November 2012

November 6 – Happy Birthday Bubba Trammell

When the Yankees tried to make up for the retirement of Paul O’Neill by adding Rondell White to their outfield in 2002, I was one of many Yankee fans who sort of swallowed the hype that White would be gangbusters in pinstripes. He wasn’t. A disappointed Yankee front office then traded him to the Padres for Bubba Trammell. Right up until that trade was made I had been under the mistaken impression that Bubba was the son of the very talented former Tiger shortstop, Alan Trammell. That’s probably because Bubba had originally been drafted by the Tigers and made his big league debut in Motown, in 1997. He then spent two and a half seasons with Tampa Bay, before getting traded to the Mets at the 2000 All Star break. He hit just .232 for the Amazin’s but he made the postseason roster when that 2000 Met team qualified as the NL Wild Card. In that year’s World Series against the Yankees, Trammell got just five at bats but made the most out of them with his two hits and three RBIs. I still remember his clutch and painful two-run pinch hit single off of Andy Pettitte in Game 1 of that Fall Classic.

That December, the Mets traded Trammell to the Padres for reliever Donne Wall and Bubba put together his best big league season in 2001 for San Diego. He set career highs with 25 home runs and 92 RBIs and that effort got him a three-year, eight million dollar contract extension from the Padres. But when he slumped the following year, San Diego went shopping and approached the Yankees about White. The Yankees told the Padres they’d make the deal only if San Diego would also include their organization’s top pitching prospect at the time, a guy named Mark Phillips. They agreed and Trammell became a Yankee.

I thought he had an outside shot to join Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams as a starter in the 2003 Yankee outfield but he never really did. He was a right-handed hitter, which was a negative in Yankee Stadium and the Yankees had a plethora of outfielders on their roster that year. So many in fact that even though he went 4-4 during one of his first appearances in pinstripes, he didn’t get his next at bat until eight days later. It was clear that Bubba was not high up on Yankee manager Joe Torre’s outfielder depth chart. By late June he had started in just 16 of the team’s first 80 games, he was averaging an even .200 and had yet to hit his first Yankee home run. He never would.

Trammell was certainly unhappy with his Yankee situation, but he was also going through a very difficult breakup of his marriage. He simply stopped coming to games. That’s right. It happened on June 29, 2003. Torre had ironically penciled the Knoxville, TN native in to start that evening’s game only to learn that Trammell was not in the clubhouse. His agent contacted Yankee GM Brian Cashman and told him that Trammell was leaving town and requesting a trade. The Yankees countered by asking the commissioner’s office to void Trammell’s contract. Bubba’s agent  would later claim he was suffering from clinical depression. I’m still not exactly sure how the contractual issues between the player and team were settled, but Trammell never again played in a big league game.

Author’sNote:  Bubba Trammell was kind enough to comment on this post in an effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding his departure from the Yankees. You can read his comments below.

Bubba shares his November  6th birthday with this former Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee starting pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2003 NYY 22 61 55 4 11 5 0 0 5 0 6 10 .200 .279 .291 .570
7 Yrs 584 2034 1798 243 469 96 7 82 285 10 210 325 .261 .339 .459 .798
TBD (3 yrs) 207 757 671 96 191 48 3 33 107 3 80 112 .285 .362 .513 .875
SDP (2 yrs) 275 1011 893 120 226 36 4 42 148 3 101 149 .253 .331 .443 .775
NYM (1 yr) 36 65 56 9 13 2 0 3 12 1 8 19 .232 .323 .429 .752
NYY (1 yr) 22 61 55 4 11 5 0 0 5 0 6 10 .200 .279 .291 .570
DET (1 yr) 44 140 123 14 28 5 0 4 13 3 15 35 .228 .307 .366 .673
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/6/2013.

November 5 – Happy Birthday Johnny Damon

I could not help it! Whenever I saw or thought of Johnny Damon, the first thing that popped into my head was that grand slam dagger he drove simultaneously into both the right-field upper deck of Yankee Stadium and my chest, during the final game of the disastrous 2004 Yankees-Red Sox playoff series. Since he signed as a Yankee free agent , nothing he did on-the-field during his first four seasons wearing the Pinstripes erased that nightmare from my mind. In fact, he just didn’t seem to be as comfortable playing for New York as he did for Boston.

