February 2013

February 17 – Happy Birthday Wally Pipp

wpippLong before Gladys Knight recorded Midnight Train to Georgia, Wally was the most famous Pipp in America.  He succeeded the notorious Hal Chase as the regular Yankee first baseman and played brilliantly at that position for eleven consecutive seasons.

Pipp established several firsts as a Yankee first baseman.  He was the first Yankee to lead the American League in home runs.  He was the first Yankee starting first baseman to wear the Yankee pinstripes.  He was the first one to play in the World Series.  He was the first Yankee starting first baseman to play in the now-closed original Yankee Stadium and the first one to play on a world championship team, in 1923.

None of those honors mattered, however, when Pipp innocently sat out a game against the Senators on the first day of June during the 1925 season.  Legend has it that he had a headache and asked Yankee skipper, Miller Huggins, for that afternoon off.  Whatever the reason, Lou Gehrig, took his place and every Yankee fan knows the rest of that story.

Pipp broke into the big leagues with the Detroit Tigers in 1913 and was picked up on waivers by the Yankees on January 15, 1915.  He led the American League in home runs in both 1916 and 1917. In fact, the Yankees earned the nickname Murderers Row because of pre-Ruth sluggers like Pipp and Frank “Home Run” Baker. In addition to being a power hitter in the dead-ball era, he was also a good and graceful fielder and smart base runner, stealing 114 bases during his eleven years with the Yanks.

Pipp’s best year in New York was 1922, when he hit .329 with 190 hits, 96 runs scored, and drove in 90 more.  His best World Series performance was the 1922 Fall Classic when he batted .286 in a losing effort against arch rival Giants.

In 1926, the Yankees sold Pipp, outright, to the Cincinnati Reds where he played three more seasons before retiring.  He passed away in Rapid City, MI on January 11, 1965, at the age of 71.

This former Yankee reliever this one-time replacement for A-Rod as Yankee third baseman and this Hall-of-Fame Yankee announcer were each also born on February 17th.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1915 22 NYY AL 136 560 479 59 118 20 13 4 60 18 66 81 .246 .339 .367 .706
1916 23 NYY AL 151 617 545 70 143 20 14 12 93 16 54 82 .262 .331 .417 .748
1917 24 NYY AL 155 669 587 82 143 29 12 9 70 11 60 66 .244 .320 .380 .700
1918 25 NYY AL 91 386 349 48 106 15 9 2 44 11 22 34 .304 .345 .415 .760
1919 26 NYY AL 138 597 523 74 144 23 10 7 50 9 39 42 .275 .330 .398 .728
1920 27 NYY AL 153 687 610 109 171 30 14 11 76 4 48 54 .280 .339 .430 .768
1921 28 NYY AL 153 669 588 96 174 35 9 8 97 17 45 28 .296 .347 .427 .774
1922 29 NYY AL 152 665 577 96 190 32 10 9 90 7 56 32 .329 .392 .466 .859
1923 30 NYY AL 144 643 569 79 173 19 8 6 108 6 36 28 .304 .352 .397 .749
1924 31 NYY AL 153 663 589 88 174 30 19 9 114 12 51 36 .295 .352 .457 .808
1925 32 NYY AL 62 200 178 19 41 6 3 3 24 3 13 12 .230 .286 .348 .635
15 Yrs 1872 7836 6914 974 1941 311 148 90 997 125 596 551 .281 .341 .408 .749
NYY (11 yrs) 1488 6356 5594 820 1577 259 121 80 826 114 490 495 .282 .343 .414 .757
CIN (3 yrs) 372 1446 1289 151 359 52 24 10 166 11 104 50 .279 .335 .379 .715
DET (1 yr) 12 34 31 3 5 0 3 0 5 0 2 6 .161 .235 .355 .590
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

February 16 – Happy Birthday Sergio Mitre

mitreSergio Mitre was another Yankee relief pitcher who had the full faith and confidence of Yankee skipper Joe Girardi, even though I was never sure what he had done to earn it. I remember hearing the Yankee manager tell members of the Yankee press corps that this big right-hander threw lots of ground ball outs. After watching him pitch in pinstripes for almost three seasons, it seemed to me as if I saw more bombs hit off Mitre than groundballs. During his five seasons in the big leagues before coming to New York. Sergio had a combined won-loss record of 10-23, an ERA of 5.36 runs per game and about six walks for every nine innings he pitched. On top of that he was suspended a year for steroid use and then underwent Tommy John surgery.

