September 2012

September 19 – Happy Birthday Bob Turley

This hard-throwing right-hander nicknamed Bullet-Bob, made his big league debut with the St Louis Browns in 1951, but he was supposed to have made that debut as a Yankee. Back in 1948, when Turley was graduating from high school in East St Louis, Illinois, a Yankee scout was sent to sign the young pitcher but made a mistake and instead signed Turley’s two-year-older uncle named Ralph Turley. The Browns took advantage of New York’s carelessness and snatched up the fire-balling nephew.

By 1954, the Browns had relocated to Baltimore and become the Orioles and Turley had evolved into a key member of that team’s starting rotation. He went 14-15 for a terrible O’s squad that finished that season with just 50 victories. Turley also led the AL that same year with 185 strikeouts. His problem was control. He had basically one pitch back then, a blazing fastball that he could only throw for strikes about fifty percent of the time. As a result, he also led the AL with 181 walks during the ’54 season, which helps explain why Baltimore was willing to include him in the record 17-player transaction they made with the Yankees in November of 1954.

Turley had a decent first year in pinstripes, putting together a 17-13 record for Casey Stengel’s 1955 AL Pennant winners, but the wildness continued. He again led the AL in bases on balls with 171 and then got hammered in his only start against Brooklyn in that year’s World Series. It was the Yankees’ legendary pitching coach, Jim Turner, who got Turley to begin working on a no-wind-up delivery with the hope that less motion would result in more control and the results proved Turner right. His command of the strike zone improved and his bases on balls per nine innings went from a high of 7.0 in 1956 to just 4.3 the following year.

In 1958, Turley put everything together and went 21-7 for the Yankees with a 2.97 ERA and 6 shutouts. He won the Cy Young Award and finished second to Boston’s Jackie Jensen in that year’s AL MVP Award voting. He then went on to win the 1958 World Series MVP Award even though he was hammered and lost his first start against the Braves in Game 2 of that Fall Classic. He came back in Game 5 to pitch a five-hit shutout and then relieved Ryne Duren in the bottom of the tenth inning in Game 6 to get the last out and his first World Series save. The gambling Stengel called on Turley yet again to relieve his old Baltimore pitching mate, Don Larsen in the third inning of Game 7. Bullet Bob pitched the final six innings to earn his second win of the Series and clinch the World Championship for New York.

Turley’s performance that year brought him nationwide fame and the prestigious Hickcock Belt, awarded annually to our nation’s top athlete. Still just 27-years-old, he seemed destined to take his place among the great Yankee pitchers of all time. But that did not happen. In 1959, Turley’s fastball became much more hittable and his record dropped to just 8-11. He had pitched 245 innings during his Cy Young season but would never again exceed 175 for the rest of his career. He remained with the Yankees through 1962 and then was sold to the Angels. He retired after the 1963 season with a lifetime record of 101-85 (82-52 as a Yankee.)

