Yankees surprise Stottlemyre with plaque

Former pitcher and coach, who's battling cancer, honored on Old-Timers' Day

Yankees surprise Stottlemyre with plaque

NEW YORK -- They told Mel Stottlemyre it was just another Old-Timers' Day. That the '30' painted on the Yankee Stadium grass was Willie Randolph's, not his. That they'd introduce him with everybody else.

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Stottlemyre, who had to convince his oncologist to let him fly to New York, sat in the Yankees' dugout as Randolph received his Monument Park plaque. He watched as his fellow Old-Timers were introduced, a history of the club unfurling in front of him.

He waited for his name to be called until he was the last one left.

"I was sitting there by myself, and I actually thought they forgot me," he said.

As Stottlemyre sat in the dugout, he saw his family come out and line up in the middle of the diamond. He saw the veiled plaque in front of them, the bouquet of roses in his wife's arms.

The '30' was his, too.

Much to his surprise, the Yankees had a spot for Stottlemyre in Monument Park, as well. His plaque was already sculpted, his honorary ring already crafted. All that was left was to tell him.

So out Stottlemyre came, and he joined his family by the pitcher's mound. He pulled the cover off the plaque, and entered Yankees legend.

"This is, without a doubt, the biggest surprise I've ever had," Stottlemyre said. "Today, in this stadium, there is no one that's happier to be here on this field than myself."

Stottlemyre pitched 11 seasons for the Yankees, returning as a coach in 1996. He won four World Series under Joe Torre before resigning in 2005.

Months after the first of those championships, a routine blood test showed Stottlemyre was at risk for multiple myeloma, a plasma-cell cancer that accumulates in bone marrow. He was diagnosed with the disease during Spring Training in 2000, underwent treatment and spent a decade healthy.

The cancer returned in 2011, and Stottlemyre has spent the past four years fighting it. A series of side effects and medical complications ranging from heart conditions to thyroid deficiencies have followed.

But on Saturday, that all melted away, if only for an afternoon.

"I'm feeling very well," Stottlemyre said. "Right now, I'm on top of the clouds.

"If I never get to come to another Old-Timers' Game, I will take these memories that I have today, and I will start another baseball club, coaching up there whenever they need me," he said.

Alden Woods is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.