January 2013

January 26 – Happy Birthday Hector Noesi

As the 2012 season approached, more and more Yankee fans were beginning to wonder if Yankee pitching prospect, Hector Noesi was really ready to become a part of the team’s starting rotation. That’s because it looked like New York’s front office was electing to stand pat with the pitching arms the team already had on its roster during this offseason and not test the trade or free agent market for a solution. That meant if Phil Hughes and AJ Burnett or the aging Freddie Garcia were not able to deliver during the first few weeks of the upcoming regular season, Joe Girardi’s first option was most likely going to be inserting Noesi in the Yankee rotation.

This Dominican right hander had appeared in 30 games for New York in 2010 after being called up from Scranton in mid-May, almost all of them as a reliever. He made a good first impression when he got the win with a four-scoreless-extra-inning stint against Baltimore the very first time he pitched in the big leagues. He also had pitched well during his ascent through the Yankee minor league organization. Noesi has a fastball in the lower nineties and has already developed a very good change up. His delivery has been described by scouts as “smooth and fluid” and he has shown very good command of the strike zone.

My problem with the guy was that he had already tested positive for steroids in 2007 and served a 50-game suspension. He’s tested clean since but he’s also experienced some serious problems with his pitching arm. Still, the Yankees were very high on this guy coming into 2012 and were telling everyone who would listen that he was ready to start in the big leagues right now.

Some of that praise may have been hype to increase his trade value because in January of 2012, the Yankees included Noesi with Jesus Montero in the package they sent to the Mariners for Michael Pineda and a Mariner pitching prospect named Jose Campos. To date, Noesi has not pitched well for Seattle. He went 2-12 mostly as a starter for the M’s in 2012 and then spent large parts of his 2013 season pitching in Tacoma.

Hector shares his January 26th birthday with this one time Yankee World Series hero.

2011 NYY 2 2 .500 4.47 30 2 14 0 0 0 56.1 63 29 28 6 22 45 1.509
3 Yrs 4 15 .211 5.53 64 21 22 0 0 0 190.1 212 121 117 30 73 134 1.497
SEA (2 yrs) 2 13 .133 5.98 34 19 8 0 0 0 134.0 149 92 89 24 51 89 1.493
NYY (1 yr) 2 2 .500 4.47 30 2 14 0 0 0 56.1 63 29 28 6 22 45 1.509
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/26/2014.

January 25 – Happy Birthday Steve Roser

phillpsroserHe was considered the best pitcher in the history of Clarkson University, a small engineering school in northwestern New York State. Born in Rome, New York in 1918, his real first name was Emerson but his Clarkson coach started calling him “Steve” instead because it was easier to both say and remember. Roser had a choice to make in 1940. He could either finish his senior year at Clarkson or sign a contract with the Yankees. He signed the contract and spent the next four years pitching his way up  New York’s minor league ladder.

Joe McCarthy put him on the parent club’s roster for the first time in 1944, and Roser pitched well enough to stick around the entire season. His big league debut came on May 5th of that year against the Red Sox. He relieved starter Atley Donald in the top of the fifth inning with the score tied and finished the game, which the Yankees won, earning him his first career victory. He got his first career start two months later and earned a complete game 8-2 win over the Tigers. He would finish that first season with a 4-3 record and one save and he earned good marks from McCarthy who kept Roser on the roster the following season.

In 1946, his slow start combined with the mass return of Yankee pitching talent from military service in World War II got the right-hander sold to the Boston Braves in early May. He pitched OK but sparingly in Beantown for a few weeks and then spent the second half of the season with the Braves triple A team in Indianapolis. Despite a good record in Indy, he failed to make the Braves roster the following spring and when he pitched poorly during the 1947 season in the minors, he quit the game for good. Roser returned to upstate New York where he and his wife opened a sporting goods store and a restaurant. Roser passed away in 2002.

He shares his birthday with this long-ago Yankee starting catcher and this one-time Yankee reliever.

