November 2011

November 26 – Happy Birthday Lefty Gomez

His real name was Vernon Louis Gomez. He was born in Rodeo, CA. If he was still alive, today would be his 103rd birthday. He was part Irish and part Portuguese. His second nickname was “El Goofy” and if I was alive back in the thirties he would have been one of my favorite Yankees. Why? Because by all accounts, Lefty was not just one of the great pitchers of his day he was also the guy who kept the Yankee clubhouse loose.

Yesterday I wrote about how Joe DiMaggio turned into a bitter man but that was only after Gomez retired and could no longer room with him or drink with him. Lefty forced DiMaggio not to take himself so darn seriously all the time. For example, he’d always tell reporters he made DiMaggio famous because nobody knew he could go back on a ball until he started playing behind me.

My favorite Gomez story was when Bill Dickey came out to the mound to ask Gomez what he wanted to throw to Red Sox slugger Jimmie Foxx, who had just come up to the plate. Gomez told Dickey, “I don’t want to throw him nothing. Maybe he’ll get tired of waiting and just leave.”

Despite his sense of humor and his affinity for Manhattan’s nightlife, Lefty was an incredibly good pitcher. He was a four-time twenty game winner and he went a perfect 6-0 in the World Series. After hurting his arm in 1940, Gomez struggled through the final few years of his career and was coldly sold by the Yankee front office to the Boston Braves in January of 1943. His lifetime regular season record in pinstripes was 189 and 101 and included 28 shutouts. The Veterans Committee voted Lefty into the Hall of fame in 1972. He passed away in 1989, at the age of 80.

Gomez shares his November 26th birthday with another former Yankee southpaw pitcherthis one-time Yankee reliever and this former Yankee right-hander.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1930 NYY 2 5 .286 5.55 15 6 3 2 0 1 60.0 66 41 37 12 28 22 1.567
1931 NYY 21 9 .700 2.67 40 26 10 17 1 3 243.0 206 88 72 7 85 150 1.198
1932 NYY 24 7 .774 4.21 37 31 3 21 1 1 265.1 266 140 124 23 105 176 1.398
1933 NYY 16 10 .615 3.18 35 30 3 14 4 2 234.2 218 108 83 16 106 163 1.381
1934 NYY 26 5 .839 2.33 38 33 5 25 6 1 281.2 223 86 73 12 96 158 1.133
1935 NYY 12 15 .444 3.18 34 30 3 15 2 1 246.0 223 104 87 18 86 138 1.256
1936 NYY 13 7 .650 4.39 31 30 1 10 0 0 188.2 184 104 92 6 122 105 1.622
1937 NYY 21 11 .656 2.33 34 34 0 25 6 0 278.1 233 88 72 10 93 194 1.171
1938 NYY 18 12 .600 3.35 32 32 0 20 4 0 239.0 239 110 89 7 99 129 1.414
1939 NYY 12 8 .600 3.41 26 26 0 14 2 0 198.0 173 80 75 11 84 102 1.298
1940 NYY 3 3 .500 6.59 9 5 3 0 0 0 27.1 37 20 20 2 18 14 2.012
1941 NYY 15 5 .750 3.74 23 23 0 8 2 0 156.1 151 76 65 10 103 76 1.625
1942 NYY 6 4 .600 4.28 13 13 0 2 0 0 80.0 67 42 38 4 65 41 1.650
14 Yrs 189 102 .649 3.34 368 320 31 173 28 9 2503.0 2290 1091 930 138 1095 1468 1.352
NYY (13 yrs) 189 101 .652 3.34 367 319 31 173 28 9 2498.1 2286 1087 927 138 1090 1468 1.351
WSH (1 yr) 0 1 .000 5.79 1 1 0 0 0 0 4.2 4 4 3 0 5 0 1.929
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/25/2013.

November 25 – Happy Birthday Nick Swisher

Missing the playoffs for the first time in thirteen years was certainly not the right way to close down the old Yankee Stadium. And since it was evident that George Steinbrenner was not calling the shots any more, we Yankee fans were left to wonder how his heirs would react to the failure. Within a few short postseason months we had our answer. We got Sabathia, we got Burnett and then we got Teixeira. It was powerful three part testimony that even though there had been a changing of the guard at the top, the Yankees were still in it to win it regardless of cost. So why I asked myself were we starting the 2009 season with a guy named Nick Swisher as our starting right fielder?

Since I had been a kid, the Yankees were most successful when they had studs playing right field. Roger Maris from 1960-’64, Reggie from ’77-’81, O’Neill from ’93-2001 and then Sheffield and Abreu. These guys were all third-in-the-lineup type hitters who could carry a team on their backs for long stretches. Nick Swisher was simply not that type of player. Fortunately, he did not have to be.

The 2009 Yankees’ offense was designed to be generated by its $100,000,000 infield. Throw in the rejuvenated starting pitching staff and the cutter-throwing legend in the bullpen and Brian Cashman was figuring he could play Luis Polonia in right field and still make fall ball happen in the new Yankee Stadium that October. New York had traded for Swisher in November of 2008, sending Wilson Betemit and two pitching prospects to the White Sox in exchange for the then 28-year-old switch-hitter. The deal took place before New York decided to go hard after Teixeira and their original intent was to play “Swish” at first base. Once they signed “Tex,” Swisher became part of that year’s outfield mix which included the veteran Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera and the youngster, Brett Gardner.

