Casey Stengel wanted to groom Andy Carey to replace Phil Rizzuto as the Yankees starting shortstop and he wanted Carey to become a spray hitter like “the Scooter.” The only problems with the “Ol Perfessor’s” plan were that Carey had always been a hitter who liked to pull the ball and he desperately wanted to play third base for New York. The Yankees had given Carey a $60,000 contract to sign with them after his senior year in high school. Andy’s Dad had a law practice in California and the plan had been for the son to go to law school and then join the father’s firm. But the sixty grand and Andy’s dream to start at the hot corner in Yankee Stadium forced a change in those plans. So from 1952, the year he made his debut in the big leagues, until 1960 when he was traded to Kansas City for outfielder Bob Cerv, Andy and Stengel were constantly battling each other over Carey’s role with the team. As a result, Carey never got the chance to become the great Yankee player he felt he could have become without Stengel’s interference. He may have been right but in trying to overrule a managing legend who ended up winning seven World Championships, Carey was fighting a losing battle. Carey’s best season in pinstripes was 1954, when he hit .302 and drove in a career-high 65 runs. His most famous moment in pinstripes was probably a play he didn’t make at third base. In the second inning of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Brooklyn’s Jackie Robinson hit a hot shot at Carey that veered off his glove toward shortstop Gil McDougald, who’s throw to first just nipped Robinson. Ironically, Carey was considered an outstanding defensive infielder. He also did one thing as well as any Yankee in history with the possible exception of Babe Ruth. Andy could eat. He was the only Yankee who would actually spend more than his entire day’s worth of meal allowance on a single meal. Born October 18, 1931 in Oakland, CA, he retired from baseball after the 1962 season.
|NYY (9 yrs)||688||2410||2130||288||567||82||28||47||259||23||200||267||.266||.332||.397||.729|
|KCA (2 yrs)||141||519||466||50||110||20||6||15||64||0||41||75||.236||.300||.401||.701|
|LAD (1 yr)||53||130||111||12||26||5||1||2||13||0||16||23||.234||.333||.351||.685|
|CHW (1 yr)||56||162||143||21||38||12||3||0||14||0||11||24||.266||.323||.392||.714|
A New York Times article from November of 1989, cited a series of letters written by today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant that helped him secure the New York Yankee General Manager’s job that October. The letters were addressed to team owner George Steinbrenner and in them, Harding “Pete” Peterson had stressed that in order to be successful, a big league organization had to have front office job stability. Those letters may have helped Peterson get the position he wanted but they certainly did nothing to stabilize Steinbrenner’s front office.
Peterson is a New Jersey native who had grown up rooting for the Yankees and was a good enough ballplayer to play for Rutgers and eventually become a big league catcher with the Pirates. His playing career ended in 1959 when a violent collision at home plate busted his throwing arm so badly that he was never able to recover. Instead, he became a coach and manager in Pittsburgh’s farm system, then director of the organization’s player development and scouting operations and by 1978, the Pirates GM. He reached the apex of his profession in 1979, when his Pittsburgh team won the World Championship. Six years later, Harding’s fortunes and reputation had suffered a complete reversal with the revelation of widespread cocaine use by Pirate players. He shouldered much of the blame for letting the Buc clubhouse run wild and was fired. When he left Pittsburgh, the chance of him ever becoming a big league GM again seemed microscopic.
George Steinbrenner may have been an egomaniacal narcissist but he also believed in giving guys who had been successful and then failed, a chance to be successful again. As the 1989 season ended, the Boss was embroiled up to his eyeballs in the Dave Winfield-Howie Spira scandal and his Yankee team was falling further and further away from being a playoff contender. He had just fired his 13th Yankee GM when he gave Bob Quinn his walking papers. He decided to give Peterson a shot but instead of handing over all control of personnel matters to his new GM, Steinbrenner hedged his bet by also giving George Bradley, New York’s director of minor league operations at the time, equal say in any player move the Yankees made. This fateful decision was the origin of the Yankee’s infamous two-headed organizational monster. In theory, the New York-based office headed by Peterson was expected to work in conjunction with the Tampa-based office head by Bradley on any and all trades, signings, assignments, etc. In reality, it was the beginning of total chaos.
