Long before Karaoke made its way from Japan to our shores, big league pitcher Mickey McDermott loved to sing in bars. Perhaps the biggest reason he loved to sing in bars was because he had to be in a bar in order to do it which meant he could drink and if their was one thing old Mickey liked to do in bars more than sing in them, it was drink in them. Born in Poughkeepsie, NY on April 29, 1929 and raised in New Jersey, his full name was Maurice Joseph McDermott. Big league scouts drooled over his fastball and the Red Sox won the race to sign him by doing so when he was just fifteen years-old. His shifty father actually forged a birth certificate that claimed his talented son was 18 years old. The elder McDermott than pocketed $5,000 of his son’s bonus money. Mickey made his big league debut for Boston when he was just 19 and by 1949 he was splitting his time between the team’s starting rotation and its bullpen.
I’ve found testimony from great big league hitters like Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams that indicate this guy could be very impressive on the mound. He showed many moments of brilliance in his early career and seemed to be putting it all together in 1952 when he went 10-9 in Beantown and then followed that up with an 18-10 1953 season that included 4 shutouts. Making him even more valuable was the fact that he was an extremely gifted hitter who averaged .252 lifetime and was frequently used as a pinch hitter.
McDermott’s achille’s heel was his desire to party, which is what made Tom Yawkey’s decision to approve trading him after his great 1953 season an easy one. It turned out to be one of the best deals Boston ever made because in return for McDermott, they got a gifted, ex-Yankee outfielder from Washington by the name of Jackie Jensen. By 1958, Jensen would become an AL MVP winner and McDermott would find himself pitching back in the Minor Leagues.
Mickey would start for the lowly Senators for two seasons, compiling a 17-25 record in our Nation’s capital. The Yankees then acquired him in a seven player trade in February of 1956. New York had just lost the 1955 Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers and Yankee GM George Weiss and Manager Casey Stengel both knew the team needed to get some pitching. Weiss and Stengel had been the beneficiaries of one of the greatest starting rotations in the club’s history when Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat and then Whitey Ford had pitched the team to five straight World Series wins between 1949 and ’53. With Reynolds, Raschi and Lopat now all gone from the team, Weiss knew he had to replace them with quality arms but the thrifty GM was determined to do so as cheaply as possible. That was his goal when he agreed to send a five player package of Yankee subs and prospects to the Senators for McDermott, figuring that lot’s of mediocre bodies for one quality pitcher would end up being a steal. Weiss thought the vaunted Yankee offense combined with McDermott’s talent would make him a big winner in New York. Instead, even though none of the five players the Yankees gave up became stars in Washington, the Senators still were the big winners in the McDermott deal.
That’s because instead of taking advantage of New York’s powerful lineup when he got to the Big Apple, Mickey McDermott took advantage of the City’s vibrant night life. He would finish 2-6 during his only season in pinstripes and then become part of a thirteen player deal with the A’s in February of 1957 that brought Clete Boyer to New York. McDermott did get a chance to pitch in his only World Series as a Yankee and Stengel let him take an at bat in that 1956 Fall Classic as well. Mickey uncharacteristically took advantage of an opportunity by singling in the eighth inning of Game 2 so that he finished his career with a 1.000 postseason average.
McDermott was out of the big leagues for good by 1962 and back in the minors, where he continued his hard-partying lifestyle. After hanging up his glove for good, his self-destructive ways continued. Ironically, his old drinking buddy with the Yankees, Billy Martin hired Mickey as a coach for the Oakland A’s but both were fired in 1982. McDermott then became a player agent until his affinity for alcohol ruined that career too. He hit rock bottom in 1991, when he was sent to jail for multiple DWI offenses. That’s when he became sober. That same year, he and his wife hit the Arizona Lottery for $7 million.
