Johnny James, was born on July 23, 1933 and came up to the big leagues with the Yankees in 1958. He had his best season for New York in 1960, when he went 5-1 with 2 saves pitching out of Casey Stengel’s bullpen. The Ol’ Perfessor liked this small right-hander well enough to give him the ball 28 times that year but not enough to keep him on New York’s 1960 World Series roster. James’ problem was his control. He had very little. He walked 26 guys in 43 innings during his one full season in the Bronx and relief pitchers who can’t throw strikes typically have very short big league careers. James was no exception. In 1961, the Yankees traded him and Ryne Duren to the Los Angeles Angels to bring back both Bob Cerv and Tex Clevenger, who both had been lost to the new AL franchise in the previous year’s expansion draft. James lost his only two decisions for LA in 1961 and walked 54 hitters in 71 innings of pitching. He never again pitched in the big leagues.
Coming across Johnny’s name in my research for today’s post did get me to wondering about other Yankees with two first names in their signature (don’t ask me why I wonder about such things.) Here’s my all-time line-up of Yankees with two first names for a name. Can you think of any others?
Here are Johnny James’ Yankee and career total stats:
|NYY (3 yrs)||5||1||.833||3.97||30||0||12||0||0||2||47.2||41||22||21||3||30||32||1.490|
|LAA (1 yr)||0||2||.000||5.30||36||3||10||0||0||0||71.1||66||44||42||12||54||41||1.682|
On April 19, 1979, the two-time defending World Champion New York Yankees had just lost a Thursday afternoon game to the Baltimore Orioles and were in their Yankee Stadium home locker room peeling off their pinstriped uniforms. According to an account of the incident that appeared in the NY Times, Yankee closer Goose Gossage had removed the adhesive tape he used to hold up his game-sox, rolled it up in a ball and “playfully” tossed it at Cliff Johnson, who was undressing in front of his own locker about thirty feet away from the Goose’s cubicle. The wad of tape missed the huge Yankee DH but Johnson took the opportunity to come up with what I thought was a very clever line; “I don’t have to worry about you hitting me.” At the time of this incident, Gossage had been experiencing a season-long streak of wildness, during which he had walked seven hitters in the eight innings he had pitched thus far that year.
Never being known as someone who calmed down a situation, Reggie Jackson took the opportunity to ask Johnson how well he had hit Gossage when the two both played in the National League. Before big Cliff could respond, Goose piped in that Johnson simply swung at what he “heard.
Cliff Johnson had joined the Yankees in June of 1977, coming to the Bronx in a trade with Houston. He proved to be a valuable acquisition for New York. He had blasted twelve home runs in the 56 games he played in pinstripes that year and then hit .400 in the 1977 ALCS against the Royals. But the man they called “Heathcliff” could not keep that pace going in 1978. He hit just .184 during his second season in New York. The Yankees tried using Johnson as a backup catcher and first baseman but his defensive skills were lacking. He was pretty much a pure DH. The future of a Yankee DH who hits .184 in the George Steinbrenner era was precarious enough before Johnson followed Gossage into the showers after that April ’79 game against the Orioles.
Evidently, Cliff took Gossage’s “heard my pitches” retort as a personal insult. According to Goose, after the two entered the shower room, Johnson grabbed the reliever’s head and shoved it real hard. While attempting to push his angered teammate off of him, Goose tore the ligament in his right thumb. Unfortunately for the Yankees and for Johnson, Goose threw a baseball with his right hand.
Gossage’s injury required an operation and the reliever did not return to action for almost three months. By that time, the Yankees were in fourth place, nine and a half games behind first place Baltimore and Cliff Johnson was wearing the uniform of the Cleveland Indians.
Johnson’s final big league season was 1986. The player nicknamed “Heathcliff” hit 196 home runs during his fifteen seasons in the big leagues including 21 pinch hit home runs which was the Major League record in that category until Matt Stairs broke it in 2010.