The one season Peterson semi general-managed the Yankees was a disaster. They finished in last place in the AL East with just 67 wins, not one of the team’s starting pitchers achieved double digits in victories and they had the worst offense in baseball. Peterson was the guy who had to fire Bucky Dent as Yankee skipper, replace him with Stump Merrill and trade Dave Winfield to the Angels for Mike Witt. As expected the dual GM structure was a disaster and it was Peterson who ended up being the sacrificial lamb, when in his last official act before beginning what was supposed to be a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball, Steinbrenner fired the guy and replaced him with Gene Michael. Actually, Steinbrenner demoted Peterson at the time, making him Michael’s assistant.
The one bright spot during Peterson’s tenure as Yankee GM was the 1990 draft. The Yankees selections that year included Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Shane Spencer and Ricky Ledee. Peterson ended up quickly leaving the Yankee organization to become a scout for the Blue Jays and later the Padres. He’s still alive and residing in Florida and turns 84-years-old today.
I first saw Pat Kelly play when he was the starting second baseman for the Albany-Colonie Yankees, New York’s old double A affiliate in the Eastern League. The year was 1990 and Kelly along with Bernie and Gerald Williams helped lead that team to an Eastern League pennant. He was solid defensively, was very quick on the base paths but he had a propensity for striking out too much for a non-power-hitter. Still, by the following season, Kelly found himself in the big leagues as a member of a very mediocre 1991 Yankee team.
Yankee Manager, Stump Merrill had been starting Jim Leyritz at third and was not happy with his defense at the hot corner. New York brought Kelly up in May and Stump inserted him as his everyday third baseman. Playing out-of-position, Kelly did not turn out to be much of an improvement defensively over Leyritz, but he did OK at the plate, hustled his rear end off and remained on the big league roster.
The following season, Buck Showalter replaced Merrill as Yankee skipper and he switched Kelly back to second base. Despite hitting just .226 that year, he started twice as many games at second as Mike Gallego. The following year, the Philadelphia native put together his best big league season, hitting .273 in 127 games for New York in 1993 and setting career highs in just about every offensive category. I remember thinking that Kelly had arrived as a bonafide big league player that season and expected him to enjoy a long and successful career as the Yankee’s starting second baseman.
By 1994, Showalter had Kelly and that entire Yankee team humming on all cylinders, as they streaked to a commanding lead in their Division and Kelly’s average rose to .280. But then the strike happened in August and the rest of the season was cancelled. When the players finally returned to the field in 1995, Kelly hurt his wrist, slumped at the plate and began losing his second base starts to Randy Velarde. But he did come through with the biggest hit of his Yankee career in the third-to-last game of the 1995 season. At the time, the Yankees were battling the Angels for the AL Wild Card spot and were trailing the Blue Jays by a run in the top of the ninth inning in Toronto. Kelly came to the plate with Velarde on first and hit a go-ahead home run. It was a huge hit at the time because Toronto was horrible that year and if the Yankees had lost that game I seriously doubt they would have hung on to finish ahead of the Angels.
As most Yankee fans remember, that team went on to lose to the Mariners in the 1995 ALDS and Steinbrenner then fired Showalter and replaced him with Joe Torre. When Kelly hurt his shoulder that spring and it required surgery, Torre announced that he was going to start Tony Fernandez at second base in 1996. Fernandez then broke his elbow. A scrambling Yankee front office brought in Mariano (We play today, we win today, das eeet) Duncan to play second and he responded by hitting a career-high .340. Kelly’s Yankee career was pretty much over at that point. Even before his big league playing days ended, he had become deeply involved in Australian baseball and he still today serves as a scout specializing in finding playing talent “Down Under” and throughout the entire Pacific rim area.
