June 2012

June 30 – Happy Birthday Jerry Kenney

When WWII began, the Yankees were on top of the baseball world with a roster full of stars in the primes of their careers. After Pearl Harbor, when many of those stars volunteered or were required to change uniforms and serve their country, it helped even up the playing talent in Major League Baseball. As a result, the Yankees’ pennant chances immediately declined, and they could no longer be counted on to be the odds on favorite to make it to the World Series every year. When WWII ended and players like DiMaggio, Henrich, Rizzuto, Keller, and Chandler put back on the pinstripes, it wasn’t long before the Yankees were once again winning pennants and rings with regularity.

Yankee history however, certainly did not repeat itself when Vietnam became a full scale war in the mid sixties. First of all, the Yankee’s decline from the status of perennial contender had already occurred by 1965 and was caused not by a military draft but instead by advancing age, injuries and poor personnel decision-making. Guys like Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford and Ellie Howard were in no danger of being drafted but they were also beyond their playing peaks and could no longer carry the fight to the enemy in the Bronx much less in Khe Sanh or Que. Mandatory military service did however, disrupt the development of several of the crown jewels of the Yankee farm system.

I can remember very clearly the hype surrounding the simultaneous demilitarization of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant and Bobby Murcer and their mutual return to the Yankees’ 1969 spring training camp. Kenney had excited Yankee fans two seasons earlier, when he had hit .310 in a 20-game late-season call-up and homered in his very first big league at-bat.

After having a sub-five hundred record for three consecutive seasons from 1965 – ’67, and finishing in 6th, last and next-to-last place respectively, the 1968 Yankee team had climbed back into the first division with an 83-79 record. They had assembled a strong young rotation of starting pitchers and the hope was that with Kenney and Murcer back in the lineup, and divisional play commencing that season, the team’s aging offense would be rejuvenated and New York would once again be in the mix for postseason play. The Yankees’ 1969 Opening Day lineup featured Kenney starting in the outfield and Murcer starting at third. Both had two hits and New York beat the Senators 8-4 that day. Yankee fans couldn’t help thinking this young dynamic duo just might be the missing ingredient to the Bronx Bombers’ return to glory.

Murcer would end up having a decent season, hitting 26 home runs and leading the team with 82 RBIs. Kenney would not do nearly as well but did steal 25 bases and hit just enough (.257) to warrant another chance the following year. Defensively, neither player was showing Gold Glove potential at their original positions so Manager Ralph Houk switched them. In 1970, the Yankee fans were pleasantly surprised as the team won 93 games and finished a distant second to the mighty Orioles. Murcer again had a decent year at the plate as did another Yankee youngster, catcher Thurman Munson. Kenney, however, was horrible. He played in 140 games and hit just .193, which should tell you all you needed to know about the incredible thinness of that year’s Yankee roster. He would rebound to hit .262 in 1971 but finally lose his third base starting position to Celerino Sanchez.

By then, George Steinbrenner was in control of the franchise and his management team knew that the Yankees could not challenge the Orioles by starting punchless third basemen like Kenney and Sanchez. That’s why in November of 1972, the first-ever great Steinbrenner-era trade took place with the Yankees trading Kenney, Johnny Ellis, Charley Spikes and Rusty Torrez to the Indian’s for Cleveland’s slick-fielding Graig Nettles.

Kenney would appear in just five games for Cleveland during the 1973 season and never again participate in a big league ball game. He was born in St. Louis on June 30, 1945, six weeks before Japan surrendered, ending WWII. Other Yankees sharing Kenney’s birthday include this former Met herothe shortstop who lost his starting position to Derek Jeter and this one-time Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1967 NYY 20 74 58 4 18 2 0 1 5 2 10 8 .310 .412 .397 .808
1969 NYY 130 509 447 49 115 14 2 2 34 25 48 36 .257 .328 .311 .639
1970 NYY 140 461 404 46 78 10 7 4 35 20 52 44 .193 .284 .282 .566
1971 NYY 120 395 325 50 85 10 3 0 20 9 56 38 .262 .368 .311 .679
1972 NYY 50 136 119 16 25 2 0 0 7 3 16 13 .210 .304 .227 .531
6 Yrs 465 1594 1369 165 325 38 13 7 103 59 184 139 .237 .326 .299 .626
NYY (5 yrs) 460 1575 1353 165 321 38 12 7 101 59 182 139 .237 .326 .299 .625
CLE (1 yr) 5 19 16 0 4 0 1 0 2 0 2 0 .250 .316 .375 .691
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/30/2013.

