March 2012

The March 2012 Pinstripe Birthdays Trivia Quiz

The March 1st Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is a one-time Yankee pitcher named Ron Klimkowski. The Yankees got him from Boston during the 1967 season in a trade that sent a former AL MVP winner to the Red Sox. Who did the Yankees trade for Ron Klimkowski? Get the correct answer here.

This March 2nd Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was the 1950 National League MVP Award winner, who went on to become a relief pitcher for the Yankees. Do you know who he is? Get the correct answer here.

This March 3rd Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was a small Hall-of-Fame outfielder who played for the Highlanders and held the big league record for most consecutive 200-hit seasons (8) until 2009. Who is this former Highlander and who broke his record in 2009? Get the correct answers here.

This March 4th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant won seven straight NL strikeout titles from 1922 through 1928 and was nicknamed Dazzy. Who is he? Get the correct answer here.

The March 5th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is an outfielder by the name of Elmer Valo who began and played most of his career for an American League franchise that used to play its home games in a Stadium that was originally called Shibe Park. What was the name and home city of Valo’s first big league team? Get the correct answer here.

Pitcher Freddie Garcia and this March 6th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant are the only two players on the current Yankee roster to have been born in Valenzuela. Who is this March 6th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant? Get the correct answer here.

The March 7th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant broke Ted William’s record for most home runs by a rookie when he hit 33 for the Twins in 1963. Who is he? Get the correct answer here.

This March 8th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant won twenty games for the Yankees during his second full season in the big leagues in 1963. Who is he? Get the correct answer here.

This March 9th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was a six-time AL stolen base champion between 1965 and 1972. Who is he? Get the correct answer here.

This March 10th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant led the Yankees in saves during the 1994 season. Who is he? Get the correct answer here.

This March 11th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant joined A-Rod as the only two Yankees to achieve both 100 runs and 100 RBIs during both the 2007 and 2008 season. Who is he? Get the correct answer here.

This March 12th Pinstripe Birthday celebrant won the 1994 NL Rookie of the Year Award as a Dodger outfielder. Who is he? Get the correct answer here.

This March 13th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was a member of the Yankee’s 1996 starting infield who hit .340 that season. Who is he? Get the correct answer here.

Javier Vazquez, Jon Lieber, Mike Mussina and this March 14th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant were all starting pitchers for the Yankees in 2004 and each of them won at least 10 games. Who is this March 14th Pinstripe Birthday celebrant? Get the correct answer here.

This March 15th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant hit 32 regular season home runs to lead the 1987 Yankees in that category. Who is he? Get the correct answer here.

The March 16th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is a former Yankee starter named Charles Hudson who won 11 games for the 1987 Yankee team. Just two other Yankee pitchers on that ’87 staff had more victories than Hudson. Name one of them. If you can name both pitchers who finished ahead of Hudson that season, consider yourself a Pinstripe Birthday Trivia All Star! Get the correct answer here.

The March 17th Birthday Celebrant is the very troubled former Yankee reliever, Rod Scurry. He was one of the players involved in an infamous 1985 grand jury investigation and drug trial, when it was discovered that drug dealers were actually  selling cocaine to players inside the clubhouses of what former Major League stadium? Get the correct answer here.

The March 18th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is the former Yankee pitcher Brian Fisher, who’s best year in New York was his 1986 season when he went 9-5. Who led that ’86 Yankee pitching staff with 18 wins? Get the correct answer here.

The March 19th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is an obscure shortstop named Fritz Brickell, who played almost all of his lifetime Yankee games during the 1959 season. What place did the 1959 Yankees finish in that year’s AL standings? Get the correct answer here.

The March 20th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is a reliever named Paul Mirabella, who came to New York with Dave Righetti for one-time Cy Young Award winner, Sparky Lyle as part of a November 1978 trade. With what team did New York make that trade? Get the correct answer here.

The only Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant for March 21st is an obscure Yankee outfielder named Bill Lamar, who played for New York during the WWI years.? He played for two different Yankee managers during the three seasons (1917, ’18 and ’19) he spent with the team. Every true-pinstripe-blue Yankee fan should be able to name one of the managers Lamar played for in New York but naming both of them would be a true accomplishment. Can you do it? Get the correct answer here.

The March 22nd Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is Glenallen Hill. He (16 HRs), David Justice (20) and Jose Canseco (6) combined to hit 42 home runs for the Yankees during the second half of what season? Get the correct answer here.

The March 23rd Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was Jorge Posada’s back-up and David Cone’s personal catcher for most of the 2000 season. Any idea who he is? Get the correct answer here.

