May 2012

May 23 – Happy Birthday Clyde King

Of all the managers George Steinbrenner hired and fired during his tenure as managing owner of the New York Yankees, none were more loyal to the “Boss” than today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Clyde King. The native of Goldsboro, North Carolina began his big league career in 1944 with the Dodgers. During the first six years of his playing career he pitched out of the Brooklyn bullpen. After getting traded to the Reds, where he played his final big league season in 1953, King became a minor league manager, then a big league pitching coach and eventually a manager for both the San Francisco Giants and the Atlanta Braves. But King disliked managing because he had a tough time communicating with modern day ballplayers. He was big on discipline and felt the players union had made it more difficult than necessary for Major League skippers to exercise control over their teams.

In 1976, King joined the Yankees as an advance scout and Steinbrenner took a liking to him. Like George, King was a pessimist who found it much easier to criticize than praise. The two got along famously and King became the only man in history to serve as the Yankee pitching coach, manager and GM. He got his shot at managing the Yankees during their tumultuous 1982 season. Bob Lemon had started that year as the Yankee field boss but was replaced by Gene Michael just 14 games into the new season. Michael hated the job because Steinbrenner meddled so much and he asked the Boss to put him back in the front office. “The Stick” got his wish and was replaced by King who led the team to a 29-33 finish.

The following year George brought Billy Martin back to the Yankee dugout and returned King to the front office, where he took part in two controversial moments in franchise history. The first occurred in 1985, when Steinbrenner broke his promise to let Yogi Berra manage the entire season. It was King who did the actual firing. Eleven years later, during the Yankees 1996 spring training camp, King convinced the Boss that the Yankees could not win with Derek Jeter starting at shortstop. Fortunately, Gene Michael defended Joe Torre’s desire to start the talented youngster and Steinbrenner reluctantly relented.

King would remain one of the Yankee owner’s most loyal and trusted advisors until the day Steinbrenner died in July of 2010. King would follow his Boss to the grave just four months later, at the age of 86. King shares his birthday with another former Yankee manager this first voice of the Yankees and this one-time back up catcher.

Rk Year Age Tm Lg G W L W-L% Finish
5 1982 58 New York Yankees AL 3rd of 3 62 29 33 .468 5
San Francisco Giants 2 years 204 109 95 .534 2.5
Atlanta Braves 2 years 198 96 101 .487 4.0
New York Yankees 1 year 62 29 33 .468 5.0
5 years 464 234 229 .505 3.6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/23/2013.

May 21 – Happy Birthday Chris Widger

I can remember thinking the 2002 New York Yankees were going to roll to the team’s fifth World Series championship in seven seasons. They finished 103-58 during the regular season and had Mussina, Clemens, Pettitte and Wells in their rotation. They were loaded offensively as well, with Jason Giambi, Alfonso Soriano and Bernie Williams all driving in 100 runs that year and every member of the starting lineup hitting double figures in home runs.

Yankee catcher, Jorge Posada also had a strong regular season, hitting 20 home runs and driving in 99 while catching 131 games. During those rare games when Posada wasn’t behind the plate for New York, the honor went to today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant.

The Yankees signed Chris Widger to a free agent contract in February of 2002. The Wilmington, Delaware native had broken into the big leagues in 1995 with Seattle and had been the Expos’s starting catcher from 1997 until he was traded back to the Mariners in August of 2000. Widger then hurt his shoulder and was forced to sit out the entire 2001 season.

Back then, Posada was hypersensitive about playing time. He had broken in with New York behind Joe Girardi and hated sitting the bench when Torre gave Girardi his share of time behind the plate. After letting Girardi sign with the Cubs after the 1999 season, the Yankee front-office decided to quell Posada’s anxiety by using only journeymen for his back-ups. That’s why they had signed both Widger and former Met reserve catcher Albert Castillo before the ’02 season.

It was Castillo who started the year behind Posada that April, but when he hit just .135 during the first half of the season, the Yankees decided to give Widger a shot. When he started his Yankee career with a six-game hitting streak that July, one had to wonder if Posada started getting edgy. Widger followed that up with a five game streak in August and finished the reason hitting .297. The Yankees kept him on the postseason roster but he saw no action in the team’s bitterly disappointing loss to the Angels in the first round of the playoffs.

