It's 1964. You're a hotshot lefthanded pitcher graduating from a Los Angeles high school and the Dodgers reach out to sign you. You throw hard and people are comparing you to Sandy Koufax. That's how Mike Kekich's baseball career started. There's one story that everyone associates with Mike. However, it appears that he doesn't like to talk about that, and I'll respect that. I understand someone not wanting to be defined by one bad decision.
Mike Kekich had a golden arm and I'm sure the Dodgers thought they had another great lefty for their rotation signed. He went through 4 levels of the minors in 1964, striking out 185 in 183 innings. Problem was that he also walked 155 & gave 159 hits for a WHIP of 1.716. Still, strikeouts can strand a lot of those baserunners.
The Dodgers gave him a start on June 9, 1965 against the Phillies. He was a 20 year old making him major league debut. He gave 4 runs in 3.1 innings. He gave the fielders the day off in his first inning, striking out Tony Taylor. He walked Cookie Rojas. Then he struck out Dick Allen and Rojas was caught stealing with Dick Stuart at bat. The 2nd inning went easy, but after a couple of walks, Tony Taylor got his revenge with a 3 run homer. Alston took him out in the 4th after another walk and a double.
Mike got a few relief appearances the rest of the year, but he never really advanced. Mike never had an ERA+ better than 80. After failing to fulfill the promise in that golden arm and not taking Koufax's spot in the rotation, he was traded to the Yankees.
He made the back end of the Yankees rotation in the early 70s, but never really put it together. His strikeouts went down to about 5/9IP, but he still walked about 4.5/9IP and his WHIP stayed around 1.5. He had arm trouble with the Yankees. After getting traded to the Indians, he was released after a half-season. He had stints with the Rangers and the expansion Mariners before ending his big league career in 1977. He pitched in AAA for the Mariners in 1978, but never got a call-up.
Mike's a real estate agent in Albuquerque now. Every few years there's a story about his years with the Yankees and it will mention that he didn't return media calls. Can't blame him. Frankly, I'd rather hear an interview with him about his major league debut or what it was like to try to fit into the Dodger rotation in 1968 and any pressure he felt of trying to be the next Sandy Koufax. He was a teammate of David Clyde in Texas in 1975. I wonder if they talked any about being bonus babies, rushed to the big leagues and having arm trouble and disappointments.
Those are the stories I wish Mike Kekich could tell.
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