Vic Mata got his opportunity to play in the Bronx in 1984 mostly because George Steinbrenner was growing frustrated playing and paying high-priced veterans to miss the playoffs. In 1983, the Yankees had won 91 games but finished third in the AL East. That was the second consecutive season New York had failed to qualify for Fall Ball and that was the first time that had happened to a Yankee team since 1975. So “The Boss” let it be known he wanted to start testing the fruit from the Yankee farm system, hoping young guys like Don Mattingly, Mike Pagliarullo, Bobby Meacham and Vic Mata could show the old guys how to win with hunger and hustle. The Yankees were a game under .500 in July when Mata got his first start. Yogi Berra played the Dominican Republic native quite a bit in center field for the balance of that year and both Vic and the Yankees responded. Mata got real hot at the plate in August and helped the Yankees go 40-27 the rest of the way. But that proved to be the best and longest stretch of big league baseball Mata would ever play. That December, the short-memoried Steinbrenner went out and got the A’s Ricky Henderson to play center field for the Yankees. Then when the Yankees got off to a slow start in ’85 “The Boss” canned Berra and replaced him with good old Billy Martin. Berra liked Mata and Martin loved Henderson. Mata ended up playing just six more regular-season games in pinstripes.
After spending the final couple of seasons of his playing career in the minors, Mata eventually got into scouting. It has been in that capacity that this he has made his most significant contribution to the Yankees. Vic is the guy who signed Robinson Cano. He is also the only Yankee past or present who was born on June 17th. Happy Fathers’ Day to all you Dads out there.
Mata shares his birthday with this former front office Yankee executive.
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.
|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|
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.
The only Yankee player in history to be born on June 13th was a journeyman pitcher named Darrell May. The Yankees picked May up from the Padres in July of 2005 in exchange for another reliever named Paul Quantrill. May had made his big league debut in 1995 for the Braves but by 1997, he had pitched his way back to the minor leagues. The Royals brought him back to the Majors in 2002 and he was a member of the Kansas City starting rotation for three seasons. His best year was 2003 when he went 10-8 for KC with a career low ERA of 3.77. The following year, May led the League in losses with 19 and he was traded to the Padres. He went 1-3 in San Diego before getting dealt for Quantrill and he made just two appearances in pinstripes, getting rocked each time and he lost his only decision as a Yankee. He pitched in the minors for one more year then hung his glove up for good.
May was born on this date in 1972, in San Bernardino, CA. The most famous ballplayer and only Hall of Famer ever born in that same city was the great big league pitcher and former Yankee manager, Bob Lemon. Darrell became the third player named “May” to play in pinstripes joining pitcher Rudy May and outfielder/DH Carlos May.
Over the years, several players have played for both the Yankees and Padres during their careers. Here’s my all-time best lineup of guys who played for both San Diego and New York. (*) Note that four members of this group are now in the Hall of Fame:
1B – Jack Clark
2B – Mark Bellhorn
3B – Graig Nettles
SS – Tony Fernandez
C – John Flaherty
OF – Dave Winfield*
OF – Ricky Henderson*
OF – Jerry Mumphrey
P – David Wells
P – Gaylord Perry*
CL – Goose Gossage*
Here’s Darrell May’s Yankee and career stats:
|KCR (3 yrs)||23||37||.383||4.81||96||84||4||7||3||0||527.1||575||311||282||97||158||330||1.390|
|ANA (2 yrs)||2||1||.667||5.47||34||2||9||0||0||0||54.1||59||34||33||7||27||43||1.583|
|PIT (1 yr)||0||1||.000||9.35||5||2||0||0||0||0||8.2||15||10||9||5||4||5||2.192|
|ATL (1 yr)||0||0||11.25||2||0||1||0||0||0||4.0||10||5||5||0||0||1||2.500|
|SDP (1 yr)||1||3||.250||5.61||22||8||9||0||0||0||59.1||73||38||37||10||20||32||1.567|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||1||.000||16.71||2||1||0||0||0||0||7.0||14||13||13||4||3||3||2.429|
The initial signing of this former Yomiuri Giant standout was a great move by the Yankee front office prior to the 2003 season. Only Ishiru Suzuki ranks in front of him in terms of on-the-field performance by a Japanese player in the Major Leagues. He knocked in over 100 runs in four of his first five seasons in Pinstripes and only a wrist injury prevented him from making it all five.
