January 29th, 2012

January 29 – Happy Birthday Steve Sax

It didn’t take me long to become a huge Willie Randolph fan after the Yankees acquired the second baseman in a December, 1975 trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I did not appreciate how the Mets dumped Randolph as Manager during the 2008 season and I can remember being just as upset when the Yankees signed Steve Sax as a free agent to take over the starting second baseman’s job from Willie, after the 1988 season.

Sax had been the NL Rookie of the Year for the Dodgers in 1982 and because he was good looking and did most of his ball-playing right next to Hollywood, you kept seeing him pop up on TV shows whenever a script called for a real ballplayer. But what he was most famous for was the mysterious case of the “Steve Blass” throwing disease he developed during the 1983 season. For those of you who don’t know, Blass was a Pirate pitcher who woke up one day and could no longer throw a baseball over the plate from the pitchers’ mound. I’m not talking about pitches ending up just a little bit off the plate, Blass’s tosses would regularly sale in all directions, five feet from the catcher. Sax’s throws were doing the same thing to his first baseman and it became such a running joke at Dodger Stadium that fans sitting in the box seats behind first base would show up wearing batting helmets. Dodger Manager, Tommy Lasorda tried everything he could think of to fix Sax’s problem. One of his remedies was a gag. Lasorda had a guy put the head of a greased pig in his second baseman’s hotel bed one night with a note threatening Sax with physical harm if he made another errant throw. Sax insists that pig’s head discovery straightened him out. Whatever.

Sax did enjoy three productive seasons in New York from 1989 through 1991, topping the .300 batting average mark in both his first and final years in pinstripes. He also stole 117 bases as a Yankee. Sax was rewarded for his success in New York with a huge eight-figure, four-year contract with the Chicago White Sox. He was a dud in the Windy City, hitting just .236 in his first season with Chicago and getting released by the club the following season. Steve was born in Sacramento and turns fifty-two years old today.

By the way, that’s former Yankee hitting instructor, Frank “Hondo” Howard, pictured with Sax in the above baseball card. Sax must have been standing on a step stool at the time this photo was taken because at 6’7″, big Frank was at least eight inches taller than Sax. Do you remember this other Yankee second baseman who developed his case of Steve Blass throwing disease while he was wearing the pinstripes?

Sax shares his birthday with this former Yankee utility outfielder and this former Yankee set-up man.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1989 NYY 158 717 651 88 205 26 3 5 63 43 52 44 .315 .364 .387 .751
1990 NYY 155 680 615 70 160 24 2 4 42 43 49 46 .260 .316 .325 .641
1991 NYY 158 707 652 85 198 38 2 10 56 31 41 38 .304 .345 .414 .759
14 Yrs 1769 7632 6940 913 1949 278 47 54 550 444 556 584 .281 .335 .358 .692
LAD (8 yrs) 1091 4745 4312 574 1218 159 35 30 333 290 363 406 .282 .339 .356 .696
NYY (3 yrs) 471 2104 1918 243 563 88 7 19 161 117 142 128 .294 .342 .376 .718
CHW (2 yrs) 200 759 686 94 162 31 4 5 55 37 51 48 .236 .289 .315 .603
OAK (1 yr) 7 24 24 2 6 0 1 0 1 0 0 2 .250 .250 .333 .583
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/29/2014.