Kelly shares his October 14th birthday with his former Yankee teammate and current Yankee Manager, this former Yankee outfielder and this former 20-game-winning Yankee pitcher.
|NYY (7 yrs)||591||1937||1719||218||431||97||11||26||183||56||122||354||.251||.309||.365||.674|
|STL (1 yr)||53||170||153||18||33||5||0||4||14||5||13||48||.216||.284||.327||.611|
|TOR (1 yr)||37||130||116||17||31||7||0||6||20||0||10||23||.267||.318||.483||.801|
When Jacob Rupert and a man named Tillinghast L’Hommidieu Huston purchased the New York City American Baseball League franchise in 1915 for $1.25 million, the team they bought was a pretty horrible one. At the time, the Yankees were coming off their fourth consecutive losing season and had no home stadium. They were sharing the Polo Grounds with the mighty New York Giants of John McGraw and of course the struggling Yankees’ public image suffered even more by the close proximity comparison.
Huston and especially Rupert were determined to turn the franchise’s perilous situation around and one of the very first things they did as owners was look for a new Manager. They found their man in Rhode Island, skippering the International League’s Providence Grays. His name was Bill Donovan and in just his second year as Manager of the Grays, he had turned a losing squad into a Pennant winner. Donovan had been a very good big league pitcher with Brooklyn and the Tigers during the first decade of the 20th century. He had put together 25-victory seasons with each franchise and helped Detroit reach three World Series (all of which the Tigers lost.) The only thing that prevented him from becoming a great pitcher was his propensity to not throw strikes. It was this lack of control on the mound, along with a pretty hot temper off of it that earned Donovan the nickname of “Wild Bill.”
Detroit finally released him in 1912 and Donovan signed on to pitch with Providence that same year and was named the team’s player manager the following season. In his first season as Yankee skipper, New York finished 69-83. Wild Bill even took to the mound that year and earned three of those losses himself. By 1916, the investments in new talent made by Rupert and Huston began paying dividends. With Wally Pipp now at first, Frank “Home Run” Baker at third and Bob Shawkey in the starting rotation, Donovan’s Yankees improved to an 80-74 record and more importantly, almost doubled the attendance at the team’s home games.
Expectations were sky high as the 1917 season approached but the Yankees regressed. Injuries and off years by Shawkey and Pipp helped New york finish in sixth place with a 71-82 record and in the process end Wild Bill’s career as a Yankee Manager. Rupert, who had become much more actively involved in the team’s operations than his co-owner, liked Donovan personally but he was convinced his team needed a new skipper. When Miller Huggins was fired as Manager of the Cardinals, the Colonel snapped him up and fired Wild Bill.
Donovan’s second big league managerial position was an even bigger disaster, when he was hired to manage the Phillies in 1921 and was fired that same year after the team got off to a horrid 25-62 start. Instead of giving up, Donovan returned to managing in the minors. That proved to be a great decision on his part, when after a couple of successful seasons managing in the Eastern League, he was about to become the Washington Senators’ new skipper. That’s when tragedy struck. He was on his way to Baseball’s 1924 Winter Meetings being held in Chicago, when his train crashed and Donovan, along with nine others were killed.
Donovan’s record as Yankee Manager:
|1||1915||38||New York Yankees||AL||154||69||83||.454||5||Player/Manager|
|2||1916||39||New York Yankees||AL||156||80||74||.519||4||Player/Manager|
|3||1917||40||New York Yankees||AL||155||71||82||.464||6|
|New York Yankees||3 years||465||220||239||.479||5.0|
|Philadelphia Phillies||1 year||87||25||62||.287||8.0|
Donovan’s record as a Yankee pitcher:
|DET (11 yrs)||140||96||.593||2.49||261||242||19||213||29||3||2137.1||1862||802||591||27||685||1079||1.192|
|BRO (4 yrs)||44||34||.564||3.00||90||77||12||70||6||5||704.2||645||318||235||2||294||420||1.333|
|NYY (2 yrs)||0||3||.000||4.67||10||1||8||0||0||0||34.2||36||18||18||1||11||17||1.356|
|WHS (1 yr)||1||6||.143||4.30||17||7||10||6||0||0||88.0||88||74||42||0||69||36||1.784|
This guy had the oddest first name of any Yankee pitcher since Spurgeon Chandler. Too bad Sturtze couldn’t pitch as well as Spud did. Tanyan did provide the Yankees with some valuable innings in 2004 and 2005 both as a spot starter and reliever. His most famous moment in pinstripes was probably when he got heavily involved in the 2004 Yankees’ Red Sox brawl that started when Jason Varitek and A-Rod went at it after Rodriguez got buzzed with a pitch from Bronson Arroryo. Sturtzie got the worst of that one but he allegedly did much better this past August when it was reported that he pummeled the boyfriend of a girl he was trying to enamor in a sports bar in his native Worcester, Massachusetts. Tanyon was 11-5 for New York during his two season playing career with the team which ended when he tore his rotator cuff in 2006. He tried to come back from that injury in 2008 with the Dodgers, but failed. He finished his career with a 40-44 record and three saves, pitching 12 seasons for a total of seven franchises. I think Sturtze looks like future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (see below). Too bad he couldn’t pitch like him either.
