Fate shined kindly on this fourteen-year veteran when he found himself catching the final out pop-up of the 1996 World Series as the Yankee’s third baseman. New York had picked him up late that same season to serve as a late-inning defensive replacement for Wade Boggs. Hayes had also been the Yankee starting third baseman in 1992 but was left unprotected in the MLB Expansion Draft and was selected by Colorado.
After he caught the last out of the ’96 Series, he actually started more games at third for the Yankees the following season than Boggs did. But after the Indians bounced the Yankees out of postseason play in the first round of the 1997 playoffs, Charlie was traded to San Francisco and the Yankees went out and got Scott Brosius from Oakland to be their new third baseman.
Born in Hattiesburg, MS in 1965, Charlie retired after the 2001 season with 144 home runs and 1,379 career hits during his 14-season big league career.
With the exception of starting pitcher, catching is baseball’s most physically demanding position. That’s true today and it was true when the Yankees, then known as the Highlanders, played their first game in the Big Apple during the first decade of the twentieth century. Even back then, most teams carried backup catchers on their roster. The only member of the Yankee’s all-time roster to celebrate his birthday on this date was Fred Jacklitsch, a Brooklyn-born back-up catcher who played close to 500 games in the big leagues but only one of them in a New York uniform and that was during the 1905 season. Jacklitsch may have been the only Yankee born on May 24th but he’s one of several to have been born in Brooklyn. Here’s my list of the five most famous Brooklyn natives to have ever worn the pinstripes:
1 – Phil Rizzuto
2 – Waite Hoyt
3 – Wee Willie Keeler
4 – Joe Torre
5 – Joe Pepitone
Many Yankee fans, including me, were livid at George Steinbrenner after the 1995 season. We had just gone through two strike-shortened baseball seasons at the very same time our Yankees were on the verge of once again becoming baseball’s best team. Don Mattingly had just had a wonderful playoff series against Seattle and although the Yankees lost that series three games to two, we were convinced that in Buck Showalter, the Yankees had the right manager to lead them back to post season prosperity.
Then the Boss lowered the boom. The Yankees did not try to convince Donnie Baseball to continue playing and instead acquired Tino Martinez to play first base. Just as upsetting was the firing of Showalter who was replaced by the nice guy but perennial loser as a manager, Joe Torre.
It is amazing how a little thing like winning four World Championships in a five year period can help you let bygones be bygones. And come to think of it, Buck Showalter never seemed to be having any fun. And why the heck did he always wear that completely zipped-up Yankee jacket in the dugout, even when the temperature was in the nineties?
Seriously, Buck Showalter restored a sorely needed level of low-key professionalism to the Yankee dugout after the Billy Martin-to-Stump Merrill era of merry-go-round managers. His record as Yankee skipper was 313-268. He went on to manage both the Diamondbacks and Rangers and was a two-time AL Manager of the Year winner. He is now skippering the Baltimore Orioles back to respectability.
It is still hard to believe Bobby is gone. He became my favorite Yankee when he was brought up in 1969 to replace my previous favorite Yankee, the great Mickey Mantle. Even though he developed into a very good big league player, he was no Mantle. He was instead, the very best player on a very bad string of Yankee teams and I loved the guy. I remember being very upset when Bobby was traded to the Giants for Bobby Bonds right after the 1974 season. I remember being overjoyed when the Yankees put him back in pinstripes during the 1979 season. I hated to see him retire during the 1983 season but I enjoyed listening to him and learning more about him during his many years in the Yankees’ broadcast booth. When he died from a brain tumor in July of 2008, Yankee fans around the world mourned him. Had he lived he would have turned 67 years-old today.
|NYY (13 yrs)||1256||4997||4428||641||1231||192||29||175||687||74||491||564||.278||.349||.453||.802|
|CHC (3 yrs)||358||1465||1243||178||336||44||10||43||175||32||196||154||.270||.367||.426||.792|
|SFG (2 yrs)||294||1256||1059||153||295||49||6||34||181||21||175||123||.279||.379||.432||.812|
I never was a big fan of Billy Martin. I was too young to remember his playing days with the Yankees in the fifties. When he started managing in the American League, first for the Twins in 1969 and then the Tigers in 1971, I remember trying to learn more about him. Everything I read seemed to indicate he had a great will to win, a strong knowledge of the game but an extremely bad temper. This helped explain why he was fired from his first three managerial positions even after he helped turn losing teams into winners.
When George Steinbrenner became managing partner of the Yankees the perfect storm necessary to bring these two unpredictable forces together in the Bronx had been formed. In the beginning, it worked marvelously. The Yankees got back to the World Series and fans filled the Stadium like never before. It didn’t last long, however. Martin’s dependence on alcohol worsened under the pressure of Steinbrenner’s meddling and the glare of the New York media. Once these fault lines became public during and after the 1977 season, Martin would never again be able to command the respect or support of his players necessary to lead them to championships.
As more and more Yankees and ex-Yankees began talking and writing about their experiences while playing for Martin, a clearer picture of his addiction to alcohol, his emotional insecurity, and his inhumane behavior emerged. What respect I had for his past achievements was quickly replaced by pity for what he had become.
Having written all this it is only fair to point out that there are many people who knew Martin personally and who played with him and for him on a baseball field who loved and deeply respected the guy. My opinions of him were formed from the far-away focus of a typical baseball fan.
He died on Christmas day in 1989 when his truck was driven into a ditch by a friend who was driving intoxicated at the time. The driver and Martin had been drinking all day. May he now be resting in peace.
