February 2011

February 17 – Happy Birthday Brian Bruney

Brian Bruney was an important part of the Yankee bullpen for four seasons, from 2006, when he was signed as a free agent, through 2009, when he was traded to the Nationals for a player to be named later. Injuries plagued him during that span but when the reliever did pitch, he pitched rather well. He was 12-3 during his Yankee career, including a perfect 8-0 during his final two seasons in the Bronx. At times, Bruney could dominate the opposition with his fastball and by 2009, he had pitched himself into becoming Joe Girardi’s preferred eighth inning guy. But an elbow problem slowed him down and when Phil Hughes did such a super job as the Yankee’s primary bridge to Mariano that year, Bruney saw his pitching time decrease. His most famous moment in pinstripes happened off the field in June of his final season in New York. For some reason Bruney decided to tell a Big Apple sports reporter that he did not like the showy antics of the Mets’ closer Francisco K-Rod Rodriguez. This happened while the Yankees and Mets were involved in one of their annual regular season series. The subsequent story caused one of those tabloid sports page controversies that NYC has become famous for and the next day, when K-Rod angrily confronted Bruney before the game regarding his comments, it caused yet another minor media frenzy. Bruney did make the Yankee’s World Series roster against Philadelphia but was hit hard in his one and only appearance in the Yankee’s First Game loss. That turned out to be his last appearance in pinstripes. He did not pitch well in Washington in 2010 and is currently looking to sign with a new team.

Bruney was born in Astoria, OR on February 17, 1982. Sharing Bruney’s birthday is this former Yankee first baseman who lost his job because of a headache, this Hall of Fame Yankee announcer and this one-time replacement for A-Rod as Yankee third baseman.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2006 NYY 1 1 .500 0.87 19 0 2 0 0 0 20.2 14 2 2 1 15 25 1.403
2007 NYY 3 2 .600 4.68 58 0 16 0 0 0 50.0 44 28 26 5 37 39 1.620
2008 NYY 3 0 1.000 1.83 32 1 5 0 0 1 34.1 18 7 7 2 16 33 0.990
2009 NYY 5 0 1.000 3.92 44 0 6 0 0 0 39.0 36 17 17 6 23 36 1.513
9 Yrs 19 12 .613 4.68 273 1 77 0 0 13 259.2 235 142 135 27 187 252 1.625
NYY (4 yrs) 12 3 .800 3.25 153 1 29 0 0 1 144.0 112 54 52 14 91 133 1.410
ARI (2 yrs) 4 7 .364 6.17 77 0 35 0 0 12 77.1 76 55 53 8 62 85 1.784
CHW (2 yrs) 2 0 1.000 6.53 24 0 7 0 0 0 20.2 26 15 15 4 14 18 1.935
WSN (1 yr) 1 2 .333 7.64 19 0 6 0 0 0 17.2 21 18 15 1 20 16 2.321
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

February 14 – Happy Birthday Tyler Clippard

The first few times I watched Tyler Clippard pitch in a Yankee uniform, I did not think he was going to be a particularly effective big league pitcher. I suppose one of the reasons I formed that initial opinion was the right-hander’s very unorthodox windup. Clippard is tall and thin and during his delivery, it seemed as if he could fold his back into a right angle and puff out his chest to a point where you thought it was going to explode. At the same time, he stretched and waved every appendage on his body to their furthest points. After winning 31 games during his four-year stay in the Yankee farm system, he made his big league debut against the Mets in May of 2007, pitching six strong innings and getting a win. Just 22 years old at the time, Clippard seemed to pitch less effectively in each successive start. He had a fastball in the very low nineties, he walked a lot of batters and he gave up a lot of fly balls. As a right-hander in the old Yankee Stadium that was not a good recipe for success on the mound. But Clippard did have an outstanding change-up, which made his very low nineties heater much more sneaky fast. New York’s front office gave up on the Yankee Clippard after the 2007 postseason, trading him to the Nationals for Jonathan Albaladejo. Clippard has evolved into a real force in Washington’s bullpen. He saved 32 games for the Nats in 2012. Meanwhile, Albaladejo did nothing but struggle for the Yankees.

