February 2011

February 20 – Happy Birthday Shane Spencer

Shane Spencer had been in the Yankees’ farm system for over eight years when he got a call up to the parent club in September of 1998. He had played in the entire atlas of Yankee minor league towns during those previous eight seasons and the closest he had come to making the big league team was when he crossed the picket lines during the 1994 MLB player strike to attend New York’s replacement player spring training camp. Neither the Yankee front office or Yankee fans were hoping for help from promising prospects when September of ’98 rolled around. That team didn’t need any. It was, without a doubt, the best Yankee team I have ever seen play during the fifty years I’ve been a fan. There were absolutely no holes to fill in their lineup, their bench or their pitching staff. Which is why what Shane Spencer was able to do that September was pretty special.

The only reason Spencer was getting a shot was the fact that he had put together consecutive 30-home run seasons in the minors. If you’re a position player who wants to get noticed in the Yankee farm system, especially when the parent club is winning pennants, consecutive 30-homer seasons is about the only way to do it. Spencer had actually been called up from and returned to Columbus three times during the 1998 season but the fourth time proved to be the charm. That happened on August 31st. Four days later, Joe Torre rested Bernie Williams, started Chad Curtis in center and inserted his rookie in left. In his first appearance against White Sox southpaw Mike Sirotka, Spencer homered to left field. Five games later, his real streak began, when Torre sent him in to replace Paul O’Neill in right field in the sixth inning of a game against Baltimore. He came up in the top of the ninth with the bases loaded and hit his first Major League grand slam. He would hit seven more home home runs that month including two more grand salami’s and provide Yankee fans with one more great Yankee memory in a season that was full of them. Spencer continued his hot hitting in the playoffs against the Rangers in that year’s ALDS, homering two more times. He finally cooled off in that year’s ALCS which resulted in him seeing very little action in the World Series against the Padres.

Spencer played a total of five seasons as a Yankee before getting released after the 2002 season and signing with the Indians. He played well enough during those years to become the team’s regular fourth outfielder but could never break into the starting lineup. He also participated in one of the most memorable plays in Yankee history. It happened in the seventh inning of Game 3 in the Yankee’s 2001 ALDS series against Oakland. The Yankees were ahead 1-0 when with two outs and Jeremy Giambi on first, the A’s Terrence Long hit a ground ball down the right field line past Tino Martinez. Spencer was playing right field and he cut off the ball before it hit the wall but his throw sailed over the heads of two cutoff men and started rolling toward the Yankee on deck circle as Giambi rounded third on his way to scoring the tying run. That’s when Derek Jeter appeared out of nowhere to pick up the ball, and flip it to Jorge Posada who made an incredible sweeping tag that just nipped Giambi.

Spencer isn’t the only Yankee outfielder born on this date who did something bad that resulted in something really good and memorable for his Yankee team. Check out this guy. This one-time Yankee pitcher is also a February 20th pinstripe birthday boy as is this long-ago Yankee catcher and this brand new Yankee catcher

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1998 NYY 27 73 67 18 25 6 0 10 27 0 5 12 .373 .411 .910 1.321
1999 NYY 71 226 205 25 48 8 0 8 20 0 18 51 .234 .301 .390 .691
2000 NYY 73 276 248 33 70 11 3 9 40 1 19 45 .282 .330 .460 .789
2001 NYY 80 311 283 40 73 14 2 10 46 4 21 58 .258 .315 .428 .743
2002 NYY 94 329 288 32 71 15 2 6 34 0 31 62 .247 .324 .375 .699
7 Yrs 538 1867 1671 208 438 84 8 59 242 13 152 357 .262 .326 .428 .754
NYY (5 yrs) 345 1215 1091 148 287 54 7 43 167 5 94 228 .263 .324 .444 .768
NYM (1 yr) 74 204 185 21 52 10 1 4 26 6 13 37 .281 .332 .411 .742
TEX (1 yr) 55 216 185 16 42 10 0 4 23 0 27 40 .227 .329 .346 .675
CLE (1 yr) 64 232 210 23 57 10 0 8 26 2 18 52 .271 .328 .433 .761
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/28/2014.

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February 18 – Happy Birthday Luis Arroyo

Arroyo-Luis-1962.jpgThe 1961 New York Yankee team was loaded with talent at every position, except one. They had no closer. Ryne Duren was supposed to fulfill that role but he was a serious alcoholic and by 1961, his drinking and his behavior when drinking had gotten completely out of hand. New York traded the troubled Duren to the Angels and manager Ralph Houk eventually replaced him with a Puerto Rican screwballing lefthander named Luis Arroyo.

At the time Arroyo was already 34-years old. He had made his big league debut seven seasons earlier, with the Cardinals, going 11-8 as a starter in his rookie season and making the 1955 NL All Star team. The following year, Fred Hutchinson was hired to manage St Louis and Old Hutch did not like Arroyo. Instead of getting the opportunity to make his second NL All Star team, Luis first found himself back in the minors as the ’56 season started and then traded to Pittsburgh. He spent the next four years battling a sore arm and developing a screw ball. By the time he joined the Yankees in 1960, his arm had healed and he had perfected his new signature pitch. He went 5-1 in his first season in New York setting the stage for his magical year in 1961.

Arroyo appeared in 65 games that season, finishing 54 of them. He compiled a 15-5 record and saved 29 games. He relieved Whitey Ford 24 times that season and saved 13 of the Yankee aces 25 wins. Arroyo’s ERA was 2.19. Topping that off, he hit .280 that year and pitched four shutout innings and got a win in the ’61 World Series against Cincinnati, gaining some revenge on Fred Hutchinson, who by then was the Reds’ Manager.

Unfortunately for Arroyo, that great screwball he developed has also been described as the reason why he again developed a sore pitching arm.  That sore arm limited him to just 27 appearances in 1962 and just 3 the following year. The Yankees released Luis at the end of the 1963 season.

Also born on February 18th is this former Yankee second basemanthis long-ago Yankee starting pitcher and this former Yankee catcher.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1960 NYY 5 1 .833 2.88 29 0 17 0 0 7 40.2 30 14 13 2 22 29 1.279
1961 NYY 15 5 .750 2.19 65 0 54 0 0 29 119.0 83 34 29 5 49 87 1.109
1962 NYY 1 3 .250 4.81 27 0 15 0 0 7 33.2 33 20 18 5 17 21 1.485
1963 NYY 1 1 .500 13.50 6 0 3 0 0 0 6.0 12 9 9 0 3 5 2.500
8 Yrs 40 32 .556 3.93 244 36 119 10 1 44 531.1 524 261 232 58 208 336 1.378
NYY (4 yrs) 22 10 .688 3.12 127 0 89 0 0 43 199.1 158 77 69 12 91 142 1.249
PIT (2 yrs) 6 14 .300 4.69 72 12 19 1 0 1 159.1 187 93 83 24 43 118 1.444
STL (1 yr) 11 8 .579 4.19 35 24 6 9 1 0 159.0 162 80 74 22 63 68 1.415
CIN (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 3.95 10 0 5 0 0 0 13.2 17 11 6 0 11 8 2.049
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/28/2014.

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.