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.
|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|
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.
|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|
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.
|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|
The much-loved voice of the original Yankee Stadium, Bob Sheppard would have been 103 years-old today. Yankee fans cherished the familiar greeting “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Yankee Stadium.” This great tribute to Sheppard was featured in the New York Times at the time of his death in July of 2010. Viewing it is a fitting way to celebrate the birthday of a Yankee legend.
Sheppard shares a birthday with another Yankee legend. In fact, Sheppard was once asked what Yankee name was his most favorite to announce and he said it was the name of this great Yankee legend. This former Yankee outfielder, and this former Yankee reliever were also born on October 20th.
While Yankee fans read a lot about how the Core Four turned the Yankees’ fortunes around in 1996, the free agent signing of Joe Girardi to become the team’s starting catcher that same season, helped quite a bit as well. Girardi had caught for the Cubs when Don Zimmer managed Chicago and it was at the urging of Joe Torre’s first Yankee bench coach that New York signed the Peoria, IL native to replace Mike Stanley.
Girardi turned out to be a solid signal caller for Torre’s pitching staff and a leader on the field and in the clubhouse. He also proved to be an excellent mentor for a young Jorge Posada and gracefully ceded playing time to him as Posada matured and improved his hitting skills. In 1999, Girardi returned to the Cubs as a free agent for three seasons and played his last year with the Cardinals in 2003.
He tried broadcasting for a few seasons and then joined Joe Torre’s coaching staff as Yankee bench coach in 2005. He got the Florida Marlins’ managerial position a year later. He was named NL Manager of the Year in 2006 for keeping the club with the lowest payroll in baseball in contention for a playoff spot for most of the season. Ironically, by the time he received the actual award, he had already been fired by Marlins’ owner, Jeff Loria.
You know the rest of the story. After getting his dream job of managing the Yankees, New York missed the postseason for the first time in Joe’s first year as skipper but won their 27th World Series in his second. He has managed them back into postseason play three times since but they’re still trying to return to another World Series. I think Girardi has done an above average job managing New York for the past five seasons. It is evident that he works very hard at his craft, is very intelligent and serves as an effective spokesperson on the team’s behalf. He never disses his players in public and his behavior in the dugout has been impeccable.
Also born on this date was the first pitcher of Puerto Rican descent to win 20 games in a season, this former Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee second baseman who was once a teammate of Girardi’s.
Here are Girardi’s seasonal stats as a Yankee player and his MLB career totals:
|CHC (7 yrs)||578||1880||1719||161||446||74||6||13||148||12||122||266||.259||.310||.332||.642||72|
|NYY (4 yrs)||379||1412||1283||147||349||72||9||8||153||20||80||172||.272||.317||.361||.678||75|
|COL (3 yrs)||304||1217||1102||145||302||40||11||15||120||12||74||165||.274||.323||.371||.694||69|
|STL (1 yr)||16||26||23||1||3||0||0||0||1||0||3||4||.130||.231||.130||.361||-1|
Here are Girardi’s Yankee and career stats as a manager:
|2||2008||43||New York Yankees||AL||162||89||73||.549||3|
|3||2009||44||New York Yankees||AL||162||103||59||.636||1||WS Champs|
|4||2010||45||New York Yankees||AL||162||95||67||.586||2|
|5||2011||46||New York Yankees||AL||162||97||65||.599||1|
|6||2012||47||New York Yankees||AL||162||95||67||.586||1|
|7||2013||48||New York Yankees||AL||162||85||77||.525||3|
|Florida Marlins||1 year||162||78||84||.481||4.0|
|New York Yankees||6 years||972||564||408||.580||1.8||1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title|
|7 years||1134||642||492||.566||2.1||1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title|
When the late Ralph Houk was a Yankee catcher in the late forties and early fifties, his job was to backup Charley Silvera. The problem for Houk was that it was Silvera’s job to back up a young and durable Yogi Berra. Back in the early fifties, Berra would catch between 140 and 150 games per year and that was when the Yankees only played 154-game regular seasons, so Silvera saw very little action and Houk was pretty much just a figment of Casey Stengel’s imagination.
