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.

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