James Alton Coates
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 4", Weight 192 lb.
- Debut September 21, 1956
- Final Game September 30, 1967
- Born August 4, 1932 in Farnham, VA USA
- Died November 15, 2019 in Lancaster, VA USA
"Jim Coates pitched against us tonight and beat us 4-1. Coates, as has been noted, could pose as the illustration for an undertaker's sign... Coates was famous for throwing at people and then not getting into the fights that resulted. There'd be a big pile of guys fighting about a Coates duster and you'd see him crawling out of the pile and making for the nearest exit. So we decided that if there was a fight while Coates was pitching, instead of heading for the mound, where he was not likely to be, we'd block the exits." - Jim Bouton, Ball Four
Right-hander Jim Coates was signed as an amateur free agent by the New York Yankees before the 1952 season after dropping out of school at 16. He was assigned to the Olean Yankees of the PONY League in his first season and responded with a 13-15 record and a 3.19 ERA. The slender pitcher was in the minors for the next five seasons, sharpening his game for his 1956 major league debut. His best year came in 1955 when he went 14-8 with a 2.95 ERA in a split season with the Binghamton Triplets and the Birmingham Barons. Jim debuted with two games in 1956, pitching two innings, after spending the year with the Richmond Virginians of the International League. He was also in Richmond the next two seasons, where he was 22-23 over the three-year run. He broke his arm in 1958 and pitched only 8 games that year before making the majors for good the following season.
From 1959 to 1962, Jim worked as a spot starter and reliever for the Bronx Bombers, going 37-15. He had a 13-3 mark in 1960, a year in which he was selected to the first of two All-Star games. Coates was especially tough at Yankee Stadium. Of pitchers with at least 20 wins, Jim had the highest winning percentage (.794) at the "House That Ruth Built" going 27-7 during his career. He is also the last Yankee pitcher to win both games of a doubleheader. The lanky Virginian enjoyed his finest moment in Game 4 of the 1961 World Series when the Yankees beat the Cincinnati Reds, 7-0. Coates relieved Whitey Ford in the 6th inning because of a foot injury. He responded with four shutout innings allowing only one hit, getting credit for a save. During the three World Series (1960, 1961 and 1962) that Coates was with the Yankees, he appeared in six games with an 0-1 record and 4.15 ERA.
Jim also made stops with the Washington Senators (1963), the Cincinnati Reds (1963) and the California Angels (1965 to 1967) during his major league career. He had the reputation of knocking down batters and, as evidenced above, not getting involved in the resulting scrapes. He threw with a side-arm delivery and turned his head away from the batter at the last second. It was downright nasty. Jim said: "If you have to knock a batter down, you knock him down." Coates finished his nine season big league run with a 43-22 record and an even 4.00 ERA. After being cut loose from the Angels, Jim went to the Pacific Coast League and finished his 15-year minor league career with the Hawaii Islanders at 37 in 1970. His record in the minors was 142-113 with a 2.81 ERA. Overall, he spent 19 active seasons in baseball (1952-1970).
Coates was an unforgettable character. Jim Bouton, in his book Ball Four, wrote of his battles with his skeletal teammate. Jim was also known as the only pitcher who could sleep with his eyes open and pitch with them closed. Jim's nickname, to his Yankee teammates, was "The Mummy". Following his baseball career, Jim became a high voltage electrician. For three years he worked in the underground Metro in Washington, DC, and spent twelve years in the shipyard in Newport News, Virginia. Coates, who was inducted into the Virginia Hall of Fame in 1994, passed away towards the end of 2019. He was the grandfather of Aaron Pribanic.
- AL All-Star (1960)
- AL Winning Percentage Leader (1960)
- Won two World Series with the New York Yankees (1961 & 1962)