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.
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.
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.
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 pacifist pitcher who started and relieved for New York during WWII.
One of the Yankees most impacted by the infamous Copa Cabana Nightclub incident wasn’t even there celebrating that night. I’m referring to Woodie Held, a rather free spirited middle infield prospect for New York in the fifties who along with alleged troublemaker Billy Martin, pitcher Ralph Terry and an outfielder named Bob Martyn were traded to Kansas City for reliever Ryne Duren and outfielders Jim Pisoni and Harry “Suitcase” Simpson. Both Martin and Terry would get a chance to return to New York and capture glory in pinstripes. Bob Martyn would never enjoy much success in the big leagues. But Held would go on to play fourteen years in the big leagues and belt 179 home runs.
Back when I was a kid, I collected baseball cards, which in addition to the annual Street & Smith’s Baseball Preview issue were my primary information conduit for the performances and stats of non-Yankee players. I remember checking the backs of cards of every player to find out what teams they played for. It was most likely on the back of the 1961 Woodie Held card pictured with this post that I found out he used to be a Yankee. Once you were a Yankee, I continued to root for your success except when your team happened to be playing the Yankees. That is how and why I became a fan of Woodie Held. I loved his name and I loved the fact that he played in the middle of the infield but could still hit for power. I remember the year I got this card, Maris and Mantle were chasing Ruth but Skowren, Berra, Howard and Blanchard all had more than 20 home runs that season while Clete Boyer (11), Bobby Richardson (3) and Tony Kubek (8) didn’t reach that milestone. I remember looking at Held’s card and seeing he had hit 21 home runs as a shortstop for the Indians in 1960 and 27 the season before. He would hit 23 during the ’61 season. I remember hoping some day he’d return to New York and hit all those home runs as a Yankee shortstop. Of course back then, I didn’t realize that would have been pretty difficult for Held to do since he was a right-handed pull hitter and probably, just like Clete Boyer ended up doing, many of Woodie’s blasts would have been turned into outs by Yankee Stadium’s cavernous left field.
In any event, Held never did come back to the Yankees. He hung on in the big leagues until 1969, quitting when he was 37 years old. He then enjoyed one of the most erratic retirements of any big league player in history. He opened a pizza parlor, ran a lumber yard, he raced snowmobiles, became an iron worker, he worked as a bartender and an electrician. Woodson George Held died in June of 2009 in his adopted home of DuBois Wyoming at the age of 77. He shares his March 25th birthday with this former Yankee outfielder and coach.
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.
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.
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 instructor, this Yankee hurler who met a tragic death and this one-time Yankee catcher.
After the 1978 season, the New York front office decided the Yankee bullpen wasn’t big enough for both Goose Gossage and Sparky Lyle so they traded “The Count” to Texas in a nine player deal. The key acquisition for New York was supposed to be outfielder Juan Beniquez, but he lasted just one season in the Bronx. The real gem in that deal for the Yankees was a young pitcher named Dave Righetti. Paul Mirabella, today’s birthday celebrant quietly accompanied “Ragu” and Beniquez to New York as part of that transaction.
A word of advice to those of you who have children you hope one day will win baseball scholarships to college or get drafted by an MLB team. If they are right-handed groom them to be catchers and if they throw with their left-hands teach them how to pitch. Why? If you study the history of Major League Baseball you will find a large number of catchers in every era who were able to put together lengthy big league careers even though they can’t hit worth a lick. You’ll also discover that there’s always room on a big league roster for a pitcher who can throw from the left side.
Mirabella is a classic example. He had come up with Texas in 1978. After going 0-4 in pinstripes during the 1979 season, he was sent to Toronto with Chris Chambliss in the deal that brought Rick Cerone to New York. He remained in the big leagues for the next eleven seasons even though his ERA as a reliever was 4.45, his record was 19-29 and he saved an average of just one game per season during his 13 years in the Majors. How? Because at least once every season since Major League Baseball was introduced to our culture, the manager of every big league team that has ever played has told the owner or general manager of that team that he needs a left hander who can come into a game and get a left-handed hitter on the opposing team out. That’s why and how Mirabella’s career lasted for thirteen seasons on six different teams.
He was born in Belleville, NJ in 1954. In the above baseball card, Mirabella does bear a slight resemblance to comedy actor, Sacha Baron Cohen, no? He also shares his March 20th birthday with the first pitcher in the history of the Yankee franchise to win 20 games in a season and the first one to lose 20 games in a season.
You’d have to be close to my age to remember a shortstop by the name of Freddie Patek, who started for the very good Kansas City Royal teams of the 1970s. Patek’s nickname was “the Flea” because he was tiny, just 5’5″ tall and also a real pest for Royal opponents to deal with. He had good speed, was a heck of a bunter and every time you looked up he was moving a runner into scoring position, beating out a slow grounder or stealing a base. Patek was the guy I thought about as I completed my research on today’s pretty obscure Pinstripe Birthday celebrant named Fritz Brickell. Like Patek, Brickell was a 5’5″ shortstop. But unlike Freddie, Fritzie never became a real pest for Yankee opponents at the big league level.
Brickell’s dad, also named Fred, had been a Major League outfielder back in the twenties who played against the Yankees in the 1927 World Series. In addition to being short, Brickell had the additional misfortune of being a middle infielder in a Yankee organization during the fifties that was loaded with great middle infielders. Nevertheless, when Fritzie took over for Tony Kubek as starting shortstop for the Yankee’s AAA team in Denver in 1957, he banged 170 hits and averaged .295. That performance convinced the Yankees he deserved some look-sees at the Major League level. The 1959 Yankee club was one of the most disappointing teams in the franchise’s history. They finished in third place in the AL that season with a 79-75 record. They were playing .500 baseball in June when Brickell was called up. Manager Casey Stengel played him in 18 games during the next six weeks and Fritz hit his one and only big league career home run off of Detroit’s Tom Morgan. Unfortunately, given his small strike zone, Brickell did not like to walk. Kubek’s job was safe.
The Yankees sent Fritz back down to Denver at the end of July. The next time he played in Yankee Stadium was 1961 and he was wearing the uniform of the Los Angeles Angels. The Yankees had traded him to LA in April of that year to reacquire Duke Maas. Maas had been a valuable member of the Yankee pitching staff during the previous three seasons but when New York left him unprotected in the AL Expansion Draft of 1960, the Angels snatched him. Brickell was the Angels’ first ever Opening Day starting shortstop but after 21 games he was hitting just .122 and was released. Four years later he was dead, a victim of cancer, at the age of 30.
Fritz was born in Wichita, Kansas on March 19, 1935. Only a small handful of Yankees were born in the home state of the Wizard of Oz. The three most notable are Johnny Damon (Ft. Riley) Ralph Houk (Lawrence) and Mike Torrez (Topeka.)
Brickell shares his birthday with this long-ago starting outfielder for the New York Highlanders.