August 2012

August 18 – Happy Birthday Burleigh Grimes

When Joe Gordon was inducted into the Hall of Fame three summers ago, he became the 51st former Yankee player, manager or team executive to join the Hall. (Jacob Rupert later became the 52nd) Most of the names on this list are familiar ex-Yankees but there are a few who, though well-known as great baseball players, were not at all noted or remembered for their time wearing Pinstripes. The two ex-Yankee members of Cooperstown who are tied for spending the least amount of time in a New York uniform are the great hitter and outfielder, Paul “Big Poison” Waner and today’s birthday celebrant, Burleigh Grimes. Both appeared in just ten Yankee games at the very end of their illustrious careers. Grimes was baseball’s last and arguably most famous legitimate spitball pitcher. In fact, his 270th and final big league win came as a Yankee in 1934 and marked the last time in the history of Major League baseball that the winning pitcher was permitted to throw a spitball. Grimes was born in Emerald, WI on August 18, 1893.

Also born on this date, 51 years after Grimes was born, was this former Yankee third baseman and third base coach and this one-time Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1934 NYY 1 2 .333 5.50 10 0 9 0 0 1 18.0 22 11 11 0 14 5 2.000
19 Yrs 270 212 .560 3.53 616 497 94 314 35 18 4180.0 4412 2050 1638 148 1295 1512 1.365
BRO (9 yrs) 158 121 .566 3.46 318 287 26 205 20 5 2426.0 2547 1175 934 76 744 952 1.357
PIT (5 yrs) 48 42 .533 3.26 132 92 34 58 7 5 830.1 818 398 301 28 237 260 1.271
STL (4 yrs) 32 17 .653 3.45 59 50 7 27 4 1 386.0 434 179 148 18 112 130 1.415
CHC (2 yrs) 9 17 .346 4.35 47 25 12 8 2 4 211.0 245 118 102 10 79 48 1.536
NYG (1 yr) 19 8 .704 3.54 39 34 4 15 2 2 259.2 274 116 102 12 87 102 1.390
BSN (1 yr) 3 5 .375 7.35 11 9 2 1 0 0 49.0 72 53 40 4 22 15 1.918
NYY (1 yr) 1 2 .333 5.50 10 0 9 0 0 1 18.0 22 11 11 0 14 5 2.000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/18/2013.

August 17 – Happy Birthday Chad Qualls

Chad Qualls was what you would call a Yankee band aid. As the season progresses, a player on your roster gets injured, goes into a slump or for one reason or another does not perform well in a certain situation that is frequently encountered by your team. This causes a “hole” in your team’s roster that needs to get filled or covered over. Cory Wade had been pitching super out of the bullpen since the Yankees signed him as a free agent in June of 2011. He went 6-1 last year for New York and after his first fifteen appearances this season, his ERA was just 1.59 and he looked near un-hittable. Then all of a sudden, he couldn’t get anyone out. By the end of June, his ERA had exploded to 5.79 runs per game. In his first appearance in July, he was called in to pitch with one out in the seventh inning of a Yankee/Red Sox game with his team trailing 5-4. Seven batters later, it was still the seventh inning, Boston was ahead 9-4 and Wade was being replaced by Clay Rapada on the mound. A day later, he was replaced on the Yankee roster by today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.

Chad Qualls has been pitching relief in the big leagues since coming up with the Astros in 2004. By the time he put on the pinstripes, this huge 6’5″ right-hander had already won 39 games and saved 51 more. After four solid seasons in Houston, the Diamondbacks acquired Qualls in a trade for Jose Valverde and eventually made him their closer. He saved 24 games for Arizona in 2009 but in late August of that season he injured his knee and required surgery and he hasn’t been the same pitcher since.

After losing the closer’s job in Arizona in 2010, he pitched for the Rays, Padres and Phillies before Brian Cashman acquired him from Philadelphia for future considerations. In his second appearance for New York, he got the victory in a 6-5 win over the Angels. Two days later, he was shelled for three runs by those same Angels. Nine days later he walked the only hitter he faced in the bottom of the seventh inning of a game against the Mariners. It would be that game that eventually cost Qualls his pinstripes but it wasn’t that walk. In the top half of the same inning, King Felix had hit Alex Rodriguez on the hand with a pitch and broke his finger. A-Rod ended up on the DL. Eric Chavez was the Yankee backup at third but he hit left-handed. New York had the right-handed Jason Nix on the roster who could also play third, but Nix was not considered a power-hitter and Joe Girardi and Cashman liked having some offensive pop at that position. Suddenly, a new but very small hole had opened up on the Yankee roster that either could remain open until A-Rod got back from the DL in September or could be covered with a temporary band aid. That band aid turned out to be Casey McGehee, a right-handed Pirate third baseman who had hit a bunch of homers for the Brewers earlier in his career. The cost for McGehee was Chad Qualls.

