January 2013

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

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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.

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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.