November 2011

November 30 – Happy Birthday Steve Hamilton

When I was a kid, we’d eat dinner at my Grandmother’s house most Sundays with our entire extended family. As a result, I watched plenty of Sunday afternoon televised Yankee games with my uncle. I was a much more passionate Yankee fan than he was and once the Yankee dynasty crumbled in 1965, he would annoy me by making snide derogatory comments about how bad the team was playing. For example, if a Yankee starter faltered and a reliever was inserted, no matter who came out of the bullpen I could count on my uncle to exclaim, “Not this guy for God’s sakes, even I can hit this guy!”

I’ll never forget the game in late June during the 1970 season when that statement was actually made truthfully. Steve Hamilton had been a very good bullpen pitcher for New York since he was acquired from the Washington Senators in a 1963 trade for Jim Coates. He was 6’7″ tall and a superb athlete, good enough to have played two seasons of NBA basketball in the late fifties for the Lakers. He had performed a variety of pitching roles for New York during his career in pinstripes. He pitched parts of eight seasons for the Yankees, accumulating a 34-20 record, with 36 saves and a 2.78 ERA in 486 innings of work. Manager Ralph Houk would give the big guy a start every now and then and in 1968, used him as New York’s closer and Hamilton led the team with 11 saves that year.

On this particular June day, Sam McDowell and the Indians were killing the Yankees. Houk put Hamilton into pitch the top of the ninth. Hamilton, who was born in Columbia, KY in 1935, was a very funny guy in the clubhouse and on that day, with the game already lost, he decided to have some fun on the field as well. The first hitter he faced was Tony Horton. He had been working on a blooper pitch, which had been nicknamed the “Folly Floater” and had used it against Horton successfully in an game earlier that same season. He decided to employ the pitch again against the Indian first baseman. Hamilton threw Horton two straight folly floaters and Horton almost came out of his spikes trying to hit the softly tossed lobs. Horton fouled both of them off weakly and Thurman Munson caught the second one for an out. Horton’s reaction was hilarious as he tossed his helmet high in the air and actually crawled back into the Indian’s dugout on his hands and knees.

I was amazed to find out that the above clip of this event was actually available on You Tube. Take a look for yourself and see why I finally could agree that a Yankee pitcher threw a pitch even I could hit.

Hamilton shares his November 30th birthday with this one-time Yankee starting pitcher and this one-time Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1963 NYY 5 1 .833 2.60 34 0 17 0 0 5 62.1 49 19 18 3 24 63 1.171
1964 NYY 7 2 .778 3.28 30 3 11 1 0 3 60.1 55 24 22 6 15 49 1.160
1965 NYY 3 1 .750 1.39 46 1 13 0 0 5 58.1 47 12 9 2 16 51 1.080
1966 NYY 8 3 .727 3.00 44 3 17 1 1 3 90.0 69 32 30 8 22 57 1.011
1967 NYY 2 4 .333 3.48 44 0 19 0 0 4 62.0 57 25 24 7 23 55 1.290
1968 NYY 2 2 .500 2.13 40 0 24 0 0 11 50.2 37 13 12 0 13 42 0.987
1969 NYY 3 4 .429 3.32 38 0 23 0 0 2 57.0 39 22 21 7 21 39 1.053
1970 NYY 4 3 .571 2.78 35 0 16 0 0 3 45.1 36 16 14 3 16 33 1.147
12 Yrs 40 31 .563 3.05 421 17 181 3 1 42 663.0 556 244 225 51 214 531 1.161
NYY (8 yrs) 34 20 .630 2.78 311 7 140 2 1 36 486.0 389 163 150 36 150 389 1.109
WSA (2 yrs) 3 9 .250 3.95 44 10 13 1 0 2 109.1 108 54 48 10 41 84 1.363
CHC (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 4.76 22 0 12 0 0 0 17.0 24 9 9 1 8 13 1.882
CLE (1 yr) 0 0 3.00 2 0 0 0 0 0 3.0 2 1 1 0 3 4 1.667
SFG (1 yr) 2 2 .500 3.02 39 0 16 0 0 4 44.2 29 15 15 4 11 38 0.896
CHW (1 yr) 0 0 6.00 3 0 0 0 0 0 3.0 4 2 2 0 1 3 1.667
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/30/2013.