January 24 – Happy Birthday Tim Stoddard

Born in East Chicago, IL on January 24, 1953, Stoddard came to New York from San Diego during the 1986 season and almost immediately won four games in relief for the Yankees. The huge right-hander spent the next two seasons in the Yankee bullpen and earned a total of 10 wins and 11 saves while wearing the pinstripes. His best years were with Baltimore, including a 26-save season in 1980.

The Baltimore-New York connection was an historical one. Before the Yankees moved to New York (as the Hilltoppers) in 1903, they were the Baltimore Orioles. Beginning when the relocating St Louis Browns brought AL baseball back to B’town in 1954, many former Baltimore players have worn the pinstripes and vice-versa. Some guys who have worn both include;

Don Larsen
Bob Turley
Ryne Duren
Gus Triandos
Bob Kuzava
Ron Hansen
Curt Blefary
Pat Dobson
Tippy Martinez
Rick Dempsey
Paul Blair
Reggie Jackson
Doyle Alexander
Elrod Hendricks
Rich Coggins
Sidney Ponson
Mike Mussina

Stoddard shares his birthday with another well-traveled former Yankee reliever and this long-ago starting second baseman. Stoddard’s Yankee and career stats are shown below:

1986 NYY 4 1 .800 3.83 24 0 6 0 0 0 49.1 41 23 21 6 23 34 1.297
1987 NYY 4 3 .571 3.50 57 0 23 0 0 8 92.2 83 38 36 13 30 78 1.219
1988 NYY 2 2 .500 6.38 28 0 9 0 0 3 55.0 62 41 39 5 27 33 1.618
13 Yrs 41 35 .539 3.95 485 0 262 0 0 76 729.2 680 343 320 72 356 582 1.420
BAL (6 yrs) 19 14 .576 3.65 229 0 162 0 0 57 313.0 294 137 127 28 141 249 1.390
NYY (3 yrs) 10 6 .625 4.39 109 0 38 0 0 11 197.0 186 102 96 24 80 145 1.350
SDP (2 yrs) 2 9 .182 4.27 74 0 29 0 0 1 105.1 96 55 50 9 71 89 1.585
CLE (1 yr) 0 0 2.95 14 0 7 0 0 0 21.1 25 7 7 1 7 12 1.500
CHC (1 yr) 10 6 .625 3.82 58 0 26 0 0 7 92.0 77 41 39 9 57 87 1.457
CHW (1 yr) 0 0 9.00 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.0 2 1 1 1 0 0 2.000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/24/2014.

January 23 – Happy Birthday Johnny Sturm

sturmJohnny Sturm was not your prototypical Yankee starting first baseman. He was instead, a singles hitter. In fact, no Yankee starting first baseman in the history of the franchise ever had a slugging average lower than the .300 figure turned in by Sturm during the 1941 regular season.

Lou Gehrig had set the impossible-to-fill mold all future Yankee first sackers would be measured by. Babe Dahlgren, the Iron Horse’s immediate successor had not hit more than 15 home runs or averaged above .264 during his two seasons in the position. Meanwhile, Sturm was hitting well over .300 and averaging 180 base-hits per year while playing first base for the Yankee’s farm team in Kansas City. At the end of New York’s 1941 spring training camp, Yankee skipper Joe McCarthy made the decision to put Sturm and two other infielders from that Kansas City farm club, second baseman Jerry Priddy and shortstop Phil Rizzuto on the Yank’s Opening Day roster. With an outfield full of home run power (DiMaggio, Henrich and Keller would each hit 30 round-trippers in 1941) plus Joe Gordon, Marse Joe figured any of these rookies and maybe even all three would be perfect table setters for the Yankees’ big bats.

The plan seemed reasonable but during the season a couple of hitches emerged. After getting the Opening Day start at first, Sturm was quickly benched so that Joe Gordon could move to first and McCarthy could play Priddy and Rizzuto together in the middle of the Yankee infield. But Priddy could not get himself untracked at the plate and by mid-May, “Marse Joe” had moved Gordon back to second and was starting Sturm at first. Almost immediately, Sturm went on an 11-game hitting streak and by the end of it, McCarthy had moved him into the leadoff spot of the Yankee lineup where he would remain for the rest of the ’41 season. Like Priddy however, Sturm also struggled with big league pitching, averaging just .239 during his rookie season. As a result, he scored just 58 times in 568 plate appearances. Despite that poor showing, McCarthy stuck with his punchless rookie in that year’s World Series and the then-25-year-old Sturm came through with a .318 average in the Yankees’ victory over Brooklyn, hitting safely in each of that Fall Classic’s five games.

