Because of their traditionally substantial resources, the New York Yankees have had numerous top prospects in their system. While some have gone on to lengthy careers with the Bronx Bombers, many have not been as fortunate. Pitcher Gil Patterson was one among those promising young players. While he only had a cup of coffee in the majors, he was still able to go on to a lengthy career in baseball that continues to this day.
The right-handed Patterson was taken with the seventh overall pick in the 1975 MLB Draft. He went a combined 24-8 with a 2.26 ERA in his first two seasons in the minors, leading to being summoned to New York in 1977.
Patterson appeared in 10 games (six starts) for the 1977 Yankees—a team most famously known for being the first team of George Steinbrenner’s ownership, and immortalized in the movie, The Bronx is Burning.
Patterson went 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA and a save. On May 25th of that year he beat future Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven and the Texas Rangers 3-2 for his first and only major league win. Ironically, his final major league game came on August 27th, when he pitched 1.2 scoreless innings of relief without a decision in a loss to Blyleven and those same Rangers.
Injuries caused Patterson to miss all of the 1978 and 1979 seasons. He came back and pitched well in two brief stints in the low minors for the Yankees in 1980-1981, but wasn’t able to get back to the level he needed to be to compete against major leaguers. After making four starts with the San Francisco Giants Single-A affiliate in 1982, he decided to retire as a player.
Since retiring, Patterson has held a number of minor league and big league coaching and organizational pitching coordinator positions with teams including the Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Yankees and Athletics. He has been in his current job as minor league pitching coordinator for the Oakland Athletics since 2008.
I happened to run into Patterson when he was visiting one of the Oakland minor league teams to work with their pitchers, and he agreed to answer some of my questions. While it was obvious he wished he could have played longer, he is still getting a lot of satisfaction from the work he does now with young players, making his baseball career an unqualified success.
Gil Patterson Interview:
How did you first become interested in baseball?: Really, ever since I was six. I knew from that point I didn’t have a whole lot of brain cells, so if I wanted to make a living, baseball was the number one thing. I always loved baseball, and really, baseball allowed me to get an education.
Who were your favorite team and player when you were growing up?: Growing up, it was the Yankees and Mickey Mantle. You know, I was drafted five times, and eventually by the Yankees. I’m not going to tell you I wasn’t waiting for them; I was. But I was awfully glad when I got picked by the Yankees.
How did you first find out that the Yankees were interested in drafting you?: You know, I didn’t. Matter of fact, I went to a couple of tryout camps, and the Phillies were going to give me more money. The Yankees said they didn’t want to give me that much, so I figured the Yankees wouldn’t draft me. They drafted me anyways.
Did you have a favorite moment from your playing career?: I think playing in Yankee Stadium as a 21-year-old. It was something I had dreamed of since I was a kid. I just wish I had played there a whole lot longer.
Did you have a favorite coach or manager?: Bobby Cox was my favorite manager. He was the type of guy, that when you played for him, you wanted to win for him as much as you did for yourself.
If you could do anything differently about your playing career, what would that be?: Of course, getting hurt. I wish I would have been able to stay in the big leagues longer to see what type of career I might have had. God has a plan for all of us, and not that I want to change God’s plan, but… I wish I could have played longer.