Johnson shares his July 22nd birthday with this former Yankee closer who I bet smiled when he heard about the scuffle between Heathcliff and Goose. This former Yankee starting pitcher was also born on July 22.
|HOU (6 yrs)||376||1186||997||142||255||51||4||52||172||1||167||205||.256||.370||.471||.842|
|TOR (4 yrs)||400||1376||1175||162||321||58||3||54||202||0||178||203||.273||.372||.466||.837|
|NYY (3 yrs)||160||449||380||55||91||23||1||20||56||0||60||62||.239||.353||.463||.816|
|OAK (2 yrs)||157||554||487||59||122||18||0||24||90||6||54||101||.251||.327||.435||.762|
|CLE (2 yrs)||126||477||414||62||105||13||1||24||89||2||49||69||.254||.333||.464||.797|
|TEX (1 yr)||82||334||296||31||76||17||1||12||56||0||31||44||.257||.330||.443||.773|
|CHC (1 yr)||68||227||196||28||46||8||0||10||34||0||29||35||.235||.335||.429||.763|
Based on his and the team’s performance after his first three and a half seasons in pinstripes, the free agent signing of CC Sabathia had to be considered at that time, one of the best decisions a Yankee front office ever made. Carsten Charles had done just about everything the Yankees hoped he would do when they agreed to pay him just over $160 million to pitch eight seasons for New York. During the first year of that contract in 2009, he led the AL in wins with 19 and pitched 230 innings during the regular season. He was a major reason why the Yankees got into that year’s World Series when he won his only start against Minnesota and both his starts against the Angels in the ’09 League playoffs. And even though he lost his only decision in the Phillies’ Series, he did keep the Yankees in Game 4, a game they eventually won.
In 2010, he repeated as the AL victories leader with 21 wins and he threw 237 innings. He should have won the AL Cy Young Award for his performance but for some reason, lost it to Felix Hernandez. He did not pitch super well in the 2010 postseason but he did win both of his decisions.
In 2011, Sabathia finished the regular season with a 19-8 record and an even 3.00 ERA. He was the glue that held New York’s patch worked starting rotation together. He was practically un-hittable during much of the second half of the season but was ineffective during his one appearance against the Tigers in the 2011 postseason. I sort of blame that bad final start on Joe Girardi and his Yankee pitching brain trust. When New York had opened up a big lead in the AL East late in the 2011 regular season, Girardi decided he was going to give his top starters a few days off. I’ve always felt that CC needed to pitch a lot to be effective. He depends so much on rhythm and when Girardi stopped starting him every fifth day, I was worried he’d lose the marvelous rhythm he had been in. To make matters even worse, when the rains came in the second inning of Game 1, in the ALDS between New York and Detroit, CC did not return to the mound after the long delay that day. When he came back to pitch in Game 3, he was simply not sharp.
The fact that CC had that opt-out clause in his contract after the 2011 season made me very nervous. After the way the Yankee front office had been taken to the cleaners by A-Rod over his opt-out years earlier and then botched up Derek Jeter’s contract negotiations in 2010, I was unsure if CC was going to still be in pinstripes when the 2012 season opened. He remained a Yankee, though it did cost 50 million more Yankee bucks to be able to say that. It has not proven to be a brilliant investment thus far. After a 15-6 season in 2012, CC experienced a huge drop-off in 2012 after showing up in training camp that season fifty pounds lighter. His knee then gave out in 2014 causing him to miss most of that season and this far in 2015, he has been the Yankees’ must unreliable starter.
The Yankees signed CC Sabathia hoping this big left-hander would give them a chance to win every time he took the mound and up until three seasons ago, that is exactly what he did in a Yankee uniform. I still have my fingers crossed that an older CC can learn how to consistently get outs with a slower fastball and sore knee. He turns 35-years-old today.
|CLE (8 yrs)||106||71||.599||3.83||237||237||0||19||7||0||1528.2||1435||700||650||144||498||1265||1.265|
|NYY (7 yrs)||95||54||.638||3.74||186||186||0||12||2||0||1262.1||1224||580||524||134||341||1128||1.240|
|MIL (1 yr)||11||2||.846||1.65||17||17||0||7||3||0||130.2||106||31||24||6||25||128||1.003|