May 17th, 2011

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 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.

May 16 – Happy Birthday Rick Rhoden

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.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1987 NYY 16 10 .615 3.86 30 29 1 4 0 0 181.2 184 84 78 22 61 107 1.349
1988 NYY 12 12 .500 4.29 30 30 0 5 1 0 197.0 206 107 94 20 56 94 1.330
16 Yrs 151 125 .547 3.59 413 380 14 69 17 1 2593.2 2606 1143 1036 198 801 1419 1.314
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/15/2013.

May 14 – Happy Birthday Dick Howser

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 shares his May 14th birthday with the Yankee’s first great center fielder, this former reliever and this versatile Yankee pitcher from the 1970s.

Howser’s record as a Yankee player

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1967 NYY 63 179 149 18 40 6 0 0 10 1 25 15 .268 .381 .309 .689
1968 NYY 85 189 150 24 23 2 1 0 3 0 35 17 .153 .321 .180 .501
8 Yrs 789 2937 2483 398 617 90 17 16 165 105 367 186 .248 .346 .318 .664
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/13/2013.

Howser’s record as Yankee manager

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/13/2013.