January 2013

January 21 – Happy Birthday Johnny Oates

joatesJohnny Oates’ two most significant interactions with the New York Yankees during his long career as a big league back-up catcher and manager, suffered from the same problem, poor timing. By the time he got to wear the pinstripes as a player, he was 34-years old and at the very tail end of his career. The Yankees signed Oates as a free agent at the very beginning of the 1980 regular season to serve as Rick Cerone’s backup. That happened to also be Cerone’s first season as the Yankees’ successor to Thurman Munson and he went out and had the greatest year of his entire big league career, starting an incredible 147 games behind the plate. That left Oates with a table-scrap portion of catching to do and when he hit just .188 while doing it, you knew his pinstriped days were numbered. He did manage to make the Yankees’ Opening Day roster the following year, but when his anemic offense continued during the first two months of the 1981 season, the Yankees turned to Barry Foote as Cerone’s new backup and released Oates as a player, offering instead to employ him as a minor league manager.

A decade later, the native North Carolinian became the skipper of the Baltimore Orioles, replacing Frank Robinson, 37 games into the 1991 regular season. He lasted in that job for the next three seasons, finishing with a winning record in each of them and earning plenty of admirers along the way. One of them was Texas Ranger GM Doug Melvin who hired Oates to manage his Arlington-based ball club. Johnny would spend seven seasons in that position, leading the Rangers to three AL West Division titles during that time and winning the 1996 AL Manager of the Year Award. His one abject failure during his Ranger years  was his inability to get his Texas teams past the Yankees in three different postseasons. The Rangers’ record against New York during their three ALDS confrontations was 1-9. The last of those three series was particularly hard on Oates, as the Rangers high-powered offense was able to produce just one measly run in their three games against the Bronx Bombers.

Less than two years later, Oates was replaced as Ranger skipper by Jerry Narron, the former Yankee backup catcher Oates himself had replaced two decades earlier. Johnny Oates would never manage another big league team, ending his 11-year career with an overall 797-746 record as a skipper. Shortly after being dismissed as the Texas manager, doctors discovered a cancerous tumor in Oates’ brain. Though given just a year to live, a determined Oates lasted three, dying in 2004 at the age of 58.

He shares his January 21st birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher and this Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1980 NYY 39 67 64 6 12 3 0 1 3 1 2 3 .188 .224 .281 .505
1981 NYY 10 28 26 4 5 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 .192 .250 .231 .481
11 Yrs 593 1820 1637 146 410 56 2 14 126 11 141 149 .250 .309 .313 .622
ATL (3 yrs) 201 697 631 49 149 17 0 5 48 3 46 59 .236 .288 .287 .575
LAD (3 yrs) 126 302 277 27 71 7 0 3 19 1 20 15 .256 .304 .314 .618
PHI (2 yrs) 127 417 368 38 102 16 0 1 33 1 41 41 .277 .346 .329 .675
NYY (2 yrs) 49 95 90 10 17 4 0 1 3 1 4 3 .189 .232 .267 .498
BAL (2 yrs) 90 309 271 22 71 12 2 4 23 5 30 31 .262 .332 .365 .698
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/22/2014.

January 20 – Happy Birthday Jesse Hill

Jesse_HillOne of the things I’ve enjoyed most about authoring this blog is finding out some incredible things about Yankees that I didn’t know much about. Take today’s birthday celebrant for example. Before becoming a Yankee, Jesse “Jess” Hill was a three-sport starter at USC. Think about that for just a second. This native of Yates, Missouri, was such an exceptional athletic talent that he was able to become a national champion broad jumper on the school’s track squad, a running back on a Rose Bowl-winning football team who averaged 8.3 yards per carry and an outfielder on the Trojans’ baseball team. After graduating in 1929, he signed a contract to play baseball with the Pacific Coast League’s Hollywood Stars, where he averaged .356 in 1930 and .318 in 1931.

Those batting averages got the attention of the Yankees, who purchased Hill’s contract in 1932. He spent the next three years tearing up minor league pitching on Yankee farm teams in Newark and St. Paul. Meanwhile, the 1934 season would be a year of transition for the Yankee outfield. Thirty-nine-year-old Babe Ruth had hoped to become Yankee manager but when Jacob Rupert refused his request, the Bambino asked for and received his unconditional release. The great Yankee center-fielder Earl Combs had run into one too many outfield walls during his outstanding career and he became a part-time outfielder during that 1934 season. That left two Hall-of-Fame-sized holes in New York’s outfield and Jess Hill was invited to the team’s 1935 spring training camp and given the opportunity to try and fill one of them.