So why did McCarthy stick with Sturm’s inefficient bat at first instead of giving Priddy another chance at second? After all, Phil Rizzuto always insisted that Priddy was a much better ballplayer than the Scooter was and could do everything well on a baseball field. From what I’ve read, it seems Priddy was a very cocky kid who thought nothing of mouthing off at his veteran Yankee teammates and vocally insisting he was as good as or better than most of them. Such brashness, especially from a rookie, did not sit well with his teammates. As a result, few if any of them showed any sympathy or offered to help Priddy with his offensive struggles, while reacting in the exact opposite way with the much more likable Sturm. I’m sure McCarthy realized all this and kept Priddy on the bench in part because he didn’t want to antagonize his veteran players.

Sturm’s very good 1941 postseason performance convinced most Yankee observers that he would be back at first base come the following season, but two months later, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. On January 13, 1942, Sturm became the first married big league ballplayer to be drafted into military service. He spent most of his time in the Army playing baseball but he also was part of a detail that built baseball fields on army posts. While driving a tractor on one such detail, Sturm was involved in an accident that resulted in the amputation of two fingers on his non-throwing hand. When he tried to rejoin the Yankees in 1946, that injury destroyed his chances at being successful. Instead, he became a player-manager in the Yankees farm system and one day in 1948, while serving in that role for New York’s Class C Western Association League franchise in Joplin, Sturm’s phone rang. A father of a high school player was calling to request a tryout for his son. Sturm listened to the voice on the other end of the line tell him why this kid was worth looking at and was convinced enough to place a call to Yankee scout Tom Greenwade and arrange a tryout. The name of the dad who called Sturm that day was Mutt Mantle and the rest is Yankee history.

This one-time All Star closer and  this former Yankee number 1 draft pick were also born on this date.

1941 NYY 124 568 524 58 125 17 3 3 36 3 37 50 .239 .293 .300 .592
1 Yr 124 568 524 58 125 17 3 3 36 3 37 50 .239 .293 .300 .592
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/24/2014.

January 22 – Happy Birthday Brian Dayett

Saint Leo University in St Leo, FL is not exactly a breeding ground for future Major Leaguers. Only six former Lions have made it to the rosters of big league teams. Three of those six were originally drafted by the Yankee organization. These include pitchers Bob Tewksbury and Jim Corsi and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant. I remember when this hustling outfielder was a promising power-hitting prospect in New York’s farm system. During his final two full seasons as a Yankee minor leaguer, Dayett had smashed 69 home runs. Unfortunately, he could not maintain that power stroke once he got to the big show. After two disappointing part-time seasons with New York in 1983 and 1984, he was traded to the Cubs in 1985 in a fishy deal that brought pitcher Steve Trout to New York. Before the 1987 season, Dayett was scheduled to be Chicago’s starting right fielder. Then during spring training, the Cubs signed free agent Andre Dawson and Dayett found himself back on the bench. His most notable career achievement was that he made just one error during his entire five-year big league career.

Dayett shares his birthday with this long-ago Highlander catcher.

1983 NYY 11 32 29 3 6 0 1 0 5 0 2 4 .207 .258 .276 .534
1984 NYY 64 139 127 14 31 8 0 4 23 0 9 14 .244 .295 .402 .697
5 Yrs 218 472 426 45 110 26 2 14 68 0 37 71 .258 .316 .427 .744
CHC (3 yrs) 143 301 270 28 73 18 1 10 40 0 26 53 .270 .332 .456 .788
NYY (2 yrs) 75 171 156 17 37 8 1 4 28 0 11 18 .237 .288 .378 .666
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/23/2014.