Silvera was born on this date in 1924, in San Francisco. During his nine seasons as Berra’s backup, he appeared in 201 games, but got to start in less than half of those. He won six World Series rings during his nine seasons with New York but appeared in just one game of one Fall Classic. That was 1949, when the receiver nicknamed “Swede,” caught seven innings of the Yankee’s second-game, 1-0 defeat at the hands of Brooklyn’s Preacher Roe. Still, Silvera’s share of World Series winnings exceeded $46,000 during his career.
Silvera finally got a chance to start when the Yankees traded him to the Cubs after the 1956 season, for Chicago’s catcher, Harry Chiti. Unfortunately for Silvera, he broke his leg early in the 1957 season and never played another game.
As you might imagine, Silvera was not a big fan of Stengel. He always thought Casey cared more about himself than he did the team. Charley loved teammate Billy Martin, who promised Silvera that if he ever became a manager he’d hire Silvera as a coach and he did just that when Martin got the Twins job in 1969.
|NYY (9 yrs)||201||484||429||33||125||12||2||1||50||2||49||27||.291||.367||.336||.702|
|CHC (1 yr)||26||57||53||1||11||3||0||0||2||0||4||5||.208||.263||.264||.527|
Joe Sewell turned another man’s tragedy into an opportunity that eventually landed him in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. When Cleveland shortstop, Ray Chapman was struck and killed by a pitch thrown by the Yankees’ Carl Mays in a late-season game in September of 1920, Sewell was called up from Cleveland’s farm system to replace Chapman. During the remainder of that month Sewell did not field his position very well, committing 15 errors in just 22 games, but what he did do was get on base, averaging .329 with a .413 on base percentage. That was enough to earn Sewell the Indians’ shortstop job for the next season and Sewell never looked back. There were quite a few other things Sewell never or hardly ever did while wearing a Major League baseball uniform. He never broke his bat. In fact, Sewell used the same bat during his entire 14-season big league career. He also never took a day off. From that first game as a replacement for Chapman in September 1920 until May 2, 1930, Sewell played in 1,103 consecutive games, which was the Major League record until Lou Gehrig shattered it. And Sewell hardly ever struck out. In fact, the 5’6 inch left-handed hitter, whiffed just 114 times in 1,903 games for an average of about eight strikeouts per 154-game season. It was said of Sewell at the time that if he didn’t swing at a pitch, umpires knew it wasn’t a strike. When Sewell played in just 109 games for Cleveland in 1930 and his batting average slumped to .289, the Indians coldly released him. That’s when the Yankees signed him and manager Joe McCarthy made the Titus, Alabama native his starting third baseman. Sewell responded by hitting .302 and scoring 102 runs during his first season in pinstripes. The following year, Sewell and McCarthy both won their first World Series rings on a team that included seven other future Hall of Famers in addition to the Manager and third baseman. Sewell played one more season for New York and retired. He had a .312 lifetime batting average and a .391 career on base percentage. He passed away in 1990 at the age of 91.
|CLE (11 yrs)||1513||6580||5621||857||1800||375||63||30||868||71||654||99||.320||.398||.425||.823|
|NYY (3 yrs)||390||1753||1511||284||426||61||5||19||186||3||188||15||.282||.366||.367||.733|
With the Bronx Bombers in another postseason, fans will hear the name of Yankee batting coach, Kevin Long mentioned several times during New York’s current playoff run. This year, he’s being credited with helping Curtis Granderson get more effective at bats against lefthanders and helping Derek Jeter end his long slump in the second half of the just completed regular season. Last night during his post game interview, the great Andy Pettitte indicated that Yankee teammate Lance Berkman told him that he had spent some time with Long the last few days and adjusted his hitting stance. Berkman then went out and hit a homer and double to help put New York up 2-0 in their 2010 LDS against the Twins.
Giving hitting coaches credit and press is relatively new in baseball. I believe it really got started with Charley Lau. Lau coached hitting for several teams, including the Yankees but he seemed to gain most of his attention when he tutored hitters in the very good Kansas City Royal lineups that used to challenge New York for the AL Pennant every year in the mid-to-late seventies. Before that, about the only time you might have heard or read a hitting coach’s name in the media would have been when they were hired or fired.
