June 2011

June 30 – Happy Birthday Ron Swoboda

If you followed Big Apple baseball during the sixties, you don’t forget when a 21 year old kid from Baltimore made the 1965 Mets roster out of spring training and started hitting home runs with a frequency no other Met had hit them before. By the time the 1965 All Star break rolled around, Ron Swoboda already had 15 round trippers. NL pitchers then stopped throwing him fastballs and Swoboda hit just four more home runs the rest of the season. Still, his 1965 total of 19 stood as the Met rookie record until Darryl Strawberry hit seven more than that in 1983.

The New York sports media made a huge fuss about Swoboda in his first year. He was the one bright spot in a season when the Amazin’s lost 112 times. Objectively speaking, Swoboda was not that good a player. In addition to striking out too much, he was a pretty shaky fielder. But Met fans who had so little to cheer about, loved their “Rocky.”

His most famous big league moment took place during the fourth game of the Mets first World Series in 1969, against Baltimore. New York, behind Tom Seaver, had taken a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning when the Orioles mounted a rally. With one out and runners on first and third, Brooks Robinson hit a shot to the gap in right center. Somehow, Swoboda got to the ball and with his body parallel to the ground made one of the greatest catches I have ever seen. The runner at third tagged and scored on the play but if Swoboda doesn’t make that catch, the runner at first would have scored and Baltimore would have taken the lead. New York ended up winning the game in ten innings and I was at Shea Stadium for the fifth and final game of that Fall Classic to see Swoboda knock in the winning run in what would be one of the greatest sports thrills of my lifetime.

In 1971, the Mets brought up Kenny Singleton and Swoboda was shoved out of New York’s outfield. He was traded to the Expos just before the ’71 season started for a guy named Don Hahn. He had played just 39 games for Montreal that year, when he was traded to the Yankees for outfielder, Ron Woods. Swoboda spent the final two and a half seasons of his big league career in pinstripes. His last year was 1973. He hit a total of 73 home runs during his nine seasons in the Majors. If you didn’t know better and judged his career by only the numbers, you’d never understand or appreciate the huge impact he made on New York City big league baseball during the first half of the 1965 season and those four glorious games he played against the Orioles in the fall of 1969.

Also born on June 30th was this Yankee shortstop who Derek Jeter replaced as a starter, this former Yankee third-baseman and this one-time Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1971 NYY 54 170 138 17 36 2 1 2 20 0 27 35 .261 .391 .333 .724
1972 NYY 63 133 113 9 28 8 0 1 12 0 17 29 .248 .341 .345 .686
1973 NYY 35 47 43 6 5 0 0 1 2 0 4 18 .116 .191 .186 .378
9 Yrs 928 2924 2581 285 624 87 24 73 344 20 299 647 .242 .324 .379 .703
NYM (6 yrs) 737 2485 2212 246 536 73 20 69 304 20 240 549 .242 .319 .387 .706
NYY (3 yrs) 152 350 294 32 69 10 1 4 34 0 48 82 .235 .345 .316 .661
MON (1 yr) 39 89 75 7 19 4 3 0 6 0 11 16 .253 .364 .387 .750
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/30/2013.

June 28 – Happy Birthday Don Baylor

Don Baylor turns 62-years-old today, which means two things. He can start collecting social security if he chooses to and I'm getting old. I distinctly remember when Earl Weaver started playing Baylor regularly in the Baltimore Orioles' outfield back in 1972. With Paul Blair in center and Don Buford in left, Baylor gave the Birds their three-Bs outfield. He was a hard-nosed big league player from day one who used to crowd the plate and hit the ball as hard as any big leaguer ever did. He remained an Oriole until a year before free agency began and then got traded to the A's in the deal that brought Reggie Jackson to Baltimore. A year later he took advantage of the eradication of baseball's reserve clause and signed with the Angels. He enjoyed the best seasons of his career while playing for California. In 1979 he led the Angels to an AL West division crown and led the league with 120 runs scored and 139 RBIs, while blasting a career-high 39 home runs. That performance won him the AL MVP Award.

He joined the Yankees as a free agent in 1983 and his first season in pinstripes was his best. That year, he was the top DH in the league, hitting a career high .303 with 21 home runs and 85 RBIs. During his three-year stay in the Bronx, he averaged 26 home runs and close to 90 RBIs per season. The Yankees, however, failed to win a Pennant with Baylor in their lineup and when New York Manager Lou Piniella announced his intention to platoon the native Texan with Ken Griffey at DH before the '86 season, he demanded to be traded. The Yankees granted that wish by dealing him to the Red Sox for "The Hit Man" Mike Easler.

