Born: October 23, 1965
Town: Toms River
Alois Terry Leiter was born October 23, 1965 in Toms River and grew up in Bayville. He and older brothers Kurt and Mark were all standouts in baseball from an early age. Al was a lefty and his brothers pitched right-handed. All pitched for Central Regional High School in Bayville. Al distinguished himself as the family’s top prospect with four no-hitters for the Eagles. In a game against Wall Township, he struck out 32 batters in a 13-inning game. Al was also a gifted hockey player. The Los Angeles Kings expressed interest in him during high school.
Al was named All-State as a junior and senior. He was selected in the second round of the 1984 draft by the Yankees. Mark had been drafted by the Orioles the year before, out of Ramapo College. Kurt was already pitching in the Orioles system at this point. Al was a highly regarded prospect with a live fastball, good curve and sharp-breaking cutter. The problem was he rarely had all of these pitches working. Enemy hitters made him throw strikes and often he was unable to do this consistently.
Al made it to the majors in 1987 and won his first game, but inconsistency and a nagging problem with blisters kept him from fulfilling his potential with the Yankees. Early in the 1989 season, he was traded to the Blue Jays for Jesse Barfield. Al continued to struggle north of the border, suffering through a series of elbow and shoulder problems. He began to come around in 1993, and pitched in the postseason for the Jays. He doubled and got the win in Game 1 of the 1993 World Series.
Al started 48 games for Toronto the next two years, going 17–18. He declared free agency and signed with the Marlins in 1996. In 1997, Al went 11–9 and helped them reach the World Series. He made two starts against the Indians. The Marlins won both games, although he did not get credit for a victory in either. Al “came home” in 1998, as the Marlins dismantled their ball club. He joined the Mets in the trade that sent A.J. Burnett to Florida.
Over the next seven season, Al never had a losing record for the Mets. He finished 6th in the Cy Young Award voting in 1998 after going 17–6, and represented the Mets in the 2000 All-Star Game. That year, New York won the pennant and Al started two games against the Yankees in the World Series. He performed well in both, allowing five runs and striking out 16 batters, but the Mets could not solve the Yankee pitchers and lost both games. The Yankees finished them off in six.
Al became a free agent after the 2004 season and signed with the Marlins. They traded him to the Yankees at mid-season. In his return to pinstripes, Al stymied the Red Sox on three hits in a dramatic victory. He moved to the bullpen and pitched long relief for the Yankees in the 2005 Division Series against the Angels. Al picked up the win in Game 4 of the ALDS, but the Yankees lost the series.
As it turned out, this would be Al’s last official appearance in a major league uniform. The following spring he announced his retirement and moved into the broadcast booth. Al became one of the most respected commentators in the game, and also dabbled in politics in his home state. He was part of Chris Christie’s transition team and rumors that he may one day run for elected office surface from time to time.
Al finished his career with a record of 162–132 in 19 major-league seasons. He struck out 1,974 batters in 2,391 innings pitched. From 1995 to 2004, he reached double-figures in wins every year, and never lost more games than he won.