McDermott decided to chronicle his crazy life in a book. He did so in his well received autobiography “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cooperstown,” which was published in 2003. He died of cancer at the age of 73, just as his book went on sale.
|BOS (6 yrs)||48||34||.585||3.80||153||97||36||34||9||8||773.2||647||359||327||47||504||499||1.488|
|WSH (2 yrs)||17||25||.405||3.58||61||46||11||19||2||2||352.1||312||170||140||17||210||173||1.482|
|KCA (2 yrs)||1||4||.200||6.15||33||4||15||0||0||0||74.2||82||59||51||9||60||32||1.902|
|STL (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||3.67||19||0||13||0||0||4||27.0||29||17||11||3||15||15||1.630|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||6||.250||4.24||23||9||11||1||0||0||87.0||85||46||41||10||47||38||1.517|
|DET (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||2||0||0||0||0||0||2.0||6||4||2||0||2||0||4.000|
At one time, Virgil Trucks was one of the premier pitchers in the American League. The right-hander from Birmingham, AL won 177 big league games during his seventeen season career that began with the Tigers in 1941 and he’s one of just four pitchers to have thrown two no-hitters in the same season. The others are Johnny Vander Meer, Allie Reynolds and Nolan Ryan.
By the time he joined the Yankees however, just minutes before the 1958 regular season trading deadline, Trucks was 41 years old and his best days were behind him. The Yankees got the veteran pitcher and reliever Duke Maas from the A’s for outfielder Harry Simpson and pitcher Bob Grim.
Trucks would appear in 25 games for Casey Stengel’s AL Pennant winners during the second half of the ’58 season, finishing his brief Yankee career with a 2-1 record and a single save. Though he was left off of the team’s World Series roster, his Yankee teammates still voted him a full $8,759.10 winners’ share after they knocked off the Braves in that year’s Fall Classic.
Trucks never again played a big league ball game. He did stay in the game as a coach for the Pirates and then a scout for the Tigers, retiring in 1990. He turns 95 years-old today and is currently the oldest ex-Yankee still living. Update: Trucks passed away on March 23, 2013 in Alabama.
Trucks shares his April 26th birthday with this veteran pitcher the Yankees released to make room for Trucks on their 1958 roster. This current Yankee reliever and this long-ago hard-partying hurler also share that birthday.
|DET (12 yrs)||114||96||.543||3.50||316||229||53||84||20||13||1800.2||1618||786||700||123||732||1046||1.305|
|CHW (3 yrs)||47||26||.644||3.14||96||80||10||36||11||4||616.0||551||225||215||46||223||345||1.256|
|KCA (2 yrs)||9||8||.529||2.87||64||7||35||0||0||10||138.0||124||52||44||14||77||70||1.457|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||1||.667||4.54||25||0||13||0||0||1||39.2||40||24||20||1||24||26||1.613|
|SLB (1 yr)||5||4||.556||3.07||16||12||2||4||2||2||88.0||83||37||30||4||32||47||1.307|
MLB scouts first took notice of Juan Miranda when he played left field and hit over .400 for the Cuban National Team that won the first World University Championship Series gold medal in 2002. He defected from the Castro-ruled island in 2005 and signed with the Yankees in 2006. He put together some solid seasons in the Yankee farm system that earned him late season call-ups to the Bronx in both 2008 and ’09. He got his real shot with the parent club in 2010, when Manager Joe Girardi played him pretty regularly during the second half of May. He hit his first big league home run against Boston’s Josh Beckett in a losing effort on May 18th of that season and two days later he went deep against Tampa Bay’s James Shields. Unfortunately, he had a tough time proving he could hit big league pitching consistently and when the Yankees sent him back down that June, his average was just .217. The following November, Miranda was traded to the Diamondbacks. The change of scenery didn’t help. He hit only .213 for Arizona last year. He began the 2012 season with Tampa’s Triple A affiliate in Durham.
|NYY (3 yrs)||46||94||83||11||21||3||1||4||14||0||0||9||20||.253||.330||.458||.788|
|ARI (1 yr)||65||202||174||18||37||8||2||7||23||0||1||23||48||.213||.315||.402||.717|
Late in the 1964 season, the Yankees traded for Cleveland’s Pedro Ramos and the veteran right-hander from Cuba saved 8 games for New York down the stretch and together with rookie Mel Stottlemyre, pitched Yogi Berra’s team to the AL Pennant. Just two seasons later, the Yankees were near the very bottom of the AL standings when they traded Ramos to Philadelphia for Joe Verbanic, a skinny right-hander with a good fastball and decent slider.
