May 2012

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.

May 19 – Happy Birthday Ed Whitson

whitsonSome guys love playing under the brightest of lights. Eddie Lee Whitson definitely wasn’t one of those guys. The native of Johnson City, Tennessee had come up with the Pirates in 1977 and went 39-48 during his first seven seasons in the big leagues while pitching for four different teams. Then in 1984, the right-hander finally put it all together for the San Diego Padres, going 14-8 and helping the team capture the NL West Pennant and advance to the franchise’s first-ever World Series. I happened to be rooting for the Padres that year because the Yankee’s failed to make it to the postseason and ex-Yankees Graig Nettles, Goose Gossage and Bobby Brown all played for that San Diego team. The first time I ever saw Ed Whitson pitch was when he started the second game of that Fall Classic between the Padres and the Tigers. He got hit hard immediately, giving up five singles and three runs and was knocked out of the game in the first inning.

In any event, a few months later when I heard that the Yankees had signed the free agent Whitson to a four year deal, his disastrous start against the Tigers was the first thing that popped in my mind. History was about to repeat itself in the Bronx.

Whitson got off to a horrible start with New York and by the middle of May, his record was 1-6 and his ERA was over six. Yankee fans began booing him unmercifully and Whitson had a tough time dealing with their hostility. He refused to let his wife attend home games and at one point, the Yankees stopped starting him in games at Yankee Stadium. To make matters worse, George Steinbrenner had fired Yogi Berra in April of that season and brought back the mercurial Billy Martin as field boss. Martin immediately started picking on Whitson for his bad performances on the mound, often calling him gutless in front of his teammates. The bewildered pitcher would later tell people he hated every day he was a Yankee.

Somehow, Whitson began pitching much better and he had won nine of his previous ten decisions when Martin started him in a big game against Toronto in mid-September. At the time, New York was trailing the first-place Blue Jays by four-and-a-half games and couldn’t afford to give up any more ground. Whitson got shelled in the third inning as Toronto scored six runs in that frame to put the game away and also cause irreparable damage to the Yankees pennant hopes.

Billy Martin was so mad about the pitcher’s performance, he skipped over Whitson when his next scheduled start came up. That action enraged the pitcher and set the stage for one of the most famous bar fights in Billy Martin’s illustrious history. It happened after a Yankee game in Baltimore on September 22, 1985 in the cocktail lounge of the hotel at which the Yankees were staying. Martin was drinking heavily at the bar while Whitson was downing drinks just as quickly sitting at a table with friends. Reports of the incident indicate it was actually Whitson who started the altercation by getting into it with another customer in the lounge that evening. Martin was trying to act as a peace keeper when Whitson turned on his manager. Before it was over, Whitson had doubled Martin over with a kick to his crotch, broken Billy’s arm and cracked two of his skipper’s ribs.

It wasn’t until July of his second season in pinstripes that the Yankees finally granted Whitson’s desperate wish to get him out of New York. He was traded back to the Padres for reliever Tim Stoddard. He spent the final six of his fifteen big leagues seasons pitching for the Padres, retiring in 1991 with a lifetime record of 126-123 and an ERA of 3.79. During his season and a half with the Yankees he was 15-10 with an ERA of 5.38.

Whitson shares his May 19th birthday with the 1951 Rookie of the Year and this former Yankee starting catcher.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1985 NYY 10 8 .556 4.88 30 30 0 2 2 0 158.2 201 100 86 19 43 89 1.538
1986 NYY 5 2 .714 7.54 14 4 6 0 0 0 37.0 54 37 31 5 23 27 2.081
15 Yrs 126 123 .506 3.79 452 333 48 35 12 8 2240.0 2240 1045 944 211 698 1266 1.312
SDP (8 yrs) 77 72 .517 3.69 227 208 4 22 6 1 1354.1 1314 596 555 148 350 767 1.229
SFG (3 yrs) 22 30 .423 3.56 74 73 1 10 3 0 435.0 450 196 172 22 142 217 1.361
PIT (3 yrs) 8 9 .471 3.73 67 9 19 0 0 5 147.1 130 73 61 11 82 105 1.439
NYY (2 yrs) 15 10 .600 5.38 44 34 6 2 2 0 195.2 255 137 117 24 66 116 1.641
CLE (1 yr) 4 2 .667 3.26 40 9 18 1 1 2 107.2 91 43 39 6 58 61 1.384
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/19/2013.

