November 2011

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.

November 23 – Happy Birthday Luis Tiant

If you’re younger than the age of 30, you probably never saw “El Tiante” pitch in the Major Leagues. That’s your loss. This guy was one of the most entertaining and skilled starting pitchers of his era. I remember his incredible 1968 season when he won 21 games for Cleveland. He was the ace of a very strong Indians pitching staff that led the AL with 23 shutouts, nine of which were thrown by Tiant. Cleveland won a total of 83 games that season and in over a quarter of those victories they shutout the opposition.

Tiant’s career was almost derailed by a rash of injuries and he actually was released by both the Twins and the Braves before he found his true home with the Red Sox. After an awkward start in Beantown, when Tiant went 1-7 in 1971, he won 120 games during the next seven seasons, winning the hearts of Red Sox fans in the process. It was Tiant’s two-hit shutout against the Blue Jays that got the Red Sox into the 1978 one-game playoff for the AL East crown. I still say if the Red Sox could have started this guy instead of Mike Torrez in that next game, Bucky Dent’s heroics never would have happened. Tiant pitched his very best at the the biggest of moments.

In 1979, Tiant joined the Yankees as a free agent and pitched very well for a team torn apart first by management issues and then by the tragic death of their captain, Thurman Munson. Tiant won 13 games that season including his 49th and final career shutout. He fell to 8-9 the following year and the Yankees let him go. For you younger fans who never saw him pitch, think El Duque, only better. Tiant was born on November 23, 1940, in Marianao, Cuba.

This former Yankee starting pitcher was also born on November 23rd as was this one-time Yankee first base prospect and this short-term Yankee first baseman.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1979 NYY 13 8 .619 3.91 30 30 0 5 1 0 195.2 190 94 85 22 53 104 1.242
1980 NYY 8 9 .471 4.89 25 25 0 3 0 0 136.1 139 79 74 10 50 84 1.386
19 Yrs 229 172 .571 3.30 573 484 51 187 49 15 3486.1 3075 1400 1280 346 1104 2416 1.199
BOS (8 yrs) 122 81 .601 3.36 274 238 17 113 26 3 1774.2 1630 709 663 170 501 1075 1.201
CLE (6 yrs) 75 64 .540 2.84 211 160 33 63 21 12 1200.0 939 431 379 126 432 1041 1.143
NYY (2 yrs) 21 17 .553 4.31 55 55 0 8 1 0 332.0 329 173 159 32 103 188 1.301
MIN (1 yr) 7 3 .700 3.40 18 17 1 2 1 0 92.2 84 36 35 12 41 50 1.349
PIT (1 yr) 2 5 .286 3.92 9 9 0 1 0 0 57.1 54 31 25 3 19 32 1.273
CAL (1 yr) 2 2 .500 5.76 6 5 0 0 0 0 29.2 39 20 19 3 8 30 1.584
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/22/2013.

November 22 – Happy Birthday Lew Burdette

The Yankees certainly thought Lew Burdette was going to be a good big league pitcher, when they signed him to a contract out of the University of Richmond in 1947. He ended up spending most of his first year in minor league ball right in my hometown of Amsterdam, NY, pitching for New York’s Rugmakers farm team in the Class C Canadian-American League.

What might have prevented him from getting the opportunity to become a big winner for the Yankees was the fact that he was a right-handed finesse pitcher who depended on stuff instead of power to get batters out. When righthanders without a good fastball struggled with their stuff on the mound of the old Yankee Stadium, balls had a tendency to fly off the bats of the opposing team’s left-handed hitters and quickly get over the waist-high railing of the old Stadium’s short right field porch. A second reason Burdette probably didn’t get to spend a large part of his career wearing pinstripes was the plethora of starting pitching Yankee GM, George Weiss had assembled in the late 1940s. That stable included Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds, Eddie Lopat, and Whitey Ford. Weiss also knew if he needed more pitching he could easily exchange young arms for veteran arms, which by the way is exactly what happened to Burdette.

After getting his first call-up to the Bronx in September of 1950 he appeared in two games out of Casey Stengel’s bullpen. Those would be his only two games as a Yankee because in August of the following season, Weiss sent Burdette and $50,000 to the Braves for veteran pitcher Johnny Sain. For the next three seasons, Sain was the best combination starter/reliever in baseball for New York. It was the Braves however, who ended up getting the better end of the deal. Burdette evolved into one of the best starting pitchers in the NL for the next decade. He won 179 games during his 13 seasons with that team which included back-to-back 20-victory seasons in 1958 and ’59. He teamed with Warren Spahn to give Milwaukee one of the Senior League’s elite starting pitching tandems. Together, they won 443 Braves games in thirteen years and led Milwaukee to two NL Pennants and, in what was Burdette’s finest big league moment, the 1957 World Championship versus his original big league employers, the Yankees..

