May 2011

May 29 – Happy Birthday Jerry Hairston

I will always be a Jerry Hairston fan. You know why? After the Yankees beat the Phillies in the 2009 World Series, they did not try to re-sign the utility player and he ended up playing with the Padres in 2010. The Yankees had announced they would hand out the team’s 2009 World Series rings during a ceremony before their April 12th afternoon home game against the California Angels. That happened to be an off day for the Padres. Hairston flew all the way from San Diego to New York, paid for his own airline ticket, just so he could get his 2009 World Series ring with the teammates he had won it with. When Jorge Posada saw Hairston come out of the dugout in his street clothes, he asked his ex teammate what he was doing there. When Hairston told him he came to get his ring, Posada asked him “Why?”

Here’s the reason. Up until he joined the Yankees, Hairston had been playing Major League baseball for a dozen seasons and had never even been on a team that reached the postseason. His grandfather, dad, uncle and brother all played big league baseball and only his father, Jerry Sr. ever participated in fall ball and that was just two games worth for a 1983 White Sox team that got knocked out of the ALCS that year by the Orioles. And Jerry Jr. had done more than just play. His pinch-hit single to lead off the bottom of the thirteenth inning in Game 2 against the Angels led to him scoring the winning run in that contest.

So there he was, six months later in his street clothes, back in Yankee Stadium with the Angels again occupying the visitors dugout, patiently waiting to receive the sacred souvenir that no other Hairston had ever claimed. And when Joe Girardi handed him his ring case on that Tuesday afternoon in the Bronx, he opened it up, smiled, said good bye to his ex teammates and took a cab to the airport and got back on a plane for the cross country trip to San Diego, where his new team was playing the following evening. In my opinion, Posada asked Hairston a stupid question that day. He was there to pick up that ring because he had worked all his life to earn the right to be there. Maybe Posada has won too many rings and made too many millions to understand that but I sure do.

Hairston was born on May 29, 1976, in Des Moines, IA. He now plays for the Nationals. 2011 is his 14th big league season and Washington is his seventh big league ball club. He has a .256 lifetime batting average and he currently needs 41 more base hits to reach the 1,000 mark, lifetime. He will again be the first of the five Hairston’s who played Major League ball to accomplish that feat.

Jerry shares today as a birthday with this former Yankee outfielderthis third baseman and this first baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2009 NYY 45 93 76 15 18 5 0 2 12 0 11 8 .237 .352 .382 .733
16 Yrs 1367 4803 4238 568 1097 228 22 69 404 147 362 555 .259 .327 .372 .699
BAL (7 yrs) 530 2086 1825 241 477 98 12 26 160 94 162 229 .261 .334 .371 .705
TEX (2 yrs) 136 284 247 39 48 10 1 3 22 7 20 44 .194 .262 .279 .541
LAD (2 yrs) 99 329 293 24 79 15 1 5 32 1 26 32 .270 .334 .379 .713
CHC (2 yrs) 152 522 462 59 116 28 2 4 34 11 35 60 .251 .322 .346 .668
CIN (2 yrs) 166 637 568 94 163 38 3 14 63 22 44 82 .287 .342 .438 .780
SDP (1 yr) 119 476 430 53 105 13 2 10 50 9 31 54 .244 .299 .353 .652
WSN (1 yr) 75 238 213 25 57 11 1 4 24 2 22 30 .268 .342 .385 .727
NYY (1 yr) 45 93 76 15 18 5 0 2 12 0 11 8 .237 .352 .382 .733
MIL (1 yr) 45 138 124 18 34 10 0 1 7 1 11 16 .274 .348 .379 .727
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/29/2013.

May 27 – Pinstripe Birthdays’ All-Time Yankee Team

Not one member of the Yankee family celebrates a birthday on today’s date. I even searched the current rosters of New York’s Minor League affiliates and did not find one player, manager or coach in the entire organization who was born on May 27th. In fact the only person I discovered with any ties whatsoever to the Yankee franchise who was born on today’s date is Debbie Clemens, the wife of former Yankee Cy Young Award winner and accused HGH user, Roger Clemens. Needless to say, Mrs. Clemens has probably not had too many happy days of any kind in her life for a while so we wish her peace and better days ahead on her birthday.

Since we have no Yankee birthdays to celebrate, how about I present my all-time greatest Yankee team, instead? See if you agree with the 25 players I put on my roster:
Starters
1B – Lou Gehrig
2B – Tony Lazzeri
3B – Alex Rodriguez
SS – Derek Jeter
C – Yogi Berra
OF – Babe Ruth
OF – Joe DiMaggio
OF – Mickey Mantle
Bench
Don Mattingly
Willie Randolph
Graig Nettles
Phil Rizzuto
Bill Dickey
Earle Combs
Dave Winfield
Bernie Williams
Starting Rotation
Whitey Ford
Red Ruffing
Lefty Gomez
Ron Guidry
Allie Reynolds
Bullpen
Mo Rivera
Goose Gossage
Sparky Lyle
Johnny Murphy
Use the form below to give me your opinion of who should and shouldn’t be on the All Time Yankee Team.

