September 2012

September 7 – Happy Birthday Suzyn Waldman

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.

September 6 – Happy Birthday Jack Phillips

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.

This former Yankee back-up catcher and this one-time Yankee catching coach were also born on September 6th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1947 NYY 16 39 36 5 10 0 1 1 2 0 3 5 .278 .333 .417 .750
1948 NYY 1 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
1949 NYY 45 106 91 16 28 4 1 1 10 1 12 9 .308 .388 .407 .795
9 Yrs 343 990 892 111 252 42 16 9 101 5 85 86 .283 .344 .396 .740
PIT (4 yrs) 158 464 421 43 111 17 10 5 49 3 39 40 .264 .326 .387 .713
NYY (3 yrs) 62 147 129 21 38 4 2 2 12 1 15 15 .295 .368 .403 .771
DET (3 yrs) 123 379 342 47 103 21 4 2 40 1 31 31 .301 .356 .404 .760
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/17/2013.

September 5 – Happy Birthday Buddy Hassett

After spending six seasons in the National League with the Dodgers and Braves, the Yankees acquired Hassett to play first base in 1942, replacing the light-hitting Johnny Sturm. The New York City native who was born September 5, 1911, did OK in Pinstripes, hitting .284 and scoring 80 runs for a Yankee team that won 103 regular season games and captured the AL Pennant. After hitting .333 in a losing effort against the Cardinals in that season’s World Series, Hassett never appeared in another big league ball game.

He was called into military service the following year and the Yankees went out and got Nick Etten to play first base during the ’43 season. By the time Hassett returned from the Navy he was one of over 500 big league and more than 4,000 minor league players coming back from the armed services to reclaim or try to win a limited number of big league roster spots. Though Hassett had been one of a small group of players in history to have compiled at least 375 plate appearances during each season of his major league career before joining the service, he failed to make a post- WWII big league roster (even though the commissioner had expanded those rosters from 25 to 30 players to accommodate returning players.)

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 Yankee reliever and this long ago starting pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1942 NYY 132 581 538 80 153 16 6 5 48 5 32 16 .284 .325 .364 .689
7 Yrs 929 3807 3517 469 1026 130 40 12 343 53 209 116 .292 .333 .362 .695
BSN (3 yrs) 389 1572 1453 190 409 43 11 3 120 27 90 45 .281 .324 .332 .656
BRO (3 yrs) 408 1654 1526 199 464 71 23 4 175 21 87 55 .304 .346 .389 .734
NYY (1 yr) 132 581 538 80 153 16 6 5 48 5 32 16 .284 .325 .364 .689
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/5/2013.

September 3 – Happy Birthday Eric Plunk

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.

He shares his birthday with one of the many guys who played 3B for the Yanks during the 2013 season.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1989 NYY 7 5 .583 3.69 27 7 5 0 0 0 75.2 65 36 31 9 52 61 1.546
1990 NYY 6 3 .667 2.72 47 0 16 0 0 0 72.2 58 27 22 6 43 67 1.390
1991 NYY 2 5 .286 4.76 43 8 6 0 0 0 111.2 128 69 59 18 62 103 1.701
14 Yrs 72 58 .554 3.82 714 41 234 0 0 35 1151.0 1009 537 488 122 647 1081 1.439
CLE (7 yrs) 36 23 .610 3.25 373 0 140 0 0 26 462.0 393 185 167 42 217 460 1.320
OAK (4 yrs) 16 16 .500 4.30 130 26 47 0 0 8 322.0 261 162 154 29 215 291 1.478
NYY (3 yrs) 15 13 .536 3.88 117 15 27 0 0 0 260.0 251 132 112 33 157 231 1.569
MIL (2 yrs) 5 6 .455 4.63 94 0 20 0 0 1 107.0 104 58 55 18 58 99 1.514
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2013.

September 2 – Happy Birthday Marv Throneberry

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 this former Yankee pitcher and this former first round Yankee draft pick.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1955 NYY 1 3 2 1 2 1 0 0 3 1 0 0 1.000 .667 1.500 2.167
1958 NYY 60 172 150 30 34 5 2 7 19 1 19 40 .227 .316 .427 .742
1959 NYY 80 214 192 27 46 5 0 8 22 0 18 51 .240 .302 .391 .693
7 Yrs 480 1331 1186 143 281 37 8 53 170 3 130 295 .237 .311 .416 .726
NYY (3 yrs) 141 389 344 58 82 11 2 15 44 2 37 91 .238 .311 .413 .724
NYM (2 yrs) 130 411 371 29 89 12 3 16 50 1 35 88 .240 .302 .418 .720
KCA (2 yrs) 144 410 366 46 90 11 3 17 65 0 42 90 .246 .323 .432 .754
BAL (2 yrs) 65 121 105 10 20 3 0 5 11 0 16 26 .190 .298 .362 .659
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/6/2013.