October 2012

October 21 – Happy Birthday Whitey Ford

The argument is easy to make that Whitey Ford is the greatest Yankee starting pitcher of all time. “The Chairman of the Board” was a winner from the get-go, helping New York capture the 1950 pennant in his rookie season by winning nine of ten regular season decisions. He then pitched eight and two thirds innings of shutout ball to earn his first of ten World Series victories in that year’s Fall Classic against the Philadelphia Whiz Kids.

After a two-year hitch in the military, Ford rejoined the Yankees in 1953 and began a streak of thirteen consecutive winning seasons. I firmly believe that if anyone other than Casey Stengel managed the Yankees during the fifties, Ford would have had a lot more regular season victories. Stengel liked to manipulate his rotation so he could match up Ford against the opposing team’s best pitcher, which caused Whitey to average about six to eight less starts per season than the aces of other Major League teams during that decade. When Ralph Houk took over from Stengel in 1961, he gave Ford the ball every fourth game down the stretch and the southpaw responded well to the regularity and extra workload. He had his best year in 1961, when he captured the Cy Young Award with a stunning 25-4 record. In 1963, he went 24-7 and in 1964, eight of his seventeen victories were complete game shutouts.

A native New Yorker, Whitey, country bumpkin Mickey Mantle, and the fiery Californian, Billy Martin, formed a friendship triumvirate that created a lot of success for the Yankees on the field but lots of trouble off of it. Since Ford only played once every five games, he could party hard six nights a week and rest up the evening before his scheduled start. As position players, Mantle and Martin didn’t have that luxury and there were many an early afternoon game when Whitey would sit in the dugout laughing at the play of his two hung over drinking buddies while Stengel fumed.

Ford retired in 1967 after spending his entire seventeen-year career in a Yankee uniform. His 236 regular season victories are still number 1 on New York’s all-time list. His incredible .690 career winning percentage is also still the best of any pitcher with 300 or more career decisions.

Back in 2008, during the ESPN television broadcast of the final game at Yankee Stadium, Ford and his longtime battery mate and fellow Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra, were invited up to the broadcast booth to share their memories of playing in the Stadium. Those thirty minutes listening to two of my heroes talk about their Yankee playing days was the personal highlight of that 2008 baseball season. Whitey turns 84-years-old today. How did all those years come and go so fast?

Whitey shares his October 21st birthday with former Yankee pitcher, Bill Bevens and former Yankee catcher, John Flaherty.

Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1950 21 NYY AL 9 1 .900 2.81 20 12 5 7 2 1 112.0 87 39 35 7 52 59 1.241
1953 24 NYY AL 18 6 .750 3.00 32 30 2 11 3 0 207.0 187 77 69 13 110 110 1.435
1954 25 NYY AL 16 8 .667 2.82 34 28 4 11 3 1 210.2 170 72 66 10 101 125 1.286
1955 26 NYY AL 18 7 .720 2.63 39 33 4 18 5 2 253.2 188 83 74 20 113 137 1.187
1956 27 NYY AL 19 6 .760 2.47 31 30 1 18 2 1 225.2 187 70 62 13 84 141 1.201
1957 28 NYY AL 11 5 .688 2.57 24 17 2 5 0 0 129.1 114 46 37 10 53 84 1.291
1958 29 NYY AL 14 7 .667 2.01 30 29 1 15 7 1 219.1 174 62 49 14 62 145 1.076
1959 30 NYY AL 16 10 .615 3.04 35 29 4 9 2 1 204.0 194 82 69 13 89 114 1.387
1960 31 NYY AL 12 9 .571 3.08 33 29 1 8 4 0 192.2 168 76 66 15 65 85 1.209
1961 32 NYY AL 25 4 .862 3.21 39 39 0 11 3 0 283.0 242 108 101 23 92 209 1.180
1962 33 NYY AL 17 8 .680 2.90 38 37 0 7 0 0 257.2 243 90 83 22 69 160 1.211
1963 34 NYY AL 24 7 .774 2.74 38 37 1 13 3 1 269.1 240 94 82 26 56 189 1.099
1964 35 NYY AL 17 6 .739 2.13 39 36 2 12 8 1 244.2 212 67 58 10 57 172 1.099
1965 36 NYY AL 16 13 .552 3.24 37 36 1 9 2 1 244.1 241 97 88 22 50 162 1.191
1966 37 NYY AL 2 5 .286 2.47 22 9 7 0 0 0 73.0 79 33 20 8 24 43 1.411
1967 38 NYY AL 2 4 .333 1.64 7 7 0 2 1 0 44.0 40 11 8 2 9 21 1.114
16 Yrs 236 106 .690 2.75 498 438 35 156 45 10 3170.1 2766 1107 967 228 1086 1956 1.215
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/21/2013.

