I was born, raised and still live in a small Upstate New York city named Amsterdam. Back in the first half of the twentieth century, our town was the center of this country’s carpet industry and the gigantic looms in the factories of Amsterdam-based companies named Mohawk and Sanford turned out more rugs than any city in the world. We also had our own Minor League baseball team, a C-level Yankee franchise in the old Canadian American League. They were called the Amsterdam Rugmakers.
Today’s birthday celebrant, Frank “Spec” Shea spent his first season of organized ball in our City, playing for the old Rugmakers and living in the old Amsterdam Hotel. The year was 1940 and Shea finished the Rugmaker season with an 11-4 record. He spent the next two seasons climbing up New York’s minor league ladder and the three after that serving his country in WWII. He then went 15-5 for the Yankee’s Triple A team in Oakland, finally making the big club in 1947.
Spec went 14-5 as a rookie for the Yankees and won the AL All Star game plus beat the Dodgers twice in the 1947 World Series. He would have been AL Rookie of the Year as well but back then only one player in all of baseball got that award and Shea finished behind Jackie Robinson. Spec never again achieved the level of success he had during his first year in pinstripes and was finally traded to the Senators in 1952.
He pitched very well during his first two seasons in Washington winning 23 games and losing just 14 times for a very bad team. He called it quits after the 1955 season. He was 29-21 as a Yankee and 56-46 for his eight-season big league career.
|WSH (4 yrs)||27||25||.519||3.92||95||59||26||25||4||2||461.1||445||229||201||30||228||141||1.459|
|NYY (4 yrs)||29||21||.580||3.68||100||59||24||23||8||3||482.1||404||224||197||36||269||220||1.395|
Although it turned out to be one of the great trades in Yankee history, I remember not getting too excited when the Yankees traded their center fielder, Roberto Kelly for the Reds right fielder, Paul O’Neill during the 1992 off-season. Kelly, who was born on October 1, 1964 in Panama City, Panama, had been one of the better players on four years worth of mediocre Yankee teams that had produced a cumulative 286-361 won-loss record. The good-fielding speedster had hit .278 during his 648-game tenure in Pinstripes while O’Neill was hitting just .259 during his 799 games with Cincinnati. O’Neill had more power, hitting 96 home runs as a Red but Kelly had some pop in his bat too, hitting 57 home runs for New York, including a 20-homer season in 1991 during which Roberto had appeared in just 123 games. Kelly was also very quick. He stole 151 bases for New York, which still places him in the top ten for lifetime steals as a Yankee and he was fast enough to cover the cow pasture-like center field of the old Yankee Stadium. At the time, I thought Kelly would have had a lot better numbers if he had played for a lot better team so I remember being sort of skeptical about the trade.
This explains why I’m writing this blog instead of making personnel decisions for a big league team. Paul O’Neil’s left handed stroke was perfect for Yankee Stadium and since Kelly hit right-handed, his stroke never would be. O’Neill’s combative personality put some much-needed spark in the Yankee clubhouse and by trading Kelly, the Yankees made room for a young center-fielder named Bernie Williams to get some playing time. In the mean time, Kelly went on to play 14 seasons in the Majors, with eight different teams. He was named to two All Star teams and participated in four different postseasons as a player. His last big league game was back in a Yankee uniform during the 2000 season, after New York had signed him as a free agent to add some depth to their bench. When his playing days ended, Kelly got into coaching and in 2007 became a member of the Giants’ big league staff. He joined his former New York teammates, Dave Righetti and Hensley Muelens on that staff and all three ex-Yankees won their first World Series rings when San Francisco captured the 2010 World Series.
|NYY (7 yrs)||648||2538||2302||324||640||111||12||57||259||151||169||446||.278||.331||.411||.741|
|MIN (2 yrs)||173||628||569||80||175||36||6||11||84||17||40||103||.308||.358||.450||.808|
|TEX (2 yrs)||162||589||547||89||170||24||4||24||83||6||29||103||.311||.353||.501||.854|
|CIN (2 yrs)||125||538||499||73||156||25||3||12||56||30||28||78||.313||.353||.447||.800|
|ATL (1 yr)||63||281||255||44||73||15||3||6||24||10||24||36||.286||.345||.439||.784|
|LAD (1 yr)||112||436||409||47||114||19||2||6||48||15||15||65||.279||.306||.379||.685|
|MON (1 yr)||24||104||95||11||26||4||0||1||9||4||7||14||.274||.337||.347||.684|
|SEA (1 yr)||30||129||121||19||36||7||0||7||22||2||5||17||.298||.328||.529||.857|