I’ll admit that while I remember John Pacella‘s cup of coffee with the Tigers in 1986 (11 innings pitched), I didn’t know much about him. But today I learned a lot about him, including:
- Today is Pacella’s 52nd birthday.
- The Brooklyn-born right-hander made his major-league debut on this date in 1977 — his 21st birthday — for his hometown Mets against the Phillies at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.
Pacella entered the game in the bottom of the seventh, relieving Rick Baldwin, and got the first hitter, Greg Luzinski, to line out to center. Next, Richie Hebner popped out to third. Garry Maddox doubled to right before Bob Boone popped out to Mets catcher John Stearns.
In his two innings of work, Pacella allowed a pair each of hits, walks and unearned runs. The loss went to Mets starter Craig Swan who allowed five walks in one inning of work.
All told, he pitched just four innings in 1977, didn’t pitch for the Mets in ’78, but returned in ’79 for 16 innings. In 1980, Pacella appeared in 32 games, 15 of them starts, and earned a 3-4 record.
Then he got traded. And traded. And traded…for some pretty big names:
- Dec. 15, 1980: Traded by the New York Mets with Jose Moreno to the San Diego Padres for Randy Jones.
- March 31, 1981: Traded by the San Diego Padres with Jerry Mumphrey to the New York Yankees for Ruppert Jones, Joe Lefebvre, Tim Lollar, and Chris Welsh.
- May 12, 1982: Traded by the New York Yankees with Pete Filson, Larry Milbourne, and cash to the Minnesota Twins for Butch Wynegar and Roger Erickson.
- Nov. 1, 1982: Traded by the Minnesota Twins to the Texas Rangers for Len Whitehouse.
So how did he end up in Detroit? After being released, first by the Rangers and then the Orioles, the Tigers signed Pacella on Dec. 28, 1984. He spent the ’85 season with the Tigers Triple-A affiliate in Nashville posting a 7-7 mark with a 3.23 ERA. In 1986, he started the year with the Sounds notching a 7-6 record and 2.90 ERA before getting called up to Detroit.
His first Tigers appearance came on June 16 at Baltimore. Wearing #43, he pitched 1.1 scoreless innings and earned the save. Pacella pitched four more times for the Tigers that year — his longest outing was 5.2 IP against the Yankees in which he allowed seven walks.
(I just noticed that even though the photo in this post shows Pacella at Tiger Stadium, he never pitched in a game at The Corner with Detroit. He did, though, appear in Detroit twice in 1982 and he probably wants to forget: two games, one start, 5.1 IP, nine hits, seven earned runs, four homers — two by Lance Parrish, one each by Larry Herndon and Rick Leach.)
His last major-league appearance was on July 12, 1986, at Kansas City. He faced Greg Pryor in the bottom of the seventh and surrendered an RBI single. The Tigers lost the game 7-4.
There’s nothing on Baseball-Reference.com or the other sites that show what happened to him after July 12. The Tigers probably sent him back to Nashville where he led the American Association with 17 saves.
Pacella started the 1987 season with the Tigers’ new Triple-A club, the Toledo Mud Hens. On June 30, 1987, the Yokohama Bay Stars purchased his contract from Detroit. In 1988 he was back in the States pitching at the Triple-A level for the Brewers, Orioles and then, surprise, Tigers.
After 19 professional seasons — six major league, 13 minor league — Pacella finished with a mark of 4-10, 5.73 ERA in the majors, 71-86, 3.94 in the bushes.
Happy 52nd Birthday, John Pacella.