October 2010

October 31 – Happy Birthday Matt Nokes

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Matt Nokes had his outstanding rookie season with Detroit, when he hit 32 home runs, drove in 87 and helped lead the Tigers to a first place finish in the AL East. Hard to believe that was 1987. I remember pundits predicting he would become baseball’s next great catcher. That didn’t happen.

His rookie season turned out to be the best statistically of Nokes’ 14-year career and since he was nothing special defensively, when his bat cooled off the Tigers decided to deal him. The Yankees gave Detroit pitchers Lance McCullers and Clay Parker for Nokes during the 1990 season. For the next two-and-a-half years, the San Diego native was the Yankees’ starting catcher. His best season in pinstripes was 1991, when he smacked 24 round-trippers and drove in 77 runs. By 1993 he had stopped hitting home runs and he lost his starting position to Mike Stanley.

His teammates will tell you that Matt Nokes was a great guy who loved his family and kept out of trouble. He was always nice to the Yankee batboys and actually helped one of them build a potato cannon that they test-shot together from inside the Yankee dugout. His last big league season was 1995.

Also celebrating a birthday on today’s date is this former Yankee center fielder named Mickeythis former Yankee infielder and this other former Yankee infielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1990 NYY 92 264 240 21 57 4 0 8 32 2 20 33 .238 .307 .354 .661
1991 NYY 135 493 456 52 122 20 0 24 77 3 25 49 .268 .308 .469 .778
1992 NYY 121 430 384 42 86 9 1 22 59 0 37 62 .224 .293 .424 .718
1993 NYY 76 238 217 25 54 8 0 10 35 0 16 31 .249 .303 .424 .726
1994 NYY 28 85 79 11 23 3 0 7 19 0 5 16 .291 .329 .595 .924
11 Yrs 902 2997 2735 310 695 96 4 136 422 8 200 395 .254 .308 .441 .750
NYY (5 yrs) 452 1510 1376 151 342 44 1 71 222 5 103 191 .249 .304 .437 .741
DET (5 yrs) 395 1366 1246 151 334 48 3 61 189 3 91 180 .268 .322 .458 .780
COL (1 yr) 10 12 11 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 4 .182 .250 .273 .523
SFG (1 yr) 19 55 53 3 11 2 0 2 5 0 1 9 .208 .236 .358 .595
BAL (1 yr) 26 54 49 4 6 1 0 2 6 0 4 11 .122 .185 .265 .450
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/31/2013.

October 30 – Happy Birthday Jim Ray Hart

After hitting 157 home runs during a decade as a third baseman and outfielder with San Francisco, Hart was purchased by the Yankees during the 1973 season and hit 13 home runs. He played only ten games for New York the following year, his final season in the big leagues even though he was only 32-years-old at the time. Jim Ray was born in Hookerton, NC on October 30, 1941. I remember Hart’s rookie season of 1964 very well because it was a great year for rookies. He smacked 31 home runs for the Giants that year and hit close to .290 but finished tied for second with the Braves Rico Carty for NL Rookie of the Year honors behind the Phillie Pheenom, Richie Allen. In the AL the Twins Tony Oliva took first-year honors by winning the AL batting title as a rookie.

Hart was injured a lot during what should have been his peak performing years but what probably hurt his career most was his drinking. Booze had been a big part of Hart’s life since he was raised by a father who was a bootlegger. After his playing career ended, his addiction to alcohol took over his life completely and he at one time was homeless, living on the streets of San Francisco. In the early nineties, it was reported that Hart was off the booze, and back with his family living and working in Seattle.

Hart shares his October 30th birthday with this one-time Yankee slugger, this long-ago Yankee starting pitcher and this former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1973 NYY 114 378 339 29 86 13 2 13 52 0 36 45 .254 .324 .419 .742
1974 NYY 10 22 19 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 7 .053 .182 .053 .234
12 Yrs 1125 4236 3783 518 1052 148 29 170 578 17 380 573 .278 .345 .467 .813
SFG (11 yrs) 1001 3836 3425 488 965 135 27 157 526 17 341 521 .282 .348 .474 .823
NYY (2 yrs) 124 400 358 30 87 13 2 13 52 0 39 52 .243 .316 .399 .715
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/30/2013.