November 28 – Happy Birthday Jesus Montero

Yankee Universe got really excited when this kid made his Yankee Stadium big league debut in September of 2011. In 18 end-of-the-season games, he hit .328 with 4 HRs and 12 RBIs and exhibited the opposite field power a right hand hitter needs to prosper in “the new house that Jeter helped build.” He then went 2-for-2 in his only postseason appearance in the Yankee’s Game 4 ALDS victory over Detroit. I joined thousands of other Yankee fans thinking we might really be witnessing the next home-grown pinstriped impact player. But that vision turned out to be a mirage.

If Jesus is going to turn out to be a team’s savior in the next few years, the team that will benefit will be the Mariners. That’s because Brian Cashman rolled the dice after the 2011 playoffs and sent Montero to Seattle with pitcher Hector Noesi in exchange for big Michael Pineda and Jose Campos.

Even though he had a disappointing 2012 season for Seattle (15 HRs, 62 RBIs, .260 ave. and .685 OPS) Montero produced much more for Seattle than Pineda did for NY since the pitcher ended up injured and on the DL the entire year. But Montero also confirmed the doubters who said he hadn’t yet developed the level of catching skills he would need to start at that position in the big leagues. Combine that with his less-than-acceptable .228 average against right-handed pitching last season and you’ll understand why Yankee fans are feeling a lot less bitter about the deal than they would have if Montero had been able to turn his Mariner debut into a breakout performance.

The 6’5″, 225 pound Montero turns just 23-years-old today and barring a blockbuster type deal. Former Yankee receiver Butch Wynegar, who managed Montero in the Minors is pretty confident that this Venezuelan will evolve into a competent Major League receiver. He’s already proved he has the stroke to average .300 against southpaws and I remain confident he will hit 30 home runs per year at the Major League level so I’m really hoping Pineda or Campos does at some point become a significant contributor to the Yankee pitching fortunes.

Today is also the birthday of this long-ago Highlander shortstop and the current pitching coach of the San Francisco Giants

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2011 NYY 18 69 61 9 20 4 0 4 12 0 7 17 .328 .406 .590 .996
3 Yrs 182 732 677 61 175 25 1 22 83 0 44 137 .258 .303 .396 .699
SEA (2 yrs) 164 663 616 52 155 21 1 18 71 0 37 120 .252 .293 .377 .669
NYY (1 yr) 18 69 61 9 20 4 0 4 12 0 7 17 .328 .406 .590 .996
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/28/2013.

November 27 – Happy Birthday Ivan Rodriguez

When Jorge Posada’s shoulder injury put him on the injured reserve list during the early part of the 2008 season, the Yankees hoped the replacement combination of Jose Molina and Chad Moeller would be enough to get them into the playoffs. The duo was OK defensively but their offensive shortcomings left a glaring hole in the Yankee lineup. New York tried to fill that hole when they sent reliever Kyle Farnsworth to Detroit for I-Rod after the All Star break. Unfortunately, the move backfired. Rodriguez hit just .219 during his 33-game stint in pinstripes and the absence of Farnsworth hurt the late-inning relief pitching effectiveness of the Yankee bullpen. Rodriguez has won a World Series (Marlins 03), an AL MVP (1999), thirteen Gold Gloves and has been named to 14 All Star teams. His next major honor will be his almost certain entry into Cooperstown. Ivan was born in Manati, Puerto Rico on November 27, 1971.

He shares his November 27th birthday with this long-ago Yankee pitcher and this slightly more recent Yankee hurler.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2008 NYY 33 101 96 11 21 4 0 2 3 4 4 15 .219 .257 .323 .580
21 Yrs 2543 10270 9592 1354 2844 572 51 311 1332 127 513 1474 .296 .334 .464 .798
TEX (13 yrs) 1507 6166 5754 866 1747 352 28 217 842 81 309 781 .304 .341 .488 .828
DET (5 yrs) 611 2523 2382 300 709 140 17 62 300 30 106 418 .298 .328 .449 .777
WSN (2 yrs) 155 558 522 46 133 25 1 6 68 2 26 94 .255 .291 .341 .632
NYY (1 yr) 33 101 96 11 21 4 0 2 3 4 4 15 .219 .257 .323 .580
HOU (1 yr) 93 344 327 41 82 15 2 8 34 0 13 74 .251 .280 .382 .662
FLA (1 yr) 144 578 511 90 152 36 3 16 85 10 55 92 .297 .369 .474 .843
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/26/2013.