First signed by the Rangers, Nelson jumped from the Florida State League (20-3 in 1980) to the Yankees in 1981; at 20, he was the youngest player in the majors. In 1982 he was traded to Seattle, but failed to impress the Mariners and was drafted off their Triple-A roster by the White Sox, who used him as a setup man and spot starter.
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Chicago manager Tony LaRussa liked Nelson's work habits. After LaRussa took over at Oakland in 1986, he had the A's acquire Nelson, who won Games Two and Three of the 1988 LCS with scoreless relief. He went on to pitch well in Oakland’s two World Series defeats in 1988 and ‘90, giving up only one run in 11.1 innings, but surrendered six runs in his only inning of work during Oakland’s 1989 World Series victory. (RL/JT)
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FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»August 1, 1979:
In an 8-player deal, the Rangers send OF Oscar Gamble, minor leaguer Amos Lewis, a former 1st pick in the 1978 draft, and two players to be named to the Yankees and finally acquire OF Mickey Rivers and three players to be named. Rivers had been traded to the Rangers in June but the deal fell through. Both of the players to be named with Gamble will make the majors: Gene Nelson and Ray Fontenot, something that can't be said for the three unnamed to Texas.
»July 3, 1988: Oakland's P Gene Nelson steals a base while pinch running for Don Baylor in a 9–8, 16-inning win over Toronto, becoming the first American League pitcher to steal a base since John "Blue Moon" Odom in 1973. Jose Canseco's three home runs are not quite enough, and the game is not decided until Mark McGwire connects in the 16th inning to end it. McGwire will hit another 16th-inning home run tomorrow.