October 2011

October 31 – Happy Birthday Mickey Rivers

We called him “Mick the Quick.” He was born in Miami, FL on October 31, 1948. Rivers came to the Yankees with Ed Figueroa from the Angels in a December, 1975 trade for Bobby Bonds. That deal was the key that finally fully opened the door to the resurgence of the Yankee dynasty, which took place in the mid seventies. Figueroa was himself a big part of that resurgence, winning more games during his first three seasons in Pinstripes than any other AL pitcher. But it was Rivers who provided the missing piece to the Yankee’s offense and during his first two seasons in New York he was one of the most exciting players in baseball.

Billy Martin inserted Mickey at the top of the Yankee lineup and he became a run-scoring machine during the 1976 season. Even though he missed 25 games he still managed to cross home plate 95 times. He stole 43 bases getting caught just seven times. He had 184 hits and batted .312. The only thing he couldn’t do was walk but he also made contact, striking out just 51 times. He also had a great playoff series against the Royals before falling flat along
with most of the rest of the Yankee lineup in that season’s Fall Classic versus the Reds.

1977 brought more of the same from Rivers. He again sat out two dozen games but his regular-season average climbed to .326. Just as importantly, Mickey played a very good center field for the Yankees, using his speed to get to balls quickly, which more than compensated for his just OK arm. He hit over .390 that year against the Royals in the playoffs and the Yankees won their first World Championship in 15 years.

I saw Rivers up close just one time. We were at Yankee Stadium for an Old Timers game, standing behind the police barricades by the Stadium’s player entrance hoping to catch a glimpse of all the past and present Yankees arriving for that day’s games. Rivers pulled into the Yankee parking lot in a beautiful car. I believe it was a Mercedes. What I’ll never forget is how slowly the guy walked. I think it took him ten minutes to cover the hundred feet between the gate of the parking lot to the player’s entrance to the Stadium. I remember another Yankee player, I believe it was Bucky Dent, pulled into the parking lot a full five minutes after Mickey did that day and got inside the stadium before Rivers did. I remember wondering how any human being who moved as slow as Rivers did could possibly lead the American League in stolen bases, which Mickey had done in 1975.

By 1978, however, Mick’s on-the-field performance began to suffer. His run production decreased and his batting average dipped by sixty percentage points. He also seemed to be growing a bit more nonchalant on the bases and in the outfield. Remember, this was the height of the Billy Martin era. The boozing and mercurial Yankee skipper had lost the reins of his team and the New York Media was having a field day with all of the controversy. Rivers enjoyed the New York nightlife and the ponies. He needed to be kept on a short leash but with the Yankee dugout a circus, there was no one to hold the other end of that leash.

My favorite off-the-field story about Rivers was when he pulled into the Yankee Stadium players’ parking lot before a game after an overnight spent enjoying the Big Apple night life. Allegedly, Mrs. Rivers happened to be laying in wait for her husband in the same parking lot. She proceeded to use her late model luxury car as a battering ram, repeatedly crashing into the Mick’s own late-model luxury car. God I wish I’d been there to see it. Mickey’s gambling and philandering was also taking a toll on his personal finances. Rumor had it that George Steinbrenner was growing very angry with his center-fielder’s constant requests for salary advances and increases.

By 1979 the Yankees had grown weary of Rivers’ behavior on and off the field and they traded him to Texas to reacquire Oscar Gamble. I still miss the guy. Rivers shares his October 31st birthday with this former Yankee catcherthis former Yankee infielder and this other former Yankee infielder.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1976 27 NYY AL 137 612 590 95 184 31 8 8 67 43 13 51 .312 .327 .432 .760
1977 28 NYY AL 138 594 565 79 184 18 5 12 69 22 18 45 .326 .350 .439 .789
1978 29 NYY AL 141 604 559 78 148 25 8 11 48 25 29 51 .265 .302 .397 .699
1979 30 NYY AL 74 307 286 37 82 18 5 3 25 3 13 21 .287 .315 .416 .731
15 Yrs 1468 6026 5629 785 1660 247 71 61 499 267 266 471 .295 .327 .397 .724
TEX (6 yrs) 521 2076 1966 276 596 93 13 22 168 48 73 134 .303 .327 .397 .725
CAL (6 yrs) 457 1833 1663 220 466 62 32 5 122 126 120 169 .280 .330 .365 .695
NYY (4 yrs) 490 2117 2000 289 598 92 26 34 209 93 73 168 .299 .324 .422 .746
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/31/2013.

October 30 – Happy Birthday Danny Tartabull

The 1991 Yankee team was a pretty inept squad. They finished 20 games under 500 and tenth in the American League in both offense and pitching. The cross-town Mets had not done much better that year but they were killing the Yankees in free agent signings as the 1992 spring training season approached. The Amazin’s had already put Eddie Murray, Bobby Bonilla and Bret Saberhagen under contract while Yankee GM Gene Michael had been told not to sign anyone until he got the OK from the chaotic Yankee management team that was supposedly running the franchise during George Steinbrenner’s Howie Spira induced banishment from baseball.

