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.
|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|
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.
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.
1968 was a terrible year in the history of our country and was shaping up to be a terrible year in Yankee history as well. New York had finished ninth the year before, their best hitter, Joe Pepitone, was getting crazier every season and the great Mickey Mantle was literally on his last leg.
I had two passions as a young teenager, sports and politics. When Bobby Kennedy was killed all I had left to look forward to were Yankee games so I was hoping they’d be decent that year. Almost miraculously, they were. Thanks to a starting staff featuring Mel Stottlemyre, Stan Bahnsen and Fritz Peterson and a bullpen led by Steve Hamilton and Lindy McDaniel, the Yankees could hang around most games and were pretty good at holding a lead if they were lucky enough to have one in the later innings.
The offense was another story. Pepitone imploded and Mantle continued to decline. As a team they hit just just .214 but guys like Roy White, Andy Kosco, and a 27 year-old rookie third baseman named Bobby Cox seemed to get on base and cross home plate just enough times to win more games than they lost. The bomberless Bombers finished 83-79 which to me felt like winning a pennant.
Cox of course went on to become one of the game’s all-time great managers with Atlanta. My In-laws are huge Brave fans and my Mother-in-law loves Cox. Several years ago we were with them at Disney World after the Braves had moved their spring-training operation to the resort. Early one morning, we went to the stadium to watch the Braves practice and Bobby Cox was alongside the dugout talking to someone sitting in the stands. As soon as she saw him my mother started shouting “Yoo-hoo Bobby Cox. I love you. Can I have your autograph? Can I take my picture with you?” Cox looked up feigning annoyance and held up his hand signaling he’d come over to us after he was done talking to the other person. Sure enough he did and he spent the next five minutes talking to my Mother-in-Law like he had known her all his life. I went from being a big Bobby Cox fan to being a huge Bobby Cox fan that day. Happy 72nd Birthday to a great guy and a certain Hall-of-Famer.
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.
|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|
As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I was far from thrilled with the November 1979 trade that sent Chris Chambliss to Toronto and brought Rick Cerone to New York to replace Thurman Munson as Yankee starting catcher. Besides being a huge Chambliss fan I was hoping Steinbrenner’s front office would go after Ted Simmons, the Cardinals switch-hitting receiver, to succeed Munson.
Cerone’s performance in 1980 helped me get over that disappointment pretty quickly. Even though his lifetime average at the time of the trade was just .229, Cerone hit .277 during his first year in pinstripes, caught 147 games, drove in 85 runs and led the league by throwing out 52% of the runners attempting to steal against him. He was a huge reason why that 1980 Yankee team won 103 regular season games and the AL East Division title. He was also one of the few Yankees who played well in the three game loss to the Royals in that season’s playoffs.
Like many players on many teams, Cerone’s Yankee fortunes began to turn sour during the strike shortened 1981 season. He hit just .244 and his run production per game was less than half of what it had been a season earlier. He gave up more steals as well and for the balance of his eighteen-year big league career, he would never again put up anything even close to the numbers he posted during that 1980 season. Cerone’s most widely publicized moment in pinstripes happened during the weirdly configured 1981 post-strike postseason, after the Yankees lost Game Four to fall into a two-two tie with the Brewers. George Steinbrenner came into the Yankee clubhouse after the game and started berating his players. Cerone screamed right back at the Boss, telling the owner his rants were of no value whatsoever to the team’s performance.Cerone was also not a fan of Yankee skipper Billy Martin and the feeling was definitely mutual.
The Yankees let him go a first time in a 1984 postseason trade with the Braves, for pitcher Brian Fisher. They signed him back as a free agent during the 1987 spring straining season. He was the starting catcher for manager Lou Piniella’s team that year and then caught a lot of games for the Red Sox in 1988 and ’89. New York picked him up a third time, in 1990 and Cerone had the first and only .300 batting average of his career that year, even though his season was comprised of just 149 plate appearances.
After he retired as a player, Cerone formed and owned the Newark Bears Minor League team in his New Jersey hometown. He sold the Bears in 2003.
|NYY (7 yrs)||587||2029||1842||188||459||81||7||31||203||2||122||210||.249||.297||.351||.648|
|TOR (3 yrs)||255||931||851||79||195||39||6||11||91||1||66||84||.229||.285||.328||.613|
|BOS (2 yrs)||186||630||560||59||143||29||2||7||75||0||54||72||.255||.323||.352||.675|
|CLE (2 yrs)||14||30||28||2||5||1||0||0||1||0||1||2||.179||.207||.214||.421|
|NYM (1 yr)||90||258||227||18||62||13||0||2||16||1||30||24||.273||.360||.357||.717|
|ATL (1 yr)||96||316||282||15||61||9||0||3||25||0||29||25||.216||.288||.280||.568|
|MON (1 yr)||33||68||63||10||17||4||0||1||7||1||3||5||.270||.313||.381||.694|
|MIL (1 yr)||68||242||216||22||56||14||0||4||18||1||15||28||.259||.304||.380||.683|
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 and this long-time Yankee co-owner.
