May 2012

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 and also this current Yankee catching prospect.

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.