December 2010

December 17 – Happy Birthday Curtis Pride

PrideMy Dad was a full blooded Italian who for some reason, took a liking to country music. Some of my favorite memories of him occurred when I’d be sitting in the living room of his home and he’d be shaving in the bathroom and I would listen to him sing a few select lines from some of his favorite country tunes. He used to love the old Hank Williams’ tune, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” , and Eddie Arnold’s “The Last Word in Lonesome is Me.” 

I’m sharing this with you as part of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Blog post because I still remember the first time I saw today’s birthday celebrant play a game in a Yankee uniform, even though it happened over nine years ago and he ended up appearing in just four games in pinstripes. There’s three reasons for my ability to still recollect such a  nondescript Yankee and the first one is my Dad. One of his all-time favorite country & western shaving tunes was called “Kiss an Angel Good Morning.” It was sung by Charley Pride, who was a huge C&W recording artist during the 1970s and one of the greatest Texas Ranger fans in the history of that franchise. So when I heard Curtis Pride’s name mentioned the first time during that 2003 televised Yankee/Red Sox contest, I immediately associated him with Charley Pride, which immediately made me picture my Dad singing the tune “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” while shaving in front of the steamed up mirror of his medicine cabinet.

The second reason I still remember Pride’s first Yankee game was because during his first at bat, the game announcers revealed that he had been born deaf. After attending special schools until the seventh grade, Curtis’s parents insisted he go to regular schools and learn how to survive in the mainstream world with his handicap. Pride was up to the task and he also developed into a superb athlete, attending William & Mary on a basketball scholarship, while also playing minor league baseball. He broke into the big leagues with the Expos in 1993, was released by Montreal in ’95 and was then signed by the Tigers. During the next two seasons he saw more playing time with Detroit than he would see with any of the other five teams he played with during his 11 years as a big leaguer.

The Yankees signed him in May of that 2003 season and sent him to their Triple A farm team in Columbus. That July, Yankee outfielders Bernie Williams and Raul Mondesi both went down with injuries and Pride was called up to the Bronx as a temporary replacement just in time for a four game series with the Red Sox. New York had started that series with a four game lead in the AL East over second-place Boston. That lead had been cut in half after Boston had won the first two games. New York was leading the third game 3-1 when Pride led off the top of the sixth and gave me my third reason for remembering his debut. He hit a long home run over the old Yankee Stadium’s center field wall off of Boston right-hander John Burkett and the Stadium went wild, standing and cheering as Pride circled the bases. At the urging of Manager Joe Torre, Pride emerged from the dugout for a curtain call and you could see tears coming down his cheek when he tipped his cap to the cheering fans. He later admitted he couldn’t hear the crowd’s cheers.

The next afternoon, Pride came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 1-1 game with the bases loaded and one out and hit a ground ball to Red Sox second baseman, Todd Walker. Walker bobbled the ball, eliminating his chance to turn it into a game-ending double play. His throw to the plate sailed over the head of Jason Varitek, allowing Hideki Matsui to score the winning run. Pride was mobbed by his Yankee teammates as the Stadium once again went wild with cheers that Pride could not hear.

Curtis Pride would appear in just two more games for New York before he was sent back to Columbus in late July to make room on the Yankee roster for reliever Jesse Orosco. He would catch on with the Angels in 2004 and play portions of three more big league seasons. Pride shares his birthday with this one-time first basemanthis former Yankee starting pitcher and this other one too.

2003 34 NYY AL 4 12 12 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 2 .083 .083 .333 .417
11 Yrs 421 898 796 132 199 39 12 20 82 29 85 211 .250 .327 .405 .731
LAA (3 yrs) 68 86 78 13 17 6 0 1 5 1 6 23 .218 .282 .333 .616
MON (3 yrs) 94 165 148 21 34 5 2 2 16 7 14 41 .230 .305 .331 .636
BOS (2 yrs) 11 23 22 5 6 1 0 1 1 0 1 8 .273 .304 .455 .759
DET (2 yrs) 174 491 429 73 114 21 9 12 50 17 55 108 .266 .350 .441 .790
ATL (1 yr) 70 121 107 19 27 6 1 3 9 4 9 29 .252 .325 .411 .736
NYY (1 yr) 4 12 12 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 2 .083 .083 .333 .417
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/17/2013.