May 23 – Happy Birthday Bill Drescher

Most Yankee fans have never heard of today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant but if you happened to have loved the Bronx Bombers and also lived in my hometown of Amsterdam, New York back in 1942, you remember him well. That’s because that was the year Bill Drescher was the starting catcher for the Amsterdam Rugmakers, the Yankee affiliate in the old Class C Canadian American League. It was the 21-year-old Drescher’s first season of professional baseball and according to his Rugmaker Manager at the time, a guy named Tom Kain, the native of Congers, NY seemed like a natural both at the plate and behind it. Dresher hit .301 in 100 games for Amsterdam that season and was featured in a New York Times article that described him as “a carbon copy” of the Yankees’ Hall-of-Fame receiver, Bill Dickey. In fact, that same article went on to say that if Dickey, who was nearing the end of his outstanding career at the time, could hang on for two or three more seasons it would be Drescher who would take his place as the Yankee starting catcher.

Dickey did his part but when the time came to replace him, Drescher was not ready. He did make his first appearance behind the plate in the Bronx during the 1944 season and then got his real shot the following year, when he caught 48 games for what would be Manager Joe McCarthy’s final full season as Yankee Manager. He hit .270 and fielded adequately but the following year WWII ended and all of the Yankees’ catchers returned to the game. Drescher ended up getting lost in that crowd and spending the rest of his professional playing career catching in the Yankee farm system. He died in 1968 at the very young age of 47.

May 23rd is also the birthday of this first voice of the Yankees, this former Yankee Manager and this other former Yankee manager.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1944 NYY 4 7 7 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .143 .143 .143 .286
1945 NYY 48 138 126 10 34 3 1 0 15 0 8 5 .270 .313 .310 .623
1946 NYY 5 6 6 0 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 .333 .333 .500 .833
3 Yrs 57 151 139 10 37 4 1 0 16 0 8 5 .266 .306 .309 .615
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/23/2013.

May 20 – Happy Birthday David Wells

His nickname was “Boomer,” he was partially raised by a morotcycle gang, he once was fined for wearing Babe Ruth’s baseball cap in an actual MLB game and he loved pitching for the New York Yankees. Wells was what you would call a “free spirit.” He didn’t normally respond well to authority figures and for the first ten years of his big league career, he pitched OK for four different teams, compiling a 90-75 record.

Then in December of 1996, the Yankees signed the rotund left-hander to a free agent contract and Wells was introduced to the pinstripes and the Big Apple. He thought he found heaven on earth. That first year in New York was the worst of his four Yankee seasons on the field, as he went 16-10 and tried to figure out his new manager, Joe Torre and the big boss, Steinbrenner. Off the field, however, Wells provided an instant boost to New York City’s night life.

Then in 1998, in my humble but very Yankee-centric opinion, I thought David Wells was the best pitcher in baseball. He went 18-4 in the regular season with five shutouts and then 5-0 in the postseason. His perfect game against the Twins in May of that year was a magical moment in franchise history. Simply put, that 1998 Yankee team would not have been the best Yankee team I ever saw if David Wells was not on its roster. But when the Blue Jays let it be known that their 1998 Cy Young Award winner, Roger Clemens was available, George Steinbrenner told his front office to do whatever it took to get him. “Whatever it took” included Wells and Boomer found himself pitching north of the border in 1999.

Wells was devastated by the deal. Best friend David Cone told reporters that the big southpaw cried like a baby when he got the news. Boomer knew Toronto well because he had come up with the Blue Jays and played his first six big league seasons with the team. He went back up north and won 37 games there during the next two seasons while Clemens won just 27 for the Yankees during that same span.

2001 was going to be the final year on Wells’ contract and the Blue Jays knew they’d have a tough time re-signing him, so in January of that year he was traded to the White Sox. He then injured his back and appeared in just 16 games for Chicago in 2001.

Wells’ return to the Yankees the following year was not without controversy. It was reported that he and his agent had already verbally committed to a contract with the Diamondbacks when the Yankees came up with their best but very late offer. Wells backed out of his deal with the Diamondbacks to return to pinstripes.

His 2002 season was outstanding. Wells remained injury free and went 19-7. His Yankee fortunes really began to turn when his autobiography was released right before the 2003 season began. In it, Boomer made some controversial statements and claims that didn’t sit well with the Yankee front office. Still, in 2003 he pitched 215 solid innings for the Yankees during the regular season, going 15-7, which brought his four season record in pinstripes to 68-28, for a gaudy .708 winning percentage.