He was able to put good back-to-back regular season offensive performances together in 2008 and ’09, but that would not have been enough. Whenever I’d see Damon, I’d see him nailing that first pitch from Javier Vasquez high and long into the Bronx night and my stomach would start to churn.

But that vision of Damon was officially replaced on the evening of November 1, 2009 in Citizens’ Bank Park in the City of Brotherly Love. It was replaced by a series of images that began with Damon’s incredible nine-pitch grinding at bat with two outs in the top of the ninth against the Phillie’s Brad Lidge, continued with his base-hit and brainy double-steal and concluded when he crossed home-plate after A-Rod’s double. That sequence of plays was just as much of a dagger to the Phillies’ chances to win that 2009 Fall Classic as Damon’s grand slam was to the Yankee hopes of winning the 2004 ALCS. I finally became a fan of Johnny Damon on that night because of that play.

The Yankees probably made a mistake letting Johnny Damon sign with Detroit for $8 million in 2010, choosing instead to sign Nick Johnson for $3 million less. Damon probably made a mistake by not asking Cashman for his best offer, early on in that year’s signing period. Johnny’s numbers dropped that year with the Tigers and he failed to reach the 90-run mark for the first time in thirteen years. But he could have helped the 2010 Yankees and I wish he had stayed in pinstripes for at least one more year. He then went to Tampa Bay in 2011, after the Rays lost Carl Crawford to free agency. Damon actually did much better in Tampa than Crawford did in Beantown, hitting .261 while collecting his 2,700th career hit. But he also turned 38 years old at right about the same time he found out the Rays had no intention of bringing him back for 2012. Last April, for the first time in 15 years, a Major League Opening Day came and went without the name “Johnny Damon” on a big league roster. The Indians would sign him a month later and in 2012, he appeared in 64 games for Cleveland, hitting just .222.

I’m pretty certain Damon has played his last big league game. The ironic thing is, I think the guy can still hit better than some of the players in the starting lineups of some AL and NL teams. But he turned 39 year’s old today and the only reason he would want to go on would be to reach the hallowed 3,000 career hit mark. I don’t think he’s going to make it to 3,000 but I will never forget that game in October of 2009, when he did make it safely to third.

Damon shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee relief pitcher. I also want to wish my daughter Michela “Mitchie” Hugo a wonderful birthday today.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2006 NYY 149 671 593 115 169 35 5 24 80 25 67 85 .285 .359 .482 .841
2007 NYY 141 605 533 93 144 27 2 12 63 27 66 79 .270 .351 .396 .747
2008 NYY 143 623 555 95 168 27 5 17 71 29 64 82 .303 .375 .461 .836
2009 NYY 143 626 550 107 155 36 3 24 82 12 71 98 .282 .365 .489 .854
18 Yrs 2490 10917 9736 1668 2769 522 109 235 1139 408 1003 1257 .284 .352 .433 .785
KCR (6 yrs) 803 3407 3057 504 894 156 47 65 352 156 275 350 .292 .351 .438 .789
BOS (4 yrs) 597 2782 2476 461 730 136 29 56 299 98 262 284 .295 .362 .441 .803
NYY (4 yrs) 576 2525 2231 410 636 125 15 77 296 93 268 344 .285 .363 .458 .821
TBR (1 yr) 150 647 582 79 152 29 7 16 73 19 51 92 .261 .326 .418 .743
OAK (1 yr) 155 719 644 108 165 34 4 9 49 27 61 70 .256 .324 .363 .687
CLE (1 yr) 64 224 207 25 46 6 2 4 19 4 17 27 .222 .281 .329 .610
DET (1 yr) 145 613 539 81 146 36 5 8 51 11 69 90 .271 .355 .401 .756
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/5/2013.

November 4 – Happy Birthday Joe Beggs

Today’s birthday boy won 21 games as the ace of the staff for one of baseball’s best teams in 1937. The problem was, that team was not in the Major Leagues. Instead, Joe Beggs was pitching for the Yankee’s Newark Bears farm team in the International League, a team that won 109 games that season and would probably have been good enough to finish in the upper division of either big league. Neff was 26 years-old at the time patiently waiting for his turn to pitch for Joe McCarthy’s Yankee team. That chance came in 1938 when Beggs got nine starts on the big stage and won three of five decisions. That wasn’t enough to keep him out of Newark the entire season. Nor did it earn him a spot on the Yankee’s winning World Series roster. But it did garner the attention of big league scouts and in 1940, the Reds acquired the right hander and made him their bullpen ace. He went 12-3 that first year in Cincinnati and saved seven games to boot as the Reds won the 1940 series. During those first four years with the Reds, he was one of the premier relief pitchers in the National League before entering military service in 1944. Cincinnati put him in their starting rotation when he returned in 1946 and Beggs went 12-10. He pitched until 1948, retiring with a 48-35 career record and 29 saves. Beggs was born on this date in 1910 in Rankin, PA. He passed away in 1983.