During his final season as Yankee skipper in 1989, Martin had this right-handed veteran starter who shares his May 16th birthday, on his pitching staff. Martin was not the Yankee manager when this other May 16th born right-hander pitched in pinstripes, during the 1981 season. This former Yankee reliever was also born on that day.
Martin’s record as a Yankee player:
|1954||Did not play in major leagues (Military Service)|
|NYY (7 yrs)||527||1887||1717||220||449||70||18||30||188||19||112||178||.262||.313||.376||.688|
|MIN (1 yr)||108||398||374||44||92||15||5||6||36||3||13||42||.246||.275||.361||.636|
|MLN (1 yr)||6||6||6||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000||.000||.000|
|KCA (1 yr)||73||285||265||33||68||9||3||9||27||7||12||20||.257||.295||.415||.710|
|CIN (1 yr)||103||346||317||34||78||17||1||3||16||0||27||34||.246||.304||.334||.639|
|CLE (1 yr)||73||258||242||37||63||7||0||9||24||0||8||18||.260||.290||.401||.691|
|DET (1 yr)||131||536||498||56||127||19||1||7||42||5||16||62||.255||.279||.339||.619|
Martin’s record as a Yankee manager:
|8||1975||47||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||56||30||26||.536||3|
|9||1976||48||New York Yankees||AL||159||97||62||.610||1||AL Pennant|
|10||1977||49||New York Yankees||AL||162||100||62||.617||1||WS Champs|
|11||1978||50||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 3||94||52||42||.553||1|
|12||1979||51||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||95||55||40||.579||4|
|17||1983||55||New York Yankees||AL||162||91||71||.562||3|
|18||1985||57||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 2||145||91||54||.628||2|
|19||1988||60||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 2||68||40||28||.588||5|
|Minnesota Twins||1 year||162||97||65||.599||1.0|
|Detroit Tigers||3 years||452||248||204||.549||2.0|
|Texas Rangers||3 years||279||137||141||.493||3.7|
|Oakland Athletics||3 years||433||215||218||.497||2.5|
|New York Yankees||8 years||941||556||385||.591||2.5||2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title|
|16 years||2267||1253||1013||.553||2.5||2 Pennants and 1 World Series Title|
Earle Combs was born on May 14, 1899, in Pebworth, KY. Nicknamed the “”Kentucky Colonel”" he was the first great Yankee center fielder. When he left his parents’ farm at the age of seventeen, his career goal was to become a school teacher. He attended what is now Eastern Kentucky University to pursue a teaching degree. He got involved in a baseball game between the students and the faculty of the college. The guy pitching for the teachers that day had some big league experience and was impressed enough by Combs’ ability that he urged him to try out for the school’s baseball team. He did and quickly became an elite player on that team. Soon he was playing semi pro and minor league ball.
In 1924, he signed a contract to play for the Kentucky Colonels of the American Association. The team’s manager was future Yankee skipper, Joe McCarthy, who converted Combs from a shortstop to a center fielder. After two outstanding seasons with the Colonels, the Yankees outbid a slew of other big league teams and purchased his contract for $50,000. He than began his twelve-season career in Pinstripes in 1924.
He batted .325, lifetime. That mark places Combs third on the list of highest Yankee lifetime batting averages with a minimum of 1,500 plate appearances. Combs scored at least 113 runs for eight straight seasons hitting in front of Ruth and Gehrig. During the 1934 season, he ran into an outfield wall in Sportsmen’s Park in St Louis, chasing a fly ball at top speed. He broke his skull and almost died from the resulting injuries. He attempted a comeback in 1935 but after crashing into another wall, he called it quits for good. Combs was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1970.
|162 Game Avg.||162||725||640||132||208||34||17||6||70||11||75||31||.325||.397||.462||.859|
My personal memory of this great Yankee took place during a game I attended at Yankee Stadium sometime during the early 1960s, probably 1962. My Uncle always got us field box seats when he took us to the Stadium, somewhere between first base and the right field foul pole. Berra came to the plate and I vividly remember several things about the at bat. The pitch he hit was very high, especially for the short 5’8″ Berra. He hit the ball on a line. It went by me, my Uncle and my older brother like a comet, right at our eye level but still rising. When it hit the drab green painted metal facing of the Stadium’s mezzanine level in right field, it hit it so hard that the clang it made actually echoed throughout the Stadium. I did not see anyone hit a ball as hard as that one until over thirty years later when Jose Canseco hit one out of Fenway that may still have not landed. Of course Jose used steroids and the only juice a urine test might have discovered in Berra’s body was the kind you squeezed out of oranges.
Yogi Berra was a marvelous Yankee catcher who won ten championship rings. He had supreme offensive and defensive skills and his teammates loved him. He was also under appreciated as a manager, being the only field boss to win pennants for both the Yankees and Mets.
There are so many things I cherish about the game of baseball and having had the opportunity to watch number 8 play the game is high on that list. Happy 86th birthday Yogi.
Berra’s Yankee career record as a player:
|NYY (18 yrs)||2116||8350||7546||1174||2148||321||49||358||1430||30||704||411||.285||.348||.483||.830|
|NYM (1 yr)||4||9||9||1||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||.222||.222||.222||.444|
|1||1964||39||New York Yankees||AL||164||99||63||.611||1||AL Pennant|
|6||1984||59||New York Yankees||AL||162||87||75||.537||3|
|7||1985||60||New York Yankees||AL||1st of 2||16||6||10||.375||2|
|New York Mets||4 years||588||292||296||.497||3.0||1 Pennant|
|New York Yankees||3 years||342||192||148||.565||2.0||1 Pennant|
|7 years||930||484||444||.522||2.6||2 Pennants|