Jeff Nelson's flat "frisbee" curve devastated right-handed batters. During the New York Yankees' run of four championships in five years, Nelson held righties to a .118 batting average while setting up for closer Mariano Rivera. With lefty Mike Stanton and Rivera, Nelson formed one-third of a trio that shut down the opposition late in games and became a major part of the Yankees' post-season success.
Off the field, Nelson's outspoken personality emerged. In 1999, while stuck on the DL with an elbow ailment, he alienated his bullpen-mates when he told a reporter, "I don't think it's going too well for these guys…as much as I was aching to come back here, they were aching to get me back." But the big blowup occurred in July of 2000. While pitching exceptionally well in 41 appearances for the Yanks, he became furious when manager Joe Torre failed to name him to the All-Star team. After a shouting match in Torre's office, he vented his feelings to the New York Post: "If I am not going to get the respect from my manager, I am not going to be a bulldog and suck one up for the team."
Possibly as a result of the All-Star snub, at the end of the 2000 season Nelson chose to test free agency and signed with the Mariners, with whom he had begun his career in 1992. (EPW)
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»August 28, 1996:
Seattle's 10-2 win over the visiting Yankees is delayed 10 minutes by a bench clearing brawl in the 8th inning following a close pitch by M's rookie Tim Davis. The M's John Marzano and Yanks Paul O'Neill and Jeff Nelson all receive 2-game suspensions, with the New Yorkers each getting fined $1,000. Nelson opened the 8th by plunking Joey Cora.
»May 29, 1997:
In Toronto, Tino Martinez hits his 20th homer—his third in three games—and David Cone strikes out 12 to lead New York over Toronto, 4–0. Jeff Nelson strikes out three Jays in relief. Martinez raised his RBI total to 56 with a single in the first off Woody Williams (1-5) and a solo shot in the third.
»September 26, 1997: Four Yankees pitchers combine to 1-hit the Tigers, winning by a score of 8-2. Andy Pettitte starts and allows a 2-run single to Travis Fryman in the 3rd inning, giving Detroit a 2-1 lead. Pettitte leaves after four frames and is succeeded by Brian Boehringer (3 innings), Mariano Rivera (1 inning), and Jeff Nelson (1 inning). Rivera receives credit for the win when NY explodes for six runs in the 9th inning.
»December 4, 2000:
The Mariners sign free agent P Jeff Nelson to a 3-year contract.