Brian Cashman signed this March 24th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant and one-time Indian closer to a four year contract in 2001 to be Mariano Rivera’s primary set up man but he pitched just one full season before back surgery stunted his career. Who is he? Get the correct answer here.

This March 25th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is Woodie Held, a former Yankee infielder who got traded to the A’s in 1957 in part because a group of Yankees had gotten into a fight at Manhattan’s Copa Cabana Nightclub. Held wasn’t even at the Copa that evening but one of the Yankees who was, did get traded to the A’s with Woodie. Who was he? Get the correct answer here.

This March 26th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was the second baseman acquired by New York when Chuck Knoblaugh’s throwing problems got really bad during the 2000 regular season. Who is he? Get the correct answer here.

This March 27th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is a pitcher named Steve Sundra who went 11-1 during the 1939 season. It remains the third highest single-season winning percentage (.917) in franchise history. One of the two Yankees ahead of him on this list went a perfect 10-0 during the 2005 season. Who was that pitcher? Get the correct answer here.

This March 28th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was nicknamed “the Springfield Rifle.” Who is he? Get the correct answer here.

The March 29th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is a former Yankee relief pitcher named Bill Castro, who pitched for New York during the strike-shortened 1981 season. After that year, he was traded for one of the worst-fielding third basemen in Major League history, who also played college football for Bear Bryant and once hit 30 home runs in a season for the Red Sox. Who was that third baseman? Get the correct answer here.

The March 30th Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is Dick Woodson. This big righty only pitched for the Yankees a short time during the 1974 season but he did play a significant role in  baseball history when he was hand-picked by the legendary Marvin Miller to be the first MLB player to do what? Get the correct answer here.

The March 31st Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is Chien-Ming Wang. He had evolved into one of the best starting pitchers on the Yankee staff until a 2008 base-running injury derailed his career. Against what team did Wang’s injury occur? Get the correct answer here.

March 28 – Happy Birthday Edwar Ramirez

It was the day before Independence Day in 2007 and the Yankees were hammering the Twins 8-0 in a night game at the old Yankee Stadium. Chien-Ming Wang had started the game and pitched shutout ball for seven innings before Joe Torre pulled him and let Scott Proctor start the eighth. Proctor kept the Twins scoreless that inning and Torre picked the mop-up top of the ninth of that contest to debut the Yankees newest relief pitcher. His name was Edwar Ramirez. I remember when I first saw the spelling, I thought someone had forgotten the second “d” in his first name. I remember when I first saw Edwar, that someone had forgotten to feed him. He was six feet three inches tall and when the television camera got an angle of him standing sideways on the mound, he just about disappeared. This guy was skinny.

His pitches must have looked just as skinny on that evening of his Yankee debut, because in that bottom of the ninth inning against Minnesota, Ramirez struck out all three hitters he faced. Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau and Lew Ford all went down swinging at third strikes. As you can imagine, that performance caused a bit of a buzz in the Stadium’s stands and press box that evening and suddenly, all eyes were on Ramirez.

His best pitch was his change up and he threw a very good one. The problem was he had a tough time throwing his fastball for strikes so he tended to throw lots of change ups. The problem with that is the change up is most effective when hitters don’t expect it. Opposing teams simply started waiting for Edwar’s change up. Just two weeks after his impressive debut, Torre brought in Ramirez with the Yankees behind Tampa Bay 4-0, with two outs and a man on second and when he left there was still two outs, the score was now 9-0 and there were two more Rays still on base. After that game, the bewildered rookie was found crying in front of his locker.

Mariano Rivera was a huge help to Ramirez at this time. When he was sent back down to the minors, The Sand Man urged him to work on getting control of his fastball and that’s exactly what the kid did. He was a different pitcher at the beginning of the 2008 season for new Yankee Manager, Joe Girardi. In his first 13 appearances he had 15 strikeouts in 13.5 innings and did not give up a single earned run. He couldn’t keep up that pace but the 2008 season would be the best of his career. He appeared in 55 games, won five of his six decisions and finished with an ERA of 3.90. But after that strong start to his year, you could see his control problems reappear and it got to a point late in the 2008 season that you didn’t know what to expect from Ramirez when he was put into a game.