May 18th – Happy Birthday Arndt Jorgens

Arndt Jorgens probably holds the record for most retired Yankee uniform numbers worn by a Yankee. During his 11-year career with the Bronx Bombers, the native Norwegian at one time or another wore the numbers 15, 32, 10 and 9. None of those uniforms got too dirty however, because as the back-up catcher to Hall-of-Fame iron-man Bill Dickey, Jorgens played in just 307 games during his Yankee career. In fact, though Jorgen’s Yankee teams played in five World Series and he was kept on the postseason roster for each of them, he did not make a single appearance in any of the 23 games New York played in those Fall Classics.

Better known as “Arnie” to his teammates, the most games Jorgens ever played in a single season was in 1934, when an angry Dickey broke the jaw of an opposing baserunner who had collided with him in a play at the plate. Dickey was suspended and back then, the suspensions of players who intentionally injured opposing players generally lasted for as long as it took the injured player to recover and return to action. Dickey’s fist gave Jorgens the opportunity to appear in 58 games that year and he set career highs with 183 at bats, 14 runs scored, 38 hits and 20 RBIs. Like many Yankee backups before and after him, if he played elsewhere he would have played more but those regular World Series checks he cashed made him more than happy to spend most of his time in pinstripes either riding the pine in the Yankee dugout or catching relievers who needed to warm up in the Yankee bullpen.

Jorgens broke into the big leagues as a Yankee in 1929 and he retired as one in 1939. He was born in Modum, Norway in 1905 and moved to Chicago as a child. He had a brother named Orville, who made it to the big leagues as a pitcher with the Phillies. Jorgens passed away in 1980. Jorgens’ misfortune of not getting to play in so many World Series should have earned him the nickname “Misses October.” He happens to share his May 18th birthday with the former Yankee known as “Mr October.”

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1929 NYY 18 41 34 6 11 3 0 0 4 0 6 7 .324 .425 .412 .837
1930 NYY 16 35 30 7 11 3 0 0 1 0 2 4 .367 .406 .467 .873
1931 NYY 46 112 100 12 27 1 2 0 14 0 9 3 .270 .330 .320 .650
1932 NYY 56 166 151 13 33 7 1 2 19 0 14 11 .219 .285 .318 .603
1933 NYY 21 62 50 9 11 3 0 2 13 1 12 3 .220 .371 .400 .771
1934 NYY 58 207 183 14 38 6 1 0 20 2 23 24 .208 .296 .251 .547
1935 NYY 36 98 84 6 20 2 0 0 8 0 12 10 .238 .333 .262 .595
1936 NYY 31 69 66 5 18 3 1 0 5 0 2 3 .273 .294 .348 .643
1937 NYY 13 25 23 3 3 1 0 0 3 0 2 5 .130 .200 .174 .374
1938 NYY 9 21 17 3 4 2 0 0 2 0 3 3 .235 .350 .353 .703
1939 NYY 3 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
11 Yrs 307 836 738 79 176 31 5 4 89 3 85 73 .238 .317 .310 .627
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/18/2013.

May 17 – Happy Birthday Pascual Perez

You want to know why I was sort of excited when the Yankees signed Pascual Perez to a three year, $5.7 million contract after the 1989 season? I’ll give you five reasons; Andy Hawkins, Dave Lapoint, Chuck Cadaret, Clay Parker and Walt Terrell. They were the Yankee starting rotation during the ’89 regular season and they were also cumulatively, a key reason why that New York team finished in fifth place in the AL East, thirteen games below .500. Perez had been a decent pitcher for the Braves and Expos and based on the ages and pedigrees of the Yankee starters he’d be joining in 1990, Pascual had the opportunity of becoming ace of the staff. That didn’t happen.

The Yankees’ new right hander had started just three games for New York at the beginning of the 1990 season when he hurt his throwing shoulder. He did not pitch again that season and the Yankees finished dead last in the AL East. It was again hoped that a healthy Perez would help rejuvenate the Yankee rotation in 1991 but it was not to be. Injuries sidelined him all of April, half of May, all of June and July and the first part of August. He was able to start fourteen games when he wasn’t on the DL but his 2-4 record was a bitter disappointment for Yankee fans.

With one more year left on his contract, there was hope Perez would be pitching the 1992 season with extra motivation. Instead, this guy violated the Major League drug policy which got him suspended for a full year. He never again pitched in a big league game.