An interesting side note about that trade was that it was the first between Boston and New York since the Sparky Lyle for Danny Cater transaction, fourteen years earlier. Baylor played until 1988 and then went into coaching and managing. He skippered the Rockies for six seasons and then managed the Cubs. He shares his June 28th birthday with AL strikeout leaderthis other former Yankee pitcher and this former NY back-up first baseman.
Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1983 NYY 144 597 534 82 162 33 3 21 85 17 40 53 .303 .361 .494 .856
1984 NYY 134 558 493 84 129 29 1 27 89 1 38 68 .262 .341 .489 .830
1985 NYY 142 564 477 70 110 24 1 23 91 0 52 90 .231 .330 .430 .760
19 Yrs 2292 9401 8198 1236 2135 366 28 338 1276 285 805 1069 .260 .342 .436 .777
CAL (6 yrs) 824 3536 3105 481 813 140 7 141 523 89 312 350 .262 .337 .448 .785
BAL (6 yrs) 511 1994 1757 246 482 76 14 57 229 118 164 222 .274 .349 .431 .779
NYY (3 yrs) 420 1719 1504 236 401 86 5 71 265 18 130 211 .267 .345 .472 .817
BOS (2 yrs) 268 1096 924 157 220 31 1 47 151 8 102 158 .238 .348 .426 .774
OAK (2 yrs) 249 998 859 113 205 32 1 22 102 52 92 116 .239 .330 .355 .685
MIN (1 yr) 20 58 49 3 14 1 0 0 6 0 5 12 .286 .397 .306 .703
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/28/2013.

June 26 – Happy Birthday Mike Myers

myersMike Myers spent thirteen years in the big leagues and threw most of his pitches in the bullpens of the nine teams he played for during that time. In fact, of all the major league pitchers in history who appeared in over 800 games, none of them pitched fewer game-innings than Myers did (541.2 innings in 883 games.) This native of Arlington Heights, IL was a southpaw submariner who was called upon primarily to get one or two of the opposing team’s better left-handed hitters out late in games.

The Yankees had gone through a succession of LOOGY’s (left-handed one out guys) in 2005, including Buddy Groom, Alan Embree, Darrell May and even Mike Stanton, who had returned to the Bronx for a second tour of duty that season. When none of these guys stepped up they continued their search in the offseason and signed Myers as a free agent in December of 2005.

Joe Torre called on the then 37-year-old reliever 62-times during the 2006 season and he did a decent and consistent job from April through September. He gave up only 3 home runs all year but his low point came during an inopportune time in the seventh inning of the first game of that year’s ALDS against Detroit. That’s when Torre pulled starter Chien-Ming Wang and called Myers in to face Curtis Granderson. He surrendered a dinger to the future Yankee and was immediately yanked by a none-too-happy Torre.

New York brought Myers back the following year and I thought he was doing pretty well, when in August of that season the Yanks designated him for assignment to make room for a right hander by the name of Jim Brower. At the time of his release, Myers was 3-0 with a good ERA of 2.66. Brower ended up not getting anyone out for New York and Myers ended up in Chicago, where he finished his big league career that season pitching quite ineffectively out of the White Sox bullpen. In 2009, he accepted a job with Major League Baseball Players Association as special assistant to then executive director Donald Fehr.

Myers shares his birthday with a Yankee icon and a former New York outfielder who was once hyped as a future Yankee icon.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2006 NYY 1 2 .333 3.23 62 0 6 0 0 0 30.2 29 14 11 3 10 22 1.272
2007 NYY 3 0 1.000 2.66 55 0 11 0 0 0 40.2 38 14 12 3 16 21 1.328
13 Yrs 25 24 .510 4.29 883 0 195 0 0 14 541.2 525 278 258 58 256 429 1.442
W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
DET (3 yrs) 2 9 .182 5.56 182 0 51 0 0 8 124.2 138 84 77 19 63 123 1.612
ARI (2 yrs) 4 4 .500 5.03 133 0 32 0 0 4 73.1 77 41 41 6 38 52 1.568
COL (2 yrs) 2 4 .333 2.74 151 0 36 0 0 1 85.1 56 27 26 4 48 77 1.219
BOS (2 yrs) 4 1 .800 3.44 90 0 16 0 0 0 52.1 46 21 20 5 19 30 1.242
NYY (2 yrs) 4 2 .667 2.90 117 0 17 0 0 0 71.1 67 28 23 6 26 43 1.304
MIL (2 yrs) 4 3 .571 3.84 141 0 28 0 0 1 91.1 90 43 39 12 35 75 1.369
SEA (1 yr) 4 1 .800 4.88 50 0 10 0 0 0 27.2 29 15 15 3 17 23 1.663
FLA (1 yr) 0 0 0.00 2 0 2 0 0 0 2.0 1 0 0 0 3 0 2.000
CHW (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 11.20 17 0 3 0 0 0 13.2 21 19 17 3 7 6 2.049
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/25/2013.