After the Yankees gave up a three-game lead and lost the ALCS to the Red Sox in 2004, New York’s front office made the decision to go and get Randy Johnson from the Diamondbacks. The Big Unit’s former Arizona pitching partner, Curt Schilling had just helped Boston win their first World Championship in almost a century and Brian Cashman decided the Yankees needed to add a dominant number 1 starter to compete with their arch-rivals in the AL East.
Johnson had certainly been a dominant number 1 guy with both Seattle and the Diamondbacks during most of his career, winning five Cy Young’s including four straight with Arizona. But by the time he got to the Bronx, he was already 41-years-old and battling a chronically sore back. He was good enough to win 17 games in each of his two regular seasons in pinstripes, but he pitched poorly in the postseason as the Yankees got bounced from the playoffs in the first round in both 2005 and ’06. Few Yankee fans shed any tears when the often ornery left-hander was traded back to Arizona in January of 2007. Johnson finally retired in 2009 with 303 lifetime victories and 4,135 strikeouts during a 22-year career that will certainly end up getting him into Cooperstown.
Johnson’s career in New York got off to a rough start public relations wise when the 6’10″ pitcher allegedly shoved a reporter who got too close to him on a Manhattan street. Forty-four years earlier, another Yankee star who celebrates his birthday on this same date had also struggled with his relationship with the very tough Big Apple sports press. You’ll find his PBB post here. This former Yankee utility infielder was also born on September 10th.
These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double –
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Known as “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” this verse was written by a newspaper reporter who had been born in Chicago but later moved to the Big Apple. He wrote it in 1902, when he was on his way to the Polo Grounds to watch his original hometown’s Cubs play his adopted home town’s Giants. The poem wasn’t published until eight years later, in 1910, inside a New York newspaper. It became an instant nationwide hit; think “Take me Out to the Ballgame” level of popularity without the music.
Tinker, Evers and Chance were respectively the starting shortstop, second baseman and first baseman for Chicago from 1902, when they were still known as the Chicago Orphans, until 1911 (they switched to “Cubs” in 1903). That remains the golden decade of the franchise till this day.Their full names were Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance. All three ended up in Cooperstown but it was Chance, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, who was the best all-around player of the three and it was Chance who would also become the most successful Manager in the team’s history.
He took over as Skipper during the 1905 season and continued starting at first base. During the next eight seasons, he led the Cubs to a cumulative won-lost record of 768-389, while capturing four NL Pennants and consecutive World Series victories in 1907 and ’08, the latter of which remains the last world championship in that franchise’s history.
No modern ballplayer would have stomached playing for Chance. Why? Put it this way, if Chance were in Joe Girardi’s shoes today, he’d probably have gotten into at least one fistfight with Derek Jeter by now. Why? Because he had a strict rule against “fraternizing” with the opposing team’s players before, during or after a game and if he caught one of his players violating that rule he’d fine him. He was known to go after frequent offenders physically in the clubhouse. Chance was also accused of inciting on-the-field riots to get his players pumped up and on occasion, he was known to throw beer bottles at heckling fans in the stands.
As his record as Cubs’ manager indicates, Chance’s tactics were effective. His players may have hated him but they also respected him. That’s probably because as player manager, Chance was able to prove he was only asking his teammates to play the game the same hard-nosed, take no prisoners way he played it himself. One of the toughest brawlers in baseball, Chance actually took off-season boxing lessons from former heavyweight champion John Corbett. As a hitter, he would famously crowd the plate and dare opposing pitchers to try and back him off it. Many of the National League’s mounds-men certainly tried, because he was hit by pitches 137 times during his playing career and was a victim of head beanings so frequently that blood clots formed in his brain and he was forced to undergo emergency surgery during the 1912 season to save his life. It was while he was in the hospital recovering from that surgery that he was dismissed as Cubs manager for arguing with the owner about player trades being contemplated.
That’s when the Yankees hired the man who by then had become known as “the Peerless Leader.” Still considered a player manager, Chance would only appear in 13 games during his almost two full seasons in New York. He was relatively successful during his tenure. By the second year, his 1914 Yankee team had won 20 more regular season games than the 1912 Yankee team had won just before he became the team’s skipper. The problem was that 1912 Yankee team had only won 50 games. He was replaced as skipper by his shortstop, Roger Peckinpaugh during the final month of his second season. He would later manage the Red Sox and be hired to skipper the White Sox as well. But before he managed his first game for Chicago’s southside team, he came down with pneumonia and died at the age of 48.
