The West Haven Yankees were only around eight seasons (1972-79), but they won four Eastern League championships and produced many memorable names for baseball fans in the area.
The first title, in 1972, came with Bobby Cox as manager. All these years later Cox is still managing, in his 26th season in the majors and 22nd with Atlanta. The last title came in 1979 under Stump Merrill, who managed the Yankees for part of the 1990 season and all of '91.
That '79 team had familiar faces such as Dave Righetti, then 20, who went on to become a good pitcher for the Yankees; Willie McGee, 20, who had many good years with the Cardinals; Buck Showalter, 23, who became a major league manager, including a stint with the Yankees just before the Joe Torre years; and homegrown talent Brian Dayett of Deep River, then 22.
Dayett was a great high school player for Valley Regional High in the mid-1970s. Two examples: on May 8, 1975, he allowed three hits and had three RBI and scored twice in a 14-0 victory over Hand-Madison; five days later, he pitched a no-hitter against Old Saybrook, striking out 16 in a 4-0 win.
"[Coach] Fred Sutherland worked very hard with us, teaching us the game the right way," Dayett said. "He created some tough players, some good teams."
Dayett's parents and some siblings still live in the state. He remembers his father taking him to a Yankees game as a kid.
"[ Bobby] Murcer hit a foul ball and I grabbed it as my dad had me by the britches," Dayett said. "I had Bobby sign it later on."
Dayett hit .277 in 426 at-bats as an outfielder over five seasons with the Yankees and Cubs, to whom he was traded on Dec. 4, 1984. He remembers Wrigley Field as one of the "oldest and largest outdoor bars in the world."
After his major league career, he played in Japan for a while. Today he is the batting coach for the Hickory (N.C.) Crawdads, the Texas Rangers' Class A affiliate.
"I like working with the younger kids," said Dayett, 52, a married father of two sons. "I try to teach them about baseball and life."
And what it takes to get to the majors.
"You have to have luck, you can't have [major] injuries, you need someone to believe in you, you need to put up numbers," Dayett said.
And then? "Even when you do that, you're not guaranteed anything," Dayett said.
Getting there, though, is something else.
"It was a great thrill," he said. "I'd been in the minors for six years. I kept pushing."
His first hit came in the second game of a doubleheader as a pinch hitter on Sept. 11, 1983. When he trotted out to the outfield, he knew he was in New York.
"What kind of number is 62?" he remembers fans saying. "Are you a pulling guard for the New York Giants?"
CTHistory is looking for your memories of minor league baseball teams that used to play in the state. Got a unique story to tell? E-mail it to email@example.com. For previous CT Histories, visit courant.com/cthistory
West Haven's Pinstriped Pipeline
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