He performed well enough to make the team, but with Combs still on the roster, Ben Chapman starting in center and George Selkirk replacing Ruth in right, Hill began the year battling for playing time with fellow outfielders Myril Hoag and Dixie Walker. His turning point came in the Yankees ninth game of the season versus Boston. Combs had gotten off to a horrible start that year with his bat, which was probably one of the reasons Manager Joe McCarthy penciled Hill’s name in on the Yankee lineup card to lead off and play left field. The 28-year-old rookie responded with three hits, his first big league home run, four RBIs and two runs scored. From that point, for the rest of the season, Hill started in the Yankee outfield more often than not and hit a very respectable .293 with 14 stolen bases. Ordinarily, a first year-performance at that level would pretty much assure a welcome-back for a sophomore season with the same ball club, especially since Combs announced that he would not be returning in 1936. That wasn’t the case for Hill however. There was this youngster named Joe DiMaggio joining the Yankees that year who scouts were raving about. The Yankee front-office decided to convert their sudden surplus of outfielders into more depth in their pitching staff and that January, Hill was traded to the Senators for a veteran right-handed hurler named Bump Hadley.

Hill played decently in DC, averaging .305 in 87 games as the Senators’s fourth outfielder in 1936. But after he got off to a slow start at the plate the following season, he was traded to the Philadelphia A’s, where he duplicated his rookie year batting average of .293. That wasn’t good enough to stick with the A’s so he was forced back to the PCL which turned out to be a huge break for Hill.

Back in LA, he started coaching high school sports teams during the offseason. He then joined the Navy during WWII and served with a guy who just happened to be athletic director at Hill’s Alma Mater. After the war ended, the AD hired Hill to coach the Trojans’ freshmen teams in football and track. His next assignment was head coach of USC’s varsity track team. He led them to two consecutive national titles in 1949 and ’50. He became USC’s varsity football coach in 1951 and during his five years in that job, his teams went 45-17-1. His most celebrated player was frank Gifford. In 1957 he accepted an offer to become USC’s Athletic Director and he served in that job for the next fifteen years. During his tenure as AD, USC teams won 29 national titles.

What an incredible athlete and leader Jess Hill must have been, He passed away in 1993 at the age of 86. Hill shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee phee-nom and this one-time Yankee catching prospect.

RIP Stan Musial and Earl Weaver.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1935 NYY 107 445 392 69 115 20 3 4 33 14 42 32 .293 .362 .390 .752
3 Yrs 295 1091 959 175 277 53 12 6 108 43 115 91 .289 .366 .388 .753
WSH (2 yrs) 118 371 325 74 91 21 6 1 38 13 42 39 .280 .364 .391 .755
PHA (1 yr) 70 275 242 32 71 12 3 1 37 16 31 20 .293 .374 .380 .754
NYY (1 yr) 107 445 392 69 115 20 3 4 33 14 42 32 .293 .362 .390 .752
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/22/2014.

January 19 – Happy Birthday Jeff Juden

judenOne of the amazing things about the on-the-field dominance of the Yankee teams during the late nineties was the fact that off-the-field, the franchise’s player personnel decision making process was in disarray. I like to call the reason for that disarray “the Boss’s Tale of Two Cities.” The ball club George Steinbrenner owned played in New York but he lived and made his base of operations in Tampa, Florida. The Yankee GM and Manager were based in the Big Apple while the team’s administrative personnel, including Steinbrenner’s unofficial cabinet of baseball advisors operated out of the central Florida city. The eccentric Yankee owner loved to create conflict among his upper-echelon staff because he felt it fostered a competition to out-do each other and keep everyone in line. But if you asked Brian Cashman and Joe Torre if they enjoyed fighting every Yankee player move with a bunch of George’s yes men located 1,500 miles away, you’d have received a much different opinion.

