Fond memories of a Lifesaver

Louis Arroyo died last week.
No, I don’t expect you to know of him. But a few of you may.
I do.
Louis (pronounced Lou-eece, emphasis on the second syllable) was a New York Yankee. A lesser known one, obviously. At the news of his death, it wasn’t like Yankee fans everywhere wept. Nevertheless, he was a crucial element in the Yanks’ winning the pennant and the World Series in 1961.
That was the year Mantle and Maris each chased Babe Ruth’s home run record and Whitey Ford won 25 games.
But Louis had himself a season, too. A season that earned him sixth place in the American League MVP voting. Maris was first that year, Mantle second. Whitey Ford finished fifth.
I read about Louis’ death, and some things I did not know about his life, in last Sunday’s New York Daily News. I knew he was a little guy, only 5’8, but did not know he posted a 15-5 record in that 1961 season with a 2.19 ERA and a then-record 29 saves. Yes, he was a relief pitcher.
As I read the article, all I could think of was watching Whitey Ford Day festivities at Yankee Stadium on TV with my dad and a float came onto the field featuring a giant roll of Lifesavers. When it came to a stop, Louis Arroyo popped out of the top.
I recall asking my dad what it meant. He explained Louis Arroyo was a lifesaver for Whitey Ford, coming in from the bullpen and saving games for him. I was 10 and still learning about the game.
What a pleasant surprise to find the writer of the article in the News recalled the same story. The News article pointed out Arroyo, like Whitey a lefty, saved 13 of Ford’s 25 wins, more than half, and also had a 1-0 record in the World Series that year when the Yankees beat the Reds.
The article also mentioned Arroyo was the first player born in Puerto Rico to play for the Yankees.
Arroyo’s career was brief, more of a shooting star. He did not make it to the Major Leagues until he was 28 years old, and two years after that ’61 season was out of the game.
Louis was 88 years old when he died in his native Puerto Rico where it was was reported he was much loved. I liked hearing that.

Ed Ackerman