October 25 – Happy Birthday Pete Mikkelsen

When workhorse relievers Steve Hamilton and Hal Reniff both got hurt during the 1964 regular season, the Yankee front office and manager Yogi Berra were forced to improvise with their bullpen. One of their moves was to rely on a 25-year-old rookie right-hander named Pete Mikkelsen. He had been toiling in the team’s farm system for the six previous seasons, mostly as a starter. In 1963, while playing winter ball, he strained his back. The injury prevented him from throwing with his customary overhand motion so to compensate, he was forced to develop a sidearm delivery. This new motion gave his fastball a natural sinking movement and upon the urging of his teammate and catcher at the time, the veteran Rube Walker, Mikkelsen took his new found sinker to the bullpen and worked at becoming a relief specialist.

Berra began using the right-hander liberally during his 1964 rookie season and he responded well by winning seven games and saving 12 more in his 50 total appearances, as New York rallied during the last month of the season to capture the AL pennant. Berra often credits the rebuilt Yankee bullpen featuring Mikkelsen and late-season acquisition Pedro Ramos for making that title possible. In that year’s World Series against the Cardinals, Mikkelsen had the misfortune to pitch in all four Yankee defeats. But he came oh so close to instead getting a key win in that Fall Classic. In the fifth game, with the Series tied at two apiece, Mikkelsen came on in the eighth inning with New York trailing 2-0 and got five consecutive outs. In the bottom of the ninth, with a runner on first, Joe Pepitone hit a shot up the middle that slammed off pitcher Bob Gibson who recovered in time to nip Pepitone at first. So when Tom Tresh came up next and smashed a home run, it tied the game at 2-2 instead of winning it, as would have been the case if Gibson had not been able to make that magnificent play. I can still remember watching Mikkelsen surrender a three-run home run to Tim McCarver in the top of the tenth and becoming the goat of that game and the Series. In fact, since the Yankee dynasty went into total collapse after that series, those Yankee fans that remember Mikkelsen usually do so with negative recollections.

After a poor statistical year the following season, Mikkelsen was traded to Pittsburgh, where he had a great season. He also pitched very effectively in the Dodger bullpen later in his career. He retired after the 1972 season with a 45-40 career record, a 3.38 ERA and 49 career saves.

This former Yankee had much more World Series success in Pinstripes than Mikkelsen did, while this former Yankee shortstop spent thirteen seasons in the big leagues without playing in one post season game. Both these guys share Mikkelsen’s October 25th birthday as does this Yankee bullpen coach and this former Yankee GM.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1964 NYY 7 4 .636 3.56 50 0 27 0 0 12 86.0 79 35 34 3 41 63 1.395
1965 NYY 4 9 .308 3.28 41 3 19 0 0 1 82.1 78 40 30 10 36 69 1.385
9 Yrs 45 40 .529 3.38 364 3 189 0 0 49 653.1 576 288 245 59 250 436 1.264
LAD (4 yrs) 24 17 .585 3.27 155 0 93 0 0 20 275.0 237 124 100 27 90 185 1.189
PIT (2 yrs) 10 10 .500 3.46 103 0 44 0 0 16 182.1 156 74 70 15 70 106 1.239
CHC (2 yrs) 0 0 6.94 10 0 4 0 0 0 11.2 16 10 9 4 6 5 1.886
NYY (2 yrs) 11 13 .458 3.42 91 3 46 0 0 13 168.1 157 75 64 13 77 132 1.390
STL (1 yr) 0 0 1.13 5 0 2 0 0 0 16.0 10 5 2 0 7 8 1.063
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2013.