He struggled mightily to regain his form in 2009 but this time a return trip to the minors did not help. The Yankees gave up on him in March of 2010 and sold him to Oakland. The A’s released him following the 2010 season. In 2011, Ramirez was pitching in the Mexican league. He shares his March 28th birthday with this great post WWII Yankee starting pitcher and this other former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2007 NYY 1 1 .500 8.14 21 0 5 0 0 1 21.0 24 19 19 6 14 31 1.810
2008 NYY 5 1 .833 3.90 55 0 16 0 0 1 55.1 44 25 24 7 24 63 1.229
2009 NYY 0 0 5.73 20 0 2 0 0 0 22.0 25 15 14 6 18 22 1.955
4 Yrs 7 2 .778 5.19 103 0 26 0 0 2 109.1 102 66 63 20 66 126 1.537
NYY (3 yrs) 6 2 .750 5.22 96 0 23 0 0 2 98.1 93 59 57 19 56 116 1.515
OAK (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 4.91 7 0 3 0 0 0 11.0 9 7 6 1 10 10 1.727
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/16/2014.

March 27 – Happy Birthday Steve Sundra

Most of the top four occupants of the Yankee’s All-Time leader lists read like a Who’s Who of Baseball’s legends. Except for the all-time single season best winning percentage list for Yankee pitchers with at least ten decisions. For that list you really do need a score card. Tom Zachary is number one with his 12-0 performance in 1929. He’s tied with Aaron Small who went 10-0 for the 2005 Yankees. Alfredo Aceves, who now pitches for the Red Sox, helped the 2009 Yankees win a World Championship with his 10-1 season pitching out of the bullpen. Most Yankee fans of today remember both Small and Aceves. Zachary is a familiar name in Yankee history because he was also the pitcher who gave up Babe Ruth’s 60th home run in 1927. But I’m willing to wager no current Yankee fan has ever heard of the pitcher in third place on this list. His name was Steve “Smokey” Sundra and he is the Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant for March 27th.

Sundra was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Cleveland, where he began his pitching career with area semi-pro teams. He was originally signed by his hometown Indians in 1932 and pitched in that team’s farm system until 1935 when he was made part of a trade that sent him and Monte Pearson to the Yankees for the temperamental pitcher, Johnny Allen. The Yankees assigned Sundra to their Newark farm team and during the next two-and-a-half seasons, he went 32-14 for one of the best minor league clubs in history. That performance helped earn him a spot on the 1938 Yankee roster and he finished his first season in pinstripes with a decent 6-4 record, appearing in 25 games including 8 starts. He ended that ’38 season with four straight victories but did not get to participate in the 1938 World Series, which New York won, to make it three championships in a row for Manager Joe McCarthy’s Bronx Bombers.

You don’t win three consecutive World Series in any era without great pitching and those Yankee teams of the late thirties had as many good arms as any team in history. Just making that staff was a testament to Sundra’s pitching ability and in 1939, he proved it. He appeared in 24 games that year and won his first 11 decisions. With the four straight wins he had to close out his 1938 season, Sundra’s winning streak grew to 15 games just one short of the AL Record. Despite losing Lou Gehrig, that 1939 Yankee team ran away with the Pennant by winning 106 games. They were so far ahead in the standings McCarthy began resting his front line starters in late August by expanding his rotation. Sundra loved the regular turns and won five of six consecutive starts posting a shutout and throwing five complete games during that impressive stretch. But in his last start of the regular season, in the second game of a double-header against Boston, the big right-hander’s streak came to an end when he lost a 4-2 decision to finish the year at 11-1. Despite his late-season excellence and his 11-1 record, Sundra made just one two plus inning relief stint in the Yankees fourth straight World Series victory that October.

When he slumped to 4-6 the following year he was sold to the Senators who traded him to the Browns in June of the 1942 season. Pitching against war-time diluted lineups, Smokey went 25-14 during his one complete and two partial seasons in St. Louis before entering military service. He tried to come back in 1946 but failed. He retired with a 56-41 lifetime record. Unfortunately, Sundra became a victim of a ravaging form of cancer that ended up killing him in 1952 at the age of 41.

Sundra shares his March 27th birthday with this Hall-of-Fame Yankee Manager who also died quite young and this former Yankee DH.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1936 NYY 0 0 0.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 2.0 2 0 0 0 2 1 2.000
1938 NYY 6 4 .600 4.80 25 8 15 3 0 0 93.2 107 61 50 7 43 33 1.601
1939 NYY 11 1 .917 2.76 24 11 8 8 1 0 120.2 110 43 37 7 56 27 1.376
1940 NYY 4 6 .400 5.53 27 8 10 2 0 2 99.1 121 68 61 11 42 26 1.641
9 Yrs 56 41 .577 4.17 168 99 44 47 4 2 859.1 944 461 398 50 321 214 1.472
NYY (4 yrs) 21 11 .656 4.22 77 27 34 13 1 2 315.2 340 172 148 25 143 87 1.530
SLB (4 yrs) 25 14 .641 3.42 57 45 7 21 3 0 341.2 358 157 130 13 102 72 1.346
WSH (2 yrs) 10 16 .385 5.35 34 27 3 13 0 0 202.0 246 132 120 12 76 55 1.594
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/14/2014.

