July 2011

July 23 – Happy Birthday Johnny James

 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?

1B Tony Clark
2B Billy Martin or Willie Randolph
SS Gene Michael or Fred Stanley
3B Andy Carey
C Bill Dickey or Mike Stanley
OF Babe Ruth
OF Bernie Williams
OF Dion James
DH Jim Spencer or Jack Clark
SP Tommy John or Ralph Terry
RP Albert Sparky Lyle
This former Yankee pitcher and this long ago utility player were both also born on July 23rd.

Here are Johnny James’ Yankee and career total stats:

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1958 NYY 0 0 0.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 3.0 2 0 0 0 4 1 2.000
1960 NYY 5 1 .833 4.36 28 0 11 0 0 2 43.1 38 22 21 3 26 29 1.477
1961 NYY 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.1 1 0 0 0 0 2 0.750
3 Yrs 5 3 .625 4.76 66 3 22 0 0 2 119.0 107 66 63 15 84 73 1.605
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/23/2013.

July 22 – Happy Birthday Cliff Johnson

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.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1977 NYY 56 168 142 24 42 8 0 12 31 0 20 23 .296 .405 .606 1.010
1978 NYY 76 205 174 20 32 9 1 6 19 0 30 32 .184 .307 .351 .658
1979 NYY 28 76 64 11 17 6 0 2 6 0 10 7 .266 .360 .453 .813
15 Yrs 1369 4603 3945 539 1016 188 10 196 699 9 568 719 .258 .355 .459 .815
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/22/2013.

July 21 – Happy Birthday CC Sabathia

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 is turning out to be one of the best decisions a Yankee front office ever made. Carsten Charles has 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. Fortunately, he’s still a Yankee, though it did cost 50 million more Yankee bucks to be able to say that. As I update this post, the big guy is currently 10-3 and just returned from a stay on the DL to throw seven scoreless innings against the Blue Jays.

The Yankees signed CC Sabathia hoping this big left-hander would give them a chance to win every time he took the mound and so far, that is exactly what he has done in a Yankee uniform. What I really love about this guy is the way he steps up when the Yankees have been playing poorly for a stretch and really need a win. He turns 32-years-old today.

CC Shares his Yankee birthday with this one time Yankee first baseman and this one time reliever.

Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2009 28 NYY AL 19 8 .704 3.37 34 34 0 2 1 0 230.0 197 96 86 18 67 197 1.148
2010 29 NYY AL 21 7 .750 3.18 34 34 0 2 0 0 237.2 209 92 84 20 74 197 1.191
2011 30 NYY AL 19 8 .704 3.00 33 33 0 3 1 0 237.1 230 87 79 17 61 230 1.226
2012 31 NYY AL 15 6 .714 3.38 28 28 0 2 0 0 200.0 184 89 75 22 44 197 1.140
2013 32 NYY AL 9 8 .529 4.07 20 20 0 2 0 0 137.0 139 70 62 21 30 117 1.234
13 Yrs 200 110 .645 3.53 403 403 0 37 12 0 2701.1 2500 1165 1060 248 799 2331 1.221
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 (5 yrs) 83 37 .692 3.33 149 149 0 11 2 0 1042.0 959 434 386 98 276 938 1.185
MIL (1 yr) 11 2 .846 1.65 17 17 0 7 3 0 130.2 106 31 24 6 25 128 1.003
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/20/2013.