The second contract the Yankees gave Matsui (four years, $52 million) after the 2005 season, did not turn out as well for New York. The wrist mishap ended Hideki’s consecutive game streak of over 1,700 (started in Japan and continued during his first 518 games as a Yankee.) After the broken wrist, he missed close to forty percent of the Yankee’s regular-season games during the next three seasons with an assortment of ailments and injuries including two very painful knees.
Matsui then put together a memorable final year in pinstripes in 2009. During the regular season he blasted 28 home runs and drove in ninety. But he saved his very best effort for the 2009 World Series. He hit .615 in fourteen plate appearances against the Phillies with three home runs and 8 RBIs. I had the pleasure of seeing him hit one of those round-trippers live, at Game 2 at the Stadium. His Game 6 performance will remain one for the ages. Matsui drove in six of the seven Yankee runs with a homer, double and single and was named the Series MVP. Since he hit 332 home runs while playing in Japan, Matsui has now (as of today) hit 507 combined home runs during his career.
Matsui’s quiet brilliance during his seven seasons in the Bronx made him one of my favorite Yankees. “Godzilla” announced his retirement from baseball on December 27, 2012.
This former Yankee relief pitcher shares Matsui’s birthday.
|NYY (7 yrs)||916||3820||3348||536||977||196||11||140||597||12||416||485||.292||.370||.482||.852|
|TBR (1 yr)||34||103||95||7||14||1||0||2||7||0||8||22||.147||.214||.221||.435|
|OAK (1 yr)||141||585||517||58||130||28||0||12||72||1||56||84||.251||.321||.375||.696|
|LAA (1 yr)||145||558||482||55||132||24||1||21||84||0||67||98||.274||.361||.459||.820|
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.
|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|
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.
|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|
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.
|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|
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.
|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|
“Boomer” was not the first Wells to pitch for the Yankees. That honor belonged to today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, a southpaw named Ed “Satchelfoot” Wells. The Tigers originally signed this Ashland, OH native in 1922 with the condition that he could keep attending college full-time and pitch during the summer. He made his big league debut for Detroit in June of 1923. His first manager was the legendary Ty Cobb. Though most guys who played with, against and for the “Georgia Peach” hated him, Wells was an exception. The two got along great even though Cobb admitted he couldn’t help his young left-hander get better because he knew nothing about pitching.
Wells was with Detroit for five seasons and went 12-10 for them in 1926 and led the AL with four shutouts that year. But his inconsistency got him released after the ’27 season. He spent 1928 with the Birmingham Barons of the Southern League where he went 28-7 and caught the attention of the Yankees. New York brought him to the Bronx in 1929 and he went 13-9 during his first season in pinstripes. He followed that up with a 12-3 season in 1930 but his ERA was over five. Fortunately for Wells he was pitching for an offense that included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Tony Lazzeri, et. al. who made scoring more than five runs per game a habit that boosted the pitcher’s winning percentage.
Wells Yankee Stadium locker was situated right in between Ruth’s and Gehrig’s so he became good friends with both men. He also was the object of one of the Bambino’s most famous practical jokes. Ruth invited the pitcher to go on a double date with him after a Yankee road game in Detroit. When the two Yankees knocked on the door of the girl’s apartment, a guy claiming to be her husband opened it holding a pistol which he fired directly at Ruth. A horrified Wells turned and ran all the way back to his Detroit hotel. By the time he got there, Tony Lazzeri told him Ruth had been shot and was up in his room asking to see Eddie.
When Wells entered the Babe’s suite, the lights were turned down low and Ruth was laying in a bed with ketchup spilled on the white sheets and talcum powder all over his face to feign a dearly pale. Wells took one look at his famous teammate and fainted on the spot.
He ended up pitching a total of four years for New York, before getting sold to the Browns just before the 1933 season started. He had the misfortune of becoming a Yankee right at the time managerial instability. His first Yankee Skipper, Huggins died unexpectedly during the 1929 season and then Bob Shawkey got fired to make room for Joe McCarthy. Wells was 37-20 in Pinstripes and 68-69 when he left the big leagues for good in 1934. He shares his June 7 birthday with this great Yankee catcher.
|DET (5 yrs)||24||28||.462||4.90||115||56||34||19||4||7||444.1||547||287||242||20||191||147||5||1.661|
|NYY (4 yrs)||37||20||.649||4.59||107||54||34||23||3||4||492.1||532||290||251||38||179||171||6||1.444|
|SLB (2 yrs)||7||21||.250||4.38||69||30||24||12||0||2||295.2||338||173||144||20||98||85||1||1.475|