March 26 – Happy Birthday Jose Vizcaino

When the Yankees traded for Minnesota’s Chuck Knoblaugh in February of 1998, New York thought they were getting a perennial .300 hitter and a Golden Glove second baseman. As it turned out, they got neither. His first two seasons in pinstripes at the plate were good enough, as he showed surprising power and scored runs in bunches. But Chuck developed a mysterious case of the Steve Blass throwing disease. His tosses to Yankee first baseman, Tino Martinez, started sailing all over the place and as his errors climbed, Knoblaugh’s confidence and concentration plummeted.

The situation got so bad, the Yankees traded for Jose Vizcaino during the 2000 season and started the Dominican Republic native at second and began using Knoblaugh in the outfield and as DH. Jose hit .251 in 73 regular season games for New York. It was Vizcaino’s single in the twelfth inning of Game One of the 2000 Subway Series that drove in Tino Martinez with the winning run to beat the Mets. Jose was not re-signed by New York after their 2000 World Series victory and in 2001, Alfonso Soriano became New York’s starting second baseman. Jose signed with Houston, where he played for the next five seasons. He left the big leagues in 2006, after an eighteen year career that saw him play for eight different Major League franchises.

Jose shares his March 26th birthday with this WWII era pacifist pitcher and this current day Yankee shortstop.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2000 NYY 73 191 174 23 48 8 1 0 10 5 12 28 .276 .319 .333 .652
18 Yrs 1820 5918 5379 633 1453 204 47 36 480 74 378 729 .270 .318 .346 .663
LAD (5 yrs) 245 737 657 71 164 21 2 4 64 11 51 82 .250 .305 .306 .611
HOU (5 yrs) 559 1513 1396 154 385 65 13 13 133 9 82 174 .276 .316 .369 .685
NYM (3 yrs) 334 1419 1282 160 361 46 14 7 121 18 96 196 .282 .332 .356 .688
CHC (3 yrs) 330 1076 981 106 260 34 8 5 81 17 65 124 .265 .309 .331 .640
SFG (2 yrs) 215 766 687 93 176 22 7 6 55 8 64 97 .256 .319 .335 .654
STL (1 yr) 16 25 23 3 8 3 0 1 3 0 1 4 .348 .375 .609 .984
CLE (1 yr) 48 191 179 23 51 5 2 0 13 6 7 24 .285 .310 .335 .645
NYY (1 yr) 73 191 174 23 48 8 1 0 10 5 12 28 .276 .319 .333 .652
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/14/2014.

March 24 – Happy Birthday Dick Kryhoski

Having seven bonafide candidates for the five spots in the Yankees’ 2012 starting rotation is certainly one of Joe Gerardi’s spring training dilemmas this year. But it pales in comparison to the crowd of first basemen Casey Stengel dealt with back in 1949. Stengel, however, loved platooning his ballplayers and he had a veritable ball with that particular Yankee team. To begin with, Joe DiMaggio was disabled with a sore heel that year, so Stengel shuffled his three outfield spots among Hank Bauer, Johnny Lindell, Gene Woodling and Cliff Mapes. At third base, he had the good fielding Billy “the Bull” Johnson and the good hitting but horrible fielding future doctor, Bobby Brown. His two alternatives at second were Snuffy Stirnweiss and Jerry Coleman. But it was at first that the Ol Perfessor had a real logjam. The veteran ex-outfielder, Tommy Henrich was considered the starter but he was joined by fellow first-sackers, Jack Phillips, Fenton Mole, Joe Collins and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Dick Kryhoski.

I know that baseball fans in my hometown of Amsterdam New York were rooting for Kryhoski to make Stengel’s cut. That’s because he had spent part of his first year in the Yankee organization playing for the Amsterdam Rugmakers, New York’s old Class C affiliate in the Canadian American League. Not only did the Livonia, NJ native make the parent club that spring, he also returned to Amsterdam when the Yankees squared off against the Rugmakers in an exhibition and thrilled the crowd with a home run that day.

