January 2012

January 27 – Happy Birthday Fred Heimach

After seven seasons of pitching in the big leagues, left-handed fireballer, Fred Heimach found himself back in the minors in 1927, pitching for the St Paul Saints. The Camden, New Jersey native had been a combination starter/reliever for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s during his first half-dozen big league seasons before getting traded to the Red Sox during his seventh. Boston had a horrible team and “Lefty” had a horrible year pitching for them, going just 2-9 with an ERA of 5.65, which set the stage for his demotion to St Paul. His fortunes changed in Minnesota. He won 34 games for the Saints over the next two seasons and caught the attention of the New York Yankees, who purchased his contract in August of 1928.

Yankee Manager, Miller Huggins immediately added Heimach to the Yankee starting rotation that season and he finished 2-3 in his first 13 appearances (including 9 starts) in pinstripes. The following season, Freddie finally realized the full benefits of pitching for the Yankees’ magnificent offensive lineup. In his ten starts and twenty-five relief appearances during the 1929 season, he finished 11-6 with three shutouts and four saves. It was his best year in the big leagues but ironically, it also ended up being his last season in pinstripes. Heimach’s biggest problem was consistency. He’d look great in one outing and putrid in the next. According to Yankee skipper Huggins, all Freddie needed to become a star was a good change up. Unfortunately, the diminutive Yankee manager died during the 1929 season and Heimach lost his biggest booster. Huggins’ replacement, Bob Shawkey was not impressed by the pitcher’s performance during New York’s 1930 spring training season and Lefty Heimach’s roster spot was given to a 21-year-old pitcher from San Francisco named Lefty Gomez.

Heimach ended up pitching most of the next four seasons for Brooklyn. He was out of the big leagues by 1934 and ended up becoming a cop on the Miami Beach police force. He shares his January 27th birthday with this one-time Yankee who won the 2003 AL Rookie of the Year Award, this long-ago Yankee pitcher and this much more recent Yankee hurler.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1928 NYY 2 3 .400 3.31 13 9 3 5 0 0 68.0 66 30 25 3 16 25 1.206
1929 NYY 11 6 .647 4.01 35 10 15 3 3 4 134.2 141 72 60 5 29 26 1.262
13 Yrs 62 69 .473 4.46 296 127 104 56 5 7 1288.2 1510 755 639 65 360 334 1.451
PHA (7 yrs) 29 37 .439 4.57 142 67 44 28 1 1 644.0 773 392 327 37 208 185 1.523
BRO (4 yrs) 18 14 .563 4.31 86 28 38 14 1 2 340.0 411 189 163 15 65 81 1.400
NYY (2 yrs) 13 9 .591 3.77 48 19 18 8 3 4 202.2 207 102 85 8 45 51 1.243
BOS (1 yr) 2 9 .182 5.65 20 13 4 6 0 0 102.0 119 72 64 5 42 17 1.578
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/29/2014.

January 25 – Happy Birthday Les Nunamaker

nunamaker.jpgLes Nunamaker was the second starting catcher in New York Yankee history. He succeeded a guy named Jeff Sweeney who in addition to being the first starting catcher for the Yankees in 1913, had also been the last starting catcher for the New York Highlanders the season before. The Yankees purchased Nunamaker from the Red Sox during the 1914 season and immediately put him in the starting lineup. He set a record that first season with New York that can never be broken, when he threw out three runners attempting to steal second base all in the same inning. Not a great hitter, Nunamaker was a big burly guy who was fearless behind the plate. He caught for New York for four years until Miller Huggins took over for Bill Donovan as Yankee skipper after the 1917 season. Huggins included Nunamaker in a package of five players that he traded to the Browns for future Hall of Fame hurler Eddie Plank and Del Pratt, in January of 1918.

After one season in St Louis, Nunamaker was traded to the Indians where he became best buddy with and a regular fishing and hunting partner of the great Tris Speaker. He was also involved in a whacky moment off the field during the 1920 season. One morning he awoke in his hotel bedroom to find a wad of bills wrapped up under his pillow. Since this was just one season after the Black Sox scandal, Nunamaker immediately turned over the cash to then baseball commissioner, Ban Johnson. When the wad was unrolled it was found to consist of sixteen Confederate one dollar bills. Nunamaker played until 1922 and then became a coach and manager in the minor leagues. He passed away in his native Nebraska in 1938 at the very young age of
49-years-old.

Other Yankees born on this date include this former New York pitcher and this one too.

January 24th – Happy Birthday Neil Allen

The Yankees are not the baseball team most fans think of when they hear the name Neil Allen. That’s because today’s birthday celebrant made his big league debut as a starter for the New York Mets in 1979 and is best remembered as that team’s closer from 1980, when he took over that role from Skip Lockwood until the ’83 season. That was the year the Mets gave the closer role to Jesse Orosco and made Allen a starter once again. In June of that season, he was traded to St Louis in the deal that brought Keith Hernandez to Shea Stadium. During that first partial season in St Louis, Allen continued to be used as a starter and went 10-6 with two shutouts. He was then sent back to the bullpen the following year but not to close, because St Louis had the great Bruce Sutter to finish their games. You have to believe that all these changes in pitching roles were detrimental to Allen’s career. He joined the Yankees for the first time in June of 1985, when New York purchased him from the Cardinals. He pitched well in his seventeen games in pinstripes that year, winning his only decision and posting a 2.76 ERA. The following February, the Yankees traded him to the White Sox. Chicago made him a starter again and he went 7-2 in the Windy City in 1986. But when he began the ’87 season 0-7, he was released and signed as a free agent with the Yankees that September. He had his best season in pinstripes in 1988, appearing in 41 games, going 5-3 and even pitching a complete game shutout in one of the two starting assignments he was given that year. But with his contract expiring at the end of that season, New York chose to let him walk away. He pitched one more season for the Indians and then left the big leagues for good. Sixty nine of his seventy four lifetime saves came during his years as a Met. His lifetime record was 58-70, with a 3.88 career ERA. Since retiring, Allen has been a minor league pitching coach in both the Blue Jay and Yankee organizations and also served as New York’s bullpen coach in 2005.

This other Yankee reliever shares Allen’s January 24th birthday as does this long-ago New York Highlander second baseman.