Qualls turns 35-years-old today. he shares his birthday with this great Yankee catcher and this one-time Yankee DH.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2012 NYY 1 0 1.000 6.14 8 0 4 0 0 0 7.1 10 5 5 0 3 2 1.773
10 Yrs 43 36 .544 3.84 647 0 190 0 0 51 641.2 646 300 274 64 178 491 1.284
HOU (4 yrs) 23 12 .657 3.39 262 0 52 0 0 6 284.0 267 113 107 30 84 218 1.236
ARI (3 yrs) 7 14 .333 4.34 171 0 93 0 0 45 163.2 175 93 79 14 40 150 1.314
TBR (1 yr) 2 0 1.000 5.57 27 0 1 0 0 0 21.0 24 15 13 2 6 15 1.429
PIT (1 yr) 0 0 6.59 17 0 5 0 0 0 13.2 14 11 10 0 2 6 1.171
PHI (1 yr) 1 1 .500 4.60 35 0 6 0 0 0 31.1 39 18 16 7 9 19 1.532
SDP (1 yr) 6 8 .429 3.51 77 0 20 0 0 0 74.1 73 30 29 7 20 43 1.251
NYY (1 yr) 1 0 1.000 6.14 8 0 4 0 0 0 7.1 10 5 5 0 3 2 1.773
MIA (1 yr) 3 1 .750 2.91 50 0 9 0 0 0 46.1 44 15 15 4 14 38 1.252
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/17/2013.

August 16 – Happy Birthday Rob Thomson

The one guy who beats Manager Joe Girardi to Yankee Stadium on most Game Days is third base coach Rob Thomson. Usually when Girardi rolls into the Stadium’s inside parking garage, Thompson’s SUV has already been there for almost a half hour. The Yankee Manager has told reporters that Thomson is one of the hardest working coaches in baseball.

The native of Ontario, Canada was born on this date in 1963. He played collegiate baseball at the University of Kansas and was selected by the Tigers in the later rounds of the 1985 draft. He played third base and catcher in the minors, but neither well enough to make it to the big leagues as a player. He gave up trying in 1988 and became a minor league coach in the Detroit organization. Two years later he was hired in the same capacity by the Yankees. By 1998 he was working in the Yankee front office and in 2000, he was named the Yankee’s Director of Player Development. He started his big league coaching career in 2008, when the newly hired Girardi made Thomson his bench coach. A year later he took over as third base coach and has been flashing the on-the-field offensive signals for the Yankees ever since. He is also the the team’s outfielders’ coach.

I’ll admit that sometimes, Thomson drives me up the wall. Earlier this season for example, in a game against Tampa, the Yankees were down by a run early and with nobody out, he waved the lumbering Mark Teixeira home on a sharp ground ball single hit directly at a charging left-fielder. The guy had the ball in his glove before Teixeira got to third and the catcher had the ball so early in the play, he could have ate a sandwich waiting for Teixeira to reach the plate. But for the most part, you don’t even notice Thomson during a game which is a sign of an excellent base coach.

Thomson shares his August 16th birthday with this great Yankee outfielder from the late nineteen-forties and early fifties and this WWII era 20-game-winner.

August 15 – Happy Birthday Joe Cowley

Right about 1985, I remember thinking Yankee owner, George Steinbrenner had gone insane. It had been four seasons since the Yankees had made the postseason and “the Boss” seemed to be on two missions. The first was to absolve himself from any role in the team’s recent failures to make it to fall ball. He made sure the media understood that he had made or wanted to make all the correct player moves necessary to keep the Yankees in the playoffs perpetually. He had let his “baseball people” talk him out of some of those moves and in the deals he had orchestrated, the players he had acquired had simply choked. His second mission back then was to prove he could single-handedly maneuver the Yankees back into World Series play.

