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.