When Michael finally did get permission to pursue a free agent it came with specific orders to sign free-swinging first baseman, Danny Tartabull. Michael did not like Tartabull’s game and was against the move but went ahead and did what he was told to do. The Yankees signed Tartabull to a four-year $20 million free agent contract in January of 1992. Three and a half mostly disappointing seasons later, he was traded to the A’s for Ruben Sierra. His best season in pinstripes was his second when he hit 31 home runs and drove in 103 runs for Manager Buck Showalter’s first Yankee team.

Personally, I liked this guy when he played in New York. He did strike out a lot and was a liability in the field but his OBP as a Yankee was over .370 and he hit 81 home runs and drove in 282 during his three-and-a-half year stay in the Bronx. And who can forget his appearance on the television show Seinfeld? Perhaps Tartabull’s biggest problem was staying healthy. He missed too many games because of injuries and would then struggle to regain his rhythm at the plate each time he returned to the lineup. Danny is the son of former big league outfielder Jose Tartabull. He was born in San Juan on this date in 1962. His last season in the big leagues was 1997 and he hit 262 home runs during his 14-years in the Majors.

This former Yankee third basemanthis one-time Yankee reliever and this long-ago Yankee  spit-baller all share Tartabull’s October 30th birthday.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1992 NYY 123 526 421 72 112 19 0 25 85 2 103 115 .266 .409 .489 .898
1993 NYY 138 611 513 87 128 33 2 31 102 0 92 156 .250 .363 .503 .866
1994 NYY 104 470 399 68 102 24 1 19 67 1 66 111 .256 .360 .464 .823
1995 NYY 59 230 192 25 43 12 0 6 28 0 33 54 .224 .335 .380 .715
14 Yrs 1406 5842 5011 756 1366 289 22 262 925 37 768 1362 .273 .368 .496 .864
KCR (5 yrs) 657 2684 2327 348 674 141 9 124 425 28 325 592 .290 .376 .518 .894
NYY (4 yrs) 424 1837 1525 252 385 88 3 81 282 3 294 436 .252 .372 .473 .845
SEA (3 yrs) 166 671 592 87 164 33 7 28 110 5 71 174 .277 .354 .498 .853
PHI (1 yr) 3 11 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 4 .000 .364 .000 .364
CHW (1 yr) 132 541 472 58 120 23 3 27 101 1 64 128 .254 .340 .487 .827
OAK (1 yr) 24 98 88 9 23 4 0 2 7 0 10 28 .261 .337 .375 .712
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/30/2013.

October 29 – Happy Birthday Jesse Barfield

Born in Joliet, IL on October 29. 1959, Jesse Barfield came to New York from Toronto in exchange for Yankee pitching prospect, Al Leiter, during the 1989 season. Jesse had some great years as a Blue Jay, winning two Gold Gloves and capturing the 1986 AL home run title with a career-high 40. He also had one of baseball’s best throwing arms.

The Yankee team he joined in ’89 had little power from the right side and Jesse provided some, hitting 17 home runs that first year and then 25 more during his first full season in pinstripes. Since he walked a lot also, the Yankees lived with his propensity to strike out a lot and his sub-.250 batting average but when that average slipped to .225 in 1991, Barfield’s days in the Bronx were numbered. He was released by New York in November of 1992 and retired from baseball after a twelve year career that included 241 big league home runs.

During his playing days, Jesse gained a degree of fame by designing furniture. Many of the Jesse’s creations sit in the homes of his ex-teammates. After retiring, Jesse became a hitting instructor, serving in that capacity for both the Astros and Mariners. His sons Jesse and Josh both played Minor League ball.

Jesse shares his October 29th birthday with this former Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee shortstop.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1989 NYY 129 529 441 71 106 19 1 18 56 5 82 122 .240 .360 .410 .770
1990 NYY 153 570 476 69 117 21 2 25 78 4 82 150 .246 .359 .456 .815
1991 NYY 84 321 284 37 64 12 0 17 48 1 36 80 .225 .312 .447 .759
1992 NYY 30 105 95 8 13 2 0 2 7 1 9 27 .137 .210 .221 .431
12 Yrs 1428 5394 4759 715 1219 216 30 241 716 66 551 1234 .256 .335 .466 .802
TOR (9 yrs) 1032 3869 3463 530 919 162 27 179 527 55 342 855 .265 .334 .483 .817
NYY (4 yrs) 396 1525 1296 185 300 54 3 62 189 11 209 379 .231 .339 .421 .760
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/29/2013.