A classic example of this two-headed management battle is today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, pitcher Jeff Juden. A 1989 first round draft pick of the Houston Astros, the 6 foot 8 inch, 265 pound right-hander had pitched for seven different teams during his first seven big league seasons. One of the reasons this Salem, Massachusetts native was hiring moving vans every season was because he was purportedly not a nice guy. Prior to him signing as a free agent with the Yankees in February of 1999, Juden had a long history of not getting along with opponents on the field or teammates in his own clubhouse. It has been alleged that when Juden was pitching for Montreal in 1996, some Expo players actually told management they would no longer play if Juden wasn’t banished from the team. The Expos got rid of him, even though he had an 11-5 record at the time. But as  George Steinbrenner’s on-again, off-again love affair with the cantankerous Billy Martin had proven, the Boss had a special place in his heart for fight-loving trouble-makers and the Yankees signed Juden.

The pitcher was assigned to New York’s triple A Columbus affiliate to begin the 1999 season. Sure enough, he got into trouble in his new clubhouse almost immediately in an incident with Clipper teammate, Andy Stankiewicz. His on-the-field performance was nothing to write home about either. In 26 starts with Columbus, he was 11-12 with a 5.56 ERA. Despite it all, Juden was promoted to the big league roster that September, with the Yanks still battling the Red Sox for the AL East flag. It became apparent to the Yankee press pool that the huge hurler’s ascension had been the decision of the Tampa-side of Yankee management, when Torre responded to their questions about the new arrival by telling reporters he didn’t know why the pitcher was there because neither he or Yankee M Cashman had requested him.

Juden’s only start as a Yankee was ruined by an error by first baseman Jim Leyritz that led to five unearned runs and an 0-1 lifetime Yankee record for the controversial pitcher. Ironically, the Tampa committee had convinced Steinbrenner the Yankees should reacquire Leyritz earlier that same season over the objections of both Torre and Cashman. The Tampa connection brought Juden back for spring training the following season but it was no surprise to any one that Torre chose to go north without him. The Yankees released him and after a few more years of trying to regain his form and control his temper in the minors, he retired with a 27-32 lifetime record.

Juden shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee outfield prospect and this long-ago outfielder.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1999 NYY 0 1 .000 1.59 2 1 0 0 0 0 5.2 5 9 1 1 3 9 1.412
8 Yrs 27 32 .458 4.81 147 76 18 6 0 0 533.0 510 325 285 73 247 441 1.420
PHI (2 yrs) 3 8 .273 4.68 19 15 0 1 0 0 90.1 82 56 47 10 43 69 1.384
MON (2 yrs) 12 5 .706 3.82 44 22 7 3 0 0 162.2 147 76 69 18 71 133 1.340
HOU (2 yrs) 0 3 .000 5.87 6 3 1 0 0 0 23.0 23 17 15 4 11 18 1.478
SFG (1 yr) 4 0 1.000 4.10 36 0 9 0 0 0 41.2 39 23 19 7 20 35 1.416
ANA (1 yr) 1 3 .250 6.75 8 6 1 0 0 0 40.0 33 32 30 7 18 39 1.275
CLE (1 yr) 0 1 .000 5.46 8 5 0 0 0 0 31.1 32 21 19 6 15 29 1.500
NYY (1 yr) 0 1 .000 1.59 2 1 0 0 0 0 5.2 5 9 1 1 3 9 1.412
MIL (1 yr) 7 11 .389 5.53 24 24 0 2 0 0 138.1 149 91 85 20 66 109 1.554
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/22/2014.

January 17 – Happy Birthday Mayo Smith

Smith as a manager/outfielder for my hometown Rugmakers

Smith as a manager/outfielder for my hometown Rugmakers

Since my home town is Amsterdam, NY and I’m a passionate long-time fan of the New York Yankees, its only natural that I have a strong interest in the history of a now-defunct minor league franchise known as the Amsterdam Rugmakers. The team was the Yankees’ affiliate in the Class C Canadian-American League from 1938 until 1951. They were immediately successful, winning their league’s pennant during the first two years of their existence and the CanAm Championship in their third. Several future Yankee players made early career marks in Amsterdam. They included the great Vic Raschi, Spec Shea, Joe Page, Lew Burdette, Bob Grim, Joe Collins, Gus Triandous and Johnny Blanchard.

