May 2011

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.

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 5/16/2014.