OTD in Yankees History: Jimmy Key Calls It Quits

On Jan. 29, 1999, Yankees pitcher Jimmy Key called it a career.

From National Pastime.com:

   Jimmy Key, citing shoulder injuries, retires from baseball compiling a 186-117 (.684) record during his 15-year major league career. The 37-year-old five-time All-Star southpaw appeared in the playoffs with all his teams, which included the Blue Jays, Yankees, and Orioles.

Pinstripe Alley named Key one its top 100 Yankees, placing the lefty at #97:

As PA writes, Key wasn’t the first or even second choice for the Yankees entering the 1993 season, as the club had been rebuffed by both Greg Maddux and David Cone, both of who would figure into the Yankees’ dynasty later in the decade.

So would Key:

The New York Daily News’ Mike Lupica wrote the following after Key’s performance in Game 3 of the 1996 ALCS against the Orioles:

There was Dwight Gooden’s no-hitter at Yankee Stadium in May, a night of memory and romance there, the night ending with Gooden on the shoulders of his teammates. There were the seven no-hit innings David Cone pitched in September, Cone’s first start after being away four months because of an aneurysm in his shoulder and surgery to repair it. Who can forget that game, or the games Andy Pettitte pitched this season after the Yankees had lost, or all the late innings from Mariano Rivera? But if the World Series starts next Saturday night at Yankee Stadium, if the Yankees win two more games against the Orioles and bring the Series back home, there will be one pitching performance to talk about and remember and call the biggest and best we have seen from a Yankee starter all season. We will all talk about the way Jimmy Key pitched against the Orioles Friday night at Camden Yards. Once again, for the first time in a long time, we will talk about the Whitey Ford that Jimmy Key has in him. A ton of Whitey Ford.

“Jimmy Key was spectacular,” Joe Torre would say, and then someone would ask him what it is that enables Key to rise to occasions like Friday night’s and Torre thought about that and said, “It’s what’s inside him.

He threw 117 pitches and gave the Orioles three hits. Some guys fold when they get behind early. Some get timid or try to be too fine and before they know it they are in the clubhouse. Not Key. He lifts his game and waits for his hitters to raise theirs. “I knew for sure by the fourth inning that I had found my groove,” he said. AFTER ALL THE up-and-down performances this year, after people wondered if he could ever get back to where he was before his surgery, this was the night when Jimmy got his groove back. Officially got it back, in front of the baseball world. This was Key working the inside, working the outside, spotting his fastball, making the most feared lineup in baseball look like Little League hitters in their charming Little League park. And finally the Yankees hit for him, with two outs in the eighth. They were still trailing Mussina and the Orioles 2-1. Jeter hit and Bernie hit and Big Daddy went deep into the night. One more time, the Yankees had found a way to beat the Orioles at Camden Yards. One more time in October, we saw the genius of Jimmy Key. Whitey pitched like this. Only on his best days.