October 20 – Happy Birthday Jose Veras

I remember the first time I saw Jose Veras get summoned in from the bullpen to pitch in a Yankee game. I’m not sure if it was during this Dominican’s first cup of coffee stay in the Bronx in 2006 or his second call-up in 2007, but I do remember how his huge physical size made an impression on me. This right-hander is six feet six inches tall and goes about 250 pounds. It took him three tries to finally stick with the Yankees but when he did start clicking it happened at an opportune time for both team and player.

When the Yankees opened up the 2008 season the plan was to have both Kyle Farnsworth and the previous year’s rookie sensation, Joba Chamberlain serve as the late inning bridges to closer Mariano Rivera. That strategy collapsed when rookie starters Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy struggled out of the gate and Chamberlain was taken from the bullpen and inserted in the rotation. That put too much of the late-inning workload on Farnsworth and Joe Girardi gave Veras the opportunity to fill Chamberlain’s vacated slot.

He responded well to the challenge and became one of the bright spots in an otherwise disappointing 2008 season for the Yankees. Veras appeared in 60 games that year and finished with a 5-3 record with a 3.58 ERA and 10 Holds. Unfortunately for Veras, he got off to a slow start in 2009. Meanwhile, Phil Hughes began pitching brilliantly in a late-inning role and newcomer David Robertson was impressing everyone with his ability to get outs. That made Veras expendable and that June, he was sold to the Indians. He hasn’t had a chance to unpack his suitcase since, as he pitched for the Marlins in 2010, the Pirates in ’11 and spent last season with the Brewers. He has pitched  well since switching to the National League.

Update: Veras got a huge break at the trading deadline during the 2013 season, when he was traded from the lowly Astros to the playoff-contending Tigers. Detroit skipper Jim Leyland used him a lot from that point forward and the couple of times I saw him pitch during the 2013 playoffs he looked very effective, until last night that is. Veras was the guy who surrendered the back-breaking grand slam to Shane Victorino that sent Boston into the World Series and the Tigers into the off-season.

Other members of the Yankee family born on this date include:
My all-time favorite baseball player:
My all-time favorite PA announcer:
A guy who stole 79 bases for the 1980 Reds:

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2006 NYY 0 0 4.09 12 0 4 0 0 1 11.0 8 5 5 2 5 6 1.182
2007 NYY 0 0 5.79 9 0 3 0 0 2 9.1 6 6 6 0 7 7 1.393
2008 NYY 5 3 .625 3.59 60 0 15 0 0 0 57.2 52 23 23 7 29 63 1.405
2009 NYY 3 1 .750 5.96 25 0 10 0 0 0 25.2 23 17 17 5 14 18 1.442
8 Yrs 19 22 .463 3.84 394 0 133 0 0 26 377.0 300 171 161 39 194 388 1.310
NYY (4 yrs) 8 4 .667 4.43 106 0 32 0 0 3 103.2 89 51 51 14 55 94 1.389
CLE (1 yr) 1 2 .333 4.38 22 0 9 0 0 0 24.2 19 16 12 3 14 22 1.338
PIT (1 yr) 2 4 .333 3.80 79 0 19 0 0 1 71.0 54 32 30 6 34 79 1.239
DET (1 yr) 0 1 .000 3.20 25 0 7 0 0 2 19.2 16 8 7 2 8 16 1.220
HOU (1 yr) 0 4 .000 2.93 42 0 38 0 0 19 43.0 29 15 14 4 14 44 1.000
FLA (1 yr) 3 3 .500 3.75 48 0 11 0 0 0 48.0 32 20 20 5 29 54 1.271
MIL (1 yr) 5 4 .556 3.63 72 0 17 0 0 1 67.0 61 29 27 5 40 79 1.507
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/20/2013.

October 19 – Happy Birthday Wade Taylor

In yesterday’s PBB post we celebrated the birthday of Alan Mills, a member of one of the worst pitching staffs in Yankee history, back in 1991. Wade Taylor was a teammate of Alan’s and one of the starters on that woeful Yankee pitching staff. He had compiled a two-season record of 16-9 for the Yankee farm teams in Columbus and Albany, when New York called him up to pitch for the big boys in June of that season. He went 7-12, finishing behind only Scott Sanderson for most victories by a starter on that staff. That was not good enough to earn him a spot in the rotation the following season and he found himself pitching back in Columbus. Taylor never again appeared in a big league game.