Verbanic spent his first season in pinstripes as a reliever, winning four, saving two and posting a very nice 2.80 ERA. That performance earned him a shot at New York’s starting rotation in ’68 and he responded with a 6-7 record which included a shutout plus four more saves. That wasn’t good enough to prevent his return to the minors the following season. Vebanic did play a role in a significant piece of Yankee trivia. Elston Howard’s last at-bat as a Yankee was as a pinch-hitter for Verbanic.
One of the nicest things that has happened to me since I started writing this Pinstripe Birthday Blog has been the messages I’ve received from former Yankees and their friends and relatives. My absolute biggest thrill came when after reading in one of my posts that I had not read his classic book, former Yankee 20-game winner, Jim Bouton sent me an autographed copy of “Ball Four.” If you have not read it yet, do something nice for yourself and get a copy. In addition to giving you a unique, up close perspective of what life was like for baseball players in the late sixties, it will make you laugh out loud many many times. It also makes a perfect birthday gift for any Yankee fans in your life.
Bouton is the first author/player I’ve ever read who spends significant page space describing the men he had as coaches during his playing career. He loved Johnny Sain, one of the pitching instructors he had when he was on the Yankees. He was not a fan of two of his other New York coaches, Frank Crosetti and Jim Turner. It was Turner who happened to see Bouton squeezing two baseballs together in his pitching hand one day. The pitcher had indicated in his book that pitching coach Turner had spent more time and attention protecting the Yankees’ supply of team baseballs than he had helping Yankee pitchers become better pitchers. When he saw Bouton squeezing the two balls he asked him what he was doing and the “Bulldog” explained the exercise helped him strengthen his fingers. Thinking Bouton was attempting to steal the balls, Turner demanded Bouton put them back in the bag. Bouton’s good friend and fellow Yankee pitcher Fritz Peterson had overheard Turner reprimand his buddy so he convinced Joe Verbanic, Steve Hamilton and three or four other pitchers on that Yankee staff to each grab two balls from the bag and walk in front of Jim Turner while squeezing them in their pitching hand. According to Bouton, this drove Turner crazy.
|NYY (3 yrs)||11||10||.524||3.12||75||17||30||3||2||6||193.0||198||72||67||13||74||11||87||9||1.409|
|PHI (1 yr)||1||1||.500||5.14||17||0||3||0||0||0||14.0||12||9||8||2||10||3||7||0||1.571|
The Boston Red Sox Impossible Dream pennant in 1967 would really have been impossible without reliever John Wyatt. The right-handed native of Chicago, IL had made his Major League debut in 1961 with Kansas City and during the next five seasons, had developed into one of the better closers in the AL. The Red Sox got him in a mid-season trade in 1966 and he quickly became became the ace of Boston’s bullpen. During that ’67 season, Wyatt appeared in 60 games for Manager Dick Williams’ Beantowners and many of them were must wins. He ended up winning 10 games, saving 20 and posting a 2.60 ERA. But he also ended up that regular season with a stiff arm and enraged Williams by insisting he wasn’t healthy enough to pitch. The cantankerous skipper told the Boston sports press he thought Wyatt was imagining his maladies. Wyatt responded by writing a letter to a Boston newspaper, complaining about the way he was being treated by Williams and demanding to be traded.
