December 2011

December 22 – Happy Birthday Tom Underwood

The Yankees acquired Tom Underwood in the same 1979 postseason trade in which they picked up catcher Rick Cerone from Toronto in exchange for Chris Chambliss and Damaso Garcia. At the time this transaction was made, I was not impressed with it because I did not think Cerone was that good an all-around player and I was also a huge Chambliss fan. As it turned out, New York did get a very good and very quick return on the deal. Cerone had a career year in his first season in pinstripes and Underwood became a valuable 13-game-winning member of New York’s 1980 starting rotation that included Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Luis Tiant and Rudy May. That Yankee team won an impressive total of 103 games and captured the AL East Division for skipper Dick Howser before they were knocked out of fall-ball by the Royals. Underwood did not get a start in that postseason series and when he started the following season going 1-4, the Yankees dealt him to the A’s.

This southpaw was born in Kokomo, Indiana on this date in 1953. His younger brother Pat also became a big league pitcher for the Tigers. The siblings actually faced each other in Pat’s first big league start in Toronto, on the last day of May in 1979. In a classic duel, Tom lost that game, 1-0 to his younger brother on an eighth-inning Jerry Morales home-run. In all, Tom pitched 11 seasons in the big leagues for a half-dozen different teams. He had a lifetime record of 86-87, with 18 saves and six shutouts. Unfortunately, Underwood passed away in 2010, a victim of pancreatic cancer. He was just 56-years-old.

This one-time Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee back-up catcher both share Underwood’s December 22nd birthday.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1980 NYY 13 9 .591 3.66 38 27 5 2 2 2 187.0 163 85 76 15 66 116 1.225
1981 NYY 1 4 .200 4.41 9 6 1 0 0 0 32.2 32 17 16 2 13 29 1.378
11 Yrs 86 87 .497 3.89 379 203 68 35 6 18 1586.0 1554 772 685 130 662 948 1.397
PHI (4 yrs) 28 20 .583 4.02 89 60 10 10 2 3 421.1 434 202 188 24 170 245 1.434
OAK (3 yrs) 22 15 .595 3.59 123 30 40 3 0 12 348.2 329 156 139 28 143 187 1.354
NYY (2 yrs) 14 13 .519 3.77 47 33 6 2 2 2 219.2 195 102 92 17 79 145 1.247
TOR (2 yrs) 15 30 .333 3.88 64 62 0 19 2 0 424.2 414 218 183 46 182 266 1.403
BAL (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 3.52 37 1 10 0 0 1 71.2 78 33 28 8 31 39 1.521
STL (1 yr) 6 9 .400 4.95 19 17 2 1 0 0 100.0 104 61 55 7 57 66 1.610
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/22/2013.

December 21 – Happy Birthday Dave Kingman

If you’re a baseball fan who is over forty years old, you most likely remember Dave “King-Kong” Kingman pretty well. His big league career lasted from 1971 when he debuted as a 22-year-old San Francisco Giant, until 1986. During that time he put on the uniform of seven different big league teams. In addition to the Giants, those teams included the Mets, A’s, Cubs, Padres, Angels and in 1977 for a very brief time, the New York Yankees.

He was a big guy, six and a half feet tall, who could hit a ball as far as any player I’ve ever seen play the game. I have no idea if actual statistics bear this out but I would guess that Kingman has to be among the all-time leaders in percentage of home runs per fair balls hit over a career. His problem was hitting the ball. He was a strike-out machine and since he was overly aggressive at the plate, pitchers could actually get him out by, in essence, pitching around him.

Still, I remember being real excited when the Yankees got King Kong Kingman from the Angels for the 1977 pennant drive. I never liked him when he played for the Giants or the Mets, but once he donned the pinstripes, I was ready to love him. He saw his first action on September 17th of that season in a Saturday afternoon game in Detroit. After striking out his first time up, he belted a two-run home run in the third inning, driving in Lou Piniella. He went on to homer in his next two games and in four of his first five. I was disappointed that the Yankees did not sign him after that season. He went on to have some very good seasons for both the Cubs and the Mets before retiring in 1986 with 442 career home runs and 1,816 strikeouts.

