August 2011

August 21 – Happy Birthday John Wetteland

If you’re a Yankee fan, one of the great moments you have engrained into your memory is the on-field celebration that ensued after Charley Hayes caught that foul pop for the third and final out of the 1996 World Series. John Wetteland was in the middle of that celebration. He had just earned his fourth save of that Series and was about to be named Series MVP. That performance followed a regular season in which the right-hander had led the AL with 43 saves and made the All Star team.

Wettland, who was born on today’s date in 1966 in San Mateo, CA, was an indispensable Yankee that year and I can recall being completely blown away when just one month later, the Yankees let him become a free agent. The right-hander continued to perform as one of the game’s top closers after he signed with Texas and saved another 150 games during the final four seasons of his big league career. That Yankee front office decision to let Wetteland walk and hand the closer role to a young Mariano Rivera seemed so risky at the time. It doesn’t anymore, does it?

Wetteland shares his August 21 birthday with this former Yankee first baseman.

August 20 – Happy Birthday Graig Nettles

The Dodgers and the Yankees clashed in the 1978 World Series. If you’re a longtime Yankee fan, older than forty, you simply don’t forget Graig Nettles defensive performance in Game 3.

The Dodgers had jumped ahead of New York two games to none and only “Puff” and his well worn fielders glove prevented them from making it three straight wins. He made four great plays in that game. In the third inning, with New York ahead 2-1 and Bill Russell on first base with two outs, Nettles made a diving stop of Reggie Smith’s smash down the third base line and threw Smith out at first. In the fifth, with the tying run on second, Nettles again victimized Smith by knocking down his screaming line drive, preventing the run from scoring and holding the Dodger outfielder to an infield single. The very next hitter, Dodger first baseman, Steve Garvey then scorched another one at Nettles who backhanded it on his knees and forced the runner at second to end the inning. Yet again in the visitors’ half of the sixth, the Dodgers loaded the bases and with two outs, LA second baseman Davey Lopes sent another hard grounder in Nettles’ direction. After another great stop, he made another great throw, forcing the runner at second and ending another Dodger threat. As he ran toward the dugout, the Yankee Stadium crowd gave him a standing ovation. Nettles won Gold Gloves in 1977 and ’78.

Born in San Diego on this date in 1944, he was the AL Home Run Champion in 1976 and when he retired after the 1988 season he had 390 career home runs. 319 of those blasts were the most home runs ever by an AL third baseman. Great glove, plenty of power, a quick irreverent wit and that Game 3 performance sum up my memories of the Yankee’s All-Time great third baseman.

Nettles shares his August 20th birthday with this long-ago Yankee who ended up in San Quentin and  this one-time top Yankee pitching prospect.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1973 NYY 160 641 552 65 129 18 0 22 81 0 78 76 .234 .334 .386 .720
1974 NYY 155 638 566 74 139 21 1 22 75 1 59 75 .246 .316 .403 .718
1975 NYY 157 647 581 71 155 24 4 21 91 1 51 88 .267 .322 .430 .753
1976 NYY 158 657 583 88 148 29 2 32 93 11 62 94 .254 .327 .475 .802
1977 NYY 158 664 589 99 150 23 4 37 107 2 68 79 .255 .333 .496 .829
1978 NYY 159 662 587 81 162 23 2 27 93 1 59 69 .276 .343 .460 .803
1979 NYY 145 588 521 71 132 15 1 20 73 1 59 53 .253 .325 .401 .726
1980 NYY 89 369 324 52 79 14 0 16 45 0 42 42 .244 .331 .435 .766
1981 NYY 103 402 349 46 85 7 1 15 46 0 47 49 .244 .333 .398 .731
1982 NYY 122 461 405 47 94 11 2 18 55 1 51 49 .232 .317 .402 .719
1983 NYY 129 519 462 56 123 17 3 20 75 0 51 65 .266 .341 .446 .787
22 Yrs 2700 10228 8986 1193 2225 328 28 390 1314 32 1088 1209 .248 .329 .421 .750
NYY (11 yrs) 1535 6248 5519 750 1396 202 20 250 834 18 627 739 .253 .329 .433 .762
MIN (3 yrs) 121 348 304 40 68 12 3 12 34 1 39 67 .224 .314 .401 .715
SDP (3 yrs) 387 1380 1189 158 282 43 2 51 181 0 171 176 .237 .333 .405 .739
CLE (3 yrs) 465 1947 1704 224 426 59 2 71 218 12 220 183 .250 .338 .412 .750
ATL (1 yr) 112 201 177 16 37 8 1 5 33 1 22 25 .209 .294 .350 .644
MON (1 yr) 80 104 93 5 16 4 0 1 14 0 9 19 .172 .240 .247 .488
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/20/2013.