I found much of the information used in this post in Frank Ryhal’s article on Frank Chance, published by the Society for American Baseball Research.
The only member of the New York Yankee all-time roster to celebrate a birthday on September 8th is this Asheville, NC native who won 29 games over two seasons for the Yankee’s Triple A teams in the late seventies. McCall could not replicate that success at the big league level, appearing in only a total of seven games in pinstripes over the course of the 1977 and 78 seasons. He won his only Yankee decision during the 1978 regular season. I guess you could say that without that victory, the Yankees would not have tied Boston for that season’s Eastern Division Pennant. Without that tie, Bucky Dent’s home run never would have happened. So thank you Larry.
After the 1978 postseason, McCall was included as part of the package the Yankees traded to Texas to obtain Dave Righetti. By 1980, McCall was out of the big leagues for good and began a long career as a Minor League pitching coach in the Orioles’ organization. In 2006, he served as Baltimore’s big league bullpen coach.
So how many Yankees have their been on the team’s all-time roster who have a last name that begins with the moniker prefix “Mc?” Including McCall, I counted 39. Four of them are in the Hall of Fame but two of those four, John McGraw and Joe “Iron Man” McGinnity played or managed for the franchise before it was relocated to the Big Apple from Baltimore in 1903. Another “Mc” enshrined in Cooperstown was named Bill McKechnie, a utility second baseman on the 1913 Yankee team who would go onto become a two-time World Series winning manager. The fourth was of course the legendary Yankee manager, Joe McCarthy. Gil McDougald was the best McYankee player of all time. He is the all-time leader in Yankee McHomers with 112. Others you might remember include pitchers Sam McDowell, Mike McCormick, “Black Jack” McDowell and the wily reliever, Lindy McDaniel. Who was the biggest Yanke McDud? Remember Rich McKinney? He’s the third baseman the Yankees got for 1968 AL Rookie of the Year pitcher, Stan Bahnsen in a 1972 trade with the White Sox. McKinney would hit just .215 during his one year with New York while Bahnsen was winning 21 games for Chicago that same season. There have been four Yankee “McDonalds,” including Darnell, who played some games in the outfield for the 2012 Yankees. The only current McYankee is the recently acquired Casey McGeHee.
I like Yankee radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman and pretty much always have. Yes she’s an unabashed “homer” but so was “Scooter.” Yes she went way overboard on that night in 2007, when Roger Clemons stood there waving alongside George Steinbrenner at the old Yankee Stadium as his return to the Yankees was announced to the crowd. But that’s another reason I like her. She says what she feels and she shows emotion. I absolutely did not mind her crying on air after the Yankees lost the 2007 ALDS to the Indians or when she was verbally and unfairly assaulted by Toronto’s George Bell during a 1987 interview in the Stadium’s visitors’ locker room. She’s certainly not the best play-by-play or color commentator I’ve ever heard but I happily listen to her when radio is my only connection available to my favorite team’s games. There have been rumors spread by certain Big Apple tabloid reporters that Waldman, a former Broadway actress, got her sports announcing gig with the Bombers because she was a par amour of Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. I have no idea how true that is but after listening to the feisty lady talk about the Bronx Bombers for the last two decades, I know she has the knowledge, passion and talent to more than justify her role in Yankee history as the team’s first-ever female play-by-play announcer.
And despite the fact that she’s a female, Ms. Waldman also has proven she carries around a set of balls. In Bill Madden’s great book “Steinbrenner,” the author explains how Waldman was the person who got George Steinbrenner to apologize to Yogi Berra. At one point, as final arrangements for the meeting at Berra’s New Jersey Museum’s grand opening were being worked out, Yogi’s son Dale was worried the Boss would not actually apologize to his father. As Madden tells it in his book, Waldman assured the younger Berra that the Yankee owner was not going to fly all the way up to new Jersey from Tampa to say “F_ _ _ you!”
