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Original Issue


AS ONE of baseball's famed pitching coaches, Mel Stottlemyre never went anywhere without his pillow-like catcher's mitt and his smile. The mitt was for catching his pitchers' bullpen sessions, like a father catching his son, which fit his paternalistic coaching style. The smile was how a gentle soul greeted every day, even when too many of them were dark.

Stottlemyre died Jan. 13 from complications of multiple myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer. He first was diagnosed in 1999, 18 years after losing his 11-year-old son, Jason, to leukemia.

As a 22-year-old rookie from tiny Mabton, Wash., Stottlemyre helped pitch the Yankees to the 1964 World Series, in which he lost Game 7 in a third duel against Bob Gibson. When the Yankees then plunged into a decade of mediocrity, Stottlemyre toiled tirelessly as their underappreciated star, winning 20 games three times with his trademark sinker.

His empathetic nature and keen understanding of mechanics made him a successful and beloved coach. In 10 years each with the Mets and Yankees, Stottlemyre won five championships and mentored five 20-game winners. His greatest legacy, through a career cut short and a life ravaged by cancers, will be the indomitable spirit that kept him smiling. "Mel was a role model to us all," said former Yankees manager Joe Torre, "and the toughest man I have ever met."