Pascual was one of two brothers to pitch for the Yankees (Melido was the other.) He was one of three Perez brothers to play in the Majors and one of seven siblings to play minor league ball. His trademarks were sprinting to the mound from the dugout and his long curly unkempt hair style. Another former Yankee who had a brother playing in the big leagues shares Pascual’s May 17th birthday, as does this former Yankee co-owner.

UPDATE: Pascual Perez was murdered on October 31, 2012, during a home invasion at his residence on the outskirts of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. He was 55 years-old.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1990 NYY 1 2 .333 1.29 3 3 0 0 0 0 14.0 8 3 2 0 3 12 0.786
1991 NYY 2 4 .333 3.18 14 14 0 0 0 0 73.2 68 26 26 7 24 41 1.249
11 Yrs 67 68 .496 3.44 207 193 6 21 4 0 1244.1 1167 541 475 107 344 822 1.214
ATL (4 yrs) 34 33 .507 3.92 101 96 2 11 2 0 601.2 621 291 262 60 176 375 1.325
MON (3 yrs) 28 21 .571 2.80 70 65 3 8 2 0 456.2 363 165 142 35 105 341 1.025
PIT (2 yrs) 2 8 .200 3.94 19 15 1 2 0 0 98.1 107 56 43 5 36 53 1.454
NYY (2 yrs) 3 6 .333 2.87 17 17 0 0 0 0 87.2 76 29 28 7 27 53 1.175
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/17/2013.

May 16 – Happy Birthday Rick Reuschel

Rick Reuschel had been the ace of the Chicago Cubs pitching staff for almost a decade when the Yankees acquired him in for a pretty decent reliever named Doug Bird on June 12, 1981. What was especially weird about the deal was the timing. The Yankees’ 1981 season had been halted after the team’s game on June 11th due to a player strike. Although the season would resume a couple of months later, at the time the Reuschel deal was made, few expected Major League Baseball to be played again that year.

Although Reuschel had had several very good seasons with the Cubs, his pre-strike performance during the ’81 season had not been good. When the work stoppage occurred, the record of the right-hander known as “Dig Daddy” was just 4-7. Still, he had won 125 games for Chicago during his first nine seasons with the team and to be able to get him for Bird seemed at the time to be a steal for New York. That’s not how it turned out, unfortunately.

Reuschel did get to pitch in pinstripes the year of the trade, when play resumed in August of ’81. He went 4-4 with a very good ERA of 2.67. He then appeared in three more games during the Yankees 1981 postseason, which included a decently pitched loss against the Brewers in the ALDS and two less than impressive appearances against the Dodgers in that year’s World Series. Yankee fans never again got to see him pitch in a Yankee uniform.

When pitchers reported to the Yankees’ 1982 spring training camp, Reuschel was not one of them. The Yankee front office had discovered that the pitcher’s contract with the Cubs had a deferred payment clause that stretched payments to Reuschel all the way out to the year 2020. Citing the Yankee team owners’ partnership agreement expiration date of 2002, lawyers for the club claimed the organization could not agree to make those payments and needed to restructure the deal. Reuschel protested by not showing up to spring training and eventually the matter was worked out with a two-year contract extension at $280,000 per year. It was the worst $560,000 investment the team ever made.

That’s because when Reuschel did finally show up at spring training, he tore or had already torn his rotator cuff. The injury and the surgery to repair it, kept him from pitching the entire 1982 season and limited his performance in 1983 to just 16 innings of pitching with New York’s Columbus Clippers farm team. The Yankees released him in June of 1984. He worked his way back into shape and once again became a very good big league starter with both the Pirates and Giants.

Reuschel shares his May 16th birthday with this former Yankee manager, this former Yankee reliever and a pitcher who’s own name and career are very often confused with Reuschel’s.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1981 NYY 4 4 .500 2.67 12 11 1 3 0 0 70.2 75 24 21 4 10 22 1.203
19 Yrs 214 191 .528 3.37 557 529 16 102 26 5 3548.1 3588 1494 1330 221 935 2015 1.275
CHC (12 yrs) 135 127 .515 3.50 358 343 9 65 17 3 2290.0 2365 1007 891 140 640 1367 1.312
SFG (5 yrs) 44 30 .595 3.29 96 90 2 12 3 1 601.0 600 236 220 38 141 283 1.233
PIT (3 yrs) 31 30 .508 3.04 91 85 4 22 6 1 586.2 548 227 198 39 144 343 1.180
NYY (1 yr) 4 4 .500 2.67 12 11 1 3 0 0 70.2 75 24 21 4 10 22 1.203
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/15/2013.

