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.