As the season began, Stengel inserted Kryhoski at first quite a bit to give the then-36-year-old Henrich a breather. Though both he and Henrich batted from the left side, Stengel played him almost exclusively against right-handed pitching. If you played first base for the Yankees and swung from the left side, you better have been able to pull the ball into the old Stadium’s short right field porch. Kryhoski’s inability to do so frustrated Casey and even though the kid had his batting average up over .300, it did not prevent Casey from looking for a better alternative among the aforementioned group of first-sackers already in the Yankee organization. When none of them caught fire, the Yankees went out and purchased “the Big Cat,” Johnny Mize from the cross-town Giants and Kryhoski’s days in Pinstripes were effectively over. He did hit .291 during his rookie season. That December, he was traded to the Tigers. He ended up playing two seasons in Detroit, three seasons for the Browns/Orioles and one more with the A’s. He retired in 1955, with a .265 career average in 569 big league games. He passed away in 2007 at the age of 82.

Kryhoski shares his March 24th birthday with this three-team-teammate of Babe Ruththis former Yankee reliever and this one-time Yankee starting pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1949 NYY 54 188 177 18 52 10 3 1 27 2 9 17 .294 .335 .401 .736
7 Yrs 569 1946 1794 203 475 85 14 45 231 5 119 163 .265 .314 .403 .717
BAL (3 yrs) 315 1071 980 105 255 44 7 28 126 2 68 99 .260 .312 .405 .717
DET (2 yrs) 172 634 590 78 158 29 4 16 76 1 36 40 .268 .313 .412 .725
KCA (1 yr) 28 53 47 2 10 2 0 0 2 0 6 7 .213 .302 .255 .557
NYY (1 yr) 54 188 177 18 52 10 3 1 27 2 9 17 .294 .335 .401 .736
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

March 23 – Happy Birthday Chris Turner

As the Yankees’ 2000 season approached, Jorge Posada was entering his prime. The one thing Joe Torre had learned about his sensitive catcher was that he hated not playing. That helps explain why the Yankees had let his predecessor, Joe Girardi sign with the Cubs as a free agent after the 1999 season. Torre knew there were not enough games or innings available in a season to keep both guys happy so he fully committed to Posada and the Yankees began their search for a backup catcher who was good enough to catch a game when necessary but not good enough to pose a consistent threat to Jorge’s playing time.

During the 2000 spring training season, it looked as if Tom Pagnozzi would be the guy. But he had a horrible spring and a sore shoulder to boot. Today’s Birthday Celebrant, Chris Turner was Pagnozzi’s primary competition in camp and he had not set the world on fire while in Florida either. So when the team headed north it went without either guy and Jim Leyritz was designated Jorge’s backup as the season started. Then when Nick Johnson got hurt at the end of April and went on the DL, the Yanks brought up Turner and he was ready.

The Bowling Green, KY native had spent his first five big league seasons as a reserve catcher with the Angels. In 1998, he caught four games for the Royals and the following year, he got into twelve games with the Indians. Now with the Yankees, Turner got off to a hot start with his bat. At the end of July, he was hitting .360 and had an on base percentage of .418. Torre figured out how to get him into games by making him David Cone’s personal catcher. “Conie” was having a horrible 2000 season but had pitched pretty well the two times he was matched up with Turner as his battery mate. Torre made the pairing permanent.

Unfortunately for both the pitcher and his catcher, it didn’t help. Cone finished the season 4-14 and Turner finished it in a horrific slump that saw his .360 average of July fall to just .236 by season’s end. Compounding Turner’s difficulties was the fact that with Cone on the mound, base runners ran frequently and Turner was only able to prevent three of the twenty-two runners attempting to steal against him.

After the Yankees beat the Mets in that year’s Series (in which Turner did not play) New York’s brain trust decided that despite Posada’s sensitive side, they had to shore up the back up catcher’s spot with somebody who could more effectively replace Jorge, both offensively and defensively, in case he got hurt. They released Turner and signed veteran Bob Oliver. Turner’s playing career was over at the age of 31.