May 15 – Happy Birthday C. B. Burns

I had always thought that May 15th was one of the few calendar dates on which no member of the all-time Yankee family was born. Then on May 14, 2012, I was poking around the fantastic Baseball-Reference Web site, I came across a guy by the name of Charles Brittingham Burns. In 1902, the legendary skipper John McGraw, who had not yet become legendary, was managing  the Baltimore Orioles, who had not yet been relocated to New York City, where the team was renamed first the Highlanders and then the Yankees. For some reason, in some game, McGraw looked down his Orioles’ bench and pointed at Mr. Burns and told him to grab a bat because he was going to hit. The 23-year-old native of Bayview, MD, who was supposedly known as “C.B.” to his teammates went to the plate for the first time in his big league career and hit a single.

That would turn out to be the one and only time McGraw or evidently any other manager asked C.B. to take an at bat in a baseball game, which means he ended his big league career with a perfect 1.000 batting average. Since then, he has been joined by four other players who batted a perfect 1.000 during their Yankee careers. They are; Heinie Odom (1925) Mickey Witek (1949) Larry Gowell (1972) and the most recent, Chris Latham (2003). Gowell is the only pitcher to do it and Latham is the only one of the five to do it with more than one official at bat. He went 2-2 during his very brief Yankee career. Burns is one of 302 Maryland natives to play in the big leagues. My all-time top five Maryland-born Yankees would be: Babe Ruth – Baltimore; Frank “Home Run” Baker – Trappe; Mark Teixeira – Annapolis; Charlie Keller – Middletown; and Tommy Byrne – Baltimore.

Joining Burns as a May 15th-born member of the Yankees’ all-time roster on his 26th birthday is this Yankee infielder.

May 14 – Happy Birthday Dick Tidrow

It sort of gets lost in Yankee history, but the April 1974 trade that put Chris Chambliss in pinstripes was one of the best deals a George Steinbrenner-run front-office ever made. Not only did the Yankees obtain the clutch-hitting first baseman in the seven player transaction with the Cleveland Indians, they also got a pitcher named Dick “Dirt” Tidrow. Tidrow was a big, mean-looking right-handed native of San Francisco, who had managed to win 40 games during his first three seasons in the big leagues, pitching for some very mediocre Cleveland teams.

He made an immediate contribution to the Bill Virdon-managed Yankee team of 1974 by going 11-9 as a starter and helping New York finish a surprising second in that year’s AL East Division race. During the next three seasons he evolved into one of the most versatile hurlers in New York’s arsenal, pitching mostly in relief but also starting when necessary. The Yankees would not have won the 1977 East Division pennant without Tidrow. That season he finished with an 11-4 record, with five saves and a 3.16 ERA. The guy was fearless on the mound and he became one of Billy Martin’s favorite go-to choices in crunch time of close games.

In ’78, Tidrow was used mostly as a starter, when both Catfish Hunter and Don Gullett went on the DL. When he won just seven of his eighteen decisions it seemed he fell out of favor with the ungrateful Yankee brass. I remember screaming when they traded Tidrow to the Cubs for reliever Ray Burris. I was certain Tidrow was the much better pitcher of the two and he proved it by giving the Cubbies four solid seasons of versatile and effective mound work before getting traded to the cross-town White Sox and finally slowing down in 1983 at the age of 36. He retired the following year. with 100 career victories (and 94 losses) plus 55 saves.