Fortunately for Swisher, he started the 2009 season on fire, averaging over .400 with four home runs just two weeks into the season. And although his bat cooled off, his defense, hustle, and clubhouse charisma helped keep him in the lineup and he ended up playing a pivotal role in that glorious 2009 Yankee championship run.

He followed that first season in pinstripes up with a great regular season performance in 2010, hitting a career high .288 with 29 home runs and 89 runs batted in. Then for the second straight season, Swisher’s bat pretty much went silent in the postseason, especially against Texas in the 2010 ALCS. After another solid regular season performance in 2011, Swisher’s postseason blues continued against the Tigers that year as well, when he hit just .211 and failed to deliver at some critical moments with runners in scoring position.

Swisher began his final year in New York knowing that no matter how well he did during the regular season, he needed to produce in October if he was to have any chance of securing a lucrative long-term deal with the Yankees. He went out and had arguably his finest year in pinstripes but then joined just about the entire Bronx Bomber lineup in another postseason offensive hibernation.

The pressure of failing to produce in the fall finally permeated Swisher’s always cheery and optimistic exterior. After being booed at home during the Tiger series, he took his frustration out by criticizing Yankee fans when questioned by reporters after the game.

As I see it, Swisher was a gigantic plus for New York during his four years there and his acquisition should be considered one of the better deals in franchise history. He played above expectation from the moment he put on the pinstripes and even though he struggled in October, he helped New York get to four straight postseasons. Its also worth noting that without Swisher, New York missed the playoffs in 2013 while his new team, the Indians did not.

He shares a birthday with this outfielderthis infielder and this other outfielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2009 NYY 150 607 498 84 124 35 1 29 82 0 97 126 .249 .371 .498 .869
2010 NYY 150 635 566 91 163 33 3 29 89 1 58 139 .288 .359 .511 .870
2011 NYY 150 635 526 81 137 30 0 23 85 2 95 125 .260 .374 .449 .822
2012 NYY 148 624 537 75 146 36 0 24 93 2 77 141 .272 .364 .473 .837
10 Yrs 1354 5647 4790 758 1220 278 11 231 736 13 746 1208 .255 .358 .462 .820
NYY (4 yrs) 598 2501 2127 331 570 134 4 105 349 5 327 531 .268 .367 .483 .850
OAK (4 yrs) 458 1924 1617 267 406 96 4 80 255 4 260 404 .251 .361 .464 .825
CLE (1 yr) 145 634 549 74 135 27 2 22 63 1 77 138 .246 .341 .423 .763
CHW (1 yr) 153 588 497 86 109 21 1 24 69 3 82 135 .219 .332 .410 .743
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/25/2013.

November 24 – Happy Birthday Randy Velarde

Velarde started his big league career with the Yankees in 1987 and was the team’s top utility infielder for the better part of nine seasons. He looked like a movie star and as each year passed he seemed to get his body more ripped. His best seasons in pinstripes were 1992, when he played in 121 games and hit .272 and 1992, when he batted .301. When the Yankees finally made it back to the playoffs in 1995 after missing the postseason for the previous fourteen years, Velarde was an important and versatile part of that team’s infield. When the Yankees lost in the first round of the playoffs to Seattle however, Velarde hit just .200 in that series. An overreacting George Steinbrenner then fired Manager Bucky Showalter and also replaced starters Mike Stanley, Don Mattingly, Pat Kelly and Velarde, who became a free agent. Randy then signed a pretty nice four-year deal with the Angels for right around $4 million. He had the three best years of his career as an Angel before being traded to the A’s during the 1999 season. He joined the Yankees a second time in 2001 but appeared in just 15 games. He retired after the 2002 season.

This one-time Yankee pitcher and this former Yankee reliever were also born on this date.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1987 NYY 8 22 22 1 4 0 0 0 1 0 0 6 .182 .182 .182 .364
1988 NYY 48 125 115 18 20 6 0 5 12 1 8 24 .174 .240 .357 .597
1989 NYY 33 111 100 12 34 4 2 2 11 0 7 14 .340 .389 .480 .869
1990 NYY 95 253 229 21 48 6 2 5 19 0 20 53 .210 .275 .319 .594
1991 NYY 80 210 184 19 45 11 1 1 15 3 18 43 .245 .322 .332 .653
1992 NYY 121 461 412 57 112 24 1 7 46 7 38 78 .272 .333 .386 .719
1993 NYY 85 253 226 28 68 13 2 7 24 2 18 39 .301 .360 .469 .829
1994 NYY 77 310 280 47 78 16 1 9 34 4 22 61 .279 .338 .439 .777
1995 NYY 111 432 367 60 102 19 1 7 46 5 55 64 .278 .375 .392 .768
2001 NYY 15 55 46 4 7 3 0 0 1 2 5 13 .152 .278 .217 .495
16 Yrs 1273 4813 4244 633 1171 214 23 100 445 78 463 853 .276 .352 .408 .760
NYY (10 yrs) 673 2232 1981 267 518 102 10 43 209 24 191 395 .261 .332 .388 .720
ANA (4 yrs) 283 1260 1094 168 315 55 8 27 128 27 147 216 .288 .376 .427 .803
OAK (3 yrs) 239 987 873 152 250 41 3 21 77 23 96 169 .286 .363 .412 .775
TEX (1 yr) 78 334 296 46 88 16 2 9 31 4 29 73 .297 .369 .456 .825
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/24/2013.