In that Fall Classic, Burdette beat Bobby Shantz, 4-2, in Game 2. He next won Game 5 with a brilliant 1-0 shutout. Then, when Spahn came down with the flu, Burdette got the Game 7 start on just two-days’ rest and threw his second straight shutout in a 5-0 Brave victory. The two teams would meet again the following October and Burdette would beat the Yankees a fourth straight time before New York finally figured him out in Game 7, capturing the Series with a 6-2 victory over their nemesis.

Burdette was one of the meanest men in baseball. He once called Roy Campanella a “nigger” during a Braves-Dodger game. He was also a bit of a flake on the mound, always fidgeting with his arms and hands and talking to both himself and the baseball. He was dogged throughout his career by accusations that he threw a spitball. Burdette did little to dispel the rumor that he doctored the baseball, knowing it kept opposing hitters on edge. He died in 2007, at the age of 80.

This hitting star of the 1998 World Series, this former Yankee shortstop, this former Yankee third baseman and this current Yankee catching prospect share Burdette’s November 22nd birthday.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1950 NYY 0 0 6.75 2 0 0 0 0 0 1.1 3 1 1 0 0 0 2.250
18 Yrs 203 144 .585 3.66 626 373 128 158 33 31 3067.1 3186 1400 1246 289 628 1074 1.243
MLN (13 yrs) 179 120 .599 3.53 468 330 88 146 30 23 2638.0 2698 1163 1036 251 557 923 1.234
STL (2 yrs) 4 8 .333 3.58 29 14 5 3 0 2 108.0 116 53 43 7 19 48 1.250
CAL (2 yrs) 8 2 .800 3.67 73 0 30 0 0 6 98.0 96 42 40 8 12 35 1.102
CHC (2 yrs) 9 11 .450 4.94 35 20 3 8 2 0 151.1 178 91 83 18 23 45 1.328
PHI (1 yr) 3 3 .500 5.48 19 9 2 1 1 0 70.2 95 50 43 5 17 23 1.585
NYY (1 yr) 0 0 6.75 2 0 0 0 0 0 1.1 3 1 1 0 0 0 2.250
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/22/2013.

November 20 – Happy Birthday Clark Griffith

griffith.bigThe Pinstripe Birthday Blog’s celebrant for November 20 was the first guy to manage the Yankees after the franchise was moved to New York from Baltimore. Clark Griffith was born in Clear Creek, MO, in 1869. One of the legendary names in the history of baseball, Griffith began that legend as a very good right-handed pitcher for the National League’s old Chicago Nationals way back in the 1890s. He was a seven-time 20-game winner during his days in the Windy City, where his cunning on the mound earned him the nickname, “The Old Fox.”  He was also a very shrewd follower of the business of baseball. He became the first NL star player to jump to Ban Johnson’s new American League, when it was formed in 1901. At first, Griffith remained in the Windy City, becoming the player-manager of Charley Comiskey’s new Chicago White Sox franchise and winning the first-ever AL pennant in 1901. When the new league transferred its Baltimore franchise to the Big Apple and re-named it the Highlanders in 1903, Griffith took over as skipper of the New York club. He also continued his pitching career at the same time and won 14 games for the Highlanders during his first season as manager.

He remained New York’s field boss until a disagreement with the team’s owners during the 1908 season forced him out of the job and he returned to the NL to manage the Reds. Two years later, he was invited to become part owner of the Washington Senators and from that point on, the name “Griffith” became synonymous with the game of baseball in our Nation’s Capitol. Griffith never got over being fired by New York. As a result, he never tried to disguise his hatred of the Yankees which became a primary reason why subsequent trades between the two clubs hardly ever took place. In 1946, Clark Griffith was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

This former Yankee utility outfielder and the only native Italian Yankee were also born on November 20th.

Griffith’s stats as a Yankee pitcher:

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB WHIP
1903 NYY 14 11 .560 2.70 25 24 1 22 2 0 213.0 201 92 64 3 33 1.099
1904 NYY 7 5 .583 2.87 16 11 5 8 1 0 100.1 91 40 32 3 16 1.066
1905 NYY 9 6 .600 1.68 25 7 17 4 2 1 101.2 82 30 19 1 15 0.954
1906 NYY 2 2 .500 3.02 17 2 15 1 0 2 59.2 58 30 20 0 15 1.223
1907 NYY 0 0 8.64 4 0 4 0 0 0 8.1 15 16 8 0 6 2.520
20 Yrs 237 146 .619 3.31 453 372 78 337 22 8 3385.2 3670 1852 1246 76 774 1.313
CHC (8 yrs) 152 96 .613 3.40 265 252 13 240 9 1 2188.2 2445 1249 826 42 517 1.353
NYY (5 yrs) 32 24 .571 2.66 87 44 42 35 5 3 483.0 447 208 143 7 85 1.101
WSH (3 yrs) 0 0 4.50 3 0 1 0 0 1 2.0 3 1 1 1 0 1.500
CHW (2 yrs) 39 16 .709 3.34 63 54 9 46 8 1 479.2 522 231 178 15 97 1.290
STL (1 yr) 11 8 .579 3.33 27 17 10 12 0 2 186.1 195 122 69 8 58 1.358
BOS (1 yr) 3 1 .750 5.63 7 4 3 3 0 0 40.0 47 33 25 3 15 1.550
CIN (1 yr) 0 1 .000 6.00 1 1 0 1 0 0 6.0 11 8 4 0 2 2.167
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/20/2013.