Turley was one of baseball’s all-time best sign stealers. He is credited with helping Mickey Mantle hit several of his home runs by whistle-signalling what pitch was coming for the legendary Yankee slugger. After Turley retired, he began selling stocks and securities and became a millionaire. Oh and by the way, Bob’s Uncle Ralph ended up playing two seasons in the Yankee organization but never made it past D league ball. Bob Turley shares his September 19th birthday with this Yankee first baseman named Nick, this other Yankee first baseman named Nick, this WWII era left-fielder and this former Yankee pitcher.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1955 NYY 17 13 .567 3.06 36 34 2 13 6 1 246.2 168 92 84 16 177 210 1.399
1956 NYY 8 4 .667 5.05 27 21 3 5 1 1 132.0 138 76 74 13 103 91 1.826
1957 NYY 13 6 .684 2.71 32 23 7 9 4 3 176.1 120 59 53 17 85 152 1.163
1958 NYY 21 7 .750 2.97 33 31 1 19 6 1 245.1 178 82 81 24 128 168 1.247
1959 NYY 8 11 .421 4.32 33 22 6 7 3 0 154.1 141 80 74 15 83 111 1.451
1960 NYY 9 3 .750 3.27 34 24 6 4 1 5 173.1 138 67 63 14 87 87 1.298
1961 NYY 3 5 .375 5.75 15 12 1 1 0 0 72.0 74 47 46 11 51 48 1.736
1962 NYY 3 3 .500 4.57 24 8 7 0 0 1 69.0 68 45 35 8 47 42 1.667
12 Yrs 101 85 .543 3.64 310 237 38 78 24 12 1712.2 1366 753 693 140 1068 1265 1.421
NYY (8 yrs) 82 52 .612 3.62 234 175 33 58 21 12 1269.0 1025 548 510 118 761 909 1.407
BAL (3 yrs) 16 22 .421 3.51 46 43 3 17 1 0 315.0 228 136 123 11 228 251 1.448
BOS (1 yr) 1 4 .200 6.10 11 7 2 0 0 0 41.1 42 28 28 6 28 35 1.694
LAA (1 yr) 2 7 .222 3.30 19 12 0 3 2 0 87.1 71 41 32 5 51 70 1.397
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/21/2013.

September 18 – Happy Birthday George Uhle

After fourteen seasons as one of the upper tier starting pitchers in the Major Leagues, George “The Bull” Uhle had just about reached the end of the line as the 1933 season reached the halfway point. He was only 34 years old at the time but his right arm had already thrown 3,000 big league innings and the New York Giants had just released him. He had been a three-time twenty-game winner with the Indians during the 1920s, leading the league in victories twice and throwing a total of 25 shutouts. The Yankees were the defending 1932 World Champions but they would not be able to catch the upstart Senators who would eventually win the AL Pennant that year. New York picked up Uhle off waivers and Manager Joe McCarthy pitched him exclusively out of the bullpen at first before giving him a semi-regular spot in the starting rotation. Old George responded well by winning six of his seven decisions that year in pinstripes including four complete games. That effort earned him an invitation back the following year but he could not maintain that level of effectiveness. After a comeback try with the Indians failed in 1936, George Uhle retired for good with an even 200 career victories.

The less famous Brett brother is another former Yankee who celebrates his birthday on September 18. You’ll find Ken Brett’s PBB post here. This short-term Yankee third baseman also shares Uhle’s birthday.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1933 NYY 6 1 .857 5.16 12 6 4 4 0 0 61.0 63 42 35 4 20 26 1.361
1934 NYY 2 4 .333 9.92 10 2 8 0 0 0 16.1 30 19 18 3 7 10 2.265
17 Yrs 200 166 .546 3.99 513 368 114 232 21 25 3119.2 3417 1635 1384 119 966 1135 1.405
CLE (11 yrs) 147 119 .553 3.92 357 267 65 166 16 15 2200.1 2442 1137 959 58 709 763 1.432
DET (5 yrs) 44 41 .518 3.91 128 92 34 62 5 10 828.1 866 425 360 53 224 332 1.316
NYY (2 yrs) 8 5 .615 6.17 22 8 12 4 0 0 77.1 93 61 53 7 27 36 1.552
NYG (1 yr) 1 1 .500 7.90 6 1 3 0 0 0 13.2 16 12 12 1 6 4 1.610
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/20/2013.

September 17 – Happy Birthday Greg Golson

This year, it is Chris Dickerson. In the past decade, its been easy-to-forget names like Kevin Thompson, Kevin Reese, Charlie Gipson, Marcus Thames and Michael Coleman. All of these guys were in their mid-to-late twenties, playing in the outfields of Yankee triple A farm teams when they got their late-season call-ups to the Bronx. It usually happened in September, when big league rosters expanded to forty slots and the parent club was looking to rest their regular outfielders or keep them healthy for the postseason. For most of these Yankee “utility” outfielders with the exception of Thames, those September moments became the extent of their big league careers and just about every one of them made a memorable play or had key at bats that would become their contributions to Yankee history and nostalgia.