Waldman was born on this date in 1946. This one time Yankee outfielder was also born on September 7th.
Most of today’s Yankee fans can very easily remember the era of Jason Giambi in pinstripes. He was signed to be New York’s full-time first baseman but during the seven seasons he played in the Bronx, he started as many as 100 games at that position just once, in 2008, his final season as a Yankee. The Great Giambino got all that Yankee money for his hitting prowess because if he was paid based on his ability to defend his position, the guy would have qualified for food stamps. It was during the Giambi years that Yankee fans grew used to a committee approach of starting first basemen. Now of course, we have the great glove of Mark Teixeira patrolling there game in and game out and prior to Giambi, Yankee first basemen tended to be full-time first basemen, like Tino, Mattingly, Chambliss, Pepitone, Moose and of course the guy who epitomized full-time first basemen the great Lou Gehrig.
Most of you (including myself) don’t remember the Yankees of the late 1940′s and early 50′s. That was really the last lengthy era of multiple Yankee starting first basemen. In 1949 for example, six different guys made starts at that position. “Old Reliable,” Tommy Henrich, was one of them. The former outfielder led the team with just 51 starts at first that season. Former Amsterdam Rugmaker, Dick Kryhoski was next with 47 starts and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Jack Phillips, was Casey Stengel’s starting choice at first base 37 times, before he was sold to the Pirates on August 6th of the 1949 season.
Phillips was very competent defensively and at six feet four inches tall, he provided a big target for the throws of his fellow Yankee infielders. Hence the nickname “Stretch,” which of course was made more famous later by the great Giant first sacker, Willie McCovey. Phillips, a native of Clarence, NY, was a right-handed contact hitter and since both Henrich and Kryhoski batted from the left side, Stengel would frequently start him against southpaws.
Stretch had made his Yankee debut in August of 1947, hitting .278 in fourteen games and impressing then manager, Bucky Harris enough to make New York’s World Series’ roster and get two at bats and his one and only ring against the Dodgers that fall. Two seasons later, Phillips’ was hitting .308 for New York when Pittsburgh made a purchase offer for him that Yankee GM George Weiss did not refuse. He remained with the Pirates for the next three years and in 1950, he hit the first pinch-hit “ultimate” home run in Major League history. What’s an “ultimate” home run? A walk-off blast that occurs when the home-team is down by three runs.
Jack Phillips would later also play a few seasons for the Tigers and then retire in 1957. He would eventually become head baseball coach at Clarkson University in New York State, his alma mater and serve in that capacity for 24 years. That school’s baseball field is named in his honor. Phillips died in 2009 at the age of 87.
September 5 is also the birthday of Bill Mazeroski. My first vivid memory of being a Yankee fan was running all the way home from school as a first grader on an October afternoon in 1960 so I could watch the end of the seventh game of the 1960 World Series. I got in front of our family’s black & white Sylvania just in time to see Yogi Berra staring up at the top of the ivy-covered left field wall at Pittsburgh’s old Forbes Field, watching Mazeroski’s series-winning home run fly over it. So I won’t be wishing the former Pirate second baseman a happy birthday, ever.
Another Yankee born on September 5th is this former reliever.
Doyle Alexander would never win a Mr Cogeniality contest. He had two tours of duty as a Yankee starter and made few friends in either. His first stay in the Bronx did however, reap significant dividends for both team and player. It began during the 1976 season, when Doyle was part of a ten-player deal between New York and Baltimore. He went 10-5 after putting on the pinstripes that year, playing a huge role in helping New York capture the 1976 AL Pennant. He then got hammered in his only postseason start against the Reds in the ’76 World Series and I believe it was that shaky appearance and the fact that nobody in the Yankee organization was a big fan of Alexander’s prickly personality, that permitted the Texas Rangers to swoop in and sign the big right-hander to a free agent deal.
By 1982, this native of Cordova, Alabama was pitching for San Francisco and the Yankees traded for him a second time. Alexander was not so great during his encore appearance in pinstripes. In fact, when Steinbrenner insulted the pitcher by telling reporters he got hit so hard the Yankee infielders were afraid to play behind him, wise-guy Graig Nettles rubbed a bit more salt in the wound by adding that he would even avoid sitting in the bleachers when Alexander was on the mound. He won just one of nine decisions during his repeat stay in the Bronx and New York released him early on in the 1983 season. He went on to to become a 17-game winner for the Blue Jays in each of the next two seasons. Born on this date in 1950, Alexander retired after the 1989 season with a Big League record of 194-174.