The team ceased operations during the WWII years and when play resumed in 1946, the Rugmakers struggled to regain their pre-war winning ways. They hit bottom in 1948, finishing in seventh place with a 57-80 record, setting a franchise record for most losses in a season. It was decided that a managerial change was in order. At the time, Jim Turner, the former Yankee relief pitcher and future Yankee pitching coach was managing a minor league team in Portland. His starting center fielder on that team was a 33-year-old native Floridian who had failed to stick in his one trial as a big leaguer. His name was Mayo Smith and Turner recommended him to the Yankees for the Rugmakers’ job. Seeing a chance to save some money by employing a player/manager, Smith was hired and spent two years managing and playing outfield for Amsterdam.

After a 67-71 fifth place finish in 1949, Smith’s 1950 Rugmakers got back into the playoffs with a 72-65 fourth place finish and advanced to but lost in the finals. Smith was rewarded with a promotion to the Yankee’s Class B Piedmont League affiliate in Norfolk, VA. He managed that team to two straight league championships and then got promoted again, this time to the Yankee Class A Southern League affiliate in Birmingham, where his team advanced to the league championship finals(but lost) in his first season at the helm. Suddenly, Smith was being mentioned as the potential successor for Yankee legend Casey Stengel. In fact, the Ol Perfessor told reporters that Smith was the most impressive coach he encountered during New York’s spring training camps and he predicted great things for Smith’s future.

Stengel was right. In 1955 Smith got his first big league managerial position with the Philadelphia Phillies. He did a solid job with a pretty mediocre ball club for three-and-a-half seasons. After getting let go by the Phillies midway through the 1958 season he was hired to manage the Reds in ’59. After lasting just a half year in Cincinnati, Smith left managing to return to the Yankees as a scout. Actually, he became the team’s first ever super scout. Major League Baseball had just instituted its inter-league trading period. Previously, if a team in one league wanted to trade a player to a team in the other league, that player would have to clear waivers within his own league first. The Yankees gave Smith the responsibility of scouting all NL teams and in that capacity he became a well-known fixture at all of the senior circuit’s ballparks. Smith remained in that role for six years until he was hired to manage the Detroit Tigers. He managed his 1968 team to a World Series win over the Cardinals. A key move made by Smith during that fall classic to play outfielder Mickey Stanley at shortstop so he could keep both Stanley’s and Al Kaline’s bat in the lineup, was praised for years afterwards by the baseball press.

Smith remained the Tiger manager through the 1970 season. He died in 1977, a victim of a heart attack. He shares his birthday with this former Yankee DH and this popular former Yankee coach.

January 16 – Happy Birthday Ron Villone

villoneIt was just before Christmas in 2007 that former US Senator George Mitchell held a press conference at New York City’s Grand Hyatt Hotel and announced that steroid use was rampant and widespread in Major League Baseball. His report indicated that the Yankees were among the biggest abusers. He listed the names of twenty current and former Yankee players who his investigation had discovered evidence had used the performance enhancing drug. In minutes, that list of Bronx Bombers found its way on to every Web site of every New York City newspaper. Yankee Universe went into collective shock. Yankee stars who had made significant contributions to the four World Series Championships and numerous postseason appearances the team had achieved in the previous decade were on that list. If Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, David Justice, Gary Sheffield and even Chuck Knoblauch and Mike Stanton had used the juice that meant the Yankee teams they played so well for and the wins those teams accumulated were tainted.

As I reviewed the list, it became clear to me that the players who took PEDs did it for different reasons. Superstars like Clemens, who’d already made their millions did it because they loved the ride they had at the top of their profession and didn’t want it to end. Several on the list, including Pettitte claimed they used the drug to help them recover from injuries faster. But than there were players named on that list like today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant, Ron Villone. He was an aging journeyman pitcher who had been in the big leagues since 1995. When he put on the Yankee pinstripes for the first time in 2006, two seasons before the Mitchell Report was released, it was the tenth different uniform he had worn in his Major League career. He would get to wear two more different team jerseys after he left the Yankees and before he was released by the Nationals in 2009. Except for three seasons with Cincinnati, he had been a mostly under-the-radar bullpen pitcher with most of those ball clubs.

