July 4 – Happy Birthday Hal Lanier
The Yankees purchased today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant from the San Francisco Giants during their 1972 spring training season and I could never figure out why. Hal Lanier had been the weak-hitting decent fielding starting shortstop for the Giants for the previous eight seasons but the Yankees already had their own weak-hitting, decent-fielding shortstop in Gene “the Stick” Michael. What that Yankee team really needed was a starting third baseman with some pop in his bat to compete with their AL East rivals. The previous year, New York had started Jerry Kenney at the hot corner while Baltimore had perennial All Star Brooks Robinson and the Red Sox, the hard-hitting Rico Petrocelli as starting third basemen.
Kenney would end up losing his third base job during that ’72 season to a guy named Celerino Sanchez. When Sanchez failed to hit, Ralph Houk tried playing Lanier at third. But when both Michael and Lanier started in the infield, opposing pitchers couldn’t wait to face the bottom of the Yankees’ lineup. Lanier got into 60 games that season and hit a putrid .213. That turned out to be five points higher than he would hit during his second and final season with New York, which also turned out to be his final year as a big league player. It would be during that same 1973 season that the Yankees finally went out and got themselves a premier third baseman by the name of Graig Nettles.
Lanier would go on to a new career as a manager. He won a division title as skipper of the ’86 Astros but besides the three seasons he spent as Houston’s skipper, all of his other managerial assignments have been at the minor league level. Lanier was born on in Denton, NC in 1942. His dad was Max Lanier, an All Star pitcher with the Cardinals during WWII, who won over 100 big league games during his own 14-year career.