Freddie Beene was one of those short-term Yankee players I will always remember. He was a little right-handed relief pitcher New York had picked up from Baltimore in a 1972 preseason trade. Yankee skipper Ralph Houk brought him north with the team after his first spring training season and he appeared in 29 regular season games that year. He won just one of his four decisions in ’72 but he saved three and finished with an excellent 2.34 ERA. He helped another Yankee newcomer that year named Sparky Lyle, rejuvenate the team’s bullpen.
But it was Beene’s 1973 season I remember best. Though he appeared in just 19 games that year including four as a starter, he was just about perfect in each of them. He finished 6-0 with one save and a microscopic 1.68 ERA. He entered the first month of the 1974 season as an established member of the Yankee pitching corp but by the time it ended, he was a member of the Cleveland Indians. On April 26, 1974, Yankee GM Gabe Paul had traded Beene, Fritz Peterson, Steve Kline and Tom Buskey to the Tribe for pitchers Dick Tidrow, Cecil Upshaw and the key player for New York in the deal, first baseman Chris Chambliss. Beene would spend his final two Major League seasons relieving in Cleveland, before returning to the minors, where he spent the final four seasons of his pitching career.
|NYY (3 yrs)||7||3||.700||1.99||54||5||25||0||0||5||158.2||131||46||35||9||53||96||1.160|
|BAL (3 yrs)||0||0||4.66||7||0||2||0||0||0||9.2||12||6||5||1||7||5||1.966|
|CLE (2 yrs)||5||4||.556||5.72||51||1||20||0||0||3||119.2||131||86||76||11||51||55||1.521|
By 1967 it had become clear to most of us Bronx Bomber fans from the baby boom generation that the Yankee dynasty was no more. Mantle’s knees buckled every time he swung his bat. All Star names like Maris, Kubek, Richardson and Boyer no longer appeared in the New York lineup, replaced by the likes of Whitaker, Clarke, Smith and Amaro. We became desperate for talent and hoped that every Yankee prospect who got a cup-of-coffee call-up to 161st street was the answer. Surely a Mike Hegan or a Ross Moschitto would evolve into a 30 home run hitter, or maybe it would be the Brooklyn native with movie star looks named Frank Tepedino. But none of them did.
Tepedino was just 19 years old when he made his pinstriped debut in May of 1967. He was a left-handed hitter who played first base so he was behind both Mickey Mantle and Hegan on that Yankee team’s depth chart and barely saw any action during the three months he was on the Yankee roster. About the only thing he proved he could do at the big league level was drink, and by the time New York sent him back to the minors, Tepedino had become a full fledged alcoholic. He would get three more shots with the Yankees in 1969, ’70 and ’71 before getting traded to the Braves in 1973 for starting pitcher Pat Dobson. He had his best big league season his first year in Atlanta, hitting .304 in 74 games. He remained with the Braves until 1975, which is when his eight-season career in the Majors ended.
Tepedino returned to New York City and became a fireman. On September 11, 2001, he was on his way to the Twin Towers when they collapsed. He stopped drinking years ago and has since made over 60,000 speeches to youth groups and schools about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. He might not have made it big as a Yankee but he certainly made sure his life after baseball has been meaningful.
He shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher who put together several great seasons on the mound, this former Yankee pitcher who put together just one and this one-time Yankee first baseman.
|NYY (5 yrs)||52||83||77||8||17||2||0||0||6||1||6||8||.221||.277||.247||.524|
|ATL (3 yrs)||160||354||324||31||84||10||1||4||45||1||23||36||.259||.307||.333||.640|
|MIL (1 yr)||53||112||106||11||21||1||0||2||7||2||4||17||.198||.234||.264||.498|
At the 1986 All Star break, just about everyone playing for and following that year’s Yankee team thought the club’s top acquisition priority was starting pitching. That’s why everyone was a bit surprised by the deal New York swung with the White Sox. The Yankees sent Chicago their starting catcher at the time, Ron Hassey and the organization’s top minor league shortstop, a guy named Carlos Martinez. In return, New York got power-hitting DH Ron Kittle, a new starting catcher in Joel Skinner and a scrappy middle infielder named Wayne Tolleson.
At the time of the deal, Tolleson, a native of Spartanburg, SC and an all-league star in baseball and football at Western Carolina was 30 years old. He had debuted in the big leagues in 1981 with Texas and became the Rangers starting shortstop in 1983. He was only five feet nine inches tall and weighed just 160 pounds, which helps explain why he would hit just 9 home runs during his decade in the big leagues. A switch hitter, he made up for his lack of pop with constant hustle, good speed and solid defense.
Yankee skipper, Lou Piniella made Tolleson his starting shortstop during the second half of the 1986 season, replacing Bobby Meacham. Tolleson put together a solid first half-season in pinstripes, averaging .284 and committing just five errors. That 1986 Yankee team finished with 90 wins but missed the postseason. Piniella stuck with Tolleson at short but his bat went ice cold and he hit just .221 during his first full season as a Yankee. That 1987 team again failed to reach the postseason and the New York front office decided Tolleson was no longer the answer at short. They went out and got Rafael Santana from the Mets and Tolleson his final three seasons in the Bronx as the Yankees top utility infielder.
This pitching star of the 1957 World Series, this hitting star of the 1998 World Series, this former third baseman and this current Yankee catching prospect all share Tolleson’s November 22nd birthday.
|TEX (5 yrs)||427||1357||1225||156||307||32||9||4||50||79||94||180||.251||.305||.301||.607|
|NYY (5 yrs)||355||947||837||106||187||21||5||2||54||16||87||161||.223||.298||.268||.565|
|CHW (1 yr)||81||310||260||39||65||7||3||3||29||13||38||43||.250||.342||.335||.677|