Villone was not a star or a stopper. He kept working because he threw left handed and every big league team at one time or another is looking for a left handed relief pitcher who can come into a game on short notice and get a left handed hitter in the opposing lineup out. In order to do that, situational southpaws like Villone had to stay ready. That meant frequent warming up in the bullpen during games. When you add up all the pitches situational lefties like Villone threw in the bullpen and during games and you add in the fact that he was 36-years-old when the Yanks signed him, its easier to understand why Villone would take steroids. That first year with the Yanks in 2006, Joe Torre used him in 70 games and probably warmed him up but didn’t use him in four dozen others. That’s what Joe Torre and loads of other big league managers did and do to their situational relievers. In order to survive in that role and earn the one-to-two million dollar salaries good one’s get, you have to be ready not only when needed but also when the skipper even thinks you may be needed. Villone probably used steroids to help his 36-year-old arm get ready fast during just about every game the Yankees played. But unlike Clemens or Pettitte or A-Rod, Villone won’t have to worry that his use of PEDs might keep him out of the Hall of Fame.

Villone shares his January 16th birthday with this bird-flipping former Yankee pitcher , this one-time Yankee first-baseman and DH and this other former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2006 NYY 3 3 .500 5.04 70 0 19 0 0 0 80.1 75 48 45 9 51 72 1.568
2007 NYY 0 0 4.25 37 0 13 0 0 0 42.1 36 20 20 5 18 25 1.276
15 Yrs 61 65 .484 4.73 717 93 168 2 0 8 1168.0 1115 665 614 136 637 925 1.500
SEA (3 yrs) 10 11 .476 4.13 127 10 35 0 0 1 176.2 155 97 81 20 110 153 1.500
SDP (2 yrs) 3 2 .600 3.68 40 0 17 0 0 1 44.0 41 18 18 7 18 56 1.341
CIN (2 yrs) 19 17 .528 4.82 64 45 7 2 0 2 283.2 268 165 152 30 151 174 1.477
NYY (2 yrs) 3 3 .500 4.77 107 0 32 0 0 0 122.2 111 68 65 14 69 97 1.467
HOU (2 yrs) 11 13 .458 4.69 50 25 6 0 0 0 174.2 168 97 91 28 72 156 1.374
MIL (2 yrs) 1 0 1.000 3.38 73 0 25 0 0 2 77.1 68 32 29 8 54 59 1.578
COL (1 yr) 1 3 .250 6.36 22 6 6 0 0 0 46.2 56 35 33 6 29 48 1.821
PIT (1 yr) 4 6 .400 5.81 45 7 6 0 0 0 93.0 95 63 60 8 34 55 1.387
STL (1 yr) 1 2 .333 4.68 74 0 11 0 0 1 50.0 45 27 26 4 37 50 1.640
WSN (1 yr) 5 6 .455 4.25 63 0 7 0 0 1 48.2 54 25 23 6 29 33 1.705
CLE (1 yr) 0 0 6.00 25 0 6 0 0 0 27.0 30 18 18 3 22 15 1.926
FLA (1 yr) 3 2 .600 6.85 27 0 10 0 0 0 23.2 24 20 18 2 12 29 1.521
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/16/2014.

January 15 – Happy Birthday Jerry Narron

Jerry began his eight-year big league career as a Yankee in 1979, the same year New York’s captain and catching great, Thurman Munson, was killed in a plane crash. Unable to produce with his bat, the Yankees traded Narron to Seattle the following season in a deal that brought Rupert Jones to the Bronx. After two seasons with the Mariners, he went back to the minors, emerging again in 1983 with California. He spent four seasons with the Angels backing up their starting catcher, Bob Boone. He finished his Major League playing days with a puny .211 average but as is often the case with utility catchers, he also became a student of the game. He got into coaching and then managing and has skippered both the Texas Rangers and more recently, the Reds.

Narron was born in Goldsboro, NC, on January 15, 1956. The Tar Heel State has not produced many Yankees although three of their native sons have worn the pinstripes during Hall of Fame careers. They are Catfish Hunter, Enos Slaughter and Gaylord Perry.

Narron shares his January 15th birthday with the only big league player to be born on the Island of Samoa and this short-term Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1979 NYY 61 136 123 17 21 3 1 4 18 0 9 26 .171 .226 .309 .535
8 Yrs 392 926 840 64 177 23 2 21 96 0 67 127 .211 .270 .318 .588
CAL (4 yrs) 203 435 399 27 90 12 1 10 43 0 29 46 .226 .279 .336 .615
SEA (3 yrs) 128 355 318 20 66 8 0 7 35 0 29 55 .208 .276 .299 .575
NYY (1 yr) 61 136 123 17 21 3 1 4 18 0 9 26 .171 .226 .309 .535
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/16/2014.