Tidrow shares his May 14th birthday with this Hall-of-Fame Yankee center fielderthis pennant-winning manager and this other former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1974 NYY 11 9 .550 3.87 33 25 4 5 0 1 190.2 205 99 82 14 53 100 1.353
1975 NYY 6 3 .667 3.12 37 0 23 0 0 5 69.1 65 27 24 5 31 38 1.385
1976 NYY 4 5 .444 2.63 47 2 24 0 0 10 92.1 80 29 27 5 24 65 1.126
1977 NYY 11 4 .733 3.16 49 7 26 0 0 5 151.0 143 57 53 20 41 83 1.219
1978 NYY 7 11 .389 3.84 31 25 1 4 0 0 185.1 191 87 79 13 53 73 1.317
1979 NYY 2 1 .667 7.94 14 0 10 0 0 2 22.2 38 20 20 5 4 7 1.853
13 Yrs 100 94 .515 3.68 620 138 244 32 5 55 1746.2 1705 807 715 163 579 975 1.308
NYY (6 yrs) 41 33 .554 3.61 211 59 88 9 0 23 711.1 722 319 285 62 206 366 1.305
CHC (4 yrs) 28 23 .549 3.36 263 0 120 0 0 25 397.0 362 169 148 27 154 266 1.300
CLE (3 yrs) 29 34 .460 3.78 85 78 4 23 5 0 531.0 510 250 223 56 178 269 1.296
NYM (1 yr) 0 0 9.19 11 0 5 0 0 0 15.2 25 19 16 5 7 8 2.043
CHW (1 yr) 2 4 .333 4.22 50 1 27 0 0 7 91.2 86 50 43 13 34 66 1.309
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/13/2013.

May 13 – Happy Birthday D. J. Mitchell

Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances may be considered the two top pitching prospects in the Yankee organization, but if you go by Minor League player metrics, D.J. Mitchell’s numbers stack up more than favorably with those of both “killer B’s”. As of 05-13-12, Banuelos has a minor league record of 19-19 with a 3.08 ERA, 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched (SO/9) and a walks plus hits per inning allowed average (WHIP) of 1.302. Betances is 26-25 with a 3.62 ERA, an SO/9 of 10.1 and a WHIP of 1.309. Mitchell is 40-21 with a 3.29 ERA, a WHIP of 1.301 and a SO/9 of 8.1.

Mitchell turns 25 years old today, a year older than Betances and four years older than Banuelos. His real name is William Douglas Mitchell and he was born in Winston-Salem, NC. He attended Clemson University and was a tenth round Yankee selection in the 2008 amateur draft. He began his college and amateur career as a full-time outfielder and part-time pitcher.

While the press focused all their attention on the two “B’s,” when pitchers reported to the 2012 Yankee spring training camp, it was Mitchell and Dave Phelps who pitched the best of all the young pinstriped prospects in March. The two battled for the long reliever slot on the big league roster. Joe Girardi indicated selecting one over the other was one of his toughest decisions and he ended up taking Phelps north with the team and sending Mitchell back to triple A. Then at the end of the first month of the 2012 regular season, Girardi demoted the struggling Freddie Garcia to the bullpen, inserted Phelps in the starting rotation and called up Mitchell too. D.J. made his Major League debut on May 1 against the Orioles. Girardi brought him in to pitch the top of the ninth inning with Baltimore ahead 7-1. I watched on TV as Mitchell proceeded to strike out the first big league hitter he ever faced, Orioles’ shortstop  J.J. Hardy, on three straight pitches. He subsequently survived two singles and posted a scoreless inning.

Two days later, Girardi replaced Clay Rapada with Mitchell in the fifth inning of a game in Kansas City with a man on first, one out and the Yankees losing 2-1. He gave up two-hits and allowed two runs to score before that inning was over but came back to pitch a perfect sixth inning. Mitchell was then sent back down to make room for outfielder DeWayne Wise.

UPDATE: D. J. Mitchell was sent to Seattle in July of 2012 as part of the Ichiro Suzuki trade but is now pitching in the farm system of the New York Mets.

Mitchell shares his May 13th birthday with another Yankee pitching prospect from over a quarter century ago.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2012 NYY 0 0 3.86 4 0 3 0 0 0 4.2 7 2 2 1 3 2 2.143
1 Yr 0 0 3.86 4 0 3 0 0 0 4.2 7 2 2 1 3 2 2.143
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/13/2013.

May 12 – Happy Birthday Hank Bowery

Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant is Hank Borowy, who was generally considered the ace of the Yankee pitching staff during the WWII years and one of the best wartime pitchers in baseball. The right-hander was born in Bloomfield, NJ on May 12, 1916. He went to Fordham University in the Bronx, where he pitched for the Rams’ varsity baseball team for three seasons, and compiled a 33-1 record. Since Fordham is located in the Bronx, Borowy’s collegiate pitching brilliance did not escape the attention of Yankee super scout, Paul Krichell.