The only other Yankee to have been born on October 19th is this former second baseman who had two sons who both became Major League All Star players.

Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB Awards
1991 25 NYY AL 7 12 .368 6.27 23 22 0 0 0 0 116.1 144 85 81 13 53 0 72 7 3 3 528 66 1.693 11.1 1.0 4.1 5.6 1.36
1 Yr 7 12 .368 6.27 23 22 0 0 0 0 116.1 144 85 81 13 53 0 72 7 3 3 528 66 1.693 11.1 1.0 4.1 5.6 1.36
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/19/2013.

October 18 – Happy Birthday Alan Mills

You have to be a pretty strong Yankee fan to remember when this right-handed reliever wore the pinstripes. He pitched for New York during his first two big league seasons, in 1990 and 1991. He was a member of  two of the worst pitching staffs in Yankee franchise history during those years. After the 1991 season, the Yankees traded him to the Orioles. After going 1-6 with New York with an ERA of over four, Mills became a middle relief animal for the Birds in 1993, winning ten of fourteen decisions and compiling an ERA of 2.61. That’s why I remember Alan Mills. As soon as the Yankees dealt him, he became exactly the type of pitcher the Yankees needed so desperately back then. Though he never again achieved those lofty 1993-level numbers on the mound, he was an effective member of the Orioles’ bullpen for the next seven seasons and then signed a pretty nice free agent deal with the Dodgers. He retired in 2001. Mills is a native of Lakeland, FL who was born on this date in 1966.

Another former Yankee born on this date was being groomed by Casey Stengel to take over for the Scooter, Phil Rizzuto, as Yankee shortstop. Problem was, this guy wanted to play third base. This one-time Yankee outfielder was also born on October 18th.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1990 NYY 1 5 .167 4.10 36 0 18 0 0 0 41.2 48 21 19 4 33 24 1.944
1991 NYY 1 1 .500 4.41 6 2 3 0 0 0 16.1 16 9 8 1 8 11 1.469
12 Yrs 39 32 .549 4.12 474 5 153 0 0 15 636.0 577 306 291 83 395 456 1.528
BAL (9 yrs) 32 21 .604 4.16 346 3 105 0 0 14 480.0 412 231 222 65 295 354 1.473
LAD (2 yrs) 5 5 .500 3.86 86 0 27 0 0 1 98.0 101 45 42 13 59 67 1.633
NYY (2 yrs) 2 6 .250 4.19 42 2 21 0 0 0 58.0 64 30 27 5 41 35 1.810
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/18/2013.

October 17 – Happy Birthday Dan Pasqua

Today is Danny Pasqua’s 52nd birthday. The native of Yonkers joined the Yankees at the end of May in 1985 after tearing up Minor League pitching at both Nashville and Columbus. He spent the next two-and-a-half seasons teasing Bomber fans with with his power. He was a streaky hitter and back in the eighties, if you were a young Yankee prospect who went into a slump, you’d be sent back down to the minors to hit your way out of it. Pasqua made return trips to the Clippers in each of his three seasons in pinstripes and in November of 1987, the impatient Yankee front office traded him to the White Sox for starting pitcher Rich Dotson. He was a left handed hitter who couldn’t hit lefties. Of his 117 career home runs, only 11 were served up by left-handers and Pasqua’s career average against southpaws was below .200. That weakness forced him into a platoon role with both New York and Chicago. He played for Chicago from 1988 until 1994, his final big league season. He hit 117 home runs during his decade-long career, including the 42 he hit during his 275 games (two-plus seasons) in pinstripes.

Also born on this date is this third baseman who scored 100 or more runs as a Yankee for seven consecutive seasons and this former Yankee GM.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1985 NYY 60 166 148 17 31 3 1 9 25 0 16 38 .209 .289 .426 .715
1986 NYY 102 332 280 44 82 17 0 16 45 2 47 78 .293 .399 .525 .924
1987 NYY 113 362 318 42 74 7 1 17 42 0 40 99 .233 .319 .421 .741
10 Yrs 905 3000 2620 341 638 129 15 117 390 7 335 642 .244 .330 .438 .768
CHW (7 yrs) 630 2140 1874 238 451 102 13 75 278 5 232 427 .241 .325 .429 .754
NYY (3 yrs) 275 860 746 103 187 27 2 42 112 2 103 215 .251 .344 .461 .805
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/17/2013.