Another Yankee born on this date is this former spare outfielder on the 2000 World Championship team.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1938 NYY 3 2 .600 5.40 14 9 3 4 0 0 58.1 69 41 35 7 20 8 1.526
9 Yrs 48 35 .578 2.96 238 41 127 23 4 29 693.2 688 284 228 39 189 178 1.264
CIN (7 yrs) 42 30 .583 2.56 191 32 116 19 4 27 569.0 536 205 162 26 151 147 1.207
NYG (2 yrs) 3 3 .500 4.21 33 0 8 0 0 2 66.1 83 38 31 6 18 23 1.523
NYY (1 yr) 3 2 .600 5.40 14 9 3 4 0 0 58.1 69 41 35 7 20 8 1.526
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/4/2013.

November 3 – Happy Birthday Johnny Keane

I was a sophomore in high school when I realized that David Halberstam was a brilliant historian. I had just finished his epic book, The Best and the Brightest about how the US got entangled in the Vietnam War. It wasn’t until about two decades later that I realized Halberstam knew his baseball too. His book, October 1964, is a detailed and entertaining dissection of that season’s World Series between the Cardinals and the Yankees. In it, Halberstam describes how on the plane ride home from the seventh game of the Series, losing manager, Yogi Berra asked his all star second baseman, Bobby Richardson if he should be bold enough to ask the Yankees for a two-year contract. That’s how certain Berra was that he was going too be re-hired. But when he walked out of Yankee GM Ralph Houk’s office just a few days later, he was the stunned ex-manager of the only team he had ever worked for.

Houk had made the decision to fire Berra much earlier during the 1964 regular season, when certain Yankee players had approached him to complain that Yogi had lost control of the team. A few weeks later, he found out that Gussie Busch intended to fire Johnny Keane. Houk felt the Yankees needed a disciplinarian to replace the easy-going Berra and in his mind, Keane fit that description perfectly. So just minutes before Busch began a post Series press conference to announce he had decided to rehire his team’s skipper, Keane handed the Cardinal owner his resignation letter. He had accepted Houk’s offer to replace Berra as manager of the Yankees. Even though I was just ten years old at the time, I distinctly remember feeling sorry for Berra and angry with Houk for what I felt was a low class double-cross of a Yankee legend.

Keane proved to be a horrible fit with the Yankees from the start. His brand of discipline was geared toward young players and the veteran-filled Yankee roster had few of those. Players like Mantle, Maris, Clete Boyer, Joe Pepitone and Whitey Ford basically ignored the new rules introduced by their new field boss and that disrespect quickly permeated through to just about the entire team. When the Yankees reached the 1965 All Star break with a 41-46 record, Yankee fans like me were in shock. It was beyond the realm of possibility that our favorite team was not going to compete for the AL Pennant and we fully expected a turnaround in the second half.

The team did better, going 46-39 in the second half, but that was only good enough for an unforgivable fifth place finish. Keane should have been fired at the end of that ’65 regular season and probably would have been if the team hadn’t been owned by CBS at the time. The gigantic entertainment network paid little attention to the Yankees day-to-day operations, enabling Houk to delay the inevitable and let Keane stay on to open the 1966 season. Houk was hoping that Keane had just needed time to get the Yankee roster to buy into his management style. But when the Yankees opened the 1966 season by losing 16 of their first 20 games, Houk knew Keane was in over his head and mercifully fired his beleaguered skipper. In less than a year, the dismissed manager was dead, a victim of a heart attack at the age of 55.

A native of St. Louis, Keane had spent fifteen years playing in the Cardinal farm system as a a middle infielder, without ever appearing in a big league game. He then spent another 13 years coaching and managing in the St. Louis farm system. The Cardinals made him their big league skipper in July of 1961, when he replaced the fired Solly Hemus. His three-and-a-half season managerial record with the Cards was a very respectable 317-249. He should have never left St Louis.