Other Yankees born on March 23rd include this up and coming pitching prospect and this one-time first baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2000 NYY 37 102 89 9 21 3 0 1 7 0 10 21 .236 .320 .303 .623
8 Yrs 158 427 379 49 90 16 2 4 36 5 36 89 .237 .307 .322 .629
ANA (5 yrs) 105 293 260 37 65 13 2 3 29 4 25 56 .250 .316 .350 .666
KCR (1 yr) 4 10 9 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 .000 .100 .000 .100
CLE (1 yr) 12 22 21 3 4 0 0 0 0 1 1 8 .190 .227 .190 .418
NYY (1 yr) 37 102 89 9 21 3 0 1 7 0 10 21 .236 .320 .303 .623
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

March 22 – Happy Birthday Glenallen Hill

Put your memory cap on and think back to the Yankees’ 2000 season. That Bronx Bomber team opened the year with plenty of punch in its line up but it finished it with lots more. On the last day of June, 2000 they picked up David Justice from the Indians. Three-and-a-half weeks later, they added Glenallen Hill and then on August 8th of that year, Jose Canseco became a Yankee. Justice would prove to be the biggest spark to New York’s drive to the 2000 postseason. In just 78 games, he hit 20 home runs, drove in 60 and averaged .305. Canseco did OK in his 37 games in pinstripes during which he contributed a half-dozen homers and 19 RBIs. But it was today’s birthday celebrant who was the most surprising of the three. In just 132 at bats, Hill belted 16 HRs. If he played a full season for New York and was able to maintain that pace, he’d have hit right around 64 dingers. He had already been in the big leagues for a decade by the time he joined the Yankees and the most home runs he had ever hit in a full season were the 24 he managed for the 1995 Giants.

A New York Times reporter interviewed the Santa Cruz, California native in September of that season and asked him where his suddenly prodigious power emanated from. Hill told the guy some story about how in 1997, while he was still with San Francisco he noticed during a game against St. Louis that Mark McGuire’s right hand was coming off the bat in the middle of his swing. Hill said he asked Big Mac about it and the slugger explained it gave him a better angle on his swing which resulted in more home runs. Hill claimed he had been trying to master that maneuver ever since and was finally getting it down just in time to help the Yankees win a pennant.

I don’t know how much truth there was to that explanation but I do know there is evidence that may indicate McGuire and Hill talked to each other about more than just there swings. Both players were later linked to PEDs and after Hill was out of the big leagues, he acknowledged using them. Canseco of course is the Godfather of Steroids and rumors of David Justice’s use of the juice have been circulating for years. In hindsight, if I had to render an opinion, I would have to say that at least some of the power surge this trio supplied my favorite baseball team’s offense during the second half of that 2000 season might just have been chemically enhanced. Hill turns 47 years old today. He shares his March 22nd birthday with this former Yankee pitcher turned pitching instructorthis Yankee hurler who met a tragic death and this one-time Yankee catcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2000 NYY 40 143 132 22 44 5 0 16 29 0 9 33 .333 .378 .735 1.112
13 Yrs 1162 4033 3715 528 1005 187 21 186 586 96 270 845 .271 .321 .482 .804
CHC (5 yrs) 331 993 908 154 276 37 3 59 167 25 81 216 .304 .360 .546 .906
SFG (3 yrs) 358 1388 1274 174 341 83 8 54 217 38 91 280 .268 .319 .473 .792
CLE (3 yrs) 205 725 665 72 160 26 3 28 88 20 47 153 .241 .293 .415 .708
TOR (3 yrs) 138 441 411 65 100 16 5 16 50 12 28 98 .243 .290 .423 .714
ANA (1 yr) 16 66 66 4 9 0 0 1 2 0 0 20 .136 .136 .182 .318
NYY (1 yr) 40 143 132 22 44 5 0 16 29 0 9 33 .333 .378 .735 1.112
SEA (1 yr) 74 277 259 37 75 20 2 12 33 1 14 45 .290 .332 .521 .853
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

March 15 – Happy Birthday Bobby Bonds

bonds.jpgBobby Bonds came to the Yankees in a blockbuster trade that sent Yankee fan favorite, Bobby Murcer to the Giants in 1974. After a strong 1975 season in Pinstripes, Bobby was traded to the Angels for Ed Fiqueroa and Mickey Rivers. Bond’s most memorable contribution to baseball was his son Barry. Bonds died of Lung Cancer in August 2003.

I was 20-years-old when the Bonds for Murcer trade was made and can remember it as if it were yesterday. As a lifelong Yankee fan who had watched the Bomber dynasty crumble in the latter half of the sixties, Murcer was my favorite player at that time. He didn’t have superstar skills but he was the best player on some of the worst Yankee teams in the franchise’s hallowed history.

I started watching baseball in 1960 as a six-year-old and back then, Yankee fans took for granted that every October we’d be able to watch our Bronx Bombers play in the World Series. And that was the case right up until 1965. Then, within a matter of just a few years, instead of rooting for guys like Mantle, Maris, Berra, Ford, Howard and Skowron to win a pennant, I found myself actually getting some satisfaction when players with names like Tepedino, Repoz, Whitaker, Amaro and Kenney could win just enough to keep my team out of the AL basement.

