August 2012

August 27 – Happy Birthday Ed Herrmann

Ed Herrmann had been the pretty-good hitting starting catcher for the Chicago White Sox for six seasons when the Yankees picked him up in a trade one week before Opening Day in 1975 for four minor leaguers. I couldn’t understand why the Yankees made the deal at the time. They already had Thurman Munson and Rick Dempsey on that team. As it turned out, Herrmann, a San Diego native who was born on this date in 1946 ended up DH-ing more games (35) than he caught (24) that year.

He had some pop in his left handed bat, having reached double-figures in home runs during his previous five seasons in the Windy City. He ended up hitting a half-dozen round-trippers during his one and only year in pinstripes. He was sold to California in the off-season. None of the four minor leaguers the Yankees gave up for Herrmann ever appeared in a big league game. Ed spent part of just one season in California before getting traded to Houston. He retired after the 1978 season with a .240 lifetime average and 80 homeruns during an eleven-year big league career.

Hermann is one of quite a few players who saw time with both the Yankees and White Sox during their big league playing careers. Here’s my all-time line-up of Yankee/White Sox:

1b – Moose Skowren
2b – Steve Sax
3b – Robin Ventura
ss – Bucky Dent
c – Sherm Lollar
of – Tim Raines
of – Dan Pasqua
of – Claudell Washington
dh – Carlos May
p – Tommy John
rp – Goose Gossage
mgr – Bob Lemon

August 25 – Happy Birthday Pedro Feliciano

It was another bad pitching acquisition decision by Brian Cashman. Pedro Feliciano had been the Mets’ ironman in the bullpen for the previous six seasons when the Yankee GM signed the lefty to a two-year $8 million deal just before Christmas in 2010. After watching the Red Sox add two more left-handed bats to their lineup with the signings of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford earlier in that same postseason, Cashman knew he needed to counter by adding some left-handed pitching to the Yankee bullpen. At the time, Boone Logan was New York’s only southpaw reliever. Signing Feliciano was like adding two lefties in one because the guy had proven he could pitch just about every day. “Perpetual Pedro” had led the National League in appearances the previous three seasons, setting a new record by appearing in 266 games during that span.

The situation started smelling fishy when Feliciano reported to his first Yankee spring training camp with a sore left shoulder. Turned out he had torn the posterior capsule in that critical throwing joint and was shelved for the entire 2011 season. He hasn’t pitched in 2012 either. When the injury was discovered, a bitter Cashman blamed the Mets for abusing Feliciano by pitching him too much. Dan Warthen, the Mets pitching coach actually admitted the Amazin’s had not made any attempt to re-sign the guy because of his heavy workload history, but he denied the Mets knew about the pitcher’s injured wing. The ironic thing about the whole scenario was that the Yankees had signed Feliciano in part, because he seemed to have a left arm that never tired. You can bet the Yankees were planning to pitch him about 70 times last year if he had been available.

As his Yankee contract nears completion, there is a possibility that Feliciano may get a chance to actually take the mound in pinstripes. He’s currently pitching for the Yankee’s Gulf Coast league team and by all reports he seems to be throwing the ball well. With Mariano on the shelf, Joba’s comeback a bust thus far and a tiring Yankee bullpen, Cashman’s $8 million acquisition may actually still get an opportunity to pay some dividends.

Feliciano shares his August 25th birthday with this reliever who did get a chance to pitch in pinstripes and this former Yankee starting shortstop.

August 23 – Happy Birthday Sherm Lollar

Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant’s career initially suffered from poor timing. He started out as a catcher in the Cleveland organization right about the time the Indians’ Jim Hegan was just beginning to establish himself as one of the best defensive receivers ever. When he was brought up to the parent club in 1946, he begged management to send him back down instead of letting him rot on the bench. Instead, that December, the Cleveland front office traded the right-hand hitting Lollar to the Yankees.

Poor timing again. The Yankee organization and big league roster were both loaded with promising catchers. In 1947, they included Aaron Robinson, Ralph Houk, Ken Sylvestri  and a young left-handed receiver named Yogi Berra. Lollar was sent to New York’s Newark farm team and he had a solid year with the Bears. The Yankees decided to give him a look-see late that season and ended up keeping him on their postseason roster. When Lollar got into two World Series games that year against Brooklyn and went 3-for-4 at the plate, his standing in the organization went up dramatically.

But the following year, the Yankees added the right-hand hitting Gus Niarhos to their big league roster and skipper Bucky Harris began platooning him and Berra behind the plate while Lollar again sat the pine. He got into just 22 games that season while Berra, who played the outfield when he wasn’t catching, had a breakout season at the plate, hitting .305 and driving in 98 runs. That’s when the timing in Lollar’s career went from bad to good. That October, the Yankees replaced Harris as Yankee manager with Casey Stengel.  Though the Ol’ Perfessor would establish a legacy as the master of platooning, he would soon ignore that strategy when it came to Berra, and Yogi would go on  to catch close to 1,700 games as a Yankee. Two months after Stengel got his pinstripes, Lollar lost his when he was traded to the Browns. In St. Louis, he finally got a chance to play regularly and quickly began to realize his potential. But after just three years there, Lollar was again traded, this time to the Chicago White Sox. It would be in the Windy City where this native of Durham, Arkansas would establish his legacy as one of baseball’s best catchers. He played a dozen seasons for the White Sox, and during the first nine of them, the team never finished below third in the AL Pennant race. Lollar’s career year was 1959, when his 22 home runs and 84 RBIs led Chicago to that year’s World Series, which they lost to the Dodgers.

Lollar would continue playing for Chicago until 1963, when he retired with 155 career home runs and a .264 lifetime batting average. He died suddenly from a heart attack in 1977, when he was just 56-years-old. In his NY Times obituary, the White Sox GM who traded for Lollar, the legendary Frank Lane was quoted as saying that trade was the best one he ever made. As Lane went on to explain, “Sherm turned out to be one of the best catchers in the American League behind only Yogi Berra and maybe Jim Hegan.” Some things never change.

Lollar shares his August 23rd birthday with this MLB’s first-ever DH and this outfielder who was traded by the Yanks for Red Ruffing.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1947 NYY 11 33 32 4 7 0 1 1 6 0 1 5 .219 .242 .375 .617
1948 NYY 22 39 38 0 8 0 0 0 4 0 1 6 .211 .231 .211 .441
18 Yrs 1752 6220 5351 623 1415 244 14 155 808 20 671 453 .264 .357 .402 .759
CHW (12 yrs) 1358 4924 4229 485 1122 186 9 124 631 17 525 360 .265 .358 .402 .759
SLB (3 yrs) 333 1154 990 127 263 52 4 29 158 3 139 73 .266 .364 .414 .778
NYY (2 yrs) 33 72 70 4 15 0 1 1 10 0 2 11 .214 .236 .286 .522
CLE (1 yr) 28 70 62 7 15 6 0 1 9 0 5 9 .242 .299 .387 .686
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/23/2013.