August 18 – Happy Birthday Mike Ferraro

Mike Ferraro was given two chances to make his living working for the New York Yankees at third base. Neither ended up very successfully. The first opportunity came in the mid sixties, when Clete Boyer was nearing the end of his career in pinstripes. New York had signed Ferraro in 1962 when he was just 17-years-old and the native of Kingston, NY spent the next six years progressing slowly through the Yankee farm system. When the Yankees traded Boyer to the Braves after the 1966 season, the front office did not think Ferraro was quite ready to take over the hot corner and they gave that job to Charley Smith whom New York acquired from St Louis in their Roger Maris trade.

Smith was a bust in 1967 so when the team’s 1968 spring training camp opened, Yankee Skipper Ralph Houk announced that Ferraro would battle future Braves Manager, Bobby Cox for the position. Ferraro had a fantastic spring, leading the Yankees in hitting with a .353 average during the exhibition season. When the team headed north to begin the regular season, everyone figured Ferraro would start at third, everyone except Ralph Houk. For whatever reason, the Major went with Cox and Ferraro got into just 23 games that season with New York. The following April, he was traded to Seattle. After bouncing around a bit for the next few years, he finally got the opportunity to play regularly for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1972. When he hit just .255 in 124 games that year, the Brewers released him. He returned to the Yankee organization as a free agent but instead of playing, he got into coaching. By ’74 he was managing in the Yankee farm system.

During the ’68 season, while Ferraro was sitting on the Yankee bench watching Cox play third, he’d often sit next to another utility infielder on that same team, the veteran Dick Howser. The two became good friends and when Howser was named Yankee Manager in 1980, he made Ferraro his third base coach. That New York team won 103 games that year and captured the AL East Division crown. Even with that level of success, Steinbrenner had ridden Howser and his coaching staff hard all season long. The Yankees had to face the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS playoffs for the fourth time in five years.

New York lost the first game and were behind by a run with two outs the eighth inning of the second contest when Bob Watson hit a ball against Kauffman Stadium’s left field wall with Willie Randolph on first. Wilson played the carom perfectly but overthrew his cutoff man. In the mean time, third base coach Ferraro was signaling Randolph to try and score. KC third baseman, George Brett was in perfect position to field Wilson’s overthrow and he made a perfect relay to catcher Darrel Porter who tagged Willie just an instant before he made contact with home plate. The Yankees ended up losing that game and according to Bill Madden, author of “Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball,” the irate Yankee owner ran to the section of seats where the Yankee wives were watching the game and screamed at Ferraro’s wife that “her F’ing husband had cost New York the game.” He wanted Ferraro fired immediately and replaced by Don Zimmer. The whole embarrassing episode convinced Howser he could no longer work for Steinbrenner. Ironically, Ferrarro continued on as Yankee third base coach the following season. He later managed the Indians and Royals.

Ferraro shares his August 18th birthday with this Hall of Fame pitcher who appeared in ten games as a Yankee and this former outfielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1966 NYY 10 32 28 4 5 0 0 0 0 0 3 3 .179 .281 .179 .460
1968 NYY 23 89 87 5 14 0 1 0 1 0 2 17 .161 .180 .184 .364
4 Yrs 162 532 500 28 116 18 2 2 30 0 23 61 .232 .265 .288 .553
NYY (2 yrs) 33 121 115 9 19 0 1 0 1 0 5 20 .165 .207 .183 .389
MIL (2 yrs) 129 411 385 19 97 18 1 2 29 0 18 41 .252 .283 .319 .602
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/18/2013.