I have never been a big George Steinbrenner fan however, I had appreciated the fact that he was hell-bent on turning my favorite baseball team into winners again. But after that 1985 season, he made a move that absolutely stunned me. He traded Joe Cowley. I loved Joe Cowley. New York had signed the native of Lexington, KY as a free agent in 1983 and sent him to their Triple A team in Columbus. He began the ’84 season going 10-3 for the Clippers. The Yankees brought him up in July of that same year and he became the best starting pitcher on the parent club’s staff in August and September, winning eight straight decisions. Then in 1985, he went 12-6, helping New York win 97 games that season, finishing second to the Blue Jays, who won 99.

So here’s a guy who’s gone 21-8 for New York over two seasons and proven he can win in pinstripes and what’s Steinbrenner do? In December of ’85 he trades him to the Chicago White Sox for Britt Burns. Maybe you’ve never heard of Burns or didn’t realize he had pitched for the Yankees? That’s because he never did. Turns out the guy had a bad hip and never appeared in a single game for New York. Cowley didn’t last too long in Chicago either. He went 11-11 in his only season in the Windy City. In his last-ever victory for the White Sox, he threw a complete-game no-hitter. He lost his next two starts that year and Chicago traded him to the Phillies during the following off-season. After the big right-hander lost his first four starts in 1986, Philadelphia released him and he never again pitched in a big league game. That makes Cowley the only pitcher in big league history who’s last big league victory was a no-hitter.

Cowley shares his August 15th birthday with this MVP of the 1998 World Series.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO WHIP
1984 NYY 9 2 .818 3.56 16 11 2 3 1 0 83.1 75 34 33 12 31 1 71 1.272
1985 NYY 12 6 .667 3.95 30 26 2 1 0 0 159.2 132 75 70 29 85 2 97 1.359
5 Yrs 33 25 .569 4.20 95 76 8 8 1 0 469.1 414 243 219 69 232 7 332 1.376
NYY (2 yrs) 21 8 .724 3.81 46 37 4 4 1 0 243.0 207 109 103 41 116 3 168 1.329
PHI (1 yr) 0 4 .000 15.43 5 4 0 0 0 0 11.2 21 26 20 2 17 1 5 3.257
ATL (1 yr) 1 2 .333 4.47 17 8 4 0 0 0 52.1 53 27 26 6 16 2 27 1.318
CHW (1 yr) 11 11 .500 3.88 27 27 0 4 0 0 162.1 133 81 70 20 83 1 132 1.331
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/15/2013.

August 14 – Happy Birthday Edwin Rodriguez

When the Marlins fired Fredi Gonzalez as their Manager during the 2010 season, he was replaced by today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Edwin Rodriguez. Rodriguez was a former big league infielder from Ponce Puerto Rico, who had signed with the Yankees back in 1980 when he was 19-years-old. Two years later, the Yankees brought him up at the end of September for a look-see and then-NY-Manager, Clyde King gave him two starts at second base. He went 3-for-9 in those two games and never played another as a Yankee. The following September he was traded to San Diego with Dennis Rasmussen in the deal that brought John Montefusco to the Bronx. He played his last big league game for the Padres in 1985. He shares his August 14th birthday with this former Yankee shortstop.

Rodriguez was the second former Yankee player to manage the Marlins. Joe Girardi was the first. I’ve put together the following all-time lineup of Yankee players who managed in the big leagues:

1b – Don Mattingly
2b – Billy Martin*
3b – Bobby Cox*
ss – Leo Durocher*
c – Joe Girardi*
of – Hank Bauer*
of – Lou Piniella*
of – Yogi Berra
dh – Don Baylor
p – Eddie Lopat

Other former Yankee players who’ve become big league skippers include; Willie Randolph, Bucky Dent, Gene Michael, Red Rolfe, Bob Shawkey, Ralph Houk*, Felipe Alou, Roger Bresnahan, Frank Chance*, Hal Chase, Ben Chapman, Billy Gardner, Bob Geren, Toby Harrah, Dick Howser*, Billy Hunter, Hal Lanier, Lee Mazzilli, John McGraw*, Bill McKechnie*, Jerry Narron, Johnny Oates, Steve O’Neill*, Roger Peckinpaugh, Wilbert Robinson, Tommy Sheehan, Ken Sylvestri, Robin Ventura.

*Won at least one World Series as a manager.

August 13 – Happy Birthday Boone Logan

It wasn’t too long ago that pitcher Boone Logan’s claim to fame was as a traveling companion to former Yankee pitcher, Javier Vazquez. When Vazquez was dealt by the White Sox to the Braves after the 2008 season, Logan went to Atlanta with him. Than when Brian Cashman decided to give Javier a second chance in pinstripes in 2010, it was again the left-handed reliever who accompanied the starting pitcher back to the Bronx.