January 13 – Happy Birthday Mike Milosevich

One month after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his permission to Major League Baseball to continue operations during wartime. That of course did not mean the game was unaffected. Hundreds of Major League and Minor League players were drafted or volunteered for military service during the war and joined with hundreds of thousands of American baseball fans who put on uniforms and headed for battle overseas.

From 1942 until the war ended four years later, the lineups of all Major League teams featured many strange and unfamiliar names. These were the replacement players, guys who had either not yet been drafted or were for one reason or another, exempted from the draft. Most came from the Minor Leagues. Many of them probably never would have had the opportunity to wear a big league uniform in peace time conditions. But thanks to them, America’s Favorite Past Time continued to function, giving both our armed forces and the patriotic public back home supporting them, something to cheer about.

milo.jpgToday’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was one of the many wartime replacement players who wore a Yankee uniform. Mike “Mollie” Milosevich had been in the Yankee farm system for eight long years when he was called up to the Bronx in 1944 to become New York’s starting shortstop. The Yankees had kept right on winning during the early years of the War, taking the AL Pennant in 1942 and winning the 1943 World Series against the Cardinals. But by 1944, all of their star players were in uniform and they fell to a third place finish.

Milosevich was 29 years-old at the time of his rookie season. He played in 94 games that year, batting .247. He stuck around long enough to play 30 games the following year, before the Yankee regulars began returning from Europe and the Pacific. He then returned to the Minors, where he played for six more seasons before retiring.

Yankee fans really did need a score card to figure out who was who on their favorite team during WW II. Take a look at the two lineups below and you’ll get a clearer idea of the difference in quality between the peace time and wartime Yankees.

New York’s 1941 Starting Lineup

Bill Dickey C
Buddy Hassett 1B
Joe Gordon 2B
Phil Rizzuto SS
Frank Crosetti 3B
Joe DiMaggio OF
Charlie Keller OF
Tommy Henrich OF

New York’s 1944 Starting Lineup

Mike Garbark C
Nick Etten 1B
Snuffy Stirnweiss 2B
Mike Milosevich SS
Oscar Grimes 3B
Bud Metheny OF
Johnny Lindell OF
Hersh Martin OF

This one-time Yankee starting pitcher was also born on January 13th.

Milosevich’s Yankee regulars season & lifetime stats:

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1944 NYY 94 345 312 27 77 11 4 0 32 1 30 37 .247 .313 .308 .621
1945 NYY 30 77 69 5 15 2 0 0 7 0 6 6 .217 .289 .246 .536
2 Yrs 124 422 381 32 92 13 4 0 39 1 36 43 .241 .309 .297 .605
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/13/2014.

January 12 – Happy Birthday Terry Whitfield

Terry_WhitfieldLet 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.

Whitfield shares his January 12th birthday with this current Yankee starting pitcher, this former Yankee reliever and this one-time second baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1974 NYY 2 5 5 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .200 .200 .200 .400
1975 NYY 28 84 81 9 22 1 1 0 7 1 1 17 .272 .274 .309 .582
1976 NYY 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
10 Yrs 730 2106 1913 233 537 93 12 33 179 18 138 288 .281 .330 .394 .724
SFG (4 yrs) 514 1688 1529 201 442 77 11 26 138 16 109 206 .289 .338 .405 .743
LAD (3 yrs) 185 329 298 23 72 15 0 7 34 1 28 64 .242 .309 .362 .671
NYY (3 yrs) 31 89 86 9 23 1 1 0 7 1 1 18 .267 .270 .302 .572
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2014.

New York Yankees in the Hall of Fame

NB_HOF_logo

The list below identifies New York Yankees who have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as of December 9, 2013. The list is presented in the order of induction date with the most recent inductee listed first and includes players, managers and team executives who played or worked for the Yankees at any time in franchise history, including the 1903-1912 Highlanders and the 1901-1902 Orioles. The year listed along-side each individual’s name is the year that person was inducted.