Murcer, Mel Stottlemyre, and a new kid named Munson were pretty much the only bright spots for us Yankee fans during that bleak period and then “The Boss” showed up in the Bronx. After putting together and heading a group of investors that purchased the team from CBS in January of 1973, George Steinbrenner began looking to make huge changes to the roster almost immediately, convinced he could deal his team back into the World Series.

He therefore was ready to jump at the opportunity to acquire Bonds from the SF Giants for Murcer. Baseball pundits at the time thought a lot more of Bonds’ skills than Murcer’s and they were right. Bonds was a genuine five-tool player who always seemed just on the verge of super stardom. Murcer on the other hand, earned his keep by playing hard every second he was on the field. Plus Bobby loved being a Yankee and always used to say that the saddest day of his life was the day the Yankees swapped him for Bonds.

As it turned out, Steinbrenner was right about this one but not because Bonds ended up leading New York back to the Fall Classic. Instead, after just one pretty good year in pinstripes, the Yanks swapped him for Fiqueroa and Rivers who immediately became two critical cogs in the team’s drive to the 1976 World Series.

This former Yankee third baseman, this much more recent Yankee third baseman and this long-ago first baseman also celebrate their birthday on March 15th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1975 NYY 145 626 529 93 143 26 3 32 85 30 89 137 .270 .375 .512 .888
14 Yrs 1849 8090 7043 1258 1886 302 66 332 1024 461 914 1757 .268 .353 .471 .824
SFG (7 yrs) 1014 4610 4047 765 1106 188 42 186 552 263 500 1016 .273 .356 .478 .834
CAL (2 yrs) 257 1106 970 151 256 33 12 47 169 71 115 231 .264 .340 .468 .808
STL (1 yr) 86 270 231 37 47 5 3 5 24 15 33 74 .203 .305 .316 .621
TEX (1 yr) 130 555 475 85 126 15 4 29 82 37 69 110 .265 .356 .497 .853
CHC (1 yr) 45 190 163 26 35 7 1 6 19 5 24 44 .215 .323 .380 .703
CLE (1 yr) 146 631 538 93 148 24 1 25 85 34 74 135 .275 .367 .463 .830
NYY (1 yr) 145 626 529 93 143 26 3 32 85 30 89 137 .270 .375 .512 .888
CHW (1 yr) 26 102 90 8 25 4 0 2 8 6 10 10 .278 .347 .389 .735
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/8/2014.

March 13 – Happy Birthday Cliff Mapes

Legendary Yankee GM, George Weiss was not one to judge a ballplayer’s talent by his physical appearance but he made an exception when it came to Cliff Mapes. Originally signed by the Cleveland Indians before WWII, the Yankees had picked up the outfielder in the 1946 supplemental draft. If a Hollywood casting agent put out a call for an actor to play a ballplayer, Mapes would have got the part on first look. He was 6’3″ tall and a chiseled 205 pounds of muscle. His problem was he couldn’t hit very well but Weiss was determined to keep him. He would tell anyone who asked about Mapes that he didn’t know if the Sutherland, Nebraska native would ever evolve into a big league ballplayer, but if he did, Weiss was determined it was going to be as a Yankee.

Mapes had seen his first action as a Yankee in 1948, hitting .250 in 88 at bats. He got his big opportunity at the beginning of the 1949 season, when Joe DiMaggio’s sore heals prevented him from playing. Casey Stengel started big Cliff in place of the Yankee Clipper in center and he fielded and hit just well enough to keep the job until DiMaggio returned. He had his best season in pinstripes in 1950, when he set career highs with 12 home runs and 61 RBIs as New York’s fourth outfielder. The following year, both Mickey Mantle and Jackie Jensen were added to the Yankee roster so when Mapes got off to a slow start that season, Weiss’s reluctance to let him go vanished and he was sold to the St Louis Browns. He would hit .274 during his half-season with St Louis and then got traded to Detroit. When he hit just .195 for the Tigers in 1952 he was released and rejoined the Yankee organization at the Minor League level. He never again played a big league game.

Mapes became sort of famous for the Yankee uniform numbers he wore. He was the last Bronx Bomber to wear number 3, before it was retired forever upon Babe Ruth’s death. He then donned jersey number 13 for the rest of the 1948 season before getting number 7 in 1949 and wearing it until he was sold to the Browns in 1951, at which time it became the property of Mantle. Mapes passed away in December of 1996 at the age of 74.