Clippard was born on Valentine’s Day, in 1985. This “Voice of the Yankees” was also a Valentine’s Day baby as was this former Yankee relief pitcher and this one-time Yankee utility infielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2007 NYY 3 1 .750 6.33 6 6 0 0 0 0 27.0 29 19 19 6 17 18 1.704
7 Yrs 30 21 .588 3.00 345 8 82 0 0 33 420.2 286 146 140 52 176 466 1.098
WSN (6 yrs) 27 20 .574 2.77 339 2 82 0 0 33 393.2 257 127 121 46 159 448 1.057
NYY (1 yr) 3 1 .750 6.33 6 6 0 0 0 0 27.0 29 19 19 6 17 18 1.704
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

February 13 – Happy Birthday Drew Henson

Drew Henson first became part of the Yankee organization in the third round of the 1998 MLB Amateur Draft. Even though the high school football star quarterback had already announced he would attend and play football at Michigan, the Yankees drafted him in the third round that year, gave him $2 million and hoped for the best. Henson spent the next two football seasons mostly sitting on the Wolverine bench watching starter Tom Brady throw all the passes. He got his chance to replace Brady his junior year. As the team’s starting QB in 2000, Henson led Michigan to a Big Ten title and a victory over Auburn in that season’s Citrus Bowl. He threw 18 touchdown passes that year and just 4 interceptions. He had proved he could lead a big-time college football team successfully, but he would forsake his senior year in Ann Arbor to prove he could play big league baseball as well.

While he had spent his last three falls playing football, Henson was spending his summers advancing up the rungs of the Yankees’ Minor League farm system. Problem was, his play was really not good enough to climb those rungs. His biggest problem seemed to be pitch selection at the plate. He struck out way too much and hardly ever walked. He had OK power but not enough to make up for all those whiffs. That’s probably the biggest reason why New York included Henson in the four-player package of prospects they used to acquire starting pitcher Denny Neagle from the Reds right around the 2000 All Star break. He did no better during his 18-game career in the Reds’ farm system and ended up back in pinstripes when New York reacquired Drew in exchange for Willy Mo Pena during the final weeks of the 2001 spring training season.

New York’s front office got him back because they were convinced if Henson concentrated only on baseball he would become the Yankees’ next starting third baseman. That explains why the team gave him a six-year, $17 million contract upon his return from the Reds. Henson accomplished two things on the baseball field during the next year and a half. He got his first Major League at bats in pinstripes, going 1-9, and after collecting about ten million Yankee dollars, he convinced himself that he would be better off trying to become an NFL quarterback and not the Yankees’ next third baseman.

Another Yankee born on today’s date was once accused of throwing baseball games by his own Manager. You won’t believe what happened next. Find out here. This long-ago Highlander outfielder and this one-time Yankee shortstop were also born on February 13th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2002 NYY 3 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
2003 NYY 5 8 8 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .125 .125 .125 .250
2 Yrs 8 9 9 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .111 .111 .111 .222
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

February 12 – Happy Birthday Pat Dobson

Former Yankee starting pitcher, Pat Dobson was born in Buffalo, NY in 1942. In 1974, Dobson and fellow starter, Doc Medich, each won 19 games for a rejuvenated Yankee team that finished just 2 games behind Baltimore for that year’s AL Eastern Division crown. I’ve always felt that if Mel Stottlemyre did not tear his rotator cuff that same season, that Yankee team, managed by Bill Virdon, would have won their division. If they had won in ’74, perhaps George Steinbrenner would not have brought in Billy Martin to replace Virdon the following year. Martin did not like Dobson and told the Yankee GM, Gabe Paul to get rid of him. Paul obliged by trading the right hander to Cleveland for Oscar Gamble.

Dobson’s best year in the big’s had been 1971, when he was one of four Oriole starters to win 20 games in a season, only the second time this had been accomplished in Major League Baseball. Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Mike Cuellar were the other three Baltimore pitchers involved. Dobson was known for his curveball and during his 11-year pro career he won 122 games while losing 129. When his pitching days were over he became a pitching coach, then a scout and finally a front office executive with the San Francisco Giants. He died in 2006, a victim of leukemia, when he was just 64-years-old.

Dobson shares his February 12th birthday with this one time Yankee first baseman, this former utility infielder and this WWII era Yankee pitcher.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1973 NYY 9 8 .529 4.17 22 21 0 6 1 0 142.1 150 72 66 22 34 70 1.293
1974 NYY 19 15 .559 3.07 39 39 0 12 2 0 281.0 282 111 96 23 75 157 1.270
1975 NYY 11 14 .440 4.07 33 30 1 7 1 0 207.2 205 105 94 21 83 129 1.387
11 Yrs 122 129 .486 3.54 414 279 51 74 14 19 2120.1 2043 939 833 197 665 1301 1.277
NYY (3 yrs) 39 37 .513 3.65 94 90 1 25 4 0 631.0 637 288 256 66 192 356 1.314
DET (3 yrs) 11 20 .355 3.06 124 20 41 3 1 16 279.1 227 107 95 29 114 191 1.221
CLE (2 yrs) 19 24 .442 4.49 68 52 4 6 0 1 350.2 381 192 175 36 130 198 1.457
BAL (2 yrs) 36 26 .581 2.78 76 73 2 31 7 1 550.2 468 193 170 37 132 348 1.090
ATL (1 yr) 3 7 .300 4.99 12 10 0 1 1 0 57.2 73 33 32 1 19 23 1.595
SDP (1 yr) 14 15 .483 3.76 40 34 3 8 1 1 251.0 257 126 105 28 78 185 1.335
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