In the 2003 postseason, Wells improved his Yankee postseason record to 7-1 with his victories in the ALDS and ALCS, before losing a tough 3-2 decision to the Marlins in Game 1 of that year’s World Series. With the two teams tied at two games apiece, Wells was scheduled to pitch Game 5. He told manager Joe Torre before the game that his back hurt too much to accept the challenge. That bad back combined with the ill will created by his book sealed Wells fate in New York. When he entered free agency following the Series, there were no last minute offers from the Yankees and Wells signed with his hometown Padres instead.

One of my favorite all-time Yankees shares Boomer’s May 20th birthday as does this great 1927 Yankee rookie pitcher and this other Yankee pitcher from the fifties.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO WHIP
1997 NYY 16 10 .615 4.21 32 32 0 5 2 0 218.0 239 109 102 24 45 0 156 1.303
1998 NYY 18 4 .818 3.49 30 30 0 8 5 0 214.1 195 86 83 29 29 0 163 1.045
2002 NYY 19 7 .731 3.75 31 31 0 2 1 0 206.1 210 100 86 21 45 2 137 1.236
2003 NYY 15 7 .682 4.14 31 30 0 4 1 0 213.0 242 101 98 24 20 0 101 1.230
21 Yrs 239 157 .604 4.13 660 489 65 54 12 13 3439.0 3635 1702 1578 407 719 65 2201 1.266
TOR (8 yrs) 84 55 .604 4.06 306 138 65 18 2 13 1148.2 1171 566 518 126 294 28 784 1.275
NYY (4 yrs) 68 28 .708 3.90 124 123 0 19 9 0 851.2 886 396 369 98 139 2 557 1.204
SDP (3 yrs) 18 18 .500 4.33 58 58 0 0 0 0 342.2 392 170 165 41 57 5 178 1.310
DET (3 yrs) 26 19 .578 3.78 66 64 0 8 1 0 428.2 416 201 180 56 103 17 293 1.211
BOS (2 yrs) 17 10 .630 4.56 38 38 0 2 0 0 231.0 284 125 117 31 29 0 131 1.355
LAD (1 yr) 4 1 .800 5.12 7 7 0 0 0 0 38.2 45 23 22 5 9 1 19 1.397
CIN (1 yr) 6 5 .545 3.59 11 11 0 3 0 0 72.2 74 34 29 6 16 4 50 1.239
BAL (1 yr) 11 14 .440 5.14 34 34 0 3 0 0 224.1 247 132 128 32 51 7 130 1.328
CHW (1 yr) 5 7 .417 4.47 16 16 0 1 0 0 100.2 120 55 50 12 21 1 59 1.401
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/20/2013.

May 17 – Happy Birthday Carlos May

Born in Birmingham, AL in 1948, Carlos spent most of his very decent, decade-long big league career in the Windy City as a member of the White Sox. He was a number 1 draft pick of Chicago’s in 1966 and the 18th selection overall that year. He lost part of his right thumb during his rookie season, when a mortar misfired during weekend Marine Reserve duty.  His best big league season was 1973 when he hit 20 home runs and drove in 96. He came to New York in a 1976 mid-season trade in exchange for Ken Brett and Rich Coggins. Carlos then became the regular DH on that year’s pennant-winning Yankee team, hitting .278. New York sold him to the Angels the following year. Carlos was the younger brother of the slugging first baseman, Lee May.

Carlos was the only Major League baseball player to wear his birthdate on his uniform. During much of his career in Chicago, Carlos wore uniform number 17. The White Sox jerseys also included the last name of the player on the reverse side above the uniform number. So the back of May’s jersey read “May 17″ and Carlos was born on May 17, 1948. He shares his birthday with this former long-haired Yankee pitcher, this pitcher who won a World Series game for NY in 1953 and this long-time Yankee co-owner.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1976 NYY 87 333 288 38 80 11 2 3 40 1 1 34 32 .278 .358 .361 .720
1977 NYY 65 203 181 21 41 7 1 2 16 0 0 17 24 .227 .292 .309 .601
10 Yrs 1165 4723 4120 545 1127 172 23 90 536 85 53 512 565 .274 .357 .392 .749
CHW (9 yrs) 1002 4164 3633 486 1000 154 20 85 479 84 52 456 508 .275 .359 .399 .758
NYY (2 yrs) 152 536 469 59 121 18 3 5 56 1 1 51 56 .258 .333 .341 .674
CAL (1 yr) 11 23 18 0 6 0 0 0 1 0 0 5 1 .333 .478 .333 .812
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/17/2013.