June 28 – Happy Birthday Al Downing

I used to get mad at Al Downing every fall. As a nine and ten year-old kid who thought he knew everything about baseball, I blamed Downing for helping convert the Yankees from perennial World Series winners to World Series losers. After all, he lost his only start against the Dodgers in the 1963 4-game sweep disaster and then in 1964, Downing pitched in three of the four games the Yankees lost to the Cardinals that year.

Since then of course, I’ve matured a bit and fully realize that the Yankee’s sudden October misfortune was not Al’s fault. He was actually one of the better pitchers in the American League during the seven full seasons he pitched for New York. During his first five years in pinstripes he was a double digit winner and he led the AL in Ks with 217 during the 1964 season. He was 72-56 during that time and he threw a dozen shutouts. For comparison sake, Andy Pettitte has thrown three shutouts during his 13 plus seasons in pinstripes.

The Yankees traded Downing to the A’s after the 1969 season in return for Danny Cater. He ended up in Los Angeles, pitching for the Dodgers by 1971 and he had his first and only 20-game victory season that included five more shutouts. Downing’s last year with the Dodgers was also his final big league season and he finished his career with 123 victories and 24 shutouts. He will probably be most remembered for giving up Hank Aaron’s 715th home run. He also got a chance to pitch in another World Series game as a Dodger in 1974 against Oakland. Unfortunately, he lost that one too.

Downing was born on this date in 1941, in Trenton, NJ. He shares his June 28th birthday with this former Yankee DH, this one-time NY back-up first baseman and a former teammate and pitcher who was born on the same exact day as Downing.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1961 NYY 0 1 .000 8.00 5 1 3 0 0 0 9.0 7 8 8 0 12 12 2.111
1962 NYY 0 0 0.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0.000
1963 NYY 13 5 .722 2.56 24 22 2 10 4 0 175.2 114 52 50 7 80 171 1.104
1964 NYY 13 8 .619 3.47 37 35 2 11 1 2 244.0 201 104 94 18 120 217 1.316
1965 NYY 12 14 .462 3.40 35 32 2 8 2 0 212.0 185 92 80 16 105 179 1.368
1966 NYY 10 11 .476 3.56 30 30 0 1 0 0 200.0 178 90 79 23 79 152 1.285
1967 NYY 14 10 .583 2.63 31 28 2 10 4 0 201.2 158 65 59 13 61 171 1.086
1968 NYY 3 3 .500 3.52 15 12 1 1 0 0 61.1 54 24 24 7 20 40 1.207
1969 NYY 7 5 .583 3.38 30 15 5 5 1 0 130.2 117 57 49 12 49 85 1.270
17 Yrs 123 107 .535 3.22 405 317 37 73 24 3 2268.1 1946 938 811 177 933 1639 1.269
NYY (9 yrs) 72 57 .558 3.23 208 175 18 46 12 2 1235.1 1014 492 443 96 526 1028 1.247
LAD (7 yrs) 46 37 .554 3.16 170 120 18 25 12 1 897.2 814 380 315 68 326 532 1.270
OAK (1 yr) 3 3 .500 3.95 10 6 0 1 0 0 41.0 39 19 18 5 22 26 1.488
MIL (1 yr) 2 10 .167 3.34 17 16 1 1 0 0 94.1 79 47 35 8 59 53 1.463
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/28/2013.

