May 2011

May 7 – Happy Birthday Tom Zachary

TomZachary.jpgThis guy will forever be best known as the pitcher who gave up Babe Ruth’s sixtieth home run during the 1927 season. That happened when Zachary was wearing the uniform of the Washington Senators. The left-hander had been originally signed by Washington but had made his big league debut in 1919 as a member of Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s pitching staff. The Senators got him back in a trade the following year and Zachary evolved into one of the AL’s upper tier southpaws, winning in double digits for six straight seasons. His best year had been 1924, when his 15-9 record helped the Senators win the Pennant. He then beat the Giants twice in that season’s World Series.

In August of 1928, the Yankees picked him up off waivers. He went 3-3 during the rest of that season. Yankee skipper, Miller Huggins, most likely remembering Zachary’s 1924 postseason success, got a hunch to start him against the Cardinals in Game 3 of the 1928 World Series. That hunch paid off when the Graham, NC native responded with a complete game victory.

In 1929, Zachary went a perfect 12-0, but that performance was overshadowed by the tragic death of Huggins and the Yankee’s failure to defend their AL Pennant. After getting off to a slow start during the 1930 season, the Yankees placed the then-34-year-old pitcher on waivers and  he was picked up by the Braves. He ended up pitching six more years of big league baseball, retiring after the 1936 season with a 186-191 lifetime record.

Also born on this date was this former Yankee outfielder and this almost Yankee manager.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP WHIP
1928 NYY 3 3 .500 3.94 7 6 1 3 0 1 45.2 54 26 20 0 15 7 0 1.511
1929 NYY 12 0 1.000 2.48 26 11 9 7 2 2 119.2 131 43 33 5 30 35 2 1.345
1930 NYY 1 1 .500 6.48 3 3 0 0 0 0 16.2 18 16 12 0 9 1 0 1.620
19 Yrs 186 191 .493 3.73 533 408 84 186 24 22 3126.1 3580 1551 1295 118 914 720 41 1.437
WSH (9 yrs) 96 103 .482 3.78 273 210 45 93 10 8 1589.0 1822 803 668 54 460 327 26 1.436
BSN (5 yrs) 42 42 .500 3.48 120 98 11 46 8 4 741.1 827 333 287 24 201 214 3 1.387
BRO (3 yrs) 12 18 .400 3.98 48 33 12 13 1 6 260.0 317 131 115 15 57 61 4 1.438
NYY (3 yrs) 16 4 .800 3.21 36 20 10 10 2 3 182.0 203 85 65 5 54 43 2 1.412
SLB (2 yrs) 18 21 .462 3.79 47 43 4 24 3 0 325.2 374 174 137 18 124 66 6 1.529
PHI (1 yr) 0 3 .000 7.97 7 2 2 0 0 1 20.1 28 20 18 2 11 8 0 1.918
PHA (1 yr) 2 0 1.000 5.63 2 2 0 0 0 0 8.0 9 5 5 0 7 1 0 2.000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/7/2013.

May 3 – Happy Birthday Ken Silvestri

They called this Chicago native “the Hawk” and he was signed as a catcher by his hometown White Sox in 1936, after attending Purdue University for two years. He got to the big leagues by 1939 and played two seasons as a backup catcher to Chicago’s Mike Tresh, who was the father of future Yankee shortstop, Tom Tresh. The White Sox then traded the switch-hitting Silvestri to the Yankees, where he became the third string receiver behind Hall of Famer Bill Dickey and Buddy Rosar during the 1941 season and won his first World Series ring.

When World War II came, Silvestri spent the next four seasons in the U.S. Army. When he returned to the Yankees in 1946, Aaron Robinson was New York’s starting catcher, an aging Dickey was his backup and Sylvestri, Gus Niarhos, Bill Drescher and a youngster named Yogi Berra all battled for the third string job. The following year Dickey retired, Berra became Robinson’s backup and Silvestri found himself back in the minor leagues. He spent the entire 1948 season playing for the Yankee’s Newark farm team. Though he was a switch-hitter, Silvestri’s problem was that he couldn’t hit very well from either side of the plate.

Unable to win even a third string job with the loaded Yankees, Silvestri was probably happy when the Phillies grabbed him in the 1948 Rule 5 draft. But Philadelphia already had Andy Seminick and Stan Lopata doing the catching. The Hawk would appear in a total of just 19 games during his three seasons in the City of Brotherly Love and get just 42 plate appearances. He also got his first-ever World Series at bat as a member of the 1950 Whiz Kids team that lost to the Yankees.

The fact of the matter was that Mr. Silvestri spent almost his entire eight season big league career in his teams’ bullpens, warming up relievers. His career totals included 102 games played, 203 lifetime at bats, 44 hits and a lifetime batting average of .217. He would rejoin the Yankee organization in 1954 and spend the rest of his playing days on Yankee farm teams. He then became a Manager in the Yankee farm system and eventually a long-time big league coach in the Braves organization. He passed away in 1992 at the age of 75.

Silvestri shares his May 3rd birthday with the winningest right-hander in Yankee history and also this much less successful former Yankee hurler.

Year Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1941 NYY AL 17 47 40 6 10 5 0 1 4 0 7 6 .250 .362 .450 .812
1942 Did not play in major leagues (Military Service)
1943 Did not play in major leagues (Military Service)
1944 Did not play in major leagues (Military Service)
1945 Did not play in major leagues (Military Service)
1946 NYY AL 13 24 21 4 6 1 0 0 1 0 3 7 .286 .375 .333 .708
1947 NYY AL 3 12 10 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 .200 .333 .200 .533
8 Yrs 102 238 203 26 44 11 1 5 25 0 31 41 .217 .326 .355 .681
PHI (3 yrs) 19 44 33 5 7 0 1 0 5 0 9 6 .212 .395 .273 .668
NYY (3 yrs) 33 83 71 10 18 6 0 1 5 0 12 15 .254 .361 .380 .742
CHW (2 yrs) 50 111 99 11 19 5 0 4 15 0 10 20 .192 .273 .364 .636
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/3/2013.

May 1 – Happy Birthday Brandon Claussen

Thumbnail image for th_brandon claussen.jpgThis native of Rapid City, SD is one of only two all-time Yankee roster members I could find who celebrate their birthday on May 1. Claussen appeared in only one game for New York, getting a start and a victory during the 2003 season. That victory however, was not Brandon’s only contribution to helping the Yankees get into that season’s World Series. He was also included in the July 2003 trade with the Reds that brought Aaron Boone to the Yankees.

Claussen shares his May 1 birthday with another pitcher who played for the Yankees over a century earlier.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2003 NYY 1 0 1.000 1.42 1 1 0 0 0 0 6.1 8 2 1 1 1 5 1.421
4 Yrs 16 27 .372 5.04 58 58 0 0 0 0 316.0 359 197 177 48 121 228 1.519
NYY (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 1.42 1 1 0 0 0 0 6.1 8 2 1 1 1 5 1.421
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2013.