The Buck Showalter era in Yankee franchise history began in 1992. New York was coming off of three straight losing seasons under Stump Merrill and I remember wondering if this new guy was the right choice to turn the team around. The Yankee lineup that year featured a potpourri of well-travelled veterans like Danny Tartabull, Mel Hall and Charley Hayes, home grown kids like Roberto Kelly, Pat Kelly, Kevin Maas and Andy Stankiewicz and of course, Donnie Baseball. But it was two role players on that squad, who I thought Showalter took a particular liking to; Randy Velarde and a former Oakland A named Mike Gallego.
Gallego became that team’s primary backup at second and short and Velarde did the same at every other position on the field besides catcher. Neither put together glittering statistics. Velarde averaged .272, Gallego just .254 but whenever I watched a Yankee game that season, one or both of them seemed to make some sort of hustling play or put together a particularly good at bat. That ’92 Yankee team finished ten games under .500 but I clearly remember thinking they were finally on the right track.
The following year, the Yankees finished 14 games above .500 and Showalter started Gallego in 119 games at second, short or third. The Whittier, CA native put together his best big league offensive season, hitting .283 and knocking in 54 runs. By the following year, he had become New York’s de facto starting shortstop. That ’94 Yankee team was running away with their division race when a strike halted play and ended the season. At the time, Gallego’s average was just .239. and the three year free agent contract he had signed with New York was ending. When the strike finally ended and play resumed in 1995, Tony Fernandez was the Yankee shortstop and Mike Gallego was back playing for Oakland.
|OAK (8 yrs)||772||2151||1863||230||432||63||9||23||168||21||205||295||.232||.313||.312||.625|
|NYY (3 yrs)||261||1023||882||126||231||44||3||19||109||3||108||133||.262||.347||.383||.730|
|STL (2 yrs)||78||205||186||18||37||4||0||0||5||0||13||37||.199||.254||.220||.474|
The 2009 Yankee team would not have challenged for a World Championship without a group of relievers who had a knack for holding down the opposing team’s offense while the Yankee lineup got their bats untracked and took the lead. The combined 2009 won-lost record of Alfredo Aceves, Jose Veras, Brian Bruney, Phil Hughes, Phil Coke and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was 35-9.
Albaladejo had become a Yankee via a December 2007 trade that sent the promising Tyler Clppard to the Nationals. A native of Puerto Rico, this right-hander’s huge 6’5″ 250 pound frame made him an imposing site on the mound and his ability to throw a fastball in the mid-to-high nineties made him even more intimidating. He spent most of his first season in the Yankee system on the DL and then pitched himself onto the Yankee roster during the 2009 spring training season.
He would put together several stretches of spot-on pitching during the 09 season, but it seemed as if once a month, his control would abandon him and he’d get shelled. Girardi called on him 32 times that year and he held the opposition scoreless in 24 of those appearances. But even though he finished the regular season with a 5-1 record, he was left off the Yankees’ postseason roster. He was then demoted to Scranton-Wilkes Barre in 2010 but he sucked it up and pitched brilliantly as that team’s closer, saving 43 games. The problem for this guy was that the Yankees already had Mo Rivera and Rafael Soriano on their roster so they released Albaladejo and he ended up pitching in Japan during the 2011 season. Meanwhile, Tyler Clippard blossomed into a very effective closer for the Nationals in 2012.
|NYY (3 yrs)||5||2||.714||4.70||49||0||12||0||0||0||59.1||65||34||31||8||30||42||1.601|
|ARI (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||3||0||0||0||0||0||3.0||5||3||3||1||0||2||1.667|
|WSN (1 yr)||1||1||.500||1.88||14||0||1||0||0||0||14.1||7||3||3||1||2||12||0.628|
The 1970 Yankees had surprised everyone including me by finishing in second place in the AL East with the impressive total of 93 wins. That unexpected success put a lot of pressure on manager Ralph Houk to not only prove his team was that good but to also come up with a plan for making up the 15 games that had separated the second place Bronx Bombers from their division foes, the 1970 World Champion Baltimore Orioles.
The New York skipper was telling the press that the Yankee bullpen was one of the league’s best, thanks to the righty/lefty duo of veterans Jack Aker and Lindy McDaniel. He felt Mel Stottlemyre, Fritz Peterson and Stan Bahnsen were as good as any team’s first three starting pitchers. He touted Bobby Murcer, Roy White and 1970 AL Rookie of the Year Thurman Munson as the foundation of an efficient run-producing lineup. His goals that spring were to find a fourth starting pitcher and a corner infielder with some home run power. He also expected today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant to replace Gene Michael as the Yankees’ starting shortstop.
It wouldn’t be the first time the franchise was counting on a “Frank Baker” to help the team compete for an AL Pennant. Over a half century earlier, the Yankees had purchased the contract of Hall of Famer Frank “Home Run” Baker from the Philadelphia A’s. By the time that Frank Baker retired after the 1922 season, he had helped the Yankees make it to the franchise’s first two Fall Classics.
