August 2010

August 28 – Happy Birthday Lou Piniella

If you’re old enough to remember when Lou Piniella played for the Yankees, you most likely enjoyed watching him do so. He had very little speed and not much power so he mixed every ounce of talent he had with every bit of effort he could muster to play a huge role in helping New York win five pennants and two World Series during his eleven seasons with the team. Oh yeah, he also had a beautiful swing which earned him the nickname “Sweet Lou.” He first donned the pinstripes in 1974, when the Yankees picked up the 1969 AL Rookie of the Year winner from the Royals in a trade for veteran reliever Lindy McDaniel. It turned out to be one of the best transactions in Yankee history. He hit .305 as manager Bill Virdon’s everyday right-fielder during his first year in the Bronx but then he went through a horrible season in 1975, averaging just .186 and helping to get Virdon fired and replaced by the fiery Billy Martin. Billy began playing Piniella a little bit in right field, a little bit in left and a little bit at DH. Lou simply thrived in this semi-utility role, averaging over .300 for the rest of his Yankee career. The play he will always be remembered for in the Big Apple was his famous feint on the Jerry Remy liner that he lost in the sun during the 1978 playoff game against the Red Sox. If he doesn’t make believe he sees that ball, Rick Burleson, who was on first at the time, easily gets to third and might have scored. Then Lou spears the ball on one hop and again prevents Burleson from getting past second.

George Steinbrenner loved players born in his adopted home-town of Tampa and Lou was the first native of that city to play for The Boss. That helps explain why George gave Lou his first manager and general manager jobs with the Yankees. Piniella’s temper and Steinbrenner’s famous impatience with anyone placed in either of those positions ended any chance Lou might have had to retire from baseball as a Yankee. Instead he went on to win three Manager of the Year titles, the 1991 World Series and finally ended his 43-year big league career this month when he walked away from the Wrigley Field dugout to spend time with his ailing Mom and go fishing.

Lou turns 68 years-old today. The guy who gave up the home run to Bucky Dent in that 1978 playoff game, the pitcher who started that playoff game for New Yorkthis former Yankee second baseman and this former Yankee reliever were all also born on August 28th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1974 NYY 140 567 518 71 158 26 0 9 70 1 32 58 .305 .341 .407 .748
1975 NYY 74 221 199 7 39 4 1 0 22 0 16 22 .196 .262 .226 .489
1976 NYY 100 351 327 36 92 16 6 3 38 0 18 34 .281 .322 .394 .716
1977 NYY 103 369 339 47 112 19 3 12 45 2 20 31 .330 .365 .510 .876
1978 NYY 130 513 472 67 148 34 5 6 69 3 34 36 .314 .361 .445 .806
1979 NYY 130 491 461 49 137 22 2 11 69 3 17 31 .297 .320 .425 .745
1980 NYY 116 355 321 39 92 18 0 2 27 0 29 20 .287 .343 .361 .704
1981 NYY 60 174 159 16 44 9 0 5 18 0 13 9 .277 .331 .428 .759
1982 NYY 102 283 261 33 80 17 1 6 37 0 18 18 .307 .352 .448 .801
1983 NYY 53 160 148 19 43 9 1 2 16 1 11 12 .291 .344 .405 .749
1984 NYY 29 93 86 8 26 4 1 1 6 0 7 5 .302 .355 .407 .762
18 Yrs 1747 6362 5867 651 1705 305 41 102 766 32 368 541 .291 .333 .409 .741
NYY (11 yrs) 1037 3577 3291 392 971 178 20 57 417 10 215 276 .295 .338 .413 .751
KCR (5 yrs) 700 2778 2570 258 734 127 21 45 348 22 153 265 .286 .327 .404 .730
CLE (1 yr) 6 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
BAL (1 yr) 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/31/2013.

August 25 – Happy Birthday Bobby Meacham

I remember the first time I saw Bobby Meacham taking ground balls during a Yankee spring training workout in the early eighties. Born in Los Angeles on this date in 1960, Meacham looked so smooth that morning that I thought the Yankees had found themselves a keeper. As it turned out, he played each of his six seasons and 457 big league games as a Yankee but he never became a star. He was given the opportunity when he took over New York’s starting shortstop job in 1985. Appearing in 156 games, the then 24-year-old switch hitter used his speed to steal 25 bases but he just could not hit, finishing the season with a paltry .218 batting average.