Vazquez’s second tour of duty as a Yankee was no more productive than his first but Logan seems to have found a home in New York. He’s appeared in more than 50 games for the Yanks in each of his three seasons. At first, Joe Girardi used him pretty much as a left hand relief specialist but Logan’s role has gradually expanded into more of a traditional late-inning set-up guy and Girardi now trusts him to also get out right-handers in plenty of situations. He’s put together an 11-3 record thus far wearing the pinstripes and a decent ERA of 3.28. Logan’s sidearm slider is particularly effective against lefty hitters and he also has a fastball that he can throw in the mid nineties. I thought he did a good job in last year’s ALDS versus Detroit and when David Robertson went on the DL right after Mariano Rivera tore his ACL this season, Logan did a great job in an expanded role out of the bullpen. He turns 28-years-old today and shares his birthday with this former Yankee shortstopthis former Yankee starting pitcher and this former Yankee outfielder prospect.

The statistics cited for Boone Logan’s 2013 season in the following grid are as on August 14, 2013:

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 2.93 51 0 8 0 0 0 40.0 34 13 13 3 20 38 1.350
2011 NYY 5 3 .625 3.46 64 0 6 0 0 0 41.2 43 20 16 4 13 46 1.344
2012 NYY 7 2 .778 3.74 80 0 8 0 0 1 55.1 48 23 23 6 28 68 1.373
2013 NYY 3 2 .600 2.20 48 0 6 0 0 0 32.2 29 9 8 5 8 44 1.133
8 Yrs 22 12 .647 4.30 407 0 64 0 0 2 297.1 312 156 142 35 127 298 1.476
NYY (4 yrs) 17 7 .708 3.18 243 0 28 0 0 1 169.2 154 65 60 18 69 196 1.314
CHW (3 yrs) 4 4 .500 5.87 144 0 29 0 0 1 110.1 137 79 72 16 49 92 1.686
ATL (1 yr) 1 1 .500 5.19 20 0 7 0 0 0 17.1 21 12 10 1 9 10 1.731
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/14/2013.

August 12 – Happy Birthday Michel Hernandez

One year before “El Duque” fled Cuba and signed with the Yankees and a year after his older brother, Livan did the same, there was another Cuban named Hernandez who made the same escape. His first name was Michel, he was no relation to the Hernandez siblings and he was a 23-year-old, highly heralded catcher. The Yankees managed to sign him but not without controversy. Major League Baseball began an investigation of allegations that some of the necessary paperwork filed by New York was forged.

As it turned out, Michel was not quite good enough to enjoy a long career as a Major League catcher. He spent five unspectacular years in the Yankee farm system before getting his only shot at the parent club. That opportunity came in September of the 2003 season. Joe Torre got him into his first four games as a late-inning replacement for Jorge Posada and then started him against the Orioles. He got his first hit against Baltimore’s Rodrigo Lopez when he led off the bottom-of-the-eighth inning of a tied game with a line drive single. Torre then sent Alfonso Soriano into run for him and Michel Hernandez’ Yankee career was over.

The following January the Yankees put him on waivers and he was claimed by the Red Sox. It would take the catcher another five years to get his second shot at the Big Leagues and by then, he was a member of the Ray’s organization. In 2009, he got into 35 games for Tampa as their back-up catcher and hit his first and only big league home run against Josh Beckett. He’s still playing minor league ball for the Cleveland organization.

The only other Yankee born on August 12th is this pitcher. One of my favorite actors of all time, John Cazale, who played Fredo in the Godfather movies, Sal in Dog Day Afternoon and Stosh in the Deer Hunter was also born on this date in 1936. He died on March 12, 1978 from lung cancer during filming of the Deer Hunter. Cazale was only in five movies during his short lifetime and all five were nominated for the Academy Award’s Best Picture Oscar.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2003 NYY 5 5 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .250 .400 .250 .650
3 Yrs 45 127 118 14 28 3 1 1 12 2 8 16 .237 .286 .305 .591
TBR (2 yrs) 40 122 114 14 27 3 1 1 12 2 7 15 .237 .281 .307 .588
NYY (1 yr) 5 5 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .250 .400 .250 .650
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/13/2013.