Here are Sturtze’s Yankee seasonal and MLB career stats:
|TBD (3 yrs)||19||30||.388||4.58||91||65||13||4||0||1||472.0||518||255||240||60||182||285||1.483|
|NYY (3 yrs)||11||5||.688||5.26||110||4||21||0||0||2||166.0||168||102||97||22||66||107||1.410|
|CHC (2 yrs)||1||0||1.000||9.00||8||0||3||0||0||0||13.0||18||13||13||4||6||7||1.846|
|CHW (2 yrs)||1||2||.333||8.72||11||2||2||0||0||0||21.2||29||23||21||4||17||8||2.123|
|LAD (1 yr)||0||0||0.00||3||0||1||0||0||0||2.1||1||0||0||0||1||1||0.857|
|TEX (1 yr)||1||1||.500||8.27||9||5||1||0||0||0||32.2||45||30||30||6||18||18||1.929|
|TOR (1 yr)||7||6||.538||5.94||40||8||7||0||0||0||89.1||107||67||59||14||43||54||1.679|
His real name was Francesco Stephano Pezzolo and he holds a dear place in my heart because he was the first player of Italian descent to play for the New York Yankees. He was a legendary slugger in the Pacific Coast League before joining the White Sox in 1911. He played four seasons in Chicago and then a year with the Philadelphia Athletics. The Yankees got him in 1918 and he spent his last four Major League seasons in a New York uniform. He was the starting Yankee right-fielder for two of those years and he was also Babe Ruth’s first Yankee roommate. His best season in New York was 1920 when he drove in 79 runs and hit .295. San Francisco-born Italian Americans who followed Bodie to the Yankees and credited him as their inspiration included Joe DiMaggio, Tony Lazzeri, and Frankie Crosetti.
After he hit just .172 in 1921 both his Yankee and Major League playing careers were over. He went back out west and continued playing in the Pacific Coast League for a while, eventually migrating to Hollywood where he began his second career as an electrician in the movie industry. Bodie became well known on movie sets and created friendships with several of the leading actors and actresses of his day. He died in 1961 at the age of 74.
|NYY (4 yrs)||385||1524||1357||149||369||67||28||16||196||27||111||108||.272||.330||.398||.728|
|CHW (4 yrs)||517||2002||1756||193||480||74||33||20||246||43||148||233||.273||.333||.387||.720|
|PHA (1 yr)||148||635||557||51||162||28||11||7||74||13||53||40||.291||.356||.418||.774|
For every player who was an all-star as a Yankee there are thirty to fifty members of the team’s all-time roster who were not. But if you’re a loyal Yankee fan, you remember the subs as well as the starters. Take today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant as an example. In August of 1998 the Yankees were looking for a right handed middle reliever to add to their bullpen. Since that ’98 Yankee team won 114 regular season games, you wonder why they were looking for anything at that time because they already had the best-winning team in franchise history. Despite that, the Yankees had tried to make a deal for Padres’ right-hander Brian Boehringer, who had already pitched for New York the three previous seasons but the deal kept breaking down. Instead New York and San Diego swapped four pitchers and Jim Bruske was the only one of the four with Major League experience.
