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.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was the fifth first round draft choice in Yankee franchise history. Labeled a “can’t miss prospect,” the Yankees didn’t miss Charley at all because they used him as part of a package of players they traded to obtain third base great, Graig Nettles from Cleveland in 1972. Spikes’ entire Yankee career consisted of fourteen games at the end of the 1972 season. He played well for Cleveland during his first few seasons there and stuck around to enjoy a nine-year career in the big leagues, which ended with the Atlanta Braves in 1980. Spikes shares his birthday with this former Yankee first-round draft pick and this one-time Yankee first baseman.
Counting Ty Hensley in 2012, the Yankees have selected 48 total players in the first round of Major League Baseball’s Amateur Draft. Here’s my list of the best ten Yankee first round draft choices in franchise history based on the eventual Major League success of the players chosen:
|CLE (5 yrs)||539||2025||1848||219||454||61||12||62||228||27||143||321||.246||.305||.392||.697|
|ATL (2 yrs)||107||140||129||18||36||9||0||3||23||0||8||48||.279||.321||.419||.740|
|NYY (1 yr)||14||35||34||2||5||1||0||0||3||0||1||13||.147||.171||.176||.348|
|DET (1 yr)||10||32||28||1||7||1||0||0||2||0||2||6||.250||.344||.286||.629|
I did not find myself watching too many complete Yankee televised games back during the 1990 season. Why? Because the Yankee team was so bad that year, if I watched more than three or four innings of a game, something bad or stupid would usually happen that would give me agita and cause me to turn the channel. But I do clearly remember watching every single inning of a game that took place on July 1 of that season. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant started that contest against the White Sox.
The Yankees had signed Hawkins as a free agent in December of 1988, after the big right hander had spent his first seven big league seasons pitching for the Padres. The 1988 Yankees had finished in fifth place in the AL East but they had done so with a respectable 83-78 record and an aging starting pitching staff that included Tommy John, John Candelaria and Rick Rhoden. All three veteran hurlers were at the end of their careers and the Yankee front office was hoping that the younger Hawkins would become the ace of their staff for the next few years. He did become that ace during the 1989 season, but considering the rest of that staff included Clay Parker, Dave LaPoint, Greg Cadaret and Walt Terrell, that designation was not especially flattering. Hawkins finished 15-15 that season and New York again finished fifth in the AL East but this time they lost thirteen more games than they won.
With Steinbrenner stuck in the murky aftermath of the Howie Spira/Dave Winfield scandal, the Yankee front office was a complete mess. That explains why the team tried to fix their starting pitching woes with names like Tim Leary, Mike Witt and Chuck Cary. The 1990 Yankees turned out to be one of the worst New York teams in my lifetime.
Which brings me back to that July 1st game Hawkins pitched against the White Sox that year. He pitched perfect for four innings and ended up completing the game and not allowing a single hit. One other thing. The Yankees lost that day. New York’s defense crumbled in the eighth inning when three errors and a couple of walks led to four unearned Chicago runs. Hawkins wasn’t even credited with an official complete game no-hitter because as the visiting pitcher of the losing team, he only threw eight innings.
That loss was Hawkins’ fifth in six decisions that year. He would finish the season with a record of 5-12. Four weeks after Hawkins pitched his no-hitter-NOT, George Steinbrenner was suspended for his role in the Spira affair. The Yankees would end up in last place in their division in 1990, with the embarrassing record of 65-97. It was certainly not a great time to be a Yankee fan.
Hawkins shares his birthday with this Yankee reliever and this former Yankee catcher and frequent postseason Yankee opponent.
|SDP (7 yrs)||60||58||.508||3.84||199||172||14||19||7||0||1102.2||1089||531||471||99||412||489||1.361|
|NYY (3 yrs)||20||29||.408||5.21||66||63||2||7||3||0||378.2||417||243||219||48||164||177||1.534|
|OAK (1 yr)||4||4||.500||4.79||15||14||1||1||0||0||77.0||68||41||41||5||36||40||1.351|
Long time Yankee fans would like to forget the team’s seasons of the late eighties and early nineties. Everything seemed to fall apart during that era. New York reached the depths of despair in 1990, winning just 67 games that season and finishing dead last in their division. Don Mattingly’s bad back kept him out of 62 games and helped lower his batting average to just .256. The lineup around “Donnie Baseball” was pretty putrid. So bad that Jesse Barfield led the team with just 78 runs batted in. Not one starting pitcher on the 1990 squad achieved double digit wins or finished that season with a winning record. Somehow, the Yankee’s closer, Dave Righetti saved 36 games that season and would have been the only bright spot if it weren’t for the debut of Yankee phee-nom Kevin Maas.
Maas made his first appearance with the Yankees as a DH on June 29, 1990 against the White Sox in old Comiskey Park. He went 1-3, singling to right field in the fourth inning off of Jack McDowell. He drove in his first run the next day and then hit his first big league home run off of the Royals’ Brett Saberhagen on the Fourth of July. He ended up hitting 21 home runs in just 79 games in his rookie season, finishing second to the Indians, Sandy Alomar in that year’s AL Rookie of the Year voting.
My sons and I became big fans of Maas. We had so little else to get excited about that all we could do was hope for the future. We even envisioned Maas and a healthy Mattingly becoming a modern day version of the Yankees M&M boys, a new version of Mantle and Maris for the nineties. Boy were we hallucinating.
Kevin did manage to hit 23 home runs in his sophomore season in the Bronx, but he struck out 128 times and hit just .220. It became clear that the AL pitchers knew how to get him out on a regular basis and by 1993, New York released him. He will always have the appreciation of Yankee fans for giving us something to smile about during the bleak, directionless era of Yankee Manager Stump Merrill. Kevin was born on January 20, 1965, in Castro Valley, CA. He shares his birthday with this USC sports legend and this former Yankee catching prospect.
|NYY (4 yrs)||384||1384||1191||166||276||39||1||64||164||10||5||175||299||.232||.332||.427||.759|
|MIN (1 yr)||22||64||57||5||11||4||0||1||5||0||0||7||11||.193||.281||.316||.597|
The worst team in Yankee franchise history was probably the 1912 Highlanders. They finished at the bottom of the American League standings with a 50-102 record and no New York team before or since has ever won that few games in a full regular season. Only the St Louis Browns scored fewer runs than New York did that year and the Highlander pitching staff led the league in earned runs allowed. Pat Maloney, a 24-year-old outfielder born in Grosvenordale, CT, was on that Highlander team. He appeared in 22 games that year, batting just .215. That was Maloney’s first and last season of Major League play as he spent the next seven years in the minors interrupted by his service in WWI. That 1912 season was also the last year New York’s American League franchise was known as the Highlanders. In 1913, they moved to the Polo Grounds and became the New York Yankees.