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.
|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|
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.
|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|
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
C 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
Here are Ensberg’s Yankee and lifetime stats:
|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|