June 26 – Happy Birthday Bill Robinson

The dismantling of the greatest Bronx Bomber lineup of my childhood, the offense that fueled the 1961 Yankees to 109 regular season wins, began in November of 1962 when Moose Skowron was traded to the Dodgers for pitcher Stan Williams. At least the Yankees had a decent prospect from their farm system, Joe Pepitone ready to take Skowron’s place. Yogi Berra was next to go when he switched roles from Yankee player to the team’s manager in 1964. Shortstop Tony Kubek’s sore back forced him into retirement after the 1965 season during which the Yankees fell from first to fifth in the AL final regular season standings. When the team fell all the way to last place the following year, all hell broke loose in the Yankee front office. Second baseman Bobby Richardson retired, Roger Maris was traded to the Cardinals for third baseman Charley Smith who would be needed to replace Clete Boyer who had just been traded for today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.

I remember hoping that Bill Robinson was everything the Yankee front office was promising he would be when they swung that Boyer deal with the Atlanta Braves. They were using superlatives like the “next Mickey Mantle” to describe this then 24-year-old native of McKeesport, PA. He was supposed to be one of those five-tool-players who couldn’t miss at the big league level and he was going to lead the Yankees back to the top of the AL standings.

Unfortunately for Robinson and the Yankees, the young outfielder was no match for the hype that had accompanied him to the Big Apple. He hit a putrid .196 during his first season in New York and Boyer rubbed salt in the wounds of Yankee management by having a career year during his first season in Atlanta. Robinson then improved his batting average to .240 in 1968 but his 6 home runs and 40 RBIs that year reminded nobody of Mantle. When his batting average again went south of the Mendoza line in 1969, a shell-shocked Yankee front-office optioned him to their Syracuse farm team before finally trading him to the White Sox for somebody named Barry Moore.

Eventually, Robinson did evolve into a solid big league outfielder first for the Phillies and then Pittsburgh. He had his best big league season in 1977, when he hit 26 home runs, drove in 104 and batted .304 for the Pirates. Robinson later told Baseball Digest that getting traded to the Yankees was the worst thing that ever happened to him. He said he tried too hard to live up to his press clippings and when he hit a home run during his second-ever at bat as a Yankee, he found himself actually trying to become the next Mantle. The turning point came after he was traded to Chicago. The White Sox wanted Robinson to spend a second consecutive season in the minors. He was ready to call it quits but the parent club’s front office convinced him to be patient instead. He decided then and there to quit trying to be anybody but Bill Robinson and to simply have fun playing the game. Too bad that epiphany didn’t come to him about five years earlier.

Robinson never became the Yankee legend we hoped he would but he does share his birthday with a guy who did. This former New York LOOGY was also born on June 26th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1967 NYY 116 381 342 31 67 6 1 7 29 2 28 56 .196 .259 .281 .539
1968 NYY 107 378 342 34 82 16 7 6 40 7 26 54 .240 .294 .380 .674
1969 NYY 87 239 222 23 38 11 2 3 21 3 16 39 .171 .226 .279 .505
16 Yrs 1472 4730 4364 536 1127 229 29 166 641 71 263 820 .258 .300 .438 .738
PIT (8 yrs) 805 2649 2451 328 677 135 15 109 412 46 136 469 .276 .313 .477 .790
PHI (5 yrs) 351 1072 996 119 260 61 3 41 136 13 57 201 .261 .300 .452 .752
NYY (3 yrs) 310 998 906 88 187 33 10 16 90 12 70 149 .206 .264 .318 .582
ATL (1 yr) 6 11 11 1 3 0 1 0 3 0 0 1 .273 .273 .455 .727
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/25/2013.

June 24 – Happy Birthday Rollie Hemsley

Of the eight Yankee catchers who have made the AL All Star team, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant is perhaps the least recognized. That’s because he was actually the team’s second string catcher the year he was honored and it happened during WWII when America’s focus was more on the battles going on in Europe and the Pacific and not on baseball. Rollie Hemsley may not have been very well known as a Yankee, but prior to him wearing the pinstripes, the Syracuse, Ohio native had caught in the big leagues for thirteen seasons for five different big league ball clubs and made four other AL All Star teams. His best years were spent as the starting catcher for the Browns from 1934 through 1937. He hit a career-high .309 for St. Louis during the 1934 season and was better than adequate defensively, behind the plate.

