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.
|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|
Bobby 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.
|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|
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.
|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|