Keane shares his November 3rd birthday with this former Yankee starter, this former Yankee reliever and this one too.

Rk Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% G Finish
5 1965 53 New York Yankees AL 77 85 .475 162 6
6 1966 54 New York Yankees AL 1st of 2 4 16 .200 20 10
St. Louis Cardinals 4 years 317 249 .560 567 3.5 1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title
New York Yankees 2 years 81 101 .445 182 8.0
6 years 398 350 .532 749 5.0 1 Pennant and 1 World Series Title
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/3/2013.

November 2 – Happy Birthday Sidney Ponson

Sidney Ponson was one of baseball’s great opportunists. After going 1-7 with the Royals in 2009, his 12-year record as a big league pitcher was 91-113. He had a winning record in only two of those seasons. In 2003 he was 17-12 and in 2008 he finished 8-5. So you have to consider it pretty amazing that he was able to earn over $24 million during his career, including an $8.5 million salary from Baltimore in 2005, when he finished 7-11 for the season. Sidney pitched in pinstripes first in 2006, when he was 0-1 and then again in 2008, when he went 4-4. He was born on November 2, 1976, in Noord, Aruba, one of only four big leaguers and the only Yankee to be born in that island nation.

He shares his November 2nd birthday with this former Yankee infielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2006 NYY 0 1 .000 10.47 5 3 1 0 0 0 16.1 26 20 19 3 7 15 2.020
2008 NYY 4 4 .500 5.85 16 15 1 0 0 0 80.0 99 53 52 11 32 33 1.638
12 Yrs 91 113 .446 5.03 298 278 7 29 4 1 1760.1 2004 1051 983 223 609 1031 1.484
BAL (8 yrs) 73 85 .462 4.86 223 212 5 28 4 1 1375.1 1529 790 743 180 465 836 1.450
NYY (2 yrs) 4 5 .444 6.63 21 18 2 0 0 0 96.1 125 73 71 14 39 48 1.702
KCR (1 yr) 1 7 .125 7.36 14 9 0 0 0 0 58.2 79 50 48 6 25 32 1.773
MIN (1 yr) 2 5 .286 6.93 7 7 0 0 0 0 37.2 54 31 29 7 17 23 1.885
SFG (1 yr) 3 6 .333 3.71 10 10 0 0 0 0 68.0 64 29 28 6 18 34 1.206
STL (1 yr) 4 4 .500 5.24 14 13 0 0 0 0 68.2 82 42 40 7 29 33 1.617
TEX (1 yr) 4 1 .800 3.88 9 9 0 1 0 0 55.2 71 36 24 3 16 25 1.563
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/2/2013.

November 1 – Happy Birthday Alex “Tom” Burr

Born in Chicago on November 1, 1893 to a well-to-do family, Burr became a pitching star at Williams College. At the time, the elite Massachusetts school employed the services of a trainer for their athletic teams by the name of Charles “Doc” Barrett. Barrett was also the trainer of the New York Yankees which helps explain why several of Williams’ best ballplayers back in that era ended up signing with the Yankee organization. Burr was a big hard-throwing right-handed pitcher who struggled with his control. He pitched well enough, however, during the Yankees’ 1914 spring training camp that he convinced then New York Manager, Frank Chance to bring the kid north to start the regular season. As it turned out, Burr got into just one regular season game with the Yankees and it wasn’t even as a pitcher. Chance inserted him as a pinch runner in the late innings of an April 1914 game against the Senators and was then forced to put his young pitcher in center field the next inning.

The following month the Yankees sold Burr to the Eastern League franchise in New London, CT. At first, Burr was determined to pitch his way back to the big leagues but instead, it appears as if he decided to go back to school. When America entered World War I, Burr enlisted in officer’s training school and was sent to France to attend flying school. It was while training to be a war pilot in October of 1918, that his plane collided with another being flown by a fellow student flier and both men were killed.  Less than one month after the fatal accident, the War was over.  Burr was one of five Major League players to lose their lives in WWI and he is the only member of the Yankee All-Time roster to have made the supreme sacrifice.

Burr shared a birthday with a former Yankee who was called one of the Game’s first great pinch hitters.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO SLG
1914 20 NYY AL 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1 Yr 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/1/2013.