June 11th, 2012

June 11 – Happy Birthday Roger Bresnahan

Ban Johnson, the first-ever American League President did not like John McGraw, who was then the manager of the new league’s Baltimore franchise. McGraw was famous for fighting with umpires and flouting the rules. The fact that the fiery skipper also had an ownership stake in the Orioles’ franchise meant that he was technically one of the AL chief executive’s  bosses, which also drove Johnson nuts. So during the 1902 season, Johnson put together a reason to put McGraw on indefinite suspension. Instead of fighting it or serving it out, McGraw jumped to the rival National League and accepted a managerial position with the New York Giants. When he did, he invited a core group of his favorite Orioles players to accompany him to his new team. That is why both McGraw and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant were already in the Big Apple when one season later, the Orioles’ franchise was also relocated there and became the Highlanders (and eventually the Yankees.) If Johnson and McGraw did not dislike each other so much both the manager and Roger Bresnahan would have become Highlanders instead of Giants and the Yankee franchise would surly have won its first Pennants and World Series much earlier in team history. Eventually, baseball’s most famous catcher during the first decade of the 20th century would one day join his buddy and skipper in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Bresnahan was a versatile athlete and a very interesting character. He was famous for his hair-trigger temper. Nobody got ejected from baseball games for fighting with umpires and opposing players more frequently than Bresnahan did and it was often necessary to call in the local police to escort the Toledo, Ohio native off the field. He was also not your prototypical catcher. He had outstanding speed, stealing 212 bases during his big league career. He was a second-string receiver for McGraw in Baltimore but when he joined the Giants they already had two catchers so Lil Napoleon started his buddy in center during his first full season in New York and he hit .350. Bresnahan had started his big league career as a pitcher and went 4-0 doing his 1897 rookie season with Washington. He actually played all nine positions during his career. This guy was also quite the innovator. It was Bresnahan who introduced shin guards to the catching position and he also wore baseball’s first-ever batting helmet.

Roger no doubt owed much of his big league success to Giant Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Matthewson. It was Matthewson who went to McGraw and told him he preferred to have Bresnahan catch his games. In 1905, the two would lead the Giants to their second straight NL Pennant and first ever World Series title. In that Fall Classic, Matthewson would throw three complete game shutouts with Bresnahan behind the plate in each of them. In addition, the Giants’ starting catcher also led New York with a .313 batting average during that Series.

Bresnahan would continue catching for the Giants until 1909, when he was offered the opportunity to become a player-manager for the Cardinals. Not wanting to stand in his friend’s way, McGraw let him go. Bresnahan would spend four years catching and managing for the Cardinals and later hold the same position with the Cubs.  He retired in 1915, after playing 15 Major League seasons and would one day buy a minor league franchise in Toledo. He was voted into Cooperstown by the Old Timer’s Committee in 1945, one year after he had died of a heart attack in Toledo, at the age of 65.

Bresnahan shares his June 11th birthday with this former Yankee co-owner.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1901 BLA 86 323 295 40 79 9 9 1 32 10 23 33 .268 .323 .369 .692
1902 BLA 65 262 235 30 64 8 6 4 34 12 21 16 .272 .337 .409 .746
17 Yrs 1446 5374 4481 682 1252 218 71 26 530 212 714 403 .279 .386 .377 .764
NYG (7 yrs) 751 3024 2499 438 731 135 35 15 291 118 410 234 .293 .403 .393 .795
STL (4 yrs) 289 992 803 92 221 43 14 4 106 32 160 64 .275 .401 .379 .779
CHC (4 yrs) 249 756 633 81 151 23 7 2 64 40 99 54 .239 .345 .306 .652
BLA (2 yrs) 151 585 530 70 143 17 15 5 66 22 44 49 .270 .329 .387 .716
WHS (1 yr) 6 17 16 1 6 0 0 0 3 0 1 2 .375 .412 .375 .787
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/11/2013.

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.

June 8 – Happy Birthday Del Paddock

Del Paddock is one of two not-well-known former Yankee franchise infielders to celebrate their birthday on June 8th. Paddock played 46 games for New York way back in the 1912 season, when they were still known as the Highlanders. He could hit decently, averaging .288 for New York that year, which was higher than any of the team’s starting position players could manage except for outfielder Birdie Cree. Paddock’s problem was fielding. He evidently had hands of stone, committing 14 errors in 41 games.

Evidently, Paddock’s poor fielding wasn’t the only problem with the 1912 Highlander team. That squad ended up with the worst regular season record in Yankee franchise history, going 50-102 and finishing dead last in the league.

Paddock was released by New York after that one season. He would spend the rest of his playing career in the minors and eventually fight in WW I. Paddock died in 1952, two years before this one-time Yankee infielder who shares Paddock’s birthday was born.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1912 NYY 46 185 156 26 45 5 3 1 14 9 23 21 .288 .393 .378 .772
1 Yr 47 186 157 26 45 5 3 1 14 9 23 22 .287 .391 .376 .767
NYY (1 yr) 46 185 156 26 45 5 3 1 14 9 23 21 .288 .393 .378 .772
CHW (1 yr) 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/8/2013.