Bobby got another chance to wear Pinstripes when Joe Girardi made him his third base and infield coach for the 2008 season. Unfortunately, Meacham was replacing the popular Larry Bowa and rumors were that the Yankee front office blamed  Bobby for Robinson Cano’s uninspired infield play that season and replaced him with Robby Thomson.

Meacham was born exactly 21 years after this one-time Yankee reliever and exactly 16 years before this one.

August 13 – Happy Birthday Bill Stafford

Bill Stafford was a big right-hander from Athens, NY who had once pitched a seventeen-inning game in high school and struck out 31 batters. Just about every team in baseball scouted him as a schoolboy and the Yankees outbid them all to sign him. When he was called up to the Yankees in August of 1960, the Yankee pitching staff was in a slump, especially the starting rotation. The highly poised youngster proceeded to win 3 of his first 4 big league starts and provided the mound-boost the team needed to surge past a surprising Baltimore Orioles team and win the AL Pennant. Too bad Casey changed his mind about starting Stafford in the seventh game of that year’s World Series against the Pirates. The kid went to bed the night before thinking he would be starting the next day but when he got to Forbes Field he found out the Ol’ Perfessor had decided to go with Bob Turley instead. Bullet Bob gave up three quick runs and the Yankees were never in the lead.The following season, new Yankee manager Ralph Houk put Stafford in his starting rotation and over the next two seasons, he went 28-18 in that role to help New York win two consecutive World Championships. He got his only postseason win in Game 3 of the 1962 Fall Classic, when he held the Giants scoreless for eight and two thirds innings in a brilliant, four-hit, 3-2 victory. At that point in his career, he was just 22-years-old and the sky seemed the limit for this guy. I clearly remember thinking he was on his way to becoming a Hall-of-Fame pitcher and if the Yankees had put him on the market after their ’62 Series triumph, they could have demanded and received just about any player in the game in return. That’s how good Bill Stafford was. So what happened to him?

On April 10, 1963, Stafford made his first start of the season against the A’s in Kansas City. There were fewer than 4,000 people in the stands and the temperature at game time was way below normal for that time of year in KC. Stafford grinded his way through six plus innings and got the win but he also hurt his arm. Instead of resting, he tried to pitch through the injury but finished the ’63 season with a 4-8 record and was demoted to the bullpen. His right arm was never the same after that season. New York put him in the bullpen in 1964 and he went 5-0 in 31 games as a reliever. He was then returned to the rotation in ’65 and finished that season 3-8, as the Yankee dynasty began to crumble away. Stafford was traded to the A’s in June of 1966. He was out of baseball by 1968. He died of a heart attack in 2001 at the age of 62. He shares his birthday with this this former Yankee shortstop,  this current Yankee reliever and this former Yankee outfield prospect.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1960 NYY 3 1 .750 2.25 11 8 0 2 1 0 60.0 50 17 15 3 18 36 1.133
1961 NYY 14 9 .609 2.68 36 25 6 8 3 2 195.0 168 65 58 13 59 101 1.164
1962 NYY 14 9 .609 3.67 35 33 1 7 2 0 213.1 188 95 87 23 77 109 1.242
1963 NYY 4 8 .333 6.02 28 14 7 0 0 3 89.2 104 64 60 16 42 52 1.628
1964 NYY 5 0 1.000 2.67 31 1 12 0 0 4 60.2 50 19 18 4 22 39 1.187
1965 NYY 3 8 .273 3.56 22 15 4 1 0 0 111.1 93 45 44 16 31 71 1.114
8 Yrs 43 40 .518 3.52 186 104 35 18 6 9 785.2 707 337 307 77 270 449 1.244
NYY (6 yrs) 43 35 .551 3.48 163 96 30 18 6 9 730.0 653 305 282 75 249 408 1.236
KCA (2 yrs) 0 5 .000 4.04 23 8 5 0 0 0 55.2 54 32 25 2 21 41 1.347
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/14/2013.

