When baseball fans reflect on the career of New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain, chances are they will reminisce about that one much talked about game from years ago at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
Playing the Cleveland Indians in Divisional Series play, a lasting historical moment took place on October 5, 2007, when in bottom of the eighth action this burly rookie pitcher was suddenly attacked by a swarm of insects/midgets.
Recently, during the Yankees AL Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays telecast, they flashbacked to that night and showed the image of Chamberlain pitching Game 2 of that series with swarms of midgets attaching themselves to the right hander’s face and arms.
Showing great mental strength, Chamberlain continued to pitch in that eighth inning which saw the Yankees leading 1-0 in a game they would eventually lose in 11 innings by a 2-1 score.
“They bugged me,” Chamberlain said. “But you have to deal with it.”
Chamberlain, who is a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, had long time Yankees trainer Gene Monahan spray him with repellent but to no avail as the pitcher went on to uncharacteristically uncork two wild pitches while surrendering the tying run.
Eventually Cleveland would go on to win that series in four entertaining games.
Today, people often refer to it as “the bug game” and many Yankee fans have said over the years that their team would have won that game and would have taken the series if not for the midgets which swarmed Chamberlain.
Armed with a 90 mile per hour plus fastball Chamberlain was selected forty- first overall by New York in the 2006 draft.
It wasn’t until August 7, 2007 when this 6’2” hurler made his way onto the Major League Baseball scene where he dominated from the outset and became popular with Yankee fans.
Playing a big role in helping New York capture the 2007 Wild Card with a 94-68 record, Chamberlain had a magical rookie campaign which saw him finish the regular season strong by yielding only one run while striking out 34 batters and walking only six in his final 24 innings.
During that rookie season, there were debates among fans and team management about whether he would be better suited in the bullpen or as a starter.
His tenure in pinstripes which concluded following the 2013 season, saw Chamberlain alternate between both.
Making a strong statement, Chamberlain posted a 2-0 record in his rookie year with 1 save and a microscopic 0.36 ERA in 24 innings. Meanwhile the popularity of Chamberlain remained at an all time high.
Unfortunately for Yankee fans Chamberlain suffered various injuries in his career which included rotator cuff tendinitis, shoulder problems, elbow surgery, and Tommy John surgery to name a few.
After his final season wearing pinstripes in 2013, Chamberlain had an overall 23-14 record with five saves while striking out 446 batters during his overall tenure with the Yankees.
The next chapter of Chamberlain’s career took him to Detroit where he signed a one- year deal worth 2.5 million plus incentives to play the 2014 season with the Detroit Tigers.
That first season in Motown saw Chamberlain post a 2-5 record with a respectable 3.57 ERA along with recording 59 strikeouts.
Still armed with that over powering fastball, injuries continued to play a frustrating factor as Chamberlain threw only 22 more innings in Tigers colors before his contract was officially purchased from AAA by the Kansas City Royals.
Continuing to find himself on the move, Chamberlain finished the 2015 season with the Royals by posting a 7.94 ERA in only 5.2 innings pitched before having his contract picked up by the Cleveland Indians.
Pitching in what turned out to be his final MLB season, Chamberlain in 2016 threw 20 innings with the Indians where he struck out 18 batters and pitched to a 2.25 ERA.
Showing some interest in his services were the Milwaukee Brewers who on January 20, 2017 signed the veteran to a minor league contract before officially releasing him on March 22. Several months later on October 4, 2017, Chamberlain announced his retirement from major league baseball.
Despite the many highlight reel strikeouts in his career, it’s safe to say that the lasting memory Yankee fans have are the images of him pitching the eighth inning of that October 5, 2007 playoff game and trying to concentrate despite having a swarm of midgets plastered on his neck and face.
In his career Chamberlain finished up with a 25-21 record, a respectable 3.81 ERA while posting 546 strikeouts.