At first the Yankees put their new acquisition in Triple A but when the big league rosters expanded to 40 on September 1 of that year, Bruske was brought up to the parent club. He made a couple of relief appearances first but after clinching the AL East Pennant, New York was setting up their pitching rotation for the playoffs and gave Bruske a start against the lowly Devil Rays. He went five innings and got the win. It was his fifth consecutive winning decision over a two season period. It would also be the only decision of his Yankee career. When he failed to make the team’s big league roster the following spring, New York released him. He resurfaced in Milwaukee during the 2000 season and won his sixth straight big league decision as a Brewer. He would end his big league career that same season with that streak intact and a 9-1 lifetime record.
Bruske was born in East St Louis, IL, grew up in California and was originally an outfielder. He played his college ball at Loyola Marymount, where he started in the same outfield as Billy Beane, who would later become the first Major League Baseball player to publicly discuss his homosexuality. Bruske shares his October 7th birthday with this WWII era Yankee outfielder and this Yankee pitcher from the early 1960s.
|LAD (3 yrs)||3||0||1.000||4.05||55||0||18||0||0||2||66.2||76||33||30||4||26||48||1.530|
|SDP (2 yrs)||4||1||.800||3.66||32||0||7||0||0||0||51.2||47||26||21||5||29||36||1.471|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||3.00||3||1||0||0||0||0||9.0||9||3||3||2||1||3||1.111|
|MIL (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||6.48||15||0||1||0||0||0||16.2||22||15||12||5||12||8||2.040|
Many Yankee fans, including myself, did not think it was a good thing to be depending upon Freddie Garcia to hold down the number four spot in the Yankee’s starting rotation coming out of the Team’s 2011 spring training season. He proved us wrong. Freddie did just fine in that slot winning 12 games and posting a strong 3.69 ERA in his 25 regular season starts. The fourth starter on the glorified 2011 Philadelphia rotation was Roy Oswalt. He went 9-10 with the same ERA as Freddie.
After a 17-8 debut season with the Mariners in 1999 as a 22-year-old, Freddie evolved into one of the AL’s top pitchers. He won a total of 116 games over his first nine big league seasons. Forty of those wins came after the Mariners traded the big right hander to the White Sox before the 2004 All Star break. The Caracas, Venezuela native helped Chicago get to and win the 2005 World Series by going a perfect 3-0 in that postseason, which included the Series-clinching Game 4 victory against Houston. Windy City baseball fans were enraged when after “the Chief” put together a 17-9 record the following year, he was traded to the Phillies for Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez. Unbelievably, it turned out that the White Sox got the better end of that deal.
That 2007 season was Garcia’s option year and disaster struck when he injured his throwing shoulder. He was probably worried that the injury would dampen his value as a free agent so he attempted to hide it from Philadelphia management and pitch his way through it. That proved to be a poor decision on his part as he went just 1-5 with the Phillies before finally going on the DL. As he feared, the injured arm ruined his chances for signing a “big” contract and he ended up accepting one-year Minor League deals first from the Tigers in 2008, the Mets in 2009, back with the White Sox in 2010 and then with the Yankees this season.
Will the pitcher known as “the Chief” get a chance to pitch for the Yankees next year? I’d say that depends on what the Yankees decide to do with their young starting pitching prospects this spring. As big a contribution as Garcia and Bartolo Colon made to the Yankee’s successful 2011 regular season success, having pitchers who can get you wins in the postseason is always the priority. Still, Garcia made me a believer this past season in his ability to pitch effectively at the big league level.