Plunk was originally drafted by the Yankees in 1981. Before he pitched an inning in the big leagues, he was included in the 1984 trade that made Ricky Henderson a Yankee. Then in 1989, after going 16-16 during his first three and a half seasons in the Majors with the A’s, Plunk was traded back to the Yankees for guess who? Ricky Henderson. Eric then spent three unspectacular seasons in Pinstripes, pitching for some of the worst teams in the franchise’s storied history. He was used as both a starter and long-reliever during his stay in the Bronx and managed to accumulate a 15-13 Yankee record. Plunk had much more success as a valuable member of the Indian bullpen after his Yankee days were over. He had good enough stuff to last for fourteen Major League seasons, retiring in 1999 with 72 wins and 35 career saves. Erik was born on September 3, 1963, in Wilmington, CA.
Before Marvelous Marv Throneberry established his legacy with the Amazin Mets he was a phee-nom prospect in the powerful New York Yankee organization. In fact, from 1955 through 1957, he played first base for Manager, Ralph Houk’s Denver Bears, the Yankees’ Triple A affiliate at the time and averaged 39 home runs and 128 RBIs per season in the thin air of the Mile High City. Throneberry got good long trials with the parent club in both 1958 and ’59 but he couldn’t hit for average (just .238). Besides, the Yankees already had Moose Skowren at first base so they made Throneberry one of four players they sent to Kansas City for Roger Maris in December of 1959. He did OK for the A’s in 1960, hitting 11 home runs, but again failed to hit for average. The A’s traded him to Baltimore during the 1961 season and then Baltimore traded him to the Mets for catcher Hobie Landrith.
Reunited with Casey Stengel, Throneberry became “Marvelous Marv.” He struck out too much and made 17 errors in just 89 games and Met fans instantly fell in love with him. Some of his most memorable moments came during rundowns he was involved in. During one, instead of throwing the ball to a teammate covering home plate, Throneberry chased an aging Stan Musial all the way to home plate without catching him. In another, Marv ran into the runner without the ball causing the umpire to call interference, making the runner safe. My favorite story about Throneberry’s misfortunes as a Met was the time he won a $6,000 sailboat. First of all, he lived in an area of Tennessee in which filled bathtubs were the largest bodies of water available. He had won the boat by hitting a clothing store billboard in the old Polo Grounds. Teammate Richie Ashburn won the same prize when Mets fans selected the outfielder as the teams first MVP. A lawyer for the Mets told Throneberry he had to claim his boat as income because he “earned” it by hitting the sign while Ashburn got his boat as a gift and didn’t have to declare it on his taxes. Throneberry died in 1994, at the age of 60.
Also born on this date was former Yankee pitcher Monte Pearson. You can read his Pinstripe Birthday post here.
The Boyer family of baseball fame was a large one, seven boys and seven girls. Five of the boys played professional ball and three of them made it to the big leagues. Of those three, it was Ken Boyer who had the best career. He was a seven-time All Star at third base with the Cardinals and won five Gold Gloves (Clete won just one GG,) the NL MVP Award and a World Series during his days with St. Louis. Ken was the only Major League Boyer who was never a member of the Yankee family.
Unlike his younger brother, Yankee third base great Clete, Cloyd Boyer never played a game in a Yankee uniform. Instead, after a torn rotator cuff ended his pitching career, he became a very effective minor league pitching instructor for New York for many years. But perhaps his greatest Yankee achievement occurred when he managed New York’s Binghamton farm team in 1968. He was given that job specifically so he could put the finishing touches on the development of a young Thurman Munson before Munson was called up to the parent club for good. The late Yankee catcher often said he learned more from Boyer in that one season than he had from any other manager or coach in his career.
The only Yankee player to be born on this date was a guy named Foster Edwards, an Ivy Leaguer who pitched for the Braves during the second half of the roaring twenties without distinction. He appeared in two games for the 1930 New York Yankees, which concluded his inauspicious big league career.