August 10 – Happy Birthday Andy Stankiewicz

Andy was already 27 years old when he made his big league debut for Buck Showalter’s 1992 Yankees. He actually took over for Randy Velarde as that team’s starting shortstop. I had first seen “Stanky” play in 1989, when he started at second base for New York’s Albany-Colonie Double A franchise. The thing that stuck out at you when you watched him on the field was his hustle. That’s why Showalter liked him and gave him the opportunity to play. That first big league season turned out to be the highlight of Andy’s seven-year career in the big leagues. Over time, however, Andy proved he couldn’t hit big league pitching well enough to play every day at that level. Andy was born on this date in 1964, in Inglewood, CA.

Also born on this date in the Big Apple in 1933 was Rocco Domenico Colavito. If you saw him play during the late fifties and sixties, you have to remember how he used to point his bat at the opposing pitcher’s head at the end of his warm-up swings. He only played a part of one season in pinstripes and it was the final season (1968) of his 14-year big league career. He hit the last five of his 374 big league home runs in a Yankee uniform. You can read more about Colavito in this post. This second Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee pitcher were also born on August 10.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1992 NYY 116 451 400 52 107 22 2 2 25 9 38 42 .268 .338 .348 .685
1993 NYY 16 10 9 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .100 .000 .100
7 Yrs 429 957 844 105 203 45 3 4 59 17 80 141 .241 .313 .315 .628
MON (2 yrs) 140 207 184 23 46 14 1 1 14 2 10 34 .250 .296 .353 .650
NYY (2 yrs) 132 461 409 57 107 22 2 2 25 9 39 43 .262 .333 .340 .672
HOU (2 yrs) 80 134 106 16 20 4 0 1 12 5 24 31 .189 .344 .255 .598
ARI (1 yr) 77 155 145 9 30 5 0 0 8 1 7 33 .207 .252 .241 .493
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/9/2013.

August 8 – Happy Birthday Ross Ohlendorf

I hated to see the Yankees trade Ohlendorf to Pittsburgh at the 2008 trading deadline. I did not think Xavier Nady was as good as he was playing for Pittsburgh and I thought Ross O had the stuff and the smarts to become a good starting pitcher at the big league level. I turned out to be right about Nady but the jury’s sill out on Ross O. and time is getting short for him to prove he has the right stuff to be a successful big league pitcher.

He had a real good first full year in Pittsburgh in 2009, going 12-11 but he regressed to 1-11 in 2010. He then spent the 2011 season bouncing up in down between Pittsburgh and three different Pirate minor league teams before being released outright in December of 2011. Two months later, the Red Sox signed Ohlendorf but then released him in June. In July, he resurfaced in the big leagues with the Padres and he’s been starting and relieving for San Diego since. His record as I update this post this morning is 3-2, but his ERA has climbed over six. Ross was born in Austin, TX, in 1982. The guy really is a brainiac, having graduated from Princeton with a degree in finance. He got lots of national press attention when he interned at the USDA during the 2009-10 offseason, analyzing if programs to trace livestock diseases were cost-effective.

He shares his  August 8th birthday with this former Yankee play-by-play announcerthis former Yankee starter and one-time Yankee coach, Frank “Hondo” Howard.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2007 NYY 0 0 2.84 6 0 3 0 0 0 6.1 5 2 2 1 2 9 1.105
2008 NYY 1 1 .500 6.53 25 0 3 0 0 0 40.0 50 31 29 7 19 36 1.725
7 Yrs 20 32 .385 4.87 118 75 9 0 0 0 475.1 510 274 257 66 178 341 1.447
PIT (4 yrs) 13 27 .325 4.60 64 64 0 0 0 0 346.1 367 190 177 49 124 228 1.418
NYY (2 yrs) 1 1 .500 6.02 31 0 6 0 0 0 46.1 55 33 31 8 21 45 1.640
SDP (1 yr) 4 4 .500 7.77 13 9 2 0 0 0 48.2 62 44 42 7 24 39 1.767
WSN (1 yr) 2 0 1.000 1.85 10 2 1 0 0 0 34.0 26 7 7 2 9 29 1.029
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2013.

