January 2011

January 7 – Happy Birthday Johnny Mize

Known as “the Big Cat,” Mize was an outstanding hitter and first baseman in the National League with the Giants and Cardinals for a decade, before joining the Yankees in 1949 and helping Casey Stengel win five straight World Championships. Mize had that rare ability to hit for power without striking out a lot. His career on base pecentage as a National Leaguer exceeded .400. He won a batting title with St. Louis in 1939 along with four NL home run titles and three NL RBI crowns. He was also a very good defensive first baseman and an outstanding base runner. The Yankees purchased Mize from the Giants during the 1949 season for $40,000. He became the team’s best pinch hitter. The highlight of his Yankee career was the 1952 Series against the Dodgers, when Johnny hit three home runs, batted .400 and was named MVP in New York’s seven-game victory. He retired after the 1953 season. His career Slugging Average of .592 places him 17th on the All-Time List. It took a while after he retired, but in 1981, the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee finally recognized just how good this guy’s numbers were and put him in Cooperstown.

This former Yankee, also born on January 7, is the only player in the franchise’s history to have more than 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, 40 stolen bases and bat .300 in the same season. This catcher on the great 1927 Yankee team was also born on January 7th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1949 NYY 13 28 23 4 6 1 0 1 2 0 4 2 .261 .393 .435 .828
1950 NYY 90 305 274 43 76 12 0 25 72 0 29 24 .277 .351 .595 .946
1951 NYY 113 373 332 37 86 14 1 10 49 1 36 24 .259 .339 .398 .736
1952 NYY 78 150 137 9 36 9 0 4 29 0 11 15 .263 .327 .416 .743
1953 NYY 81 118 104 6 26 3 0 4 27 0 12 17 .250 .339 .394 .733
15 Yrs 1884 7370 6443 1118 2011 367 83 359 1337 28 856 524 .312 .397 .562 .959
STL (6 yrs) 854 3581 3121 546 1048 218 66 158 653 14 424 279 .336 .419 .600 1.018
NYG (5 yrs) 655 2815 2452 473 733 110 16 157 505 13 340 163 .299 .389 .549 .938
NYY (5 yrs) 375 974 870 99 230 39 1 44 179 1 92 82 .264 .342 .463 .805
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/8/2014.

January 6 – Happy Birthday Ralph Branca

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No this is not a misprint. The same Ralph Branca who was a twenty-game winner and mainstay of those Boys of Summer Brooklyn Dodger teams of the late forties and early fifties and the same Ralph Branca who gave up Bobby Thomson’s shot heard round the world in 1951, was once a Yankee. It happened after the Dodgers put the Mount Vernon, NY native on waivers during the 1953 season and after the Detroit Tigers did the same, the following season. The Yankees then signed the right-hander nicknamed “Hawk” to a contract and he made five appearances including three starts in pinstripes during the second half of the 1954 season. He won his only decision as a Yankee against the Red Sox. That turned out to be the eighty-eighth and final victory of Branca’s big league career.

Ralph was born on this date in 1926 This former Yankee pitcher, this one-time Yankee shortstop, this long-ago Highlander starter and this other reliever were also born on January 6th.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1954 NYY 1 0 1.000 2.84 5 3 1 0 0 0 12.2 9 5 4 0 13 7 1.737
12 Yrs 88 68 .564 3.79 322 188 74 71 12 19 1484.0 1372 702 625 149 663 829 1.371
BRO (11 yrs) 80 58 .580 3.70 283 166 66 64 12 18 1324.0 1202 609 545 132 589 757 1.353
DET (2 yrs) 7 10 .412 4.64 34 19 7 7 0 1 147.1 161 88 76 17 61 65 1.507
NYY (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 2.84 5 3 1 0 0 0 12.2 9 5 4 0 13 7 1.737
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/7/2014.

January 4 – Happy Birthday Ted Lilly

The Yankees obtained pitcher Ted Lilly as a player to be named later in a 2000 trade that sent Hideki Irabu to Montreal. Although he was just 8-12 during his one and a half seasons in pinstripes, I remember liking the way the young left hander conducted himself on the mound. In one of his final starts as a Yankee, Lilly threw a complete game, three-hit shutout against the Padres and I was certain he was about to become a solid winner in the Yankee rotation. Shows you how astute I was about Yankee baseball. Just two weeks after that shutout, New York traded away Lilly in a three-team deal that put pitcher Jeff Weaver in Pinstripes. Irabu left baseball in 2003. Weaver never became the big winner experts thought he would. Meanwhile, Lilly won 130 games after leaving the Bronx with his best year coming in 2008, when he went 17-9  for the Cubs. Lilly was born January 4, 1976, in Torrance, CA. He announced his retirement after the 2013 postseason.

Another Yankee who celebrated his birthday on January 4 was this right-fielder who took the place of Babe Ruth in New York’s lineup, in 1935. This former Yankee GM and this former Yankee reliever were also born on January 4th.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2000 NYY 0 0 5.63 7 0 1 0 0 0 8.0 8 6 5 1 5 11 1.625
2001 NYY 5 6 .455 5.37 26 21 2 0 0 0 120.2 126 81 72 20 51 112 1.467
2002 NYY 3 6 .333 3.40 16 11 1 2 1 0 76.2 57 31 29 10 24 59 1.057
15 Yrs 130 113 .535 4.14 356 331 5 5 3 0 1982.2 1827 974 913 293 661 1681 1.255
LAD (4 yrs) 24 21 .533 3.83 58 58 0 1 1 0 341.0 296 157 145 48 95 284 1.147
CHC (4 yrs) 47 34 .580 3.70 113 113 0 0 0 0 705.2 623 306 290 101 184 598 1.144
NYY (3 yrs) 8 12 .400 4.65 49 32 4 2 1 0 205.1 191 118 106 31 80 182 1.320
TOR (3 yrs) 37 34 .521 4.52 89 89 0 2 1 0 505.1 485 269 254 77 228 424 1.411
OAK (2 yrs) 14 11 .560 4.37 38 36 0 0 0 0 201.2 202 104 98 29 65 165 1.324
MON (1 yr) 0 1 .000 7.61 9 3 1 0 0 0 23.2 30 20 20 7 9 28 1.648
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/4/2014.