February 10 – Happy Birthday Herb Pennock

What you can learn doing research for a blog about the New York Yankees. Today’s birthday celebrant is a Hall-of-Fame southpaw who  pitched for the great Yankee teams of the 1920s. His Manager at the time, Miller Huggins, called Pennock the best left-hander in baseball back then. My choice would probably have been Lefty Grove but Pennock was indeed very good. He went 162-90 during his 11 seasons in New York and 5-0 in the World Series. He was a native of Kennett Square, PA and was nicknamed the “Knight of Kennett Square,” but when it came to his feelings about blacks, chivalry played no part.

Many respected authors and baseball historians have presented strong evidence that Pennock was a racist. Playing in an era when blacks were not permitted in the Major Leagues helped hide that fact, but when he retired from the mound and became a front-office executive, first for the Red Sox as head of their farm system and then later as GM of the Phillies, Pennock was able to actively help prevent integration in the big leagues. And when it did happen, he was among its’ most vociferous opponents.

Pennock was known to threaten that he’d never let his Philadelphia team take the field against any opponent that had a black man on their roster. Dodger owner Branch Rickey claimed that Pennock told him that Philadelphia wasn’t ready to see a “n—–r” play Major League baseball.  He hired Ben Chapman, his old Yankee teammate and one of the most notorious racists in all of baseball, to manage the Phillies. Chapman was an equal-opportunity bigot. The anti-Semitc slurs he had made as a New York outfielder during the 1930s had so enraged the team’s Jewish fans that they presented a petition, signed by over 15,000 people, requesting that the New York front office banish the player.

I’m not naive. I realize it was a different time in our society back then, but can you imagine what would happen to a modern day ballplayer who committed the same offenses as Chapman? Well if you were Herb Pennock you’d hire the guy to manage the Phillies. If those were the “good old days” of baseball in this country, I’m glad I wasn’t around to witness them. It was Chapman who became infamous for his cruel treatment of Jackie Robinson whenever Philadelphia played Brooklyn during the 1947 season.

The fact that Pennock is in the Hall of Fame and Pete Rose is not is why so many of today’s fans wonder what the phrase; “protecting the moral integrity of the game,” truly means.

A second all-time great Yankee pitcher also celebrates a birthday today, as does this pitcher who recently signed as a free agent with New York, this original owner of the Yankee franchise and this recent Yankee DH.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1923 NYY 19 6 .760 3.13 35 27 5 21 1 3 238.1 235 86 83 11 68 93 1.271
1924 NYY 21 9 .700 2.83 40 34 5 25 4 3 286.1 302 104 90 13 64 101 1.278
1925 NYY 16 17 .485 2.96 47 31 11 21 2 2 277.0 267 117 91 11 71 88 1.220
1926 NYY 23 11 .676 3.62 40 33 5 19 1 2 266.1 294 133 107 11 43 78 1.265
1927 NYY 19 8 .704 3.00 34 26 7 18 1 2 209.2 225 89 70 5 48 51 1.302
1928 NYY 17 6 .739 2.56 28 24 4 18 5 3 211.0 215 71 60 2 40 53 1.209
1929 NYY 9 11 .450 4.92 27 23 1 8 1 2 157.1 205 101 86 11 28 49 1.481
1930 NYY 11 7 .611 4.32 25 19 3 11 1 0 156.1 194 95 75 8 20 46 1.369
1931 NYY 11 6 .647 4.28 25 25 0 12 1 0 189.1 247 96 90 7 30 65 1.463
1932 NYY 9 5 .643 4.60 22 21 1 9 1 0 146.2 191 94 75 8 38 54 1.561
1933 NYY 7 4 .636 5.54 23 5 10 2 1 4 65.0 96 46 40 4 21 22 1.800
22 Yrs 241 162 .598 3.60 617 419 135 247 35 33 3571.2 3900 1699 1428 128 916 1227 1.348
NYY (11 yrs) 162 90 .643 3.54 346 268 52 164 19 21 2203.1 2471 1032 867 91 471 700 1.335
BOS (8 yrs) 62 59 .512 3.67 201 124 56 70 12 6 1089.1 1169 522 444 29 299 358 1.348
PHA (4 yrs) 17 13 .567 3.77 70 27 27 13 4 6 279.0 260 145 117 8 146 169 1.455
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/22/2014.