The Yankees signed him in July of 1942, after he had been released by Cincinnati. New York needed an extra catcher because their starter, Bill Dickey had been injured. Hemsley ended up hitting .294 in the 31 games he appeared in for New York that season which got him an invite back the following year when he became Dickey’s primary backup. By 1944 Dickey was in military service and Hemsley pretty much shared the Yankee catching position with Mike Garbark. Though he was already 37 years-old at the time, Rollie thrived with the added playing time, hitting a solid .268 and earning his fifth and final All Star game nod.

During the 1945 spring training season, rookie catcher Aaron Robinson impressed the Yankee brass enough to feel they could sell Hemsley to the Phillies. Rollie was 40-years-old when he played his last game in the majors in 1947. He later became a big league coach for many years. He ended up catching in 1,482 big league games. He shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher and this long-ago Yankee outfielder.

Here are the seven other Yankee catchers who have made the AL All Star team during their careers in pinstripes:

Bill Dickey (11 times)

Here are Hemsley’s Yankee and career playing stats.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1942 NYY 31 92 85 12 25 3 1 0 15 1 5 9 .294 .333 .353 .686
1943 NYY 62 199 180 12 43 6 3 2 24 0 13 9 .239 .290 .339 .629
1944 NYY 81 299 284 23 76 12 5 2 26 0 9 13 .268 .290 .366 .656
19 Yrs 1593 5511 5047 562 1321 257 72 31 555 29 357 395 .262 .311 .360 .671
G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
SLB (5 yrs) 515 1932 1741 184 475 101 20 8 182 11 155 149 .273 .334 .368 .701
PIT (4 yrs) 252 789 727 93 192 37 16 2 101 5 40 56 .264 .302 .367 .670
CLE (4 yrs) 390 1415 1302 160 344 58 17 10 130 6 89 84 .264 .311 .358 .669
NYY (3 yrs) 174 590 549 47 144 21 9 4 65 1 27 31 .262 .297 .355 .652
PHI (2 yrs) 51 155 142 7 32 4 1 0 12 0 9 10 .225 .272 .268 .539
CIN (2 yrs) 85 241 231 16 35 9 2 0 14 0 10 19 .152 .187 .208 .395
CHC (2 yrs) 126 389 355 55 99 27 7 7 51 6 27 46 .279 .330 .454 .783
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/24/2013.

June 23 – Happy Birthday Bam-Bam Meulens

Yankee fans remember the 1980’s as a bleak period in franchise history. The decade started out with such promise, when Dick Howser led the 1980 team to a 100-win season. That good Karma reversed itself quickly however, as “the Boss” fired Howser for failing to beat the Royals in the 1980 ALCS and the team’s signing of Dave Winfield did not result in another decade full of World Championship banners flying over the House that Ruth built.

Instead, the Yankee PR machine once again began to tout the team’s prospects down on the farm as the elixir the Yankees needed to get back on top again. As much as we fans wanted to believe there was a pinstriped fountain of youth flowing in towns like Columbus, Nashville and Albany, the most promising harvests of the Yankee farm system were either busts at the big league level or were quickly traded away for veterans who would then perform ineffectively once they reached the Bronx.

Two such prospects with outstanding and alliterative nicknames framed the 1980’s for New York. The first was Steve “Bye-Bye” Balboni who was supposed to become the best slugging Yankee first baseman since Lou Gehrig. Instead he became a strikeout magnet and was traded to the Royals in 1984. Then at the end of the 80’s came “Bam-Bam,” today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Hensley Meulens was a bonafide home run hitter, who would indeed hit over 330 home runs as a professional ball player. Unfortunately for Bam Bam and Yankee fans, he hit about 315 of them while playing in the minors, Japan, Korea and Mexico and just a dozen during the four seasons the Yankees bounced him back and forth between the Bronx and Columbus.

