A Fort Lauderdale, he didn't take much time proving he was ready for higher levels of play. After just three games where he went 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA and 2:1 K:BB ratio, he was optioned all the way up to Triple-A.
He didn't excel at Triple-A, pitching to a 4.64 ERA in 130 innings, but his control was impeccable. Slagle worked his K:BB ratio to 3:1, an excellent mark and the sign of a pitcher potentially on the rise. It helped him earn a call up in 1979, where in September, he bided his time. In front of nearly 30,000 fans at Tiger Stadium, he trotted to the mound to take the ball in the seventh inning, replacing Jim Kaat.
New York trailed 6-0 and so the rookie had nothing to lose. Steve Kemp grounded out to second, Champ Summers struck out, and Jason Thompson grounded to third. Just like that, Slagle was out of the inning and had a perfect frame in the books. Unphased, he returned to the mound for the eighth inning where he got Jerry Morales to ground out, all-star Lance Parrish to strike out, and Aurelio Rodriguez to line out. Six up, six down and Slagle's day was done.
Surely, he had done enough in his two perfect innings to show the Yankees he was worthy of another chance. However, the harsh reality of baseball as a business hit him in the face when he was removed from the team's 40-man roster shortly after. The Bronx Bombers had to pitch Rick Anderson more as he was a pitcher they were trying to trade. It worked out for them as they successfully shipped him to the Mariners.
Slagle tried to shrug it off, but injuries would ensure he'd never return to the bright lights of Major League Baseball. Over the next two seasons, he posted ERAs of 2.38 and 3.02 respectively across Double-A and Triple-A. However, a re-tear of his rotator cuff in 1982 spelled the end of his career. Corrective surgical procedures for that kind of injury simply didn't exist at the time and Slagle called it quits.
He would've loved to have more to show for his career, which started off so promisingly on that October night in Detroit, but he still has the memory of performing in front of 30,000 fans and shutting a major-league lineup down.