August 7 – Happy Birthday Don Larsen

Larsen will of course always be remembered as the guy who threw the only perfect game in World Series history. When most fans think of this big right-hander they probably visualize the famous clip of that game’s final out, when umpire Babe Pinelli ended the at bat of the Dodgers’ Dale Mitchell with a questionable third strike call. At the end of that clip, Yankee catcher Yogi Berra is shown jumping joyously into Larsen’s arms. Did you know that during that leap, Yogi’s knee hit Larsen squarely in the groin, putting the Yankee pitcher in excruciating pain?

One of the things I most like about sports is getting the opportunity to watch non-stars have their day in the sun. Just two seasons before he became a Yankee legend, Larsen had a 3-21 record for baseball’s worst team at the time, the Baltimore Orioles. After that horrific year, he was traded to the Yankees as part of a sixteen-player transaction that was then the largest trade in baseball history. Can you imagine the current Yankees making a trade involving sixteen players and their agents?

Larsen pitched decently for the Yankees for five seasons, compiling a 45-24 regular season record and a total of three World Series victories against just one defeat. But during his fourteen-year big league career he was traded eight times, lost more games than he won, and was never considered one of baseball’s upper tier pitchers. None of that mattered to Larsen. During the fiftieth year anniversary celebration of his World Series classic, I heard Larsen tell an interviewer that one game performance had changed his life and continued to help him pay the bills a full half century after it happened. Larsen was born on this date in 1929, in Michigan City, IN.

Larsen shares his birthday with this Hall of Fame managerthis former Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1955 NYY 9 2 .818 3.06 19 13 5 5 1 2 97.0 81 38 33 8 51 44 1.361
1956 NYY 11 5 .688 3.26 38 20 9 6 1 1 179.2 133 72 65 19 96 107 1.275
1957 NYY 10 4 .714 3.74 27 20 5 4 1 0 139.2 113 68 58 12 87 81 1.432
1958 NYY 9 6 .600 3.07 19 19 0 5 3 0 114.1 100 43 39 4 52 55 1.329
1959 NYY 6 7 .462 4.33 25 18 3 3 1 0 124.2 122 65 60 14 76 69 1.588
14 Yrs 81 91 .471 3.78 412 171 132 44 11 23 1548.0 1442 728 650 130 725 849 1.400
W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
NYY (5 yrs) 45 24 .652 3.50 128 90 22 23 7 3 655.1 549 286 255 57 362 356 1.390
SFG (3 yrs) 12 12 .500 3.86 101 0 54 0 0 14 158.2 139 72 68 17 83 108 1.399
BAL (3 yrs) 11 35 .239 4.08 94 51 23 19 3 3 448.1 467 227 203 33 173 216 1.428
KCA (2 yrs) 2 10 .167 5.20 30 16 8 0 0 0 98.2 118 64 57 13 53 56 1.733
HOU (2 yrs) 4 8 .333 2.40 31 11 11 2 1 1 108.2 100 39 29 4 23 59 1.132
CHC (1 yr) 0 0 9.00 3 0 1 0 0 0 4.0 5 4 4 1 2 1 1.750
CHW (1 yr) 7 2 .778 4.12 25 3 13 0 0 2 74.1 64 36 34 5 29 53 1.251
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2013.

August 6 – Happy Birthday Ron Davis

RonDavisWatching the Yankees struggle in seasons past to build an effective bridge between their starting pitchers and Mariano Rivera made me appreciate Ron Davis even more. From 1979, when he went 14-2 in his rookie season with New York, until 1981 when he was traded to the Twins for Roy Smalley, there was no better bridge pitcher in baseball than this tall, right-handed fireballer. With no disrespect to Dave Robertson, Phil Hughes, Flash Gordon, Mike Stanton or even Mo himself (Mariano began his Yankee career as the very-effective bridge to closer John Wetteland for the 1996 World Champions) if I had to pick a guy to hold a lead in the seventh and eighth inning for the all-time Yankee team, I’d pick the Ron Davis I watched baffle Yankee opponents in those two late-innings for almost three seasons. That’s how good he was. The Twins converted him into a closer and he did fine in that role for four seasons but Ron Davis  was born to take the ball from a starter with his team ahead and give it to a closer with that lead still intact.