August 11 – Happy Birthday Bubba Crosby

I wanted Bubba Crosby to make it as a Yankee because I really liked his name. He thrilled us all with a home run in his first Yankee at bat versus the White Sox reliever, Shingo Takatsu. But with a starting outfield of Hideki Matsui, Bernie Williams and Gary Sheffield and subs like Kenny Lofton and Ruben Sierra on the 2004 Yankee roster, I knew I wouldn’t be seeing his very cool moniker too often in that season’s box scores. Joe Torre did get Bubba into 55 games during his first year in pinstripes, however it was mostly as a defensive replacement in the late innings. Crosby had only 58 plate appearances that year and hit a woeful .151.

Still, New York’s front office held onto him that offseason and with Lofton gone from the 2005 roster, Crosby did see more playing time in his second Yankee season. In 76 games and 103 plate appearances, the native of Houston, TX hit a more decent but punchless .276. In 2006, when starting left fielder Hideki Matsui broke his wrist in early May, Joe Torre turned to Melky Cabrera to replace Godzilla, which instantly put a dark cloud over Crosby’s future as a Yankee. Sure enough, the Yankees released him in October of 2006 and though he would later sign with Cincinnati and then Seattle, he has never again appeared in another big league game.

The Yankees originally acquired Crosby along with Scott Proctor from the Dodgers in the July 2003 trade that sent Robin Ventura to Los Anegels. Bubba shares his August 11th birthday with the same Yankee outfielder who beat him out as Matsui’s replacement and this former Yankee pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2004 NYY 55 58 53 8 8 2 0 2 7 2 2 13 .151 .196 .302 .498
2005 NYY 76 103 98 15 27 0 1 1 6 4 4 14 .276 .304 .327 .630
2006 NYY 65 96 87 9 18 3 1 1 6 3 4 21 .207 .258 .299 .557
4 Yrs 205 269 250 32 54 5 2 4 20 9 10 51 .216 .255 .300 .555
NYY (3 yrs) 196 257 238 32 53 5 2 4 19 9 10 48 .223 .263 .311 .574
LAD (1 yr) 9 12 12 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 3 .083 .083 .083 .167
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/13/2013.

August 10 – Happy Birthday Gerald Williams

I first saw today’s birthday celebrant play in 1990 when the “Williams boys,” Gerald and Bernie were patrolling the same outfield for the Albany Colonie Yankees, New York’s double A affiliate in the Eastern League. The two were pretty evenly matched in most offensive categories except one. Bernie walked a lot more than Gerald did and as a result had a much higher on base percentage. It was Bernie who moved up to the Yankees Triple A team in Columbus to begin the following season while Gerald stayed behind in Albany. It was also Bernie who got the first call-up to the parent club and it was Bernie who beat out Gerald to become the starting center fielder for the New York Yankees.

Gerald got his first cup-of-coffee look at Yankee Stadium in 1992 and by 1995 he was a permanent member of the big league team’s roster. He got into 100 games during the ’95 season, often as a late-inning defensive replacement and hit .247 for Buck Showalter’s wild card winners. He was doing even better the following year for new manager, Joe Torre. He was starting in left field and hitting a relatively solid .270 and leading the team in stolen bases. Then in late August, the Yankees made a trade that I remember upset me, not because New York got rid of Williams but because they also got rid of pitcher Bob Wickman. The two players were sent to Milwaukee for shortstop Pat Listach and lefty reliever Graeme Lloyd. I had been a Wickman fan since he went 6-1 as a starter during his 1992 Yankee debut. The Brewers would convert him to a closer and he would eventually become one of the best in the AL. Williams became the Brewers’ full-time center-fielder in 1997, playing in a career high 155 games. Unfortunately, he hit a very unproductive .252 with a woeful .288 on base percentage. He walked just 19 times in 601 plate appearances and it was most likely his lack of discipline at the plate that got him traded to Atlanta at the end of the ’97 season. He played better for the Braves and after two seasons playing for Bobby Cox he signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay. He had his best big league season in 2000, his first as a Devil Ray, when he set single-season career highs with 21 home runs and 89 RBIs, while averaging .274. His career then went downhill quickly.

He got off to a horrible start for Tampa Bay in 2001 and found himself released in June of that year. He was immediately re-signed by the Yankees but his hitting woes continued. He hit just .170 during the second half of 2001 and was 0-19 when New York released him the following June. He then played one season with the Marlins and two more as a Met never getting his average above the .230s and his big league career was over.