The 1961 Yankees were considered by many to be one of the great offensive teams of all times. So who was the hitting coach for that powerful bunch of home-run hitting sluggers? You have to be a pretty loyal and long-time pinstripe fan to remember him. His name was Wally Moses and the most remarkable thing about him coaching hitting on that particular team was that Wally himself was a singles hitter during his 17 year career as an AL outfielder with the A’s, White Sox and Red Sox. But upon closer inspection, even though he averaged just 7 home runs per year during his career, he did figure out how to develop a power stroke in 1937, when he hit 25 round-trippers for Philadelphia. The Yankee hitters he coached absolutely loved Wally because he made them feel so good about themselves as hitters. A grateful Ralph Houk once begged him never to leave.
If one of the reasons today’s Yankees are winning postseason series is because they’ve learned to play “Long” ball, I guess you could also say that Moses helped lead those 1961 Yankee bats to the promised land. Wally was born on October 8, 1910 in Uvalda, GA and passed away in 1990.
There were two reasons why I liked Ruben Sierra. First of all, he looked exactly like a guy who used to umpire Little League games back when I was a coach for my two sons’ teams. Secondly, Ruben could hit. After the Yankees traded Danny Tartabull to Oakland for him during the 1995 season, Sierra drove in 44 runs for New York in the 56 games he played for them that year. Yes he could be moody, mouthy and sometimes too flamboyant, but I loved to watch his at bats, especially his eyes when he glared out at an opposing pitcher. Unfortunately for Ruben, Joe Torre did not like or appreciate him as much as I did. Four months into Torre’s inaugural 1996 season as Yankee skipper, New York dealt Sierra to the Tigers for slugging first baseman, Cecil Fielder. Ruben was hurt by the trade and said some unkind and exaggerated things about Torre’s managing style. The two eventually patched things up and Sierra rejoined Torre and the Yankees in June of 2003. I was amazed to find out that Ruben played for nine different teams during his 20-year big league career and hit 306 home runs. My question is, has there ever been another player who hit so many home runs playing for as many teams as Sierra did? Ruben was born in Puerto Rico on this date in 1965.
Another Yankee born on today’s date is former pitcher Steve Kline. Do you remember which Yankee playoff hero became a Yankee in a trade involving Kline? Find out here. Also born on October 6th is Yankee pitcher Freddie Garcia and this long-ago NY shortstop.
|TEX (10 yrs)||1190||4975||4580||645||1281||257||44||180||742||90||321||676||.280||.323||.473||.796|
|NYY (5 yrs)||383||1357||1226||145||311||64||3||45||221||4||109||208||.254||.310||.421||.730|
|OAK (4 yrs)||365||1560||1421||205||359||65||7||60||252||39||113||212||.253||.303||.435||.737|
|MIN (1 yr)||14||33||28||3||5||1||0||0||4||0||4||7||.179||.273||.214||.487|
|CIN (1 yr)||25||96||90||6||22||5||1||2||7||0||6||21||.244||.292||.389||.681|
|SEA (1 yr)||122||452||419||47||113||23||0||13||60||4||31||66||.270||.319||.418||.736|
|DET (1 yr)||46||180||158||22||35||9||1||1||20||3||20||25||.222||.306||.310||.616|
|CHW (1 yr)||27||77||74||7||16||4||1||4||11||2||3||11||.216||.247||.459||.706|
|TOR (1 yr)||14||52||48||4||10||0||2||1||5||0||3||13||.208||.250||.354||.604|
The sky was supposed to be the limit for Andre when he first joined the Yankees in 1981. He had good speed, a decent bat and was a great fielder. Some Big Apple sports pundits were calling him the next Rizzuto. By the summer of 1983 he appeared to be coming into his own. He had officially taken over the starting shortstop position from the veteran Roy Smalley and seemed to be growing more comfortable and confident in both the field and batters box with each game he played.
Then after a thirteen-inning August night-game loss to the White Sox, Robertson went home to his Fort Lee, NJ apartment and called a lady friend who happened to be visiting from Robertson’s home state of Texas. Neither could sleep so they decided to meet and go dancing at Studio 54 and then take pictures of the Statue of Liberty. It was on their way to lower Manhattan on the West Side highway that Robertson crashed his car. He broke his neck and his friend sustained injuries that have paralyzed her for life. Although Robertson’s neck healed, the tragedy derailed his baseball career and by 1985 he was out of the game for good. Robertson was born in Orange, TX. He is 53 years-old today.