In 2009, his ERA as a Yankee was 6.79. The only time Sergio truly impressed me that season was during a start against the White Sox in late August, when he threw six innings of one-hit shutout ball in a 10-0 Yankee triumph. He certainly pitched better for New York in 2010 but not nearly good enough to earn him a shot at starting in 2011. But that was exactly the scenario Girardi set up for him. He let this native of Tijuana, Mexico compete for the fourth and fifth spot in the team’s 2011 rotation on equal footing with Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and Ivan Nova. I was not at all surprised when Mitre failed to win that competition. The Yankees then traded Mitre to the Brewers a week before Opening Day, for outfielder Chris Dickerson. Three months later, the Yankees purchased him back from Milwaukee and gave him one more chance to become a key member of their bullpen. He failed to do so and was not offered a contract for the 2012 season. His three year record as a Yankee was 3-6, with 1 save and a lofty ERA of 5.35.

Mitre turns 32 years old today and shares his  February 16th birthday with this former Yankee backup catcher.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO WHIP
2009 NYY 3 3 .500 6.79 12 9 2 0 0 0 51.2 71 45 39 10 13 0 32 1.626
2010 NYY 0 3 .000 3.33 27 3 13 0 0 1 54.0 43 23 20 7 16 0 29 1.093
2011 NYY 0 0 11.81 4 0 4 0 0 0 5.1 9 9 7 0 4 0 2 2.438
8 Yrs 13 30 .302 5.21 143 64 40 1 1 1 454.2 525 290 263 54 151 10 265 1.487
CHC (3 yrs) 4 10 .286 6.12 36 18 10 1 1 0 120.2 148 83 82 18 47 4 77 1.616
NYY (3 yrs) 3 6 .333 5.35 43 12 19 0 0 1 111.0 123 77 66 17 33 0 63 1.405
FLA (2 yrs) 6 13 .316 4.88 42 34 3 0 0 0 190.0 224 116 103 16 61 6 111 1.500
MIL (1 yr) 0 1 .000 3.27 22 0 8 0 0 0 33.0 30 14 12 3 10 0 14 1.212
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

February 15 – Happy Birthday Russell Martin

Unless they had another move to acquire a catcher in mind before Opening Day of the 2013 regular season, the Yankees made a mistake by not re-signing Russell Martin. Instead, they allowed their starting catcher for the 2011 and ’12 seasons to make a new two-year $15 million deal for himself with Pittsburgh. I realize this native Canadian had a very bad offensive season in 2012, but his game management skills and defense remained steady and he did pound 21 home runs. None of the trio of receivers who will battle to take over Martin’s job in 2013 will be as good as he was for New York.

My single biggest concern about the former Dodger catcher when the Yankees signed him before the 2011 season was his health. He had hurt his hip during the 2010 season and the injury required surgery. But Martin had worked like crazy to recuperate from that operation and was able to catch 253 games during his two years in the Big Apple. His pinstripe career got off to a great start during the first half of 2011 and he made the AL All Star team. But his offense then pretty much abandoned him until he finally started hitting again during the final month of the 2012 season. Fortunately, he never let those hitting woes impact his solid work behind the plate. I loved the fact that he had the confidence and catching ability necessary to have Yankee pitchers throw their nastiest curves and sliders when hitters were ahead in the count or with opposing runners on base. When Martin was on a roll, be could block short pitches and dig them out of the dirt as well as any catcher I’ve seen. I also liked the fact that Martin had some pop in his bat (39 home runs in his two seasons with New York) and some speed in his legs. He’s stolen 80 bases during his seven years in the big leagues. Plus the guy turns just 30-years-old today.

I think Pittsburgh got themselves one of the ten best catchers in baseball for their 2013 lineup. Meanwhile, neither Chris Stewart or Francisco Cervelli have really proven they’ve got the all-around skills to handle the role of a big league team’s starting catcher. A still developing Austin Romine hasn’t either. That means the Yanks go into a new season with a big question mark at one of baseball’s most important positions, when for $15 million over the next two seasons they could have had one of the better catchers in baseball in that slot. Brian Cashman has said the organization is just biding time, waiting for 19-year-old Gary Sanchez, the franchise’s number 1 catching prospect to be ready for the big show. But that’s at least two years and two postseasons away. Having Martin behind the plate until that happened was a wise and affordable option.