Meulens did make history when he made his big league debut for New York on August 23, 1989. On that day he became the first native of Curacao to play Major League baseball. By then, Steve Balboni had completed his long tenure with the Royals and Mariners and was also back in pinstripes. So for a time, the Yankees had both Bye-Bye and Bam-Bam on their roster but the duo didn’t help them win-win anything.

Muelens shares his June 23rd birthday with this former Yankee pitching prospect, this one-time Yankee starting catcher and this legendary Yankee GM.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1989 NYY 8 30 28 2 5 0 0 0 1 0 2 8 .179 .233 .179 .412
1990 NYY 23 95 83 12 20 7 0 3 10 1 9 25 .241 .337 .434 .771
1991 NYY 96 313 288 37 64 8 1 6 29 3 18 97 .222 .276 .319 .595
1992 NYY 2 6 5 1 3 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 .600 .667 1.200 1.867
1993 NYY 30 61 53 8 9 1 1 2 5 0 8 19 .170 .279 .340 .618
7 Yrs 182 549 496 67 109 17 2 15 53 4 42 165 .220 .288 .353 .641
NYY (5 yrs) 159 505 457 60 101 16 2 12 46 4 38 149 .221 .290 .344 .633
ARI (1 yr) 7 15 15 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 6 .067 .067 .267 .333
MON (1 yr) 16 29 24 6 7 1 0 2 6 0 4 10 .292 .379 .583 .963
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/22/2013.

June 19 – Happy Birthday Doug Mientkiewicz

When I was a kid, pick-up baseball games were commonplace. Back then, there seemed to be at least ten guys you could call at any time of day or night to meet up for a game. You’d decide where to play based on the total number of kids who showed up. Four man sides worked just fine in the old mill yard across from my Grandmother’s house. It was a small area, boxed in by buildings on both sides and a huge green fully enclosed metal walking ramp that led from the third floor of the mill to the street level in dead center. That ramp served as our version of the “Green Monster.” We also played in a Veterans’ park at the western most end of our city, where a huge memorial with a life-sized bronze soldier standing guard at the top, served as both our center field wall and permanent spectator. Second base at the park was a cast iron silver painted urn that caused lots of bleeding injuries to both aggressive base runners and inattentive fielders.

When we could get eighteen guys together, we’d head down to the huge grass field that sat alongside one of the locks on the Mohawk River. Even back in the early sixties, when neighborhood kids use to actually play with each other, getting eighteen kids together was not easy and usually required a mixing of ages. That’s why, whenever we’d play down by the river, there’d always be at least one “older” kid who was strong enough to drive a ball the three hundred or so feet that separated home plate from the then-pretty-polluted Mohawk. Every official home run down by the river was a “Walk-off” home run because it meant the ball needed to play the game was gone for good and everyone had to go home.

It was always a lack of a simple ball that disrupted many of those glorious contests during my childhood. After all, most kids brought their own gloves to these games and at least a couple of the guys would bring bats. Gloves and bats weren’t perishable but those damn balls seemed to disappear in a hurry. That’s why, the most serious offense any kid could commit was taking the game ball home with him before that game was actually over. We used to let guys from our neighborhood who didn’t know a baseball bat from an umbrella play in those games simply because they owned a new baseball. Of course, the older guys who ran the games then pulled every trick in the book to prevent the talentless ball-owners from coming to bat or making a play in the field during the contest.

One of their favorite techniques was  “No Ralph you’re not up this time around, Joey is going to pinch hit for you.” In those long ago games in the Veterans’ park, I can remember kids being told to go play the field behind the huge memorial, where they would stare up at the butt of the huge bronze soldier waiting for a ball to fly over the huge granite edifice so they could retrieve it. Eventually, some of these persecuted ball-suppliers would get wise to the exploitation being put upon them and would grab their ball and go home. This of course was considered a mortal sin in our neighborhood, punishable by banishment from all future neighborhood sporting activities, sometimes for life, or at the very least until you showed up at one of these future events with the only ball again.