|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|
The ace of the 1986 Yankee pitching staff was a tall left-hander named Dennis Rasmussen, who had a career year for manager Lou Piniella’s squad when he went 18-6. He was the only starter to win in double digits for New York that season which helps explain why the Yankee front office had made acquiring a veteran starter a priority during the ’86 off season. That veteran turned out to be Rick Rhoden. The right-handed native of Boynton Beach, Florida had made his big league debut as a Dodger a dozen seasons earlier, in 1974. He helped LA make it to the World Series in 1977 and ’78 and then got dealt to the Pirates for pitcher Jerry Reuss.
It was in the Steel City that Rhoden became one of the NL’s upper tier starters, putting together five straight double digit victory seasons from 1982 through ’86. He also became one of the top hitting pitchers in baseball during that time. The Yankees traded their best young pitching prospect, Doug Drabek along with Brian Fisher and Logan Easley to the Bucs in November of ’86 to get Rhoden and two relievers.
Short term, the deal worked out exactly as the Yankees hoped it would. Rhoden won 16 games for New York in 1987 but it wasn’t enough to keep the team from finishing in fourth place in the AL East that year. When he slumped to 12-12 in ’88, the Yankees gave up on him and shipped him to the Astros for three players most Yankee fans never heard of. That one year as an Astro was Rhoden’s 16th and final big league season. He finished with a 151-125 lifetime record and a career ERA of 3.59.
During his final season in New York, Rhoden got to play for this Yankee manager who shares his May 16th birthday. Rhoden was once traded for this other May 16th born former Yankee pitcher. This former Yankee reliever also shares that same birthday.
|PIT (8 yrs)||79||73||.520||3.51||215||213||1||39||9||1||1448.0||1461||620||565||90||440||852||1.313|
|LAD (5 yrs)||42||24||.636||3.40||118||91||10||21||7||0||670.1||647||283||253||59||203||325||1.268|
|NYY (2 yrs)||28||22||.560||4.09||60||59||1||9||1||0||378.2||390||191||172||42||117||201||1.339|
|HOU (1 yr)||2||6||.250||4.28||20||17||2||0||0||0||96.2||108||49||46||7||41||41||1.541|
I was a Dick Howser fan. The 1979 Yankee team had been a mess. Everybody expected them to compete for a third straight World Series ring and they ended up in fourth place in their division. George Steinbrenner’s indecision about who should manage, Billy Martin or Bob Lemon, kept the players and coaching staff on constant edge. Thurman Munson’s death in a tragic plane crash was the final straw to a season that Yankee fans wanted to forget. Enter Dick Howser.
The Miami, Florida native’s big league playing career had began with an AL Rookie of the Year performance as a shortstop for the 1961 Kansas City A’s. That playing career ended in pinstripes, as a utility middle infielder for the 1967 and ’68 Yankees. When he retired the following season, he joined the Yankee coaching staff for the next ten years. Then in 1979, Howser accepted the head baseball coach’s position at his alma mater, Florida State University.
When it became clear to Steinbrenner that neither Martin or Lemon was the right choice as Yankee skipper, the Boss surprised everyone by hiring Howser for the job. He proved to be up to the task immediately as the 1980 Yankees got off to a fast start and ended up winning 103 games and the AL East Pennant. The Yankee clubhouse under Howser was more harmonious and conflict free than it had been in years. Reggie Jackson loved playing for the guy and responded with his best-ever Yankee regular season. The only hiccup to a perfect year for the team was a slight slump in August and good old George turned it into a giant belch. He started criticizing Howser’s every move and telling the Big Apple sports press that his rookie manager lacked the baseball intelligence of veteran skippers like Baltimore’s Earl Weaver.
Howser somehow kept his composure as did his team and the Yankees ended up facing their old nemesis, Kansas City in the AL Playoffs for the fourth time in five years. But unlike the previous three times, the Yankees lost and as we all now know, George Steinbrenner was a very poor loser. He shocked me and I’m sure, thousands of other Yankee fans by dumping Howser. Of course George explained that Howser had decided on his own not to return as Yankee skipper in ’81 because he had been offered some sort of amazing opportunity in Florida real estate that he simply couldn’t pass up. When New York sportswriters questioned the departing Manager about the opportunity, however, the perplexed and angry Howser didn’t know what they were talking about.
He did end up returning to Florida where he began collecting the final two years of his three-year Yankee contract but he didn’t stay their long. The team that had just beat him in the playoffs decided to make their own managerial change during the strike-shortened 1981 season and the Royals hired Howser to replace Jim Frey. During his first five years at the helm, Kansas City finished second twice, won three AL West Division titles and a World Championship. It all ended tragically for Howser a year later, when he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. He fought the disease valiantly, but lost his battle in June of 1987 at the age of 51.