This former Yankee outfielder  and this one-time Yankee starting pitcher both also celebrate their birthday on February 15th.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2011 NYY 125 476 417 57 99 17 0 18 65 8 50 81 .237 .324 .408 .732
2012 NYY 133 485 422 50 89 18 0 21 53 6 53 95 .211 .311 .403 .713
8 Yrs 1052 4180 3621 505 925 171 7 108 473 89 480 654 .255 .349 .396 .745
LAD (5 yrs) 667 2713 2344 347 638 115 7 54 300 66 319 370 .272 .365 .396 .761
NYY (2 yrs) 258 961 839 107 188 35 0 39 118 14 103 176 .224 .317 .405 .723
PIT (1 yr) 127 506 438 51 99 21 0 15 55 9 58 108 .226 .327 .377 .703
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

February 14 – Happy Birthday Damaso Marte

marteJoe Girardi was a big fan of former Yankee reliever Damaso Marte and for the life of me I could not figure out why. The Yankees had acquired the Dominican southpaw from Pittsburgh in the same 2008 trade that brought outfielder Xavier Nady to the Bronx. Marte had been 4-0 with 5 saves for the Pirates at the time that trade was made but he finished the ’08 season 1-3 as a Yankee and his ERA ballooned to 5.40. When New York then declined his option, I was pretty sure his Yankee days were over. I was wrong. Brian Cashman instead signed him to a new three-year deal.

Marte got worse instead of better during the 2009 regular season, going 1-3 and his ERA skyrocketed to 9.45. I again predicted his days in pinstripes were numbered but Joe Girardi had other ideas. He put Marte on the New York’s postseason roster. There was something in the Yankee skipper’s head or that famous binder of his that made him think Marte was going to get some huge outs somewhere along the way.

Those outs didn’t happen against Minnesota in that year’s ALDS. In his only appearance against the Twins, he gave up two straight singles and was quickly removed. That’s when the Marte Magic began. In his next seven appearances in that postseason, which included an inning-and-a-third against the Angels in the ALCS and two-and-a-third more against Philadelphia in the World Series, Marte did not surrender a single hit or walk a single batter. He struck out the final two hitters he faced, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard on six consecutive pitches. That’s when the Marte Magic ended.

His 2010 season was disrupted by inflammation in his pitching arm and cut short when his left shoulder required surgery. That knocked him out for the entire 2011 season and finally ended his Yankee career. He did not pitch any where in 2012 and it looks as if his big league career is also over.

He shares his Valentine’s Day birthday with this Hall-of-Fame Yankee announcer and this one-time Yankee pitching prospect and this one-time Yankee utility infielder. My father-in-law, Lou Rossi of Boynton Beach, FL, turns 93-years-old today. Happy Birthday Lou!

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2008 NYY 1 3 .250 5.40 25 0 2 0 0 0 18.1 14 11 11 1 10 24 1.309
2009 NYY 1 3 .250 9.45 21 0 6 0 0 0 13.1 15 14 14 3 6 13 1.575
2010 NYY 0 0 4.08 30 0 3 0 0 0 17.2 10 8 8 2 11 12 1.189
11 Yrs 23 27 .460 3.48 570 0 137 0 0 36 503.2 405 209 195 48 229 533 1.259
PIT (4 yrs) 7 8 .467 3.52 210 0 38 0 0 5 186.2 155 83 73 16 77 200 1.243
CHW (4 yrs) 14 12 .538 2.78 279 0 86 0 0 31 259.0 195 84 80 23 119 281 1.212
NYY (3 yrs) 2 6 .250 6.02 76 0 11 0 0 0 49.1 39 33 33 6 27 49 1.338
SEA (1 yr) 0 1 .000 9.35 5 0 2 0 0 0 8.2 16 9 9 3 6 3 2.538
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

February 13 – Happy Birthday Guy Zinn

ZinnGuy Zinn was the starting right fielder for the 1912 New York Highlanders. He was born in West Virginia in 1887. He played his first game of minor league ball in 1909 and two seasons later, while playing for a B level team in Altoona, PA, he caught the attention of the Highlanders by belting 11 triples, 7 home runs and averaging .317. New York offered him a contract after his Altoona season ended and Zinn made his Major League debut that September, with a nine-game cup-of-coffee trial with the Highlanders.

That 1911 New York team that Zinn became part of was in complete disarray. The season before, the Highlanders had looked as if they were becoming one of the junior circuit’s better teams, finishing second to Connie Mack’s mighty A’s. But in a bizarre late-season episode, New York skipper George Stallings had accused first baseman Hal Chase, his team’s biggest star, of throwing games. Unbelievably, the Highlander ownership sided with Chase and fired Stallings. Even more unbelievably, they gave Chase the manager’s job. You can imagine the turmoil this craziness must have caused among the Highlander roster. The team went from 88 wins and a second place finish in 1910 to a 76-win, seventh-place finish in 1911, to a disastrous 50-win, last place, bottom-falling-out debacle in 1912.