He went to spring training in Tampa the following February and in an ungraceful move, the Yankees waited until the first week of April to release him. He did get to play that season with the Cardinals and remained in the big leagues until 2006. Widger shares his birthday with a former Yankee third baseman who was voted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2014. This long-ago Yankee pitcher was also born on May 21.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2002 NYY 21 68 64 4 19 5 0 0 5 0 2 9 .297 .338 .375 .713
10 Yrs 613 1998 1826 180 435 104 7 55 222 10 141 384 .238 .296 .393 .689
MON (4 yrs) 426 1484 1359 139 330 79 7 48 180 10 108 291 .243 .302 .417 .719
SEA (3 yrs) 41 73 67 4 12 0 0 2 3 0 4 18 .179 .233 .269 .502
CHW (2 yrs) 72 241 217 24 48 11 0 5 18 0 19 42 .221 .285 .341 .626
STL (1 yr) 44 112 102 9 24 9 0 0 14 0 6 20 .235 .279 .324 .603
NYY (1 yr) 21 68 64 4 19 5 0 0 5 0 2 9 .297 .338 .375 .713
BAL (1 yr) 9 20 17 0 2 0 0 0 2 0 2 4 .118 .211 .118 .328
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/20/2013.

May 20 – Happy Birthday Wilcy Moore

Few Yankee pitchers if any ever had a better big league rookie season than Wilcy Moore was able to put together. First of all, he broke into the Majors with perhaps the greatest team in league history, the fabled 1927 New York Yankees. That squad won 110 games in their 154-game season and finished 19 games in front of the second place Philadelphia A’s. As a team, the ’27 Yankees averaged .307 and their pitching staff gave up just 3.20 runs per game, both tops in the league. Miller Huggins used his 30-year-old first-year pitcher mostly out of the bullpen that season and when baseball historians applied the modern day save rule retroactively, it was discovered that Moore led the AL in saves in 1927 with 13. He also won nineteen games while losing just seven and posted a league-leading 2.28 ERA that year.

To top it all off, Moore also made the greatest wager of his life during that 1927 season. The great Babe Ruth bet the weak-hitting Moore $15 that the pitcher would not hit a home run during the 1927 season and sweetened the pot by giving the native of Bonita Texas, twenty-to-one odds. Moore won the bet on September 16 1927 when he hit his first and only big league home run against Chicago White Sox pitcher Ted Blankenship. He used the Sultan of Swat’s three hundred dollars to purchase two mules for his farm and named one of the animals “Babe” and the other “Ruth.”

Moore would never again approach the level of pitching success he experienced during his magical 1927 season. His cumulative record during his second and third seasons wearing the Yankee pinstripes was just 10-10 with only ten total saves. He spent the 1930 season back in the minors and then the Red Sox selected him in the 1930 Rule Five draft. After pitching most of the next two seasons in Beantown, the Yankees reacquired Moore in an August 1932 trade. At first, returning to Yankee Stadium was just the elixir Moore’s career needed as he pitched lights out relief for New York during the final two months of the ’32 season. But he faded in ’33 and would spend the next seven years in the minors, trying unsuccessfully to pitch his way back to the big dance.

Moore shares his May 20th birthday with one of my all-time favorite Yankees and this outstanding former Yankee starting pitcher and this Yankee pitcher from the fifties.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1927 NYY 19 7 .731 2.28 50 12 30 6 1 13 213.0 185 68 54 3 59 75 1.146
1928 NYY 4 4 .500 4.18 35 2 18 0 0 2 60.1 71 44 28 4 31 18 1.691
1929 NYY 6 4 .600 4.13 41 0 27 0 0 8 61.0 64 36 28 4 19 21 1.361
1932 NYY 2 0 1.000 2.52 10 1 6 0 0 4 25.0 27 8 7 1 6 8 1.320
1933 NYY 5 6 .455 5.52 35 0 26 0 0 8 62.0 92 53 38 1 20 17 1.806
6 Yrs 51 44 .537 3.70 261 32 160 14 2 49 691.0 732 356 284 25 232 204 1.395
NYY (5 yrs) 36 21 .632 3.31 171 15 107 6 1 35 421.1 439 209 155 13 135 139 1.362
BOS (2 yrs) 15 23 .395 4.31 90 17 53 8 1 14 269.2 293 147 129 12 97 65 1.446
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/20/2013.