Howser’s record as a Yankee player
|CLE (4 yrs)||385||1464||1246||191||307||45||7||7||72||48||170||105||.246||.336||.311||.646|
|KCA (3 yrs)||256||1105||938||165||247||37||9||9||80||56||137||49||.263||.359||.351||.710|
|NYY (2 yrs)||148||368||299||42||63||8||1||0||13||1||60||32||.211||.350||.244||.594|
Howser’s record as Yankee manager
|1||1978||42||New York Yankees||AL||2nd of 3||1||0||1||.000||1|
|2||1980||44||New York Yankees||AL||162||103||59||.636||1|
|New York Yankees||2 years||163||103||60||.632||1.0|
|Kansas City Royals||6 years||770||404||365||.525||1.7||1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title|
|8 years||933||507||425||.544||1.5||1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title|
They called him “Jumping Joe” but not because of any great leaping ability. According to Joe Dugan’s New York Times obituary, the third baseman had a propensity for jumping his team when he played for the Philadelphia A’s during the earliest years of his career. Whenever the boos from hometown fans struck a nerve, Dugan would simply leave the ballclub and A’s Manager Connie Mack would have to beg him to come back.
On January 10, 1922, Dugan became one of a select few Major League players to be part of three different big league teams in one day. He woke up that morning still an A and then got traded to the Senators, but before he went to bed, Washington had traded him to the Red Sox.
His stay in Beantown didn’t last long either and his departure from Boston caused a Major League rule change. By the 1922 season, Dugan had established himself as one of the better all-around third baseman in the big leagues. He was a defensive wizard and his hitting skills were improving every year. Red Sox owner Harry Frazee was becoming famous for selling his players for the money he needed to produce his Broadway shows. Frazee also spent most of his time and his money in the Big Apple and over the years, he made so many bad trades with the Yankees that Boston fans began to wonder which team he was working for. The ’22 Yankees were locked in a fierce pennant race with the Browns. Miller Huggins needed a third baseman who could spell the aging Frank “Home Run” Baker at the hot corner during the dog days of August. Frazee swapped New York Dugan and an outfielder named Elmer Smith for two of the Yankee’s utility infielders, a spare outfielder, a seldom used pitcher and $50,000 cash.
Dugan proved to be just the spark the Yankees needed to beat out the Browns for the Pennant. His late season acquisition got the rest of the AL teams thinking about the fact that there was nothing stopping a rich team like the Yankees from buying their way to a pennant wenever they were in a close race so they voted to move up the league trading deadline to mid June.
Dugan loved being a Yankee and he became a key cog in the team’s evolution to greatness. He scored 111 runs for New York during the 1923 regular season and then helped lead the team to its first-ever World Series victory that year against the Giants. He had an even better year in 1924, averaging .302 from his second spot in the batting order and continuing to win accolades for his glove work at third. In addition to playing hard on the field, Jumping Joe played hard off it as well. He was one of Babe Ruth’s favorite partying companions with an appetite for booze, gambling and girls that was only surpassed by those of the Big Bam. In Hugh Montville’s biography of Ruth, a story is told of the time Dugan asked the Sultan of Swat for a loan outside the Yankees’ hotel one evening. The Babe reached in his pocket and handed Dugan a bill which the third baseman quickly put in his own pocket. When he went to pay for dinner later that evening, he pulled out the bill Ruth had given him and only then realized it was a $500 bill! Dugan would later become one of the Bambino’s pallbearers at Ruth’s Yankee Stadium funeral in August of 1948. It was a sweltering summer night and Dugan whispered to his old teammate, pitcher Wait Hoyt, that he would give anything for a cold beer. Hoyt responded, “So would the Babe.”
Dugan’s offensive numbers and playing time started declining in 1925 but that glove made him an integral component of the great 1927 Yankee team that many still consider to be the best ever assembled. He stayed with New York for seven seasons, batting .286 lifetime in pinstripes, appearing in five World series and winning three rings. The Yankee released him after the 1928 season and he signed on with the Braves. His last big league game was in 1931 and he passed away in 1982 at the age of 85.
|NYY (7 yrs)||785||3325||3043||426||871||147||27||22||317||12||156||183||.286||.326||.374||.700|
|PHA (5 yrs)||510||2038||1884||179||505||98||16||17||198||23||77||197||.268||.304||.364||.668|
|BSN (1 yr)||60||139||125||14||38||10||0||0||15||0||8||8||.304||.346||.384||.730|
|BOS (1 yr)||84||361||341||45||98||22||3||3||38||2||9||28||.287||.308||.396||.704|
|DET (1 yr)||8||17||17||1||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||.235||.235||.235||.471|