Krichell had signed some of the greatest Yankee stars of all time but none were tougher negotiators than Borowy. First of all, Krichell had to fend off rival scouts from the Red Sox, Giants, Dodgers and Cubs. He accomplished that with an $8,000 bonus offer. Then Borowy flinched during his initial read of his Yankee contract because it required him to begin his career in single A ball. He told Krichell he wanted to start pitching at the double A level instead and would not sign the document unless the Yankees agreed to that. The legendary scout verbally committed to making the change and then handed the about-to-be-newest member of the Yankee organization his own fountain pen. When Borowy put pen to paper, the writing utensil was out of ink. Krichell left for just a few moments to refill the pen and when he got back, Borowy told him he had reconsidered and was now demanding an additional $500 in his bonus money. The flustered Krichell reluctantly agreed and probably also never attended another player signing without first making sure his fountain pen was full of ink.

As Borowy had demanded, he was assigned to the Yanks double A franchise in Newark, NJ and got better in each of the three seasons he pitched there. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 and President Roosevelt decided that our national past time must continue despite the war,  the Yankees decided to bring Borowy to the big leagues and he put together one of the better rookie pitching performances in franchise history by going 15-4 with a 2.52 ERA and 4 complete game shutouts. It would be a mistake to assume that Borowy’s first-year brilliance was a direct result of the migration of the best players in baseball into military service. The full dilution of talent did not really take place until the ’43 season. Borowy spent his first year in the league playing against the premier pre-war lineups. He was indeed the real deal.

With the Yankees trailing the Cardinals 2 games to 1 in the 1942 World Series, New York Manager, Joe McCarthy gave his rookie the ball to start Game 4. Borowy was able to hold St. Louis scoreless for three innings but then got shelled in the fourth and the Yankees went on to lose that contest and the Fall Classic in five games.

By the 1943 regular season, baseball’s rosters were being thinned by the military and Borowy stats undoubtedly benefitted as a result. He won 14 games that year and 17 in 1944, kept his ERA below three and threw 6 more shutouts. He also got his first World Series victory and ring in the Yankees’ 1943 fall ball rematch against the Cardinals.

When the 1945 season began, the war was nearing completion and the Yankees had just been sold to a triumvirate of new owners, Del Webb, Dan Topping and Larry MacPhail. MacPhail was a certified baseball genius who had turned the moribund Brooklyn Dodgers into one of the National League’s best and most profitable franchises. But MacPhail was also a crude, hard-drinking bully, who was disliked throughout the game almost as much as he was admired. Yankee manager Joe McCarthy was one guy who hated MacPhail.

When the 1945 season began, Borowy continued to pitch well for New York, reaching ten victories by the end of July. Suddenly, MacPhail put Borowy’s name on the Waiver wire.  Placing a good player on waivers had become a common practice by Major League teams back then, as a way of testing the interests and weaknesses of their competitors. If an opposing team claimed a player it was an indication that they might be interested in trading for him and that player’s name could simply be withdrawn from waivers and bartering between the two teams could begin.

So when Borowy’s name showed up on the waiver wire in July of 1945, all the other AL teams figured it was just MacPhail gauging trade interest in his team’s best wartime pitcher. And don’t forget, this happened at a time when everyone knew the war was close to being over. Big league teams that may have needed pitching knew their best pitchers would be returning from military service soon, which further decreased their desire to play the waiver game with the cantankerous MacPhail. So not one AL team claimed Borowy and as a result, he cleared waivers, which meant MacPhail could now deal him to any NL team interested. The Cubs, who were fighting for that season’s NL Pennant were more than interested. They gave MacPhail close to $100 thousand for his star pitcher. Baseball owners howled in protest and McCarthy was livid. He had thought his Yankees could win the 1945 AL Pennant with Borowy and the fact that MacPhail would sell his best pitcher without even consulting his manager (though MacPhail insisted he had done so) would prove to be Marse Joe’s breaking point with MacPhail and the Yankee organization. MacPhail told the press he had traded Borowy because he was a terrible second half pitcher.

Borowy went to the Windy City and finished the season 11-2 as a Cub, making him a 20-game winner for the first and only time in his career. He would then appear in four games against the Tigers in the 1945 Fall Classic, going 2-2 in Chicago’s losing effort. Hank’s would continue pitching in the Majors until 1951 and he would also pitch for the Phillies, Pirates and Tigers. He finished his three-plus season Yankee career with an impressive 56-30 record and was 108-82 for his ten-year big league career. He passed away in 2004 in his native New Jersey.

