January 12 – Happy Birthday Terry Whitfield
Let me explain how difficult it has been for the Yankees to use their top pick wisely in the MLB Amateur Draft. Steve Chilcott; Dave Cheadle; Doug Heinhold; Dennis Sherrill; Jim McDonald; Steve Taylor; Todd Demeter; Steve Madden; Tim Birtsas; Jeffrey Pries; Rick Balabon; Brien Taylor; Matt Drews;Brian Buchanan; Shea Morenz; Scott Bradley; Tyler Godwin; Andy Brown, Dave Walling; Dave Parrish; Jon Skaggs; Bronson Sardinha; Eric Duncan; Jon Peterson; should I keep going? These are the names of Yankee number 1 draft picks most of you have never heard of. There will be many more in the future.
Its why when I hear or read Yankee fans insisting the team needs to stop signing high-priced free agents and start building from within, I take it with a grain of salt. I’ve been a Yankee fan since 1960 and I can remember reading articles in the Daily News, Sporting News and Street and Smith’s Annual Baseball Season Preview in which some Yankee front office exec or another insists the team’s number 1 draft pick has all the tools to make it on the big stage. Some have. Derek Jeter and Thurman Munson proved that. Most have not and there have been several who, though they did not become bonafide all-stars, they did eventually put together some productive years in the big leagues.
That was the case with today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Terry Whitfield. The Yankees drafted the Blythe, California native with their number 1 pick out of high school in 1971, when he was just 18-years-old and assigned him to their Class D Appalachian League farm team in Johnson City, Tennessee. In just 67 games, the young outfielder belted 10 home runs and drove in 43 runs. Two seasons later, he put together a .968 OPS for the Yankees Class A affiliate in Kinston, North Carolina. He got his first cup-of-coffee look by the parent club in September of 1974 and his first big league and Yankee hit, a single off of Milwaukee Brewer right handed Jim Colburn.
Whitfield spent most of the next three years in Syracuse, but when Elliott Maddox suffered his devastating knee injury while playing a slippery Shea Stadium outfield during the 1975 season, the Yankees brought Whitfield back up and he got to play in 28 games and averaged .272. But he went homer-less during that stretch and his power numbers in general during his final years in the minors were not that impressive. That’s probably why when the Yankees felt they needed to shore up their infield depth during the team’s 1977 spring training season, they traded Whitfield to San Francisco for middle infielder Marty Perez.
Whitfield then put together four decent but unspectacular seasons as an outfielder for the Giants. His best year would be 1978 when he averaged a career-high .289 with 141 hits. Two seasons later he made national headlines when he moved to Japan to play for the Seibu Lions. He returned three years later and finished his big league career with three seasons as a Dodger fourth outfielder.