|SEA (6 yrs)||76||50||.603||3.89||170||169||0||9||4||0||1096.1||1035||504||474||119||389||819||1.299|
|CHW (5 yrs)||55||31||.640||4.33||119||119||0||3||0||0||760.1||776||383||366||99||197||509||1.280|
|NYY (2 yrs)||19||14||.576||4.29||56||42||11||0||0||0||254.0||264||127||121||34||80||185||1.354|
|ATL (1 yr)||1||2||.333||1.65||6||3||1||0||0||0||27.1||23||5||5||2||5||20||1.024|
|PHI (1 yr)||1||5||.167||5.90||11||11||0||0||0||0||58.0||74||39||38||12||19||50||1.603|
|BAL (1 yr)||3||5||.375||5.77||11||10||1||0||0||0||53.0||60||35||34||16||12||26||1.358|
|DET (1 yr)||1||1||.500||4.20||3||3||0||0||0||0||15.0||11||8||7||3||6||12||1.133|
After the Yankee dynasty crumbled in 1965, the next two seasons were outright disasters in the Bronx. New York finished last in the AL in 1966 and next-to-last in ’67 and every single one of the starting position players from their 1964 World Series team either experienced precipitous declines in their playing skills or were traded away for players who then failed miserably in pinstripes. New York’s starting outfield was a perfect example. The hope was that veteran but still young Yankees Joe Pepitone and Tom Tresh would handle center and left respectively, while promising newcomer Bill Robinson, who had been obtained from the Braves for Clete Boyer, would become the new right fielder. Tresh hit just .219 in 67, Pepitone contributed just 13 home runs that year and Robinson was a complete bust, averaging just .196.
So as the Yankees approached their 1968 spring training, Manager Ralph Houk was contemplating inserting some new blood in the Yankee outfield. The top three candidates were young Yankee prospects Steve Whitaker and Roy White plus a guy the Yankees had picked up from Oakland in the Rule 5 Draft. His name was Andy Kosco.
Kosco had been an outstanding three-sport athlete in high school, who had scholarship offers from top colleges around the country in baseball, basketball and football. He also had a contract offer from the Detroit Tigers that included a $45,000 bonus. Since baseball was Kosco’s favorite sport, he decided to sign with the Tigers. The young switch-hitter spent the next four-plus seasons struggling to make his way up the Tigers’ minor league ladder. Before he could do so, Detroit traded him to the Twins who sent Kosco to the team’s Bismarck farm team. There he met a coach named Vern Morgan who talked Kosco into giving up switch-hitting and to only hit from the right side. He also got rid of the upper cut in his swing and taught him to pull the ball. Andy ended up hitting right around .350 and two years later found himself playing for the Twins. Actually he was wearing a Twins’ uniform but instead of playing he was sitting in the dugout watching Twins outfielders, Tony Oliva, Bob Allison and Jimmy Hall do all the playing. The Twins sent him to Oakland where crazy Charley Finley forgot about him and left him off the A’s 40-man roster and the Yankees snagged him in November of 1967.
At first Houk used him as his fourth outfielder on that ’68 Yankee team but by the end of April, he was starting Kosco in right. In his first game as a regular he hit a home run into the old Yankee Stadium’s almost impossible to reach left field upper deck. He homered in his next game as well. When Houk moved Tresh to shortstop and inserted Roy White in left, the Yankees started winning some games and the two new corner outfielders were getting a fair share of the credit for the team’s success.
Although Andy’s hitting tailed off significantly after that year’s All Star break, his 15 home runs were third best on the team and his 59 RBI’s were second best to Roy White’s 62 that season. That 1968 Yankee team finished 83-79 and ended up in fifth place, a great improvement over the previous two seasons. I remember thinking that Kosco was at the beginning of a solid career in New York. Little did I know that the Yankee front office had different plans. A few weeks before Christmas in 1968, Kosco was traded to the Dodgers for pitcher and famed future wife-swapper, Mike Kekich. He ended up spending all or parts of ten seasons in the big leagues, with seven different teams. 1974 was his final year in the Majors.
|MIN (3 yrs)||89||258||241||18||52||10||0||3||23||0||10||50||.216||.243||.295||.538|
|LAD (2 yrs)||194||681||648||72||156||25||2||27||101||1||22||106||.241||.265||.410||.675|
|CIN (2 yrs)||80||180||155||20||40||9||0||9||26||0||20||34||.258||.337||.490||.827|
|BOS (1 yr)||17||50||47||5||10||2||1||3||6||0||2||9||.213||.260||.489||.749|
|CAL (1 yr)||49||151||142||15||34||4||2||6||13||1||5||23||.239||.267||.423||.689|
|NYY (1 yr)||131||492||466||47||112||19||1||15||59||2||16||71||.240||.268||.382||.650|
|MIL (1 yr)||98||290||264||27||60||6||2||10||39||1||24||57||.227||.291||.379||.669|
As hard as he tried and he tried real hard, George Steinbrenner couldn’t get me and quite a few other Yankee fans to dislike this very talented, hardworking outfielder. I’ve been following Yankee baseball passionately since 1960 and I’ve seen no starting left fielder perform any better in Pinstripes than Mr. Winfield did.
