October 2011

October 18 – Happy Birthday Andy Carey

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.

Andy shares his October 18th birthday with this former Yankee reliever and this one-time Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1952 NYY 16 45 40 6 6 0 0 0 1 0 3 10 .150 .209 .150 .359
1953 NYY 51 91 81 14 26 5 0 4 8 2 9 12 .321 .389 .531 .920
1954 NYY 122 471 411 60 124 14 6 8 65 5 43 38 .302 .373 .423 .797
1955 NYY 135 570 510 73 131 19 11 7 47 3 44 51 .257 .313 .378 .692
1956 NYY 132 481 422 54 100 18 2 7 50 9 45 53 .237 .310 .339 .649
1957 NYY 85 274 247 30 63 6 5 6 33 2 15 42 .255 .309 .393 .701
1958 NYY 102 366 315 39 90 19 4 12 45 1 34 43 .286 .363 .486 .849
1959 NYY 41 109 101 11 26 1 0 3 9 1 7 17 .257 .306 .356 .662
1960 NYY 4 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667
11 Yrs 938 3221 2850 371 741 119 38 64 350 23 268 389 .260 .327 .396 .722
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/18/2013.

October 17 – Happy Birthday Harding “Pete” Peterson

hpetersonA 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.

Peterson shares his birthday with one of the Yankees’ all-time great third baseman and also this former Yankee outfielder.

October 14 – Happy Birthday Pat Kelly

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.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1991 NYY 96 322 298 35 72 12 4 3 23 12 15 52 .242 .288 .339 .626
1992 NYY 106 364 318 38 72 22 2 7 27 8 25 72 .226 .301 .374 .675
1993 NYY 127 451 406 49 111 24 1 7 51 14 24 68 .273 .317 .389 .707
1994 NYY 93 329 286 35 80 21 2 3 41 6 19 51 .280 .330 .399 .729
1995 NYY 89 310 270 32 64 12 1 4 29 8 23 65 .237 .307 .333 .640
1996 NYY 13 23 21 4 3 0 0 0 2 0 2 9 .143 .217 .143 .360
1997 NYY 67 138 120 25 29 6 1 2 10 8 14 37 .242 .324 .358 .682
9 Yrs 681 2237 1988 253 495 109 11 36 217 61 145 425 .249 .307 .369 .677
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/14/2013.

October 13 – Happy Birthday Wild Bill Donovan

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 shares his October 13th birthday with a former Yankee outfielder, a former Yankee catcher, a former Highlander catcher and a former Yankee reliever.

Donovan’s record as Yankee Manager:

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
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
4 years 552 245 301 .449 5.8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

Donovan’s record as a Yankee pitcher:

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1915 NYY 0 3 .000 4.81 9 1 7 0 0 0 33.2 35 18 18 1 10 17 1.337
1916 NYY 0 0 0.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 2.000
18 Yrs 185 139 .571 2.69 378 327 49 289 35 8 2964.2 2631 1212 886 30 1059 1552 1.245
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2013.

October 12 – Happy Birthday Tanyon Sturtze

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.

Today is also the birthday of this great Yankee shortstop and this Yankee utility infielder.

Sturtze.jpg

greg_maddux5.jpg

Here are Sturtze’s Yankee seasonal and MLB career stats:

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2004 NYY 6 2 .750 5.47 28 3 7 0 0 1 77.1 75 49 47 9 33 56 1.397
2005 NYY 5 3 .625 4.73 64 1 12 0 0 1 78.0 76 43 41 10 27 45 1.321
2006 NYY 0 0 7.59 18 0 2 0 0 0 10.2 17 10 9 3 6 6 2.156
12 Yrs 40 44 .476 5.19 272 84 48 4 0 3 797.0 886 490 460 110 333 480 1.529
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
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/12/2013.