This Hall-of-Fame Yankee catcher, this former Yankee Murderer’s Row third baseman and this famous baseball older brother were all also born on May 12th.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1942 NYY 15 4 .789 2.52 25 21 2 13 4 1 178.1 157 56 50 6 66 85 1.250
1943 NYY 14 9 .609 2.82 29 27 1 14 3 0 217.1 195 75 68 11 72 113 1.229
1944 NYY 17 12 .586 2.64 35 30 4 19 3 2 252.2 224 93 74 15 88 107 1.235
1945 NYY 10 5 .667 3.13 18 18 0 7 1 0 132.1 107 61 46 6 58 35 1.247
10 Yrs 108 82 .568 3.50 314 214 53 94 16 7 1717.0 1660 769 668 108 623 690 1.330
CHC (4 yrs) 36 34 .514 3.85 126 84 28 28 4 4 633.1 671 308 271 39 220 267 1.407
NYY (4 yrs) 56 30 .651 2.74 107 96 7 53 11 3 780.2 683 285 238 38 284 340 1.239
PHI (2 yrs) 12 12 .500 4.24 31 28 0 12 1 0 199.2 193 103 94 19 67 46 1.302
DET (2 yrs) 3 3 .500 5.42 39 3 14 1 0 0 78.0 81 54 47 6 43 28 1.590
PIT (1 yr) 1 3 .250 6.39 11 3 4 0 0 0 25.1 32 19 18 6 9 9 1.618
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/12/2013.

May 10 – Happy Birthday John Cumberland

In the late sixties it looked as if this southpaw would follow fellow Yankee pitching prospects Stan Bahnsen and Fritz Petersen to a slot in the Yankees improving starting rotation. Cumberland had won 10 games for the Yankee’s Syracuse triple A team in 1968 and then 12 more the following season. Six of those 22 wins had been complete game shutouts and the youngster was in the process of developing an outstanding change-up. But the native of Westbrook, Maine couldn’t match the success he had pitching in Syracuse when he got to the Bronx. After eighteen appearances in pinstripes between 1968 and 1970, during which he compiled a 3-4 record, Cumberland was traded to the Giants for former 20-game winner, Mike McCormick, in July of the 1970 season. He then went 9-6 as a starter for San Francisco in 1971 but fell apart the following season. Meanwhile, by the time the Yankees got McCormick, he had nothing left in his left arm. He would win his only two Yankee decisions after the trade, but his ERA pitching for his new team was north of six runs per game. He was released at the end of New York’s 1971 spring training season.

Cumberland hung on in the big leagues until 1972 and then returned to the minors and pitched a couple of more seasons before hanging his glove up for good. He eventually got into coaching. In 2001, Red Sox GM Dan Duquette fired Manager Jimy Williams during the second half of the season and replaced him with the team’s pitching coach, Jim Kerrigan. The new skipper then brought in Cumberland as his new pitching coach. A few weeks later, the Red Sox went on an eight-game losing streak with the last three “L’s” coming against the hated Yankees. Since Duquette couldn’t fire Kerrigan after just signing him to a two-year contract, he fired Cumberland instead.

Cumberland shares his May 10th birthday with this legendary Yankee front office executive.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1968 NYY 0 0 9.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 2.0 3 4 2 1 1 1 2.000
1969 NYY 0 0 4.50 2 0 1 0 0 0 4.0 3 2 2 0 4 0 1.750
1970 NYY 3 4 .429 3.94 15 8 5 1 0 0 64.0 62 31 28 9 15 38 1.203
6 Yrs 15 16 .484 3.82 110 36 29 6 2 2 334.1 312 161 142 46 103 137 1.241
SFG (3 yrs) 11 10 .524 3.46 61 27 10 5 2 2 221.0 197 98 85 28 66 79 1.190
NYY (3 yrs) 3 4 .429 4.11 18 8 7 1 0 0 70.0 68 37 32 10 20 39 1.257
STL (1 yr) 1 1 .500 6.65 14 1 3 0 0 0 21.2 23 17 16 6 7 7 1.385
CAL (1 yr) 0 1 .000 3.74 17 0 9 0 0 0 21.2 24 9 9 2 10 12 1.569
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.