My first memory of Clete Boyer was of him playing third base for the great New York Yankee team of 1961. I can still see him in his number 6 pinstriped jersey, making a diving stop on a hard hit ground ball down the line and jumping to his feet to throw a bullet to Moose Skowren with his powerful right arm to nip an opposing runner at first base. Just one season before, Casey Stengel had almost destroyed Boyer’s confidence by pinch-hitting Dale Long for him in the second inning of the very first game of the 1960 World Series. Ralph Houk had replaced Stengel in 1961 and assured Boyer he would be New York’s every day third baseman. Clete was constantly among league leaders in assists, chances and double plays but he would watch Brooks Robinson win the AL Gold Glove for third baseman year in and year out. Boyer had to leave the league to win his first and only Gold Glove for Atlanta, in 1969.
Clete was not a great hitter but his offensive numbers with New York would have been better if he did not occupy the eighth spot in the Yankee lineup. With the pitcher hitting behind him, Boyer saw very few strikes and was too aggressive at the plate to work the count effectively. As a result, he usually hit in the .240s and struck out close to 100 times a year during his Yankee career. But he also had enough power to hit 95 home runs during his eight seasons in New York.
Boyer was the Yankees’ regular third baseman for seven seasons, winning five pennants and two World Series during that time. He was one of the few veterans on the team not to experience a drastic decline in his offensive numbers during the debacle seasons of 1965 and ’66. Still, he was purged during the mid-sixties house-cleaning that saw New York trade one veteran after another in return for mediocre players who would never succeed with the Yankees. In Boyer’s case, he was swapped for a young outfielder from the Braves named Bill Robinson who hit just .206 during three dreadful seasons in pinstripes. Meanwhile, Boyer had a career year his first season in Atlanta, with 26 home runs and 96 RBIs in 1967. Clete remained with the Braves until he retired as a player after the 1971 season.
Born in Cassville, MO, in 1937, Clete was one of 14 Boyer children. His older brothers, Cloyd, a pitcher and Ken, a third baseman and one-time NL MVP with St Louis, also played in the big leagues. Clete died in 2007. He shares his February 9th birthday with another third baseman who played on the great 1927 Yankee team, this one-time Yankee second base prospect and this one-time Yankee catching prospect.
Number 1 – Alex Rodriguez – Passed Nettles in both home runs and RBIs as a Yankee in 2010 even though he’s played 500 fewer games.
Number 2 – Graig Nettles – Won two rings, two Gold Gloves, hit most home runs, and played most games as Yankee third baseman.
Number 3 – Red Rolfe – A .289 lifetime hitter with five rings and a great glove.
Number 4 – Clete Boyer
Number 5 – Wade Boggs – Won two rings, two Gold Gloves and averaged .313 in pinstripes.
|NYY (8 yrs)||1068||4037||3658||434||882||140||25||95||393||27||297||608||.241||.298||.371||.669|
|ATL (5 yrs)||533||2105||1914||193||467||56||7||66||251||13||159||282||.244||.303||.384||.687|
|KCA (3 yrs)||124||226||208||18||47||4||1||1||10||1||14||41||.226||.278||.269||.547|
This well-traveled right-hander came to New York from the Philadelphia A’s as part of an 11-player deal in December of 1953. He had won the AL Rookie of the Year award with the A’s in 1952, when he won fifteen games. The following year he led the league with 20 losses for a Philadelphia team that won just 59 games and finished next to last in the standings. So you can imagine how good Byrd must have felt when he heard the news that he had been traded to a Yankee team that had just captured its fifth straight World Series title that October.
The native of Darlington, SC became the fifth starter in Casey Stengel’s 1954 rotation. That Yankee team ended up winning 103 games that year and Byrd finished the season with a 9-7 record. Unfortunately for New York, Cleveland won 111 games that season and prevented the Bronx Bombers from trying for their sixth straight world championship. That 1954 effort turned out to be Byrd’s only season in pinstripes. That November, he got swallowed up in an unprecedented 18-player transaction that took place between the Orioles and the Yankees that remains the largest trade in MLB history. It was the same deal that made both Bob Turley and Don Larsen members of the Yankees’ starting rotation. Byrd struggled as a Bird and was released in June of 1955. He was picked up by the White Sox and ended his career with one last year in Detroit in 1957.
|PHA (3 yrs)||26||35||.426||4.71||83||65||9||26||5||2||475.2||548||275||249||38||222||240||1.619|
|CHW (2 yrs)||4||7||.364||4.91||28||13||6||1||1||1||95.1||94||55||52||10||34||44||1.343|
|NYY (1 yr)||9||7||.563||2.99||25||21||0||5||1||0||132.1||131||56||44||10||43||52||1.315|
|DET (1 yr)||4||3||.571||3.36||37||1||18||0||0||5||59.0||53||23||22||6||28||20||1.373|
|BAL (1 yr)||3||2||.600||4.55||14||8||3||1||1||1||65.1||64||33||33||7||28||25||1.408|
Yankee fans will probably never see Colin Curtis play another game in Yankee pinstripes. That’s because in 2010, this native of Issaquah, WA hit just .186 during his 31-game, New York debut in 2010 and is no longer with the organization. Despite his inability to prove he was a big league hitter, it was fun watching this former Arizona State ballplayer get his shot to do so. When he first came up, he impressed me with his ability to lay off bad pitches and spoil good ones late in the count. I also remember his first and only home run in 2010. It was a pinch-hit, three-run blast against the Angels at Yankee Stadium. But as the season wore on and opposing teams accumulated scouting information on Curtis, they began getting him out regularly and he started taking weak hacks instead of good swings in the process.
Doctor’s found testicular cancer in Curtis when he was just fifteen years old. He underwent an operation and it was discovered the cancer had spread. Fortunately, the surgery and subsequent treatment worked and the outfielder has been free of the disease for over a decade.
Other members of the Yankees’ all-time roster who celebrate a birthday on the first day of February include this former Gold-Glove winning center-fielder, this former reliever/closer, this former Yankee shortstop and this former outfielder.