Williams was born in New Orleans on August 10, 1966. He remains a very close personal friend of Derek Jeter. He shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee outfielder, this former Yankee pitcher and this former Yankee shortstop.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1992 NYY 15 27 27 7 8 2 0 3 6 2 0 3 .296 .296 .704 1.000
1993 NYY 42 71 67 11 10 2 3 0 6 2 1 14 .149 .183 .269 .452
1994 NYY 57 91 86 19 25 8 0 4 13 1 4 17 .291 .319 .523 .842
1995 NYY 100 208 182 33 45 18 2 6 28 4 22 34 .247 .327 .467 .794
1996 NYY 99 258 233 37 63 15 4 5 30 7 15 39 .270 .319 .433 .753
2001 NYY 38 54 47 12 8 1 0 0 2 3 5 13 .170 .264 .191 .456
2002 NYY 33 19 17 6 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 4 .000 .105 .000 .105
14 Yrs 1168 3323 3059 474 780 183 18 85 365 106 180 530 .255 .301 .410 .711
NYY (7 yrs) 384 728 659 125 159 46 9 18 85 21 49 124 .241 .298 .420 .718
NYM (2 yrs) 96 170 159 26 37 10 2 5 14 4 9 33 .233 .274 .415 .689
TBD (2 yrs) 208 934 864 117 221 47 2 25 106 22 47 145 .256 .298 .402 .700
ATL (2 yrs) 272 756 688 122 197 43 3 27 112 30 50 115 .286 .341 .475 .817
MIL (2 yrs) 181 700 658 79 162 36 2 10 45 26 23 108 .246 .277 .353 .630
FLA (1 yr) 27 35 31 5 4 1 0 0 3 3 2 5 .129 .182 .161 .343
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/9/2013.

August 9 – Happy Birthday Eli Grba

In the eulogy Bob Costas gave at Mickey Mantle’s funeral, he talked about how thrilled people my age used to be when as kids, we opened up a pack of baseball cards and found a Mantle lying in their between a Pumpsie Green and an Eli Grba card. I had a lot of those Grba cards back in the early sixties and many of them would end up clothes-pinned to the forks of my Schwinn bicycle, rattling like a Harley engine against the spokes of my bike’s front and rear wheels. Grba came up in the Yankee organization in the late fifties. He was a tall, hard-throwing right-hander who would pitch mostly out of the bullpen for Casey Stengel during the 1959 and ’60 seasons, with an occasional start thrown in. He was 2-5 with an ERA over six in 1959 and then improved to 6-4 the following year and lowered his ERA to 3.68. It began to look as if he had a future in pinstripes. Two things prevented that from happening.

The first was booze. Stengel’s Yankees loved to drink it. Grba fit right in. Teammates Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford would invite the wide-eyed rookie to join them for a cocktail or two and Eli was thrilled to accept. He might not have been able to keep up with those two superstars on the baseball field but he quickly proved he could do so in the bars of American League cities around the country. By the end of the 1960 World Series, Eli Grba’s drinking problem was in full swing.

The AL was expanding to ten teams in 1961 and Eli Grba became the number one pick of the Los Angeles Angels in the 1960 expansion draft that was used to create the initial rosters of those two added ball clubs. The newly formed Angels may have had more drinkers on their team than the Yankees. They included Grba and his former Yankee teammates Ryne Duren and Ken Hunt. Eli won the first game in franchise history and went 11-13 during his first season wearing a halo’d hat but the drinking problem also advanced to a full-scale disease. He finished 8-9 in ’62 and found himself out of the big leagues for good by 1964. His post-playing life was mired in failed marriages and jobs until he finally quit the booze in the early eighties.

He shares his August 9th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and this former Yankee manager.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1959 NYY 2 5 .286 6.44 19 6 5 0 0 0 50.1 52 44 36 6 39 23 1.808
1960 NYY 6 4 .600 3.68 24 9 4 1 0 1 80.2 65 45 33 9 46 32 1.376
5 Yrs 28 33 .459 4.48 135 75 26 10 0 4 536.1 513 318 267 62 284 255 1.486
LAA (3 yrs) 20 24 .455 4.40 92 60 17 9 0 3 405.1 396 229 198 47 199 200 1.468
NYY (2 yrs) 8 9 .471 4.74 43 15 9 1 0 1 131.0 117 89 69 15 85 55 1.542
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/9/2013.