That moment for today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Greg Golson, came during a crucial three-game mid September series against the Rays during the 2010 season. In game 3 of that set, Golson caught a pop fly to medium right field near the foul line and then gunned down speedster Carl Crawford who tried to tag on the catch and reach third base. It was a dramatic, bang-bang type of play and it ended the game and gave New York their only win in the critical series.

Originally a first round draft choice of the Phillies, Golson’s bounced around the minors for five seasons, striking out a bit too much to catch on with a big league team. The Yankees got him from Texas in January of 2010. He’s spent most of the following season in Scranton, where he averaged .263 and poked ten home runs. Golson was gifted with above average speed and was also a good base-stealer. He ended up appearing in 23 games and hitting .261 during his 2010 Yankee season. I thought he might have had a chance to make the roster the following spring as New York’s fourth outfielder but the Yankees signed Andruw Jones instead. Golson did get back to the Bronx in September of 2011 for another eight-game look see but was released by the Yankees following last-year’s postseason. He played in the White Sox organization in 2012. The Austin, TX native was born on this date in 1985.

The Texas Rangers became Golson’s second big league organization when the Phillies traded him for John Mayberry Jr, the son of former big league slugger and former Yankee, John Mayberry. Coincidentally, this only other member of the Yankee all-time roster to be born on September 17th was a prime candidate to replace the elder Mayberry as the Yankee starting first baseman when John Sr called it quits in 1982.

September 15 – Happy Birthday Gaylord Perry

Gaylord Perry turns 72-years-old today. He and his older brother Jim were born in Williamston, NC. Their Dad was a farmer but he was also a semi-pro baseball player so when his two sons weren’t helping him plow fields, he made sure they were playing ball. It really didn’t matter what kind of ball they played because the Perry boys were good at football basketball and especially baseball.  In fact, with the two of them alternating between the mound and third base when the other was pitching, their high school team won a state championship. During one stretch, the brothers threw nine consecutive shutouts that season. Even though Gaylord had numerous scholarship offers to play college basketball, he followed his brother into baseball and when the Giants gave him a $60,000 bonus to sign with their organization in 1958, Gaylord gave half of it to his Dad. The rest his history.

Perry went on to win 318 games during a 22-season big league career that began with ten years in San Fancisco and ended with 12 years of nomadic pitching for six different organizations. He won 20 games for thee different teams and he was the AL Cy Young Award winner for the Indians in 1972 and the NL Cy Young Award winner eight seasons later, with the Padres. The story line of Perry’s career was always underscored by rumors that he threw a spitball. In fact, Perry even wrote a book while he was still pitching in which he confessed to throwing the doctored pitch early in his career but had since stopped doing so. Many baseball pundits felt Perry’s admission was part of a masterful con game to unsettle and distract opposing lineups.

In August of 1980 the Yankees were locked in a close pennant race with the Orioles and they traded pitcher Ken Clay to the Texas Rangers for Perry. The Yankees won that pennant but without much help from Gaylord. He went 4-4 for New York down the stretch and Yankee manager Dick Howser did not use him in the postseason. Perry signed to play with Atlanta the following year. His short stay in the Big Apple did make Perry one of the four 300-game-winning-pitchers to wear Yankee pinstripes. The other three one-time Yankee hurlers who accomplished the feat are Phil Niekro, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson.

Jim Perry ended up winning 215 games during a 17 year career which gave the Perry brothers 533 big league wins between them. The record for lifetime sibling victories however, is held by Phil and Joe Niekro, who won 539 games during their combined careers.