He got his wish in May of 1968, much to the delight of Yankee manager Ralph Houk, when the Red Sox sold the angry pitcher to New York. The problem with the deal was that even though that 1968 Yankee team had several weaknesses, the bullpen wasn’t one of them. New York had both Steve Hamilton and Lindy McDaniel already closing games with pretty good efficiency. What Houk really needed was offense which was why, less than a month after purchasing Wyatt from Boston, they sold him to Detroit to make room for the newly acquired one-time home-run slugger, Rocky Colavito. So Wyatt’s Yankee career ended up consisting of just seven appearances and two losses. As it turned out, the reliever’s arm was more than tired. It was worn out completely. He finished the ’68 season with the Tigers and then rejoined the A’s in ’69 but only appeared in 4 games before calling it quits for good.
|OAK (7 yrs)||27||29||.482||3.77||296||9||206||0||0||73||473.0||428||214||198||58||254||29||367||1.442|
|BOS (3 yrs)||14||13||.519||2.92||110||0||73||0||0||28||175.2||139||64||57||11||72||8||142||1.201|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||2||.000||2.16||7||0||2||0||0||0||8.1||7||3||2||1||9||0||6||1.920|
|DET (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||2.37||22||0||10||0||0||2||30.1||26||9||8||2||11||2||25||1.220|
On April 18, 1923, the most famous stadium in baseball history first opened its gates. To die hard Yankee fans like myself, the original Yankee Stadium was a shrine. Two years ago at this same time, the YES Network cameras kept shooting scenes of that shrine during televised Yankee games being played in the new site, showing the once regal “House that Ruth built” in an eerie state of partial demolition. It was upsetting to see it like that.
I’m a bit embarrassed because I’m not exactly sure of the date I attended my first game at Yankee Stadium. It may have been 1961 but it was probably more likely in 1962. I can guarantee you that we left Amsterdam at 4:00 AM that morning and drove down to the Bronx in my Uncle Jim’s 1951 two-door Lincoln coupe. As we drove down the Deegan past the George Washington Bridge I will never forget the exact moment the brown stone facade of the Stadium first became visible.
I know that we were one of the first cars to park in the outdoor lot that used to sit directly across from the old Stadium. I’m sure we went to Jerome’s, a cafeteria-style restaurant that was located kitty corner to the Stadium and that I was able to take perhaps two total sips from the fullest, hottest, and strongest cup of coffee I had ever had in my then short lifetime.
I remember getting in line in one of those old ticket kiosks that used to encircle the Stadium and being startled by the sudden sound of the kiosk’s window opening as tickets for that days game went on sale. I remember wondering how the tallest and fattest ticket agent that I’ve still ever seen managed to get inside the telephone booth sized structure without me seeing him do so. I will never forget my Uncle, who to this day has never been able to make a decision on his own, kept asking the impatient agent question after question about the best places to sit to see the field, be out of the sun, buy a hot dog and get to the bathroom. I remember my Uncle finally buying three field box seats, halfway between first base and the right field foul pole giving the guy a twenty-dollar bill and actually getting change.
I remember how disappointed I was when my Uncle told me we still had a few hours to wait before the Stadium gates actually opened for that day’s double-header with the Senators. I don’t remember if we headed back to Jerome’s to wait or took the subway to downtown Manhattan because we ended up doing one or the other whenever my creature of habit Uncle took us to a game. But what I do still remember, as if it was yesterday morning instead of over 45 years ago, was after finally getting inside running up the ramp to the field-level box seat section behind home plate and for the very first time seeing that beautifully manicured green grass field and that huge Centerfield scoreboard with the Ballantine Beer logo.
The Yanks swept the double header that day. My Uncle bought me a yearbook and I used the money my parents had given me for a souvenir to purchase a package of five by eight glossy photographs of each player on the Yankee team. I remember reading every page of that Yearbook, including the ads, during the long ride home. And as we made our way back upstate and afternoon turned to nighttime, I remember squinting my eyes in the darkness of the backseat of my Uncle Jim’s big Lincoln to stare at my black and white photos of Mantle, Maris, Ford, Skowren, Richardson, Berra, Howard and the rest of the Bronx Bombers. It was one of the happiest days of my life.