Let’s go back in time. By 1976 after over a decade of mediocre team performances, Yankee fans were starving for postseason play and we were ready to accept anybody or anything that could get us there. In George Steinbrenner, we had an owner who would do absolutely anything to make the Yankees winners again and when free agency dawned, the perfect storm situation necessary to get New York back to the World Series was in place. But we fans had to pay a price for the return to glory and that price included Billy Martin’s embarrassing behavior, the Bronx Zoo clubhouse atmosphere, and Mr. Steinbrenner’s inability to understand that success on the field was not always directly proportional to how much money a team spent.
The Boss’s first wave of free agent investments had indeed returned almost instant dividends. Expensive hired hands like Catfish Hunter, Don Gullett, Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage helped the Yankees not just get back to the World Series after a dozen-year absence, but also win two of the three the team played in during the second half of the 1970s. But by 1980, Gullett and Hunter were gone, Steinbrenner had tired of Jackson’s ego and after Thurman Munson’s death and the Yankee’s loss to the Royals in the 1980 ALCS, the Boss was ready to again open the Yankee wallet and buy the player who he felt would lead New York to a whole new decade of World Championships. That player was supposed to be Dave Winfield.
The Boss absolutely believed that because he gave Winfield a ton of cash and a ten-year contract to play for the Yankees, he had single-handedly guaranteed not just a slew of postseason appearances for his team but postseason success. Before that could happen, however, the 1981 player strike seriously degraded the relationship between owners and players. Then the Yankee’s new left-fielder hit .054 in the 1981 World Series. Even worse, that 1981 Fall Classic defeat to the Dodgers turned out to be the Yankees’ last postseason appearance for the next 14 seasons. George behaved as if he honestly felt this disastrous turn in his team’s fortunes was Winfield’s fault. He derisively nicknamed him Mr. May and then got himself embroiled up to his turtlenecked neck in the now infamous Howie Spira scandal to try and get rid of the future Hall-of-Famer and his contract.
Winfield just kept on playing. In spite of being pilfered in the NY media and actually getting booed by Yankee fans for challenging Don Mattingly for the 1984 AL batting title, the guy played every inning of every Yankee game at full and focused speed. He drove in runners, he hit more home runs than a right hand hitter is expected to hit in Yankee Stadium, and he kept himself out of the spotlight off the field. He was a great Yankee who played for the team at the wrong time and got a raw deal.
It was nice to see that Steinbrenner had buried his animosity with Winfield and invited him back to the Yankee family. It’s even nicer to see that Winfield has
graciously accepted that invitation. Dave was born in St Paul and turns sixty-years-old today.
Winfield shares his October 3rd birthday with one of the strangest pitchers to ever wear a Yankee uniform and one of the first Cuban ballplayers in big league history.
|NYY (9 yrs)||1172||5021||4485||722||1300||236||35||205||818||76||477||652||.290||.356||.495||.851|
|SDP (8 yrs)||1117||4512||3997||599||1134||179||39||154||626||133||463||585||.284||.357||.464||.821|
|MIN (2 yrs)||220||922||841||107||222||42||5||31||119||4||76||157||.264||.324||.436||.760|
|CAL (2 yrs)||262||1103||982||138||263||45||6||47||158||7||104||177||.268||.335||.469||.805|
|CLE (1 yr)||46||130||115||11||22||5||0||2||4||1||14||26||.191||.285||.287||.572|
|TOR (1 yr)||156||670||583||92||169||33||3||26||108||2||82||89||.290||.377||.491||.867|