Gaylord shares his birthday with this former Yankee third baseman and this long-ago Highlander pitcher.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1980 NYY 4 4 .500 4.44 10 8 2 0 0 0 50.2 65 33 25 2 18 28 1.638
22 Yrs 314 265 .542 3.11 777 690 33 303 53 11 5350.0 4938 2128 1846 399 1379 3534 1.181
SFG (10 yrs) 134 109 .551 2.96 367 283 30 125 21 10 2294.1 2061 892 755 165 581 1606 1.152
TEX (4 yrs) 48 43 .527 3.26 112 112 0 55 12 0 827.1 787 345 300 59 190 575 1.181
CLE (4 yrs) 70 57 .551 2.71 134 133 1 96 17 1 1130.2 918 377 340 92 330 773 1.104
SDP (2 yrs) 33 17 .660 2.88 69 69 0 15 2 0 493.1 466 186 158 21 133 294 1.214
SEA (2 yrs) 13 22 .371 4.58 48 48 0 8 0 0 318.2 361 177 162 45 77 158 1.374
KCR (1 yr) 4 4 .500 4.27 14 14 0 1 1 0 84.1 98 48 40 6 26 40 1.470
ATL (1 yr) 8 9 .471 3.94 23 23 0 3 0 0 150.2 182 70 66 9 24 60 1.367
NYY (1 yr) 4 4 .500 4.44 10 8 2 0 0 0 50.2 65 33 25 2 18 28 1.638
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/21/2013.

September 14 – Happy Birthday Jerry Coleman

Oh Doctor! True baseball fans know these words as the signature phrase of long-time San Diego Padre play-by-play announcer, Jerry Coleman. Only very long-time baseball fans, however, can remember when that same Jerry Coleman was the starting second baseman for the first three of Casey Stengel’s five straight New York Yankee championship teams from 1949 through 1951. Where was Coleman when the Yankees won the ’52 and ’53 titles? He was in the Marines flying a fighter jet during the Korean War while his starting Yankee position was taken over by Billy Martin. Coleman had also spent the three years before beginning his Yankee career as a Marine aviator during WWII, making him the only big league baseball player in history to see combat action in two different wars.

He spent a total of nine seasons in Pinstripes. His best year was 1950, when Stengel used him in 153 games and he batted .287. Coleman also had a .275 lifetime batting average in six World Series.

When I was a kid, I would have to pilfer my older brother’s GE transistor radio to listen to radio broadcasts of Yankee games on the front porch of our house on Guy Park Avenue. That was my first encounter with Coleman, who was doing New York’s games on the radio back then.

The older I get the more respect and awe I have for athletes like Coleman, who excelled at their sport, served their country in an active combat position during what would have been their peak performance years and then excelled in the careers they entered, when their playing days were over. Coleman was born September 14, 1924, in San Jose, CA. Update: Coleman passed away on January 5, 2014, at the age of 89.

Coleman shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher who was acquired by New York in exchange for the great first baseman, Moose Skowren.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1949 NYY 128 523 447 54 123 21 5 2 42 8 63 44 .275 .367 .358 .725
1950 NYY 153 602 522 69 150 19 6 6 69 3 67 38 .287 .372 .381 .753
1951 NYY 121 404 362 48 90 11 2 3 43 6 31 36 .249 .315 .315 .630
1952 NYY 11 47 42 6 17 2 1 0 4 0 5 4 .405 .468 .500 .968
1953 NYY 8 11 10 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .200 .200 .200 .400
1954 NYY 107 333 300 39 65 7 1 3 21 3 26 29 .217 .278 .277 .555
1955 NYY 43 112 96 12 22 5 0 0 8 0 11 11 .229 .321 .281 .602
1956 NYY 80 203 183 15 47 5 1 0 18 1 12 33 .257 .305 .295 .600
1957 NYY 72 180 157 23 42 7 2 2 12 1 20 21 .268 .354 .376 .730
9 Yrs 723 2415 2119 267 558 77 18 16 217 22 235 218 .263 .340 .339 .680
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/19/2013.