Kingman was born in Pendleton, OR on today’s date in 1948. He shares his birthday with this former Yankee center-fielder, this former Yankee reliever and this former Yankee infielder prospect.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1977 NYY 8 27 24 5 6 2 0 4 7 0 2 13 .250 .333 .833 1.167
16 Yrs 1941 7429 6677 901 1575 240 25 442 1210 85 608 1816 .236 .302 .478 .780
NYM (6 yrs) 664 2573 2323 302 509 70 6 154 389 29 211 672 .219 .287 .453 .741
SFG (4 yrs) 409 1403 1242 177 278 55 9 77 217 37 138 422 .224 .304 .469 .773
OAK (3 yrs) 449 1883 1702 204 406 58 1 100 303 8 139 359 .239 .296 .450 .746
CHC (3 yrs) 345 1317 1182 193 329 44 9 94 251 9 105 286 .278 .338 .569 .907
SDP (1 yr) 56 187 168 16 40 9 0 11 39 2 12 48 .238 .292 .488 .780
CAL (1 yr) 10 39 36 4 7 2 0 2 4 0 1 16 .194 .237 .417 .654
NYY (1 yr) 8 27 24 5 6 2 0 4 7 0 2 13 .250 .333 .833 1.167
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/22/2013.

December 20 – Happy Birthday Oscar Gamble

ogambleThe first thing long-time Yankee fans usually remember about Oscar is his remarkable “fro” hairstyle. He used to compress it under his Yankee cap but after each hard swing or whenever he had to run in the field or on the bases, his cap would jump of his head and that huge mass of hair used to bounce up like a jack-in-the-box. The second thing I remember about Gamble was his perfect for Yankee Stadium left-handed swing. During his first tour in the Bronx, in 1976, that stroke helped Billy Martin and New York capture the AL Pennant, producing 17 home runs, many of which came at key moments of big games.

The Yankees then traded Oscar to Chicago as part of the package that put Bucky Dent in pinstripes. Oscar had a very timely career year with the White Sox in 1977, blasting 31 home runs, which enabled him to sign a nice free agent contract with the Padres. His only season in San Diego was not a good one and he was traded to Texas in 1979 and then back to New York (for Mickey Rivers) in the same season. He remained in pinstripes for the next five seasons becoming a fan favorite with his happy- go-lucky nature and wonderful one-liner sense of humor.

My favorite Gamble story was when he came to the plate with a runner on first and Yankee third base coach, Dick Howser started flashing him the bunt sign. Oscar kept stepping out of the box and looking at Howser for another sign. Finally, the coach called timeout and met Gamble halfway up the third base line. Howser told Oscar, Billy Martin wanted to get a runner in scoring position. Gamble told Howser, “I’m already in scoring position.” Howser and Martin relented and sure enough, free from the bunt sign, Oscar hit a home run.

Gamble was born in Ramer, AL and turns sixty-three-years-old today. He shares his birthday with the first starting second baseman in Yankee franchise history and with  one of baseball’s greatest business minds.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1976 NYY 110 384 340 43 79 13 1 17 57 5 38 38 .232 .317 .426 .743
1979 NYY 36 126 113 21 44 4 1 11 32 0 13 13 .389 .452 .735 1.187
1980 NYY 78 229 194 40 54 10 2 14 50 2 28 21 .278 .376 .567 .943
1981 NYY 80 227 189 24 45 8 0 10 27 0 35 23 .238 .357 .439 .796
1982 NYY 108 382 316 49 86 21 2 18 57 6 58 47 .272 .387 .522 .910
1983 NYY 74 208 180 26 47 10 2 7 26 0 25 23 .261 .361 .456 .816
1984 NYY 54 151 125 17 23 2 0 10 27 1 25 18 .184 .318 .440 .758
17 Yrs 1584 5197 4502 656 1195 188 31 200 666 47 610 546 .265 .356 .454 .811
NYY (7 yrs) 540 1707 1457 220 378 68 8 87 276 14 222 183 .259 .361 .496 .858
CLE (3 yrs) 369 1346 1192 190 327 43 10 54 148 19 135 127 .274 .352 .463 .815
PHI (3 yrs) 254 771 690 72 166 28 7 8 55 10 67 88 .241 .308 .336 .644
CHW (2 yrs) 207 654 556 95 151 27 2 35 103 1 88 76 .272 .377 .516 .893
TEX (1 yr) 64 201 161 27 54 6 0 8 32 2 37 15 .335 .458 .522 .979
SDP (1 yr) 126 437 375 46 103 15 3 7 47 1 51 45 .275 .366 .387 .753
CHC (1 yr) 24 81 71 6 16 1 1 1 5 0 10 12 .225 .321 .310 .631
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/20/2013.