February 24 – Happy Birthday Dewayne Wise
Brett Gardner had just had his best game of the young season on April 17, 2012. Going 2 for 4 with two walks at the plate and scoring tree runs. But he had also made a dive in the outfield trying to catch a ball and sprained his right elbow. For the next several weeks, Yankee physicians would treat the lingering injury as a strain and kept telling Joe Girardi that his speedy outfielder should be returning in a week or so.
At first, the Yanks tried to fill Gardner’s spot in left field with their near-medicare-eligible-supposed-to-DH tandem of Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez. After two weeks of playing every day both guys were dragging and Gardner’s elbow was still hurting. Girardi tried using his utility infielders, Edwin Nunez and Jayson Nix in left for a few games and then someone in the Yankee front office evidently brought up a great point, “Hey, we signed Dewayne Wise last January and the good-fielding, nine-year veteran big league outfielder is hitting over .300 for our top farm club. Why don’t we call him up until Gardner’s elbow feels better?”
It turned out to be the “wisest” move the Yankees made all year. During the next three months, Wise, a native of Columbia, South Carolina appeared in 56 Yankee games. The team’s record in those games was 44-12.
Dewayne had made his big league debut with Toronto in 2000, but had never been more than a utility outfielder with any of the six teams he had played with before joining New York. He did however, already have an ESPN-worthy career highlight reel. White Sox manager, Ozzie Guillen made Wise a starter during the 2008 ALDS versus Tampa Bay and he was Chicago’s best hitter, driving in five runs during their three-game defeat and averaging .286. Then in 2009, Guillen inserted him into a July game against that same Tampa team as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning with Chicago pitcher Mark Buehrle just three outs away from a perfect game. No fan of big league baseball who has seen the amazing catch Wise then made of a would-be-home run hit by Tampa’s Gabe Kapler, will ever forget it. In case you have, I’ve included a video of that catch here.
Wise averaged .262 in his 56 games in pinstripes, with 3 home runs and 8 RBIs. His presence also made it possible for Girardi to give the aging veterans throughout the Yankee lineup the periodic rests they needed. He also added a catch to his ESPN highlight reel, even though he really didn’t catch it. That took place in late June of the 2012 season when he leaped into Yankee Stadium’s left field stands attempting to catch a foul ball hit by Cleveland’s Jack Hannahan. The ball his his glove as he tumbled into the crowd but slow-motion replays clearly showed the ball exit his glove before he hit the ground. As the outfielder exited the stands, Umpire Mike DiMuro never asked to see the ball and Wise never offered to show it to him. If you missed this entertaining moment too, I’ve got it for you here.
The Yankee doctors finally figured out that Gardner’s injury was a lot more serious than they first thought and required surgery to repair. By late July, they were saying the speedy outfielder would not make it back for the rest of the season. I thought that might be good news for Wise’s future with the Yankees. Instead, Brian Cashman decided to go out and get Ichiro Suzuki from Seattle and the Yankees released Wise, permitting him to again once join the White Sox, where he finished the 2012 season as Chicago’s primary center-fielder and lead-off hitter.
Wise shares his birthday with this former Yankee prospect and World Series MVP.