Griffith’s record as Yankee manager:

Rk Year Tm W L W-L% G Finish
3 1903 New York Highlanders 72 62 .537 136 4 Player/Manager
4 1904 New York Highlanders 92 59 .609 155 2 Player/Manager
5 1905 New York Highlanders 71 78 .477 152 6 Player/Manager
6 1906 New York Highlanders 90 61 .596 155 2 Player/Manager
7 1907 New York Highlanders 70 78 .473 152 5 Player/Manager
8 1908 New York Highlanders 1st of 2 24 32 .429 57 8
11 1911 Cincinnati Reds 70 83 .458 159 6
Chicago White Sox 2 years 157 113 .581 275 2.5 1 Pennant
New York Highlanders 6 years 419 370 .531 807 4.5
Cincinnati Reds 3 years 222 238 .483 472 5.0
Washington Senators 9 years 693 646 .518 1364 4.3
20 years 1491 1367 .522 2918 4.3 1 Pennant
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/20/2013.

November 18 – Happy Birthday Gary Sheffield

Over the two-year period between 2004 and 2005, Gary Sheffield was the best player on the Yankee team. He was the best hitter, the best fielder, an outstanding base runner and he had a cannon for an arm. He played hurt. He hustled on every play and for the most part, he got along with his teammates, Manager Joe Torre and the Yankee front office.

He made me a true Gary Sheffield fan during those first two extremely productive years as a Yankee. I loved to watch him take some of the American League’s best pitchers, extremely deep into counts during at bats that would always include at least one and sometimes several rocket line drives into foul territory down the left-field line. I found it incredible that a guy with such a powerful swing did not strike out all that much which meant a very efficient on base percentage and plenty of run scoring production.

Then in 2006, Sheffield injured his wrist in a late April game and didn’t return to the lineup until September. By then, the Yankees had acquired Bobby Abreu to play right field and had probably already decided to not resign Sheffield. Sheffield realized this as well and reacted by becoming a much more divisive force in both the New York media and the clubhouse. He felt unappreciated and responded more like a child than an adult professional athlete who had already earned millions of dollars.

I had the opportunity to watch both Sheffield and Abreu during their Yankee careers and given my druthers, I would much prefer to have a healthy and happy Sheffield as my favorite team’s right fielder. My problem with Gary is that I think he was a pretty significant steroid user and nothing he’s said or done to refute that allegation has succeeded in dampening my suspicions.

Sheffield’s last big league season was 2009. He retired with 509 home runs and a .292 lifetime batting average. He was born in Tampa and turns 43 years old today. He also shares his November 18th birthday with this former Yankee reliever and this one-time Yankee utility player.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2004 NYY 154 684 573 117 166 30 1 36 121 5 92 83 .290 .393 .534 .927
2005 NYY 154 675 584 104 170 27 0 34 123 10 78 76 .291 .379 .512 .891
2006 NYY 39 166 151 22 45 5 0 6 25 5 13 16 .298 .355 .450 .806
22 Yrs 2576 10947 9217 1636 2689 467 27 509 1676 253 1475 1171 .292 .393 .514 .907
FLA (6 yrs) 558 2358 1870 365 538 98 7 122 380 74 424 290 .288 .426 .543 .970
LAD (4 yrs) 526 2276 1866 358 583 88 6 129 367 43 365 232 .312 .424 .573 .998
MIL (4 yrs) 294 1244 1110 138 287 61 3 21 133 43 97 96 .259 .319 .376 .695
NYY (3 yrs) 347 1525 1308 243 381 62 1 76 269 20 183 175 .291 .383 .515 .897
ATL (2 yrs) 290 1257 1068 208 341 63 2 64 216 30 158 108 .319 .412 .562 .974
SDP (2 yrs) 214 900 815 121 260 46 5 43 136 10 66 70 .319 .372 .546 .918
DET (2 yrs) 247 1075 912 159 225 36 1 44 132 31 142 154 .247 .354 .433 .788
NYM (1 yr) 100 312 268 44 74 13 2 10 43 2 40 46 .276 .372 .451 .823
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/18/2013.