The “Frank Baker” Houk was introducing was a sleek fielding shortstop who had spent the previous four seasons playing that position brilliantly for the Yankee’s Syracuse Chiefs. But I had the same question everyone else had about Baker. Could the guy hit?
The shortstop he was replacing was Gene Michael. Nicknamed “Stick,” Michael was a mediocre switch hitter who would average just .229 lifetime, but he had somehow managed to hit a career high .272 during the 1969 season. That blip caused the Yankees to keep Michael at short instead of Baker for the 1970 season. When Stick reverted to form by averaging just .214 the following year, Houk was determined to move forward with the switch. Baker had been a career .250 hitter at the minor league level and had hit at that same level during a 1970 call-up from Syracuse. I remember clearly thinking that he would not make a huge impact offensively for the Yankees in 1971 and I was correct. In fact, he was so unimpressive in that year’s spring training season that Houk kept Michael as the team’s starting shortstop. Baker ended up seeing action in just 43 games that year and his batting average was a putrid .139. He found himself back in Syracuse the following year and was then traded to the Orioles in 1973. Meanwhile, Gene Michael kept starting at short for New York until 1974, finally losing the job to Jim Mason.
|NYY (2 yrs)||78||231||196||15||38||6||1||0||13||4||30||48||.194||.306||.235||.540|
|BAL (2 yrs)||68||103||92||13||17||2||2||1||11||0||10||12||.185||.262||.283||.545|
Before there could be a Rivera or Gossage or Lyle, there had to be a Joe Page. One of seven children, Page was born on October 28, 1917, the son of a Cherry Valley, Pennsylvania coal-miner. Page began his Yankee career as a starter in 1944 when he won five of his first six decisions and made the AL All Star team as a 27-year-old rookie. Page then hurt his shoulder in a fall while running the bases, kept the injury quiet from Yankee skipper Joe McCarthy and proceeded to lose his final six decisions that season. He was used mostly as a starter the next two seasons with mostly unspectacular results which is why he ended up in the place most under-performing starters ended up back in the forties, the bullpen. But instead of treating his new status as a bullpen pitcher as a demotion, Page seemed to relish it.
By 1947 he had evolved the role into one of baseball’s first great closers, leading the league in games finished for three straight seasons while winning 34 games in the process. When the “save” became an official Major League stat in 1969, baseball historians reviewed old box scores to apply it retroactively and found that Page led the league in saves in both 1947 and ’49, while saving 60 games over that three-season period. Page also appeared in two World Series, winning and saving a game in each Classic, both Yankee victories. After slumping to a 3-7 record in 1950 with an ERA that ballooned to over 5 runs per game, the Yankees released their first-ever ace closer. He tried an unsuccessful comeback with the Pirates a few years later before hanging it up for good.
Page was the first Yankee and first Major League reliever to reach the 20-save mark when he accumulated 27 in 1949. Sparky Lyle was the first Yankee to reach the 30-save mark when he had 35 in 1972. Dave Righetti became the first Yankee to break the 40-save barrier with his 46 in 1986 and the great Mariano Rivera is the only Yankee reliever to save 50 or more games and he’s done it twice, the first time in 2001.
You couldn’t blame the Yankee fans back in June of 1904 for getting real excited when they heard the news that their favorite team, then known as the Highlanders, had just traded a rookie named Bob Unglaub for Boston’s star left fielder, Patsy Dougherty. After all, Unglaub had barely played for New York during the first half of that season, while Dougherty had led the American League in both runs and hits the season before, averaged .331 and became the first player ever to hit two home runs in one World Series game the previous postseason against Pittsburgh. Patsy also held the distinction of being the first AL hitter ever to get an at bat in a regular season baseball game in the Big Apple when he led off for Boston in their 1903 season opener against New York in Hilltop Park.
Dougherty had a strong first season for New York, hitting .283 and leading the league in runs scored for the second straight year. But that turned out to be the apex of his Big Apple playing performance. During the next two seasons his batting average plummeted and as a result, so did his playing time. He was sold to the White Sox in June of 1906. The change of scenery revived him and he played five more years in the Windy City before retiring in 1911. Dougherty was born in Andover, NY in 1876 and passed away in 1940. He is the only member of the Yankee all-time roster who celebrates his birthday on October 26th.
Counting Patsy Dougherty, seventeen different Yankees have led the American League in runs scored during at least one of the past 111 big league seasons. Here they are in chronological order. Note multiple winners have the number of times they led league in scoring as a Yankee, in parenthesis following their names: Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez (2), Alfonso Soriano, Derek Jeter, Ricky Henderson (2), Roy White, Bobby Murcer, Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle (5), Tommy Henrich, Snuffy Stirnweiss (2), Red Rolfe, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig (4), Babe Ruth (7), Patsy Dougherty.
Dougherty shares his birthday with this former Yankee catching coach.
|CHW (6 yrs)||703||2761||2413||322||648||78||40||4||261||168||231||249||.269||.341||.339||.680|
|BOS (3 yrs)||296||1359||1223||217||398||36||22||4||97||65||100||123||.325||.382||.401||.783|
|NYY (3 yrs)||234||989||922||139||248||24||16||9||55||28||47||88||.269||.311||.359||.670|