August 2011

August 30 – Happy Birthday Johnny Lindell

The Yankees signed Johnny Lindell in 1936 as a pitcher and during the next six seasons he developed really well in the New York farm system, culminating with an outstanding 23-4 record with the 1941 Newark Bears. He deserved a shot at the big show but the only problem was that Yankee Manager Joe McCarthy’s team was already loaded with good pitchers at the time and he simply didn’t need another one. So instead, he asked Lindell if he’d like to try the outfield. Johnny had always been a good hitter, averaging close to .300 in the minors, so the 6’5″ native of Greely, CO gave it a shot. By 1943, with WWII raging and the regular Yankee outfield disrupted by military service, Lindell became New York’s regular center fielder. He had his best big league season in 1944 when he averaged .300, poked 18 home runs, drove in 103 and led the AL in triples for the second straight year.

Off the field, Lindell was a party animal. It was rumored that Yankee GM George Weiss spent more money on private detectives he hired to keep night-time tabs on his outfielder than he paid Lindell in salary. By 1945, it was Lindell’s turn to serve his country. When he returned to the Yankees in 1946, New York’s regular outfielders and prospects had all returned from military service and Lindell gradually moved into the role of the team’s fourth outfielder.

Johnny had some great moments as a Yankee. He hit .500 and drove in seven runs during the Yankees 1947 World Series victory over the Dodgers. In 1949, he hit a huge home run in New York’s final regular season series against Boston, enabling the Yankees to move into a tie with the Red Sox. But as each year passed, Lindell found himself playing less and less and during the 1950 season, Weiss sold him to the Cardinals. When St. Louis released him at the end of that season, Lindell decided to go back to pitching and returned to the minors to work on his knuckle ball. He put together an amazing 24-9 season in the Pacific Coast League in 1952 and the Pirates promoted him to their starting rotation the following year. But Lindell couldn’t throw his knuckle ball over the plate for strikes and the more patient big league hitters simply waited him out. He finished the ’53 season with a 5-16 record and led the NL in walks. By the following year he was out of the big leagues for good.

Johnny shares his birthday with his former Yankee teammate, a third baseman with the nickname of “Bull.” This former Yankee pitcher was also born on August 30th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1941 NYY 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
1942 NYY 27 24 24 1 6 1 0 0 4 0 0 5 .250 .250 .292 .542
1943 NYY 122 500 441 53 108 17 12 4 51 2 51 55 .245 .329 .365 .694
1944 NYY 149 646 594 91 178 33 16 18 103 5 44 56 .300 .351 .500 .851
1945 NYY 41 181 159 26 45 6 3 1 20 2 17 10 .283 .363 .377 .740
1946 NYY 102 369 332 41 86 10 5 10 40 4 32 47 .259 .328 .410 .738
1947 NYY 127 513 476 66 131 18 7 11 67 1 32 70 .275 .322 .412 .734
1948 NYY 88 344 309 58 98 17 2 13 55 0 35 50 .317 .387 .511 .898
1949 NYY 78 247 211 33 51 10 0 6 27 3 35 27 .242 .350 .374 .724
1950 NYY 7 25 21 2 4 0 0 0 2 0 4 2 .190 .320 .190 .510
12 Yrs 854 3121 2795 401 762 124 48 72 404 17 289 366 .273 .344 .429 .773
NYY (10 yrs) 742 2850 2568 371 707 112 45 63 369 17 250 322 .275 .343 .428 .770
PHI (2 yrs) 18 31 23 3 8 1 0 0 4 0 8 5 .348 .516 .391 .907
PIT (1 yr) 58 109 91 11 26 6 1 4 15 0 16 15 .286 .404 .505 .909
STL (1 yr) 36 131 113 16 21 5 2 5 16 0 15 24 .186 .287 .398 .685
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/31/2013.

August 28 – Happy Birthday Mike Torrez

If you’ve watched televised Yankee broadcasts over the years you’ve probably heard Kenny Singleton and Michael Kay talk about “the worst trade in Montreal Expo history.” It took place a few weeks before Christmas in 1974 with the Baltimore Orioles. The Expos received Baltimore’s veteran starting pitcher, Dave McNally and the Birds’ outfielder Rich Coggins in exchange for Singleton, who was then a young up and coming outfielder and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant.  Mike Torrez was a nibbler, a big young right-hander who tried to keep the ball away from the middle of the plate. As a result, he typically threw lots of pitches and walked lots of hitters when he was on the mound but he also won more games than he lost.

Neither McNally or Coggins was still playing for Montreal by the second half of the 1975 season. Singleton became one of the great outfielders in Baltimore franchise history. Torrez became the ace of Baltimore’s staff in ’75 going 20-9. He then got traded again but only because Oakland A’s owner Charley Finley had decided to unload his superstar free-agent-to-be, Reggie Jackson before Mr. October walked away on his own. Baltimore thought Reggie could get them back to the World Series so they were willing to sacrifice Torrez to get him.

The native of Topeka, Kansas continued his winning ways in Oakland, going 16-12 in 1976. He then won three of his first four starts the following season but like Reggie a year earlier, Torrez was in the final year of his contract and any good player in his option year playing for a Charley Finley owned team automatically received a new nickname; Trade Bait!