December 16 – Happy Birthday Charles Gipson

After spending his first five big league seasons with the Mariners, this speedy utility player was signed as a free agent by the Yankees in 2003. He saw little action during that year and was released by New York that September. His only two hits while in pinstripes and the first of the two RBIs he drove in as a Yankee came off then Toronto ace Roy Halladay.

The most significant pinstripe moment of the only other Yankee to be born on this date also involved a star player. This outfielder actually replaced Mr. October in the third inning of an October Yankee game.

December 13 – Happy Birthday Dale Berra

Today’s pinstripe birthday celebrant was part of an exclusive club. He was the second player in Major League history to play for a team being managed by his father. The year was 1985 and Yogi Berra started that season as Yankee skipper. The previous December, New York had traded outfielder Steve Kemp and shortstop Tim Foli to the Pirates in return for a young power hitting prospect named Jay Buhner, a seldom used pitcher named Alfonso Pulido and Yogi’s youngest son, infielder Dale Berra.

Dale had been a good enough player in high school to be selected by the Pirates with the twentieth overall pick in the 1975 Major League Draft. He bounced up and down between the Minor Leagues and Pittsburgh’s big league roster for five seasons before sticking as the parent club’s starting shortstop in 1982. He wasn’t a great hitter, averaging just .238 during his tenure in the Steel City. By 1984 his weak bat and a rumored cocaine habit convinced the Pirates to give up on him.

Berra immediately thrived playing for his Dad, hitting in the high .300s during the first two weeks of the 1985 season. Unfortunately, the rest of the Yankees did not follow suit and when the team’s early-season record fell to 6-10, Steinbrenner fired Yogi, replaced him with Billy Martin, who used Bobby Meacham as the team’s shortstop for the rest of that season. The younger Berra remained in pinstripes until the 1986 All Star break when he became the second member of his family to receive his walking papers from Steinbrenner. In an embarassing prelude to that season, Berra and a bunch of ex Pirates had been suspended for their use of cocaine during the early eighties. His problem with drugs evidently continued because he was also picked up in a 1989 drug raid in his home state of New Jersey and eventually indicted.

The first MLB player to play for a club managed by his Dad was Connie Mack’s son Earle, in 1937. Others that followed Berra were Cal and Billy Ripken, Brian McRae and Moises Alou.

Another former Yankee born on today’s date led the 1970 Yankees with 29 saves. This former Yankee pitcher and this one-time Yankee third baseman also share Berra’s birthday.

1985 NYY 48 118 109 8 25 5 1 1 8 1 7 20 .229 .276 .321 .597
1986 NYY 42 121 108 10 25 7 0 2 13 0 9 14 .231 .294 .352 .646
11 Yrs 853 2853 2553 236 603 109 9 49 278 32 210 422 .236 .294 .344 .638
PIT (8 yrs) 744 2560 2291 215 545 94 8 46 255 31 186 376 .238 .295 .346 .641
NYY (2 yrs) 90 239 217 18 50 12 1 3 21 1 16 34 .230 .285 .336 .622
HOU (1 yr) 19 54 45 3 8 3 0 0 2 0 8 12 .178 .296 .244 .541
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/15/2013.

