April 7 – Happy Birthday Oral Hildebrand

hildebrand.jpegThe 1939 season was an historic year for the New York Yankee franchise. It is probably best remembered as the season Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game playing streak and remarkable Yankee career both came to a tragic end. It was also the year that the team, under manager Joe McCarthy, captured a record fourth straight World Series crown. The 1939 Yankees were also the only team in franchise history to have seven pitchers achieve at least ten wins during the same regular season. Hall of Famer, Red Ruffing led the staff with 21 victories. Atley Donald was next with 13. Another Hall of Famer, Lefty Gomez won a dozen as did Bump Hadley and Monte Pearson. Reliever, Steve “Smokey” Sundra chipped in with 11. All six of these guys had also pitched for New York the year before. In ’39 they were joined by today’s Birthday Celebrant, Oral Hildebrand. The Yankees had picked the big right hander up in a trade with the St Louis Browns after winning the 1938 World Series.  At the time of the trade, Hildebrand was a 31-year-old eight-year veteran and one-time All Star, who had led the American League with six shutouts in 1933, while pitching for Cleveland. He became the sixth Yankee pitcher to achieve 15 starts during the 1939 season. He ended up winning 10 of his 14 decisions. 

That Yankee staff was so deep with arms that Hildebrand was pulled in his only World Series start that year despite pitching four innings of shutout baseball against the Reds. Too much pitching was also part of the reason Oral’s Yankee career ended on a sour note. In 1940, the Yankees tried to assign him to their Kansas City farm team but he refused to report, claiming he had pitched well enough to earn a spot on the team’s big league roster. He ended up sitting out half the season rather than accept the demotion. The following year, the Yankees sold him to St. Paul in the American Association. He hung on for two more years in that league and then retired for good.

Like Hildebrand, this former Yankee pitcher was a well traveled veteran by the time he pitched in pinstripes and like old Oral, he joined a Yankee team that ended up winning the World Series. And like Hildebrand, he was born on April 7th as was this first manager in Yankee franchise history.

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