The above memories were the first things that flashed through my mind when I heard that today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant grabbed the game ball after the last out of the final game of the 2004 World Series and brought it home with him. Doug Mientkiewicz had replaced David Ortiz at first base for the Boston Red Sox earlier in that game which is why he caught pitcher, Keith Foulke’s throw to first to end that contest and complete Boston’s four-game sweep of the Cardinals in that Fall Classic. He then just kept the ball and took it home with him. When someone from the Red Sox eventually asked for it, Mientkiewicz refused to hand it over, explaining he could sell it for enough money to cover his own kid’s college costs. Needless to say, that line did not go over to well with Red Sox Nation. He eventually agreed to loan the ball to the Red Sox.

Unfortunately for Mientkiewicz, keeping that ball will be what he’s remembered for most. Even though he was one of baseball’s best defensive first baseman during his 12-years in the big leagues and a Gold Glove winner, it will be the baseball he wouldn’t give back that defines him.

Three years after the incident, the Yankees signed the player nicknamed “Eye Chart” to play first base so that Jason Giambi’s porous glove could be removed from the lineup. He got into 72 games that year and hit a respectable .277. A broken wrist he suffered when Mike Lowell collided with him at first base disrupted his season and then he went hitless for New York during the 2007 postseason. The Yankees let him go and he signed with the Pirates the following year.

Mientkiewicz was a high school teammate of A-Rod’s in Florida when their team won that state’s baseball championship. He also won a Gold Medal as part of the US baseball team that beat Cuba in the 2000 Olympics. His last big league game was in a Dodger uniform in 2009. He retired with a .271 career average, 899 hits and that damn baseball. He also happens to share his birthday with another Yankee first baseman who I’m sure was the source of plenty of lost baseballs when he was a kid.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2007 NYY 72 192 166 26 46 12 0 5 24 0 16 23 .277 .349 .440 .789
12 Yrs 1087 3844 3312 422 899 221 11 66 405 14 438 472 .271 .360 .405 .765
MIN (7 yrs) 643 2505 2147 273 590 146 6 43 266 11 300 308 .275 .367 .408 .776
KCR (1 yr) 91 361 314 37 89 24 2 4 43 3 35 50 .283 .359 .411 .770
NYM (1 yr) 87 313 275 36 66 13 0 11 29 0 32 39 .240 .322 .407 .729
PIT (1 yr) 125 334 285 37 79 19 2 2 30 0 44 28 .277 .374 .379 .753
BOS (1 yr) 49 119 107 13 23 6 1 1 10 0 10 18 .215 .286 .318 .603
LAD (1 yr) 20 20 18 0 6 1 0 0 3 0 1 6 .333 .400 .389 .789
NYY (1 yr) 72 192 166 26 46 12 0 5 24 0 16 23 .277 .349 .440 .789
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/19/2013.

June 16 – Happy Birthday Kerry Wood

It did not take long after the Yankees picked up Kerry Wood from the Indians in July of 2010 for me to become a fan of the 1998 NL Rookie of the Year. The big right-hander pitched lights out baseball during the final two months of that season, permitting just two earned runs in the 26 innings he pitched wearing pinstripes. His stuff was electric during that spell and the only weakness he exhibited during his short stay in New York was a tendency to encounter streaks of wildness. I was really hoping the Yankees would sign him to a new contract. He was coming off a huge $20 million two year deal he had signed with the Indians so I could understand the Yankees reluctance to get into a bidding war for a 13-year veteran with a history of DL stays. That’s why I was shocked when Wood signed with the Cubs for just $1.5 million that December and even more shocked when New York then paid Rafael Soriano $35 million over three years to basically replace Wood as the Yankee’s eighth inning bridge to Mo Rivera. According to press reports I read at the time, Wood made the decision to return to the Windy City and the big league team he started with after attending the funeral of Cub great, Ron Santo. He is revered in Chicago and he keeps his family home there. Wood pitched well for a very bad Cubs’ team last season, but recurring blistering problems on his pitching hand prevented him from displaying the type of dominance he had shown in pinstripes. He tried to play again this season but after nine appearances he told the Cubs front office he was through. He then made one final ceremonial appearance against the cross town White Sox a few days later and ended his big league career by striking out Dayan Viciedo on three straight pitches.