Joe Torre 2014

Bobby Cox 2014

Jacob Rupert 2013

Joe Gordon 2009

Ricky Henderson 2009

Rich Gossage 2008

Wade Boggs 2005

Dave Winfield 2001

Lee MacPhail 1998

Phil Niekro 1997

Leo Durocher 1994

Phil Rizzuto 1994

Reggie Jackson 1993

Tony Lazzeri 1991

Gaylord Perry 1991

Catfish Hunter 1987

Enos Slaughter 1985

Johnny Mize 1981

Larry MacPhail 1978

Joe Sewell 1977

Bucky Harris 1975

Whitey Ford 1974

Mickey Mantle 1974

Yogi Berra 1972

Lefty Gomez 1972

Joe Kelley 1971

George Weiss 1971

Earl Combs 1970

Stan Coveleski 1969

Waite Hoyt 1969

Branch Rickey 1967

Red Ruffing 1967

Casey Stengel 1966

Burleigh Grimes 1964

Miller Huggins 1964

Bill McKechnie 1962

Joe McCarthy 1957

Home Run Baker 1955

Joe DiMaggio 1955

Dazzy Vance 1955

Bill Dickey 1954

Ed Barrow 1953

Paul Waner 1952

Herb Pennock 1948

Frank Chance 1946

Jack Chesbro 1946

Clark Griffith 1946

Joe McGinnity 1946

Roger Bresnahan 1945

Wilbert Robinson 1945

Lou Gehrig 1939

Willie Keeler 1939

John McGraw 1937

Babe Ruth 1936

January 11 – Happy Birthday Loren Babe

Thumbnail image for loren-babe-1953-yankees-2.jpgThe Yankees have three “Babes” that I know of on their all-time roster. The first and most famous, of course, was Babe Ruth. Then there was Babe Dahlgren, the guy who replaced the legendary Lou Gehrig as the Yankees’ starting first baseman, in 1939. The third Yankee “Babe” was Loren Babe, who’s birthday we celebrate today. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t resemble the original Babe when he was trying to hit big league pitching but if you put a Dodger hat on the guy pictured on the left, you could easily have mistaken him for the great Sandy Koufax.

Loren Babe had the misfortune of being a 24-year-old third base prospect when the Yankees already had a young Gil McDougald and Andy Carey on their big league roster. Born in Pisgah, IA, on January 11, 1928, Mr. Babe got into 17 games as a Yankee during the 1952 and  beginning part of the ’53 seasons. Loren’s bat did play a very significant role in Yankee history. I read Jane Leavy’s book about Mickey Mantle, entitled The Last Boy. It contains the most detailed account I’ve ever read of Mickey’s historic home run off of the Senators’ Chuck Stobbs in Washington’s Griffith Stadium, on April 17, 1953 (See illustrative photo below-not a photo of actual home run.) When Mantle hit that monster he was using a bat he borrowed from a teammate. That teammate was Loren Babe. Nine days later, the Yankees sold Babe to the Athletics but Mickey kept his bat.

That missing bat may or may not help explain why Loren hit just .224 in 103 games for Philly and ended up back in the Minors and eventually, back in the Yankee organization. He then went into managing, scouting and coaching. He was on the Yankees’ big league coaching staff in 1967. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1983 while working for the White Sox organization. Needing just eight weeks more of employment to qualify for MLB pension benefits, Chicago put Babe on their coaching staff after Charley Lau, who was serving as the team’s hitting coach, graciously offered to step aside. In a tragic and ironic twist, Lau was also diagnosed with cancer and died just five weeks after the disease took Babe’s life.

Babe shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher.

Mantle.TapeMeasure.jpg

Loren Babe’s Yankee regular season and MLB lifetime statistics.
Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1952 NYY 12 25 21 1 2 1 0 0 0 1 4 4 .095 .240 .143 .383
1953 NYY 5 18 18 2 6 1 0 2 6 0 0 2 .333 .333 .722 1.056
2 Yrs 120 426 382 37 85 18 2 2 26 1 39 26 .223 .298 .296 .594
NYY (2 yrs) 17 43 39 3 8 2 0 2 6 1 4 6 .205 .279 .410 .689
PHA (1 yr) 103 383 343 34 77 16 2 0 20 0 35 20 .224 .300 .283 .583
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/11/2014.