That’s how the Yankees were able to secure Torrez’ services at the end of April in 1977. Finley accepted Doc Ellis, Larry Murray and Marty Perez in exchange for big Mike. With Catfish Hunter’s shoulder ailing at the time, Torrez immediately became a key ingredient to the Yankees’ drive to their 1977 World Championship. He won 14 games that year, joining Ron Guidry (16) Ed Fiqueroa (16) and Don Gullett (14) as double digit winners. Then after losing Game 3 in the ’77 ALCS to Kansas City, Torrez won both Game 3 and the Series-clinching Game 6 for New York in the World Series. It was without a doubt, his finest moment in pinstripes but not his most important moment in franchise history.

That happened less than a year later, after the Yankees let Torrez sign as a free agent with the Red Sox and after he won 16 games for Boston and helped them tie New York for the 1978 AL East Division title. More specifically, it took place on October 2, 1978 in the late afternoon in Boston’s Fenway Park, with two outs in the seventh inning of the playoff game between the Red Sox and the Yankees to determine who would advance to the ALCS against the Royals that year. Torrez had shutout the Yankees thus far that afternoon and was ahead 2-0 when Bucky Dent walked to the plate with Chris Chambliss and Roy White on base. Torrez third pitch to the light-hitting shortstop was inside and Dent pulled it just high enough to clear the top of the Green Monster.

Torrez went on to pitch four more seasons for the Red Sox and a total of six more in his big league career. When he retired in 1984, he had won 185 regular-season games and lost 160.

Today is also the birthday of the Yankee starting pitcher who opposed Mike on that fateful afternoon in Boston and the Yankee right fielder who made the famous play that saved that victory for New York. This starting second baseman on the Yankees’ first championship team and this former Yankee reliever were both also born on August 28th.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO WHIP
1977 NYY 14 12 .538 3.82 31 31 0 15 2 0 217.0 212 99 92 20 75 1 90 1.323
18 Yrs 185 160 .536 3.96 494 458 13 117 15 0 3043.2 3043 1501 1340 223 1371 84 1404 1.450
STL (5 yrs) 21 18 .538 4.12 71 52 5 8 1 0 347.2 330 179 159 22 208 15 180 1.547
BOS (5 yrs) 60 54 .526 4.51 161 157 1 36 4 0 1012.2 1108 558 507 87 420 31 480 1.509
MON (4 yrs) 40 32 .556 3.75 102 97 2 22 2 0 640.2 610 303 267 42 303 19 296 1.425
OAK (3 yrs) 19 13 .594 2.87 45 43 0 15 4 0 295.0 263 114 94 18 101 2 129 1.234
NYM (2 yrs) 11 22 .333 4.47 48 42 5 5 0 0 260.0 282 145 129 19 131 11 110 1.588
NYY (1 yr) 14 12 .538 3.82 31 31 0 15 2 0 217.0 212 99 92 20 75 1 90 1.323
BAL (1 yr) 20 9 .690 3.06 36 36 0 16 2 0 270.2 238 103 92 15 133 5 119 1.371
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/31/2013.

August 26 – Happy Birthday Morgan Ensberg

The Yankees were hoping Ensberg could replicate some of the offensive magic he exhibited during his 2005 breakout year with the Astros, when they signed that season’s NL Silver Slugger Award winner in 2008 to play some first base. Unfortunately, the Redondo Beach, CA native could not produce and the Yankees released him after he appeared in just 28 games. He shares his birthday with this Yankee utility infielder.

Today is a good time to share my All-Time Lineup of Yankee players with August birthdays:

1B Johnny Ellis 8/21/48
2B Bobby Richardson 8/19/35
3B Graig Nettles 8/20/44
SS Bobby Meacham 8/25/60
Jorge Posada 8/17/71
OF Gene Woodling 8/16/83
OF Brett Gardner 8/24/83
OF Melky Cabrera 8/11/84
DH Ron Blomberg 8/23/48
SP Ron Guidry 8/28/50
RP Ron Davis 8/6/55
CL John Wetteland 8/21/66
MGR Ralph Houk 8/9/19
OWN Jake Ruppert 8/5/1867

August is a strong birthday month for Yankee third basemen. In addition to Nettles, both 1998 World Series MVP Scott Brosius and the
slick-fielding Billy “The Bull” Johnson have birthdays this month.

Here are Ensberg’s Yankee and lifetime stats:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2008 NYY 28 80 74 6 15 0 0 1 4 0 6 22 .203 .263 .243 .506
8 Yrs 731 2580 2204 340 579 102 10 110 347 22 332 436 .263 .362 .468 .830
HOU (7 yrs) 673 2435 2072 323 551 99 10 105 335 22 319 395 .266 .367 .475 .843
SDP (1 yr) 30 65 58 11 13 3 0 4 8 0 7 19 .224 .308 .483 .790
NYY (1 yr) 28 80 74 6 15 0 0 1 4 0 6 22 .203 .263 .243 .506
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/26/2013.