He shares his March 13th birthday with the starting second baseman on the Yankees 1996 World Championship team and the starting third baseman on the first two Yankee teams to compete in a World Series.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1948 NYY 53 94 88 19 22 11 1 1 12 1 6 13 .250 .298 .432 .730
1949 NYY 111 369 304 56 75 13 3 7 38 6 58 50 .247 .369 .378 .747
1950 NYY 108 415 356 60 88 14 6 12 61 1 47 61 .247 .338 .421 .760
1951 NYY 45 55 51 6 11 3 1 2 8 0 4 14 .216 .273 .431 .704
5 Yrs 459 1383 1193 199 289 55 13 38 172 8 168 213 .242 .338 .406 .743
NYY (4 yrs) 317 933 799 141 196 41 11 22 119 8 115 138 .245 .342 .407 .749
DET (1 yr) 86 221 193 26 38 7 0 9 23 0 27 42 .197 .295 .373 .669
SLB (1 yr) 56 229 201 32 55 7 2 7 30 0 26 33 .274 .360 .433 .792
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/7/2014.

March 12 – Happy Birthday Ruppert Jones

The day before Thurman Munson died on August 2, 1979, the Yankees had traded Mickey Rivers to Texas for Oscar Gamble. Then, during the 1979 offseason they went searching for a new catcher and a new center fielder. They didn’t waste much time, taking care of both needs on the same day. On November 1, 1979 New York traded for Toronto’s Rick Cerone to take Munson’s place behind the plate and they sent four players to the Mariners for Seattle’s starting center fielder, Ruppert Jones. “Rupe” was 25 years old at the time of that trade and had been in the big leagues since 1976. He was originally drafted by the Royals and later selected by Seattle in the 1976 expansion draft.

He made the All Star team during his rookie season of 1977, hitting 24 home runs. After getting hurt the following year and slumping badly at the plate, Jones had rebounded in 1979, hitting 21 dingers, scoring 109 runs and stealing 33 bases. It turned out to be the best season of his 12-year career, which explains why New York had to send Seattle four players including Jim Beattie, one of the team’s top pitching prospects at the time. I remember not being thrilled with either deal. The Yanks had to give up Chris Chambliss to get the weak-hitting Cerone and although the New York sports media had nice things to say about Jones, starting in center field in Seattle was a lot different than starting in center field in Yankee Stadium. The guy was a left-handed hitter with lots of pop so I was hoping he’d develop into a classic Yankee Stadium power broker but he never really got the chance.

Dick Howser was the Yankees new Manager in 1980 and he ended up doing a masterful job with that team. Cerone helped him by having a career year but Jones was a disaster in pinstripes. He was hurt much of the season and when he could play, he hit just .223. By the end of the year, Howser had made switch-hitting Bobby Brown his starter in center and Jones was left off the postseason roster.

Howser was infamously let go by George Steinbrenner after the Yankees lost the 1980 ALDS to the Royals. It was a chaotic Yankee front office that then traded Jones to San Diego for Padres center-fielder Jerry Mumphrey on the final day of New York’s 1981 spring training season.

Jones was actually a solid big league player, who played well for Seattle and San Diego but could not get it going as a Yankee. He retired after the 1987 season with 1,103 big league hits, 147 career home runs and a .250 lifetime batting average.

Jones shares his March 12th birthday with this 1994 Rookie of the Year outfielder this 1983 Rookie of the Year outfielder, this former Yankee reserve first baseman and this former NL All Star.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1980 NYY 83 373 328 38 73 11 3 9 42 18 34 50 .223 .299 .357 .656
12 Yrs 1331 5041 4415 643 1103 215 38 147 579 143 534 817 .250 .330 .416 .746
SDP (3 yrs) 354 1316 1156 164 297 66 6 28 149 36 140 214 .257 .335 .397 .732
CAL (3 yrs) 336 1140 974 164 227 46 7 46 144 19 141 207 .233 .330 .436 .767
SEA (3 yrs) 451 1921 1691 242 434 79 20 51 200 68 195 283 .257 .333 .418 .750
KCR (1 yr) 28 54 51 9 11 1 1 1 7 0 3 16 .216 .259 .333 .593
NYY (1 yr) 83 373 328 38 73 11 3 9 42 18 34 50 .223 .299 .357 .656
DET (1 yr) 79 237 215 26 61 12 1 12 37 2 21 47 .284 .346 .516 .862
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/7/2014.