Ron was born on this date in 1955, in Houston. He told the NY Post in 2009 that he wasn’t ready to leave the big leagues when he did at the age of 32, but doing so made it possible for him to become part of his own family’s life. He had already been divorced once by then and had five children from his two marriages. he became a stay-at-home Dad after leaving the game, who became very involved in his children’s lives. His youngest child Ike now plays first base for the New York Mets.

Davis shares his August 6th birthday with this former Yankee who was immortalized in a famous “Seinfeld” episode, this former Yankee reliever and this long-time Yankee pitching coach.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1978 NYY 0 0 11.57 4 0 2 0 0 0 2.1 3 4 3 0 3 0 2.571
1979 NYY 14 2 .875 2.85 44 0 21 0 0 9 85.1 84 29 27 5 28 43 1.313
1980 NYY 9 3 .750 2.95 53 0 29 0 0 7 131.0 121 50 43 9 32 65 1.168
1981 NYY 4 5 .444 2.71 43 0 22 0 0 6 73.0 47 22 22 6 25 83 0.986
11 Yrs 47 53 .470 4.05 481 0 340 0 0 130 746.2 735 361 336 82 300 597 1.386
MIN (5 yrs) 19 40 .322 4.51 286 0 249 0 0 108 381.1 384 201 191 47 185 349 1.492
NYY (4 yrs) 27 10 .730 2.93 144 0 74 0 0 22 291.2 255 105 95 20 88 191 1.176
CHC (2 yrs) 0 2 .000 6.54 38 0 11 0 0 0 52.1 74 41 38 11 15 41 1.701
SFG (1 yr) 1 1 .500 4.67 9 0 4 0 0 0 17.1 15 10 9 4 6 15 1.212
LAD (1 yr) 0 0 6.75 4 0 2 0 0 0 4.0 7 4 3 0 6 1 3.250
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/5/2013.

August 4 – Happy Birthday Roger Clemens

Wow! Talk about getting knocked off a pedestal. “Rocket’s” seven Cy Young Awards, his 354 victories, those 4,672 career strikeouts, that winning percentage in the mid six hundreds, and those 46 shutouts, all became less meaningful when the rumors of his long-time steroid use gained some substance. And when Clemens refused to follow the leads of Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte and admit his mistakes, his reputation seemed to  unravel even quicker. A few weeks ago, a federal judge declared a mistrial in Clemens perjury trial when prosecutors showed jurors evidence that had been previously ruled out. In any event, the Rocket will forever be associated with the rocket fuel he allegedly used to propel himself into baseball’s record books. Will Clemens eventually get into Cooperstown?

Roger shares his birthday with this former Yankee relief pitcher, this former Yankee starting pitcher and  this former Yankee skipper.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1999 NYY 14 10 .583 4.60 30 30 0 1 1 0 187.2 185 101 96 20 90 163 1.465
2000 NYY 13 8 .619 3.70 32 32 0 1 0 0 204.1 184 96 84 26 84 188 1.312
2001 NYY 20 3 .870 3.51 33 33 0 0 0 0 220.1 205 94 86 19 72 213 1.257
2002 NYY 13 6 .684 4.35 29 29 0 0 0 0 180.0 172 94 87 18 63 192 1.306
2003 NYY 17 9 .654 3.91 33 33 0 1 1 0 211.2 199 99 92 24 58 190 1.214
2007 NYY 6 6 .500 4.18 18 17 0 0 0 0 99.0 99 52 46 9 31 68 1.313
24 Yrs 354 184 .658 3.12 709 707 0 118 46 0 4916.2 4185 1885 1707 363 1580 4672 1.173
BOS (13 yrs) 192 111 .634 3.06 383 382 0 100 38 0 2776.0 2359 1045 943 194 856 2590 1.158
NYY (6 yrs) 83 42 .664 4.01 175 174 0 3 2 0 1103.0 1044 536 491 116 398 1014 1.307
HOU (3 yrs) 38 18 .679 2.40 84 84 0 1 0 0 539.0 409 161 144 33 170 505 1.074
TOR (2 yrs) 41 13 .759 2.33 67 67 0 14 6 0 498.2 373 143 129 20 156 563 1.061
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/4/2013.