Wood was born on July 16, 1977 in Irving, TX. This other former Yankee reliever and this former Yankee right fielder were also born on today’s date .

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2010 NYY 2 0 1.000 0.69 24 0 1 0 0 0 26.0 14 2 2 1 18 31 1.231
14 Yrs 86 75 .534 3.67 446 178 138 11 5 63 1380.0 1083 599 563 148 666 1582 1.267
CHC (12 yrs) 80 68 .541 3.67 341 178 69 11 5 35 1279.0 1000 556 521 137 609 1470 1.258
CLE (2 yrs) 4 7 .364 4.80 81 0 68 0 0 28 75.0 69 41 40 10 39 81 1.440
NYY (1 yr) 2 0 1.000 0.69 24 0 1 0 0 0 26.0 14 2 2 1 18 31 1.231
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/16/2013.

June 15 – Happy Birthday Eduardo Nunez

Joe Girardi has been one of Eduardo Nunez’s biggest fans and boosters since the young Dominican infielder made his big league and Yankee debut in August of 2010. Several of the team’s talent developers have also predicted that Nunez would one day succeed his boyhood idol, Derek Jeter as Yankee shortstop. Members of the Yankee front-office have been quoted as labeling this kid as untouchable. I’m not that optimistic about this guy.

Don’t get me wrong, he has potential. I just have not seen strong enough evidence that he’s anywhere near ready to take over Jeter’s position anytime soon. He was a valuable utility infielder for Girardi in 2011, appearing in 112 games that season and averaging .265 as a fill-in for Jeter and A-Rod who both were forced into long absences with injuries. But his defensive lapses at both short and third were often glaring and far too frequent for a big league infielder.

It was those same defensive shortcomings in several early-season  games this season that finally forced Girardi to OK Nunez’s return to Triple A. I do think he has the offensive skills necessary to play regularly at the big league level but he lacks the power necessary to hold down the Yankees’ DH spot. Making Nunez’s return to the Bronx even more difficult is the fact that he can’t focus his time in the minors mastering one infield spot. With A-Rod, Jeter and Robbie Cano pretty firmly ensconced at their respective positions for the next few years, Nunez must learn to play all three adequately.

Nunez shares his june 15th birthday with this Hall-of-Fame third baseman,  one of the members of the famous Yankee core four and this former Yankee first baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2010 NYY 30 53 50 12 14 1 0 1 7 5 3 2 .280 .321 .360 .681
2011 NYY 112 338 309 38 82 18 2 5 30 22 22 37 .265 .313 .385 .698
2012 NYY 38 100 89 14 26 4 1 1 11 11 6 12 .292 .330 .393 .723
2013 NYY 27 95 80 9 16 4 1 0 4 2 8 16 .200 .290 .275 .565
4 Yrs 207 586 528 73 138 27 4 7 52 40 39 67 .261 .313 .367 .681
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/15/2013.

June 10 – Happy Birthday Brad Gulden

During the 1979 spring training season, Thurman Munson had nicknamed the then 22-year-old Brad Gulden the “Little Midget” and told the youngster he would one day replace Munson as the Yankees’ starting catcher. I’m sure neither player was thinking that prophecy would be realized just six months later.

The Yankees had acquired Gulden in a trade with the Dodgers in February of 1979. When he was later interviewed for Marty Appel’s book “Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain,” Gulden recalled how Munson befriended and encouraged him that spring and how the two would sit and talk about baseball and flying. According to Gulden, Munson spent much more time with him than a veteran should with a rookie and Gulden loved him for it.