December 12 – Happy Birthday Pedro Gonzalez

The most noteworthy thing about Pedro was that he was one of the first of what would grow into a long and strong list of Major League players to be born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Gonzalez played just about every positon on a ball field except pitcher or catcher and he was considered a bright prospect in the Yankee farm system in the early sixties. After two-plus decent seasons in Richmond, New York brought him up in 1964 and Yogi Berra used him in eighty games that year, as a backup in both the outfield and infield. He performed impressively enough to make the 1964 World Series roster and actually got a plate appearance in that Fall Classic against St Louis. Early during the following season, Pedro was traded to the Indians for a first baseman named Ray Barker. Gonzalez became Cleveland’s starting second baseman that year but despite a good glove, he did not have enough of a big league bat to keep that position or, as it turned out, to stick in the big leagues.

Pedro shares his December 12th birthday with this former Yankee closer,  this former Yankee shortstop and this one-time Yankee reliever.

1963 NYY 14 28 26 3 5 1 0 0 1 0 0 5 .192 .192 .231 .423
1964 NYY 80 123 112 18 31 8 1 0 5 3 7 22 .277 .331 .366 .697
1965 NYY 7 6 5 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .400 .400 .600 1.000
5 Yrs 407 1171 1084 99 264 39 6 8 70 22 52 176 .244 .282 .313 .594
CLE (3 yrs) 306 1014 941 78 226 29 5 8 64 19 45 147 .240 .278 .307 .585
NYY (3 yrs) 101 157 143 21 38 10 1 0 6 3 7 29 .266 .309 .350 .659
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/12/2013.

December 10 – Happy Birthday Doc Edwards

Nineteen-sixty-five was the year the Yankee dynasty crumbled. For over four decades before that season, ever since Babe Ruth first put on pinstripes, every Yankee team that took the field each opening day had a very good shot at winning the pennant. That 1965 team did not. The team’s front office thought they did but the truth was that the players New York most depended on to have good years had all gotten old at the same time. Bobby Richardson, Tony Kubek, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford and Elston Howard were all suddenly over the hill and would never enjoy season performances that came close to their career averages.

Howard, who turned 36 during the 1965 season, was breaking down physically. His throwing elbow had bone chips floating around it and Ellie experienced terrific pain whenever he tried to throw a ball hard. The problem was that Howard’s longtime backup with New York, Johnny Blanchard, could not throw very well with a perfectly healthy elbow so Yankee GM Ralph Houk and Manager Johnny Keane made a deal with Kansas City. They sent Blanchard and reliever Rollie Sheldon to the A’s in return for today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, Doc Edwards. When Blanchard found out about the deal he began crying like a baby in the Yankee locker room. His concerned teammates tried to cheer him up by telling him he would finally be a starting catcher but the inconsolable Blanchard preferred sitting on the Yankee bench over playing regularly anywhere else.

Edwards could throw but he was a horrible hitter. He appeared in 45 games that year and got just 19 hits in 100 at bats for a .190 average. Perhaps if the rest of the Yankee lineup had been hitting decently, Edwards offensive shortcomings would not have been so glaring. New York let him go after that one season and the six year big league veteran spent the next five seasons down in the minors trying to earn another shot with the big show. That happened in 1970, when Tim McCarver got hurt and the Phillies needed a backup catcher on their roster. Edwards then became a Minor League Manager, and eventually skippered the Cleveland Indians for three lackluster seasons in the mid eighties. He was born in Red Jacket, WV in 1936.

Edwards shares his December 10th birthday with this outfielder who played for the Yankees three different times and this former Yankee reliever.

1965 NYY 45 114 100 3 19 3 0 1 9 1 13 14 .190 .289 .250 .539
5 Yrs 317 973 906 69 216 33 0 15 87 1 53 109 .238 .287 .325 .611
KCA (3 yrs) 174 586 554 42 129 22 0 11 63 0 25 65 .233 .272 .332 .604
CLE (2 yrs) 63 187 174 19 47 8 0 3 9 0 11 20 .270 .321 .368 .689
PHI (1 yr) 35 86 78 5 21 0 0 0 6 0 4 10 .269 .313 .269 .582
NYY (1 yr) 45 114 100 3 19 3 0 1 9 1 13 14 .190 .289 .250 .539
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/10/2013.