Fortunately. I’ve had the chance to relive the magic of that moment quite a few times when both of my sons, my wife and my two daughters each made their first visits to Yankee Stadium. My last of what has been over 100 trips to one of my favorite places in the world took place in June of 2008, when my two sons treated me to a Yankee game as a Fathers Day gift. As usual, I had a blast.
I’ve been to the new place across the street and it certainly is magnificent. But for me, Yankee Stadium will always be the place where Ruth changed the sport forever; where Gehrig considered himself the luckiest man on Earth; where the great DiMaggio roamed center field; where Mantle and Maris chased destiny; where great Yankees like Murcer and Mattingly kept alive the Pinstripe pride during long absences from postseason play; where young kids like Jeter evolved into Hall of Famers and where the Yankees won their first 26 World Series.
No Pinstripe Birthday Celebrants exist for April 17th so like last year on this same date, I offer a report card for the Yankee’s play at the start of the new season. After ten games played the Yankees record is 5-5 for the new season, compared to their 6-4 start last season. They are a game behind the AL East Division leading Orioles and half-game behind the second place Blue Jays.
The incomparable Derek Jeter is off to a great start at the plate and has led the Yankees offensively. Nick Swisher and Raul Ibanez have been New York’s biggest run producers but in general, New York’s vaunted offense has really not gotten itself untracked.
As for the soon-to-be over crowded Yankee rotation, Ivan Nova and Hideki Kuroda have turned in the most impressive starts. CC Sabathia has had some rough patches in both of his appearances and Phil Hughes and Freddie Garcia have been downright disappointing. If Pettitte and Michael Pineda were to show up today in the Bronx, ready to pitch, it would be Hughes’ and Garcia’s spots that they would take.
The Yankee bullpen has been the team’s strong point thus far in 2012. From the moment Mariano blew that opening game save in Tampa until Cory Wade got roughed up last night by the Twins, the Pinstriped relief corps has performed pretty close to flawlessly.
The MVP for the first ten games would be Jeter, the most surprising start would belong to reliever David Phelps and the most disappointing would probably go to Hughes. But its a long season, my friends and by this time next month, we will have a much more reliable reading on the postseason potential of this Yankee team.
Even close followers of baseball history are probably surprised to learn that Hall of Famer, Paul Waner was a Yankee. Waner was best known as a Pittsburgh Pirate where he played in the same outfield with his younger brother and fellow Hall of Famer Lloyd from 1927 until 1940, when Paul was released and signed on with Brooklyn. Paul was nicknamed “Big Poison” and they called Lloyd “Little Poison. ” Together they collected 5,611 base hits during their careers, beating both the three DiMaggio brothers and the three Alou’s for most hits by Major League siblings.
Paul won three NL batting titles during his career and collected his 3,000th career hit after joining the Boston Braves, in 1941. In September of 1944, the Yankees found themselves chasing the St. Louis Browns for the AL Pennant and they signed the then 41 year-old Waner, hoping he’d be the spark that led the team to the postseason. That’s not what happened. Waner got just one hit in nine at bats for New York that season and the Yankees ended up finishing in third place.
Waner is one of just five Yankees who have collected 3,000 hits during their playing careers. The others are Derek Jeter, Ricky Henderson, Wade Boggs and Dave Winfield.
