07/10/2004 5:49 PM ET
Ruffing finally gets his plaque
Former Yankee hurler enters Monument Park
By David Moses / MLB.com
|After more than 50 years, Red Ruffing finally entered Monument Park on Saturday. (Chad Rachman/AP)
Yankees Old Timers' Day 2004: 350K
NEW YORK -- It may have taken more than 50 years, but Charles "Red" Ruffing finally got what he truly deserved -- a spot in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park.
Ruffing, who was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1967, is the Yankees' all-time leader in wins by a right-handed pitcher with 231, and he is the only pitcher in franchise history to compile four consecutive 20-win seasons.
Despite his more-than-impressive numbers in pinstripes, the Yankees did not immortalize Ruffing during his lifetime.
With the encouragement of friends and family, Ruffing's son, Charles Jr., decided to write the Yankees a letter on behalf of his father.
"I can only tell you from memories, because I was too young when he was playing," Ruffing Jr. said. "I know his love of the Yankees."
Ruffing Jr. was more than touched by the response he received from Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
"(Cashman) said, 'If every pinstripe represents a great Yankee, your dad is one of those pinstripes,'" Ruffing Jr. said.
"I got this letter out of the blue a couple of years ago, talking about how Red Ruffing belongs among the great Yankees," Cashman said. "I read the letter and said to myself, 'You know, he's right.' So I took it to Rick Cerrone (director of media relations) and the other people who handle this stuff, and they took it to George (Steinbrenner). They said, 'You know, he belongs in there.' And George said, 'You're right. He does.'"
On hand to witness the dedication were Ruffing's son; his daughter in-law, Judy; his grandchildren, Charles III, Rob and Jaclyn; and his granddaughter in-law Mia.
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"It means a lot because when he went into the Hall of Fame I was the only one there besides my mother," Ruffing Jr. said. "Now my family is here and they get to see him go in Monument Park which is the second-greatest honor you can have in baseball, in my opinion."
As the voice of Yankee Stadium, Bob Sheppard, read the inscription on the newly added 20th plaque, all of the living members of Monument Park (Ron Guidry, Don Mattingly, Reggie Jackson, Whitey Ford, Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra) were on hand to welcome the newest member of one of the most exclusive clubs in baseball.
"It's easier to do a Reggie Jackson Day or a Don Mattingly Day or somebody who is alive that can come out here and speak to the fans and there is more interest," Ruffing Jr. said. "I understand that, but I'm very happy this is happening and we're just really glad to be here."
Some of his son's best memories of him were from their time together at the Stadium.
"He used to bring me up there all the time," Ruffing Jr. said. "I don't remember coming back to Yankee Stadium after '62, but I was telling my kids, there is no feeling in the world like standing at home plate at Yankee Stadium."
When Ruffing began his career as a member of the Boston Red Sox, it didn't look like he would go down as one of the greatest pitchers of all time. After he started his career with a 39-96 record in Boston, the Yankees acquired Ruffing for $50,000. After joining the Yankees, Ruffing assembled a 231-124 record, including 261 complete games and a 7-2 record in the World Series.
Not only was Ruffing a Cooperstown-quality hurler, but he was also more than capable with a bat in his hands. His newly issued plaque reads "one of the greatest hitting pitchers of all-time," and he certainly has the numbers to back that claim up.
Ruffing batted .300 or better in eight seasons, and compiled 36 career home runs with 273 RBIs.
After a line drive broke his kneecap, the Yankees traded Ruffing to the Chicago White Sox, where he finished his career. He retired with a career record of 273-225, and passed away from cancer in 1986.
Other former Yankee greats enshrined with plaques in Monument Park are Jacob Ruppert, Ed Barrow, Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, Thurman Munson, Elston Howard, Roger Maris, Billy Martin, Lefty Gomez, Bill Dickey, Allie Reynolds, Mel Allen and Bob Sheppard.
Along with the now 20 plaques, Monument Park is also home to six monuments. Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Miller Huggins, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio are all immortalized, and there is also a special memorial monument for the victims of the September 11 tragedy.
David Moses is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.