Gulden’s Yankee debut took place the day after Munson was killed, when he replaced Jerry Narron behind the plate in the ninth inning of that evening’s game against Baltimore. Yankee skipper, Billy Martin then gave Gulden an opportunity to take over Munson’s spot by regularly starting him behind the plate for much of the rest of that season. But Gulden hit just .163 in those 40 games and the Yankees instead traded for Rick Cerone during the 1979 off-season.

Gulden did become part of Yankee trivia history in 1980. That November, the Yankees traded him to Seattle for infielder Larry Milbourne and a player to be named later. The following May, the Mariners completed the traded by sending Gulden back to the Yankees as the “player to be named later” part of the trade. This makes Gulden the only Yankee ever traded for himself.

Gulden shares his June 10th birthday with this popular Yankee game announcer and this long-ago Yankee pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1979 NYY 40 105 92 10 15 4 0 0 6 0 9 16 .163 .238 .207 .444
1980 NYY 2 3 3 1 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 .333 .333 1.333 1.667
7 Yrs 182 491 435 45 87 14 2 5 43 2 45 61 .200 .277 .276 .553
NYY (2 yrs) 42 108 95 11 16 4 0 1 8 0 9 16 .168 .240 .242 .482
SFG (1 yr) 17 24 22 2 2 0 0 0 1 0 2 5 .091 .167 .091 .258
LAD (1 yr) 3 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000
CIN (1 yr) 107 332 292 31 66 8 2 4 33 2 33 35 .226 .307 .308 .615
MON (1 yr) 5 7 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .143 .000 .143
SEA (1 yr) 8 16 16 0 3 2 0 0 1 0 0 2 .188 .188 .313 .500
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/9/2013.

June 9 – Happy Birthday Randy Winn

The only thing I liked when I heard that Brian Cashman had signed today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant as a free agent before the 2010 season, was his last name. I was hoping Randy Winn could somehow help the Yankees win in 2010, but I was not optimistic.

Winn’s signing was a big part of Cashman’s effort to reduce the Yankees’ payroll. After winning the 2009 World Series the team let both Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon walk away as free agents. Evidently, Cashman did not wish to “embarrass” either veteran with low-ball offers to remain in pinstripes so instead, he gave Winn, who was a 36-year-old, twelve-year veteran at the time, 1.1 million Yankee dollars to compete for one of New York’s starting outfield positions.

Remember, in addition to losing Matsui and Damon, Cashman had also traded the Yankees other 2009 starting outfielder, Melky Cabrera to the Braves for Javier Vazquez Part II. The 2010 opening day outfield for New York was Curtis Granderson in center, Nick Swisher in right and Brett Gardner in left. Winn was expected to challenge either Swisher or Gardner for playing time.

The switch-hitting Winn was not up to that challenge. He ended up playing in just 29 games in pinstripes and batting just .213. The Yankees released him at the end of May and he finished out the 2010 season with St. Louis. He has been out of the big leagues since then. Though he did not work out as a Yankee, Winn did put together a solid career, averaging .284 lifetime with 1,759 hits and 215 stolen bases. He is an LA native and shares his June 9th birthday with this former Yankee manager and this former Yankee GM.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2010 NYY 29 71 61 7 13 0 1 1 8 1 8 15 .213 .300 .295 .595
13 Yrs 1717 6878 6186 863 1759 367 59 110 662 215 526 1010 .284 .343 .416 .759
TBD (5 yrs) 519 2047 1836 264 513 94 28 24 182 80 165 347 .279 .342 .400 .743
SFG (5 yrs) 666 2799 2533 343 735 169 18 51 262 73 209 367 .290 .345 .432 .776
SEA (3 yrs) 416 1799 1612 233 462 96 11 31 193 56 131 259 .287 .345 .417 .762
STL (1 yr) 87 162 144 16 36 8 1 3 17 5 13 22 .250 .311 .382 .693
NYY (1 yr) 29 71 61 7 13 0 1 1 8 1 8 15 .213 .300 .295 .595
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/9/2013.