|PIT (15 yrs)||2154||9536||8429||1493||2868||558||187||109||1177||100||909||325||.340||.407||.490||.896|
|BRO (3 yrs)||176||475||396||50||115||20||1||1||46||0||70||16||.290||.398||.354||.752|
|NYY (2 yrs)||10||10||7||1||1||0||0||0||1||1||0||3||1||.143||.400||.143||.543|
|BSN (2 yrs)||209||745||627||83||168||27||3||3||85||3||109||34||.268||.377||.335||.712|
Of the two Leiter brothers from Toms River, NJ who were both Yankee pitching prospects, it was older brother Mark who was more impressive in the Minors and younger brother Al who did best as a pro. Mark was two years older than Al and threw right-handed while his younger sibling was a southpaw. But in 1986 Mark hurt his pitching shoulder and underwent surgery. That same shoulder was cut open two more times in the next seventeen months forcing Leiter to sit out three full seasons. By the time he finally got a shot with the Yankees, his brother Al had already been traded and Mark wasn’t the same pitcher he had been four years earlier. He split his only two decisions in pinstripes before being shipped to Detroit the following year. In 11 big league seasons Mark won 65 and lost 73 while Al went 162-132 during his nineteen-year Major League career.
Mark shares his April 13th birthday with this WWII-era third baseman and the first starting shortstop in Yankee franchise history.
|DET (3 yrs)||23||18||.561||4.36||100||42||18||3||0||1||353.1||352||184||171||42||137||14||248||1.384|
|SFG (2 yrs)||14||22||.389||4.38||53||51||0||8||1||0||331.0||336||184||161||44||105||11||247||1.332|
|PHI (2 yrs)||17||22||.436||4.98||100||31||50||3||0||23||271.1||283||168||150||33||111||9||232||1.452|
|MON (1 yr)||4||2||.667||4.39||12||12||0||1||0||0||69.2||68||35||34||12||19||1||46||1.249|
|CAL (1 yr)||4||7||.364||4.72||40||7||15||0||0||2||95.1||99||56||50||13||35||6||71||1.406|
|SEA (1 yr)||0||0||6.75||2||0||0||0||0||0||1.1||2||1||1||0||0||0||1||1.500|
|NYY (1 yr)||1||1||.500||6.84||8||3||2||0||0||0||26.1||33||20||20||5||9||0||21||1.595|
|MIL (1 yr)||2||1||.667||3.75||20||3||3||0||0||0||36.0||32||16||15||6||8||2||26||1.111|
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is Antonio Osuna. I remember not being at all happy when the Yankees sent Orlando Hernandez to the White Sox for this Mexican reliever just before the 2003 spring training camps opened. Then the Sox immediately dealt Hernandez to the Expos. Osuna had just had his best big league season in the Windy City in 2002 but I loved El Duque. The deal turned out OK for the Yanks. Osuna was nothing special pitching for them out of the pen during his only season in the Bronx but El Duque got hurt and did not pitch an inning for the Expos in 2003. Montreal then released Hernandez and the Yankees re-signed him in 2004. Torre put Hernandez in a struggling Yankee rotation in July of that year and he won eight straight. Osuna ended up pitching in 48 games for Joe Torre’s team in 2003. He finished that season with a 2-5 record and a 3.73 ERA and was left off the New York’s postseason roster and then released. He was the last Yankee to wear uniform number 13 before it became the property of A-Rod. Osuna then signed with San Diego in 2004 and the following season he pitched in his last big league game as a member of the Nationals. He then played a few more years in his native Mexico. He was 36-29 during his 11-season big league career and earned 21 saves. Osuna shares an April 12 birthday with this former Yankee outfielder who lost his starting job to Babe Ruth and this other outfielder, who was acquired from Detroit just before the 2013 regular season started.
|LAD (6 yrs)||24||21||.533||3.28||265||0||89||0||0||10||327.0||261||131||119||32||141||18||346||9||1.229|
|CHW (2 yrs)||8||2||.800||4.88||63||0||28||0||0||11||72.0||72||42||39||4||30||5||72||5||1.417|
|SDP (1 yr)||2||1||.667||2.45||31||0||6||0||0||0||36.2||32||11||10||3||11||0||36||1||1.173|
|WSN (1 yr)||0||0||42.43||4||0||1||0||0||0||2.1||9||11||11||2||7||1||0||0||6.857|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||5||.286||3.73||48||0||16||0||0||0||50.2||58||22||21||3||20||3||47||2||1.539|