Zinn actually played well for that 1912 Highlander team. He led New York with 6 home runs and finished second in RBIs with 55, while averaging .262. Just 25-years-old at the time, under more normal circumstances, these stats from a rookie outfielder would be good enough to warrant a return invitation. But these were far from normal times. Harry Wolverton had replaced Chase as Highlander manager after the 1911 season, but Chase retained his job as the Highlander starting first baseman. After the last-place finish in 1912, the no-nonsense, two-time World Series winning former Cub manager, Frank Chance was brought in to right the ship. Several player personnel moves were made and one of them was the sale of Zinn’s contract to the Boston Braves. A year later, Zinn jumped to the upstart Federal League. Frank Chance did finally convince New York to dump the corrupt Chase, who himself would join Zinn in the Federal League in 1914.

Ironically, Chase also happens to share Zinn’s February 13th birthday as does this former University of Michigan quarterback who also happened to be a Yankee third base prospect and this one-time Yankee shortstop.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1911 NYY 9 32 27 5 4 0 2 0 1 0 4 5 .148 .281 .296 .578
1912 NYY 106 462 401 56 105 15 10 6 55 17 50 57 .262 .345 .394 .739
5 Yrs 314 1247 1103 136 297 51 23 15 139 28 109 139 .269 .338 .398 .736
BAL (2 yrs) 163 606 537 60 147 28 9 8 68 8 51 54 .274 .340 .404 .744
NYY (2 yrs) 115 494 428 61 109 15 12 6 56 17 54 62 .255 .341 .388 .729
BSN (1 yr) 36 147 138 15 41 8 2 1 15 3 4 23 .297 .322 .406 .727
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

February 12 – Happy Birthday Walter “Monk” Dubiel

dubielDue to an eye ailment, Walter “Monk” Dubiel was not considered healthy enough to serve in WWII and with a sore hip and chronically aching back, there were times he was just barely healthy enough to pitch for the Yankees. New York signed this native of Hartford, Connecticut in 1941 and he spent the next four seasons moving up the organization’s farm system. By 1944, most of the front-line big league pitchers were in the military and Dubiel, who had gone 16-9 for the Yankees’ double A affiliate in Newark the year before, was ready to make his debut in the Bronx. The six foot tall right-hander went 13-13 in his rookie year, threw three shutouts and posted a very respectable ERA of 3.38. But he also pitched 232 innings for Manager Joe McCarthy’s third place ball club, which was fifty more than he had ever pitched in a single season in the minors. He couldn’t match that workload in his sophomore season in pinstripes and his ERA in 1945 climbed to 4.64, but he did manage to post a 10-9 record, which would turn out to be his only winning season as a big league pitcher.

Since the war had ended, all of the Yankee pitchers who had served in the armed forces returned en-masse to New York’s 1946 spring training camp. Dubiel couldn’t make the cut and he was sent back to Newark by McCarthy. Accompanying him to the minor league club that spring was a short stumpy Yankee catcher by the name of Lawrence Berra. Yogi would end up back in pinstripes one day but Monk never did.

In 1947, he became the property of the pitching poor Philadelphia Phillies via the Rule 5 Draft, which eased his path back to the big leagues. He went 8-10 for Philadelphia in 1948, with 2 shutouts and 4 saves. That December he was traded to the Cubs. He would pitch the next three seasons and a tiny part of a fourth in the Windy City and then return to the minors for good. He ended his seven-year career as a Major League pitcher with a 45-53 record and an ERA of 3.87 with 11 saves and 9 shutouts.

Dubiel wore uniform number 14 with New York. Here are my picks for the top five number “14’s” in Yankee history:
Moose Skowron
Lou Piniella
Curtis Granderson
Gene Woodling
Pat Kelly

Dubiel shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcherthis one-time Yankee utility infielder and this one-time New York first-baseman.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1944 NYY 13 13 .500 3.38 30 28 1 19 3 0 232.0 217 93 87 12 86 79 1.306
1945 NYY 10 9 .526 4.64 26 20 4 9 1 0 151.1 157 88 78 9 62 45 1.447
7 Yrs 45 53 .459 3.87 187 97 41 41 9 11 879.1 854 436 378 65 349 289 1.368
CHC (4 yrs) 14 21 .400 3.85 94 32 26 7 3 7 345.2 341 171 148 31 143 123 1.400
NYY (2 yrs) 23 22 .511 3.87 56 48 5 28 4 0 383.1 374 181 165 21 148 124 1.362
PHI (1 yr) 8 10 .444 3.89 37 17 10 6 2 4 150.1 139 84 65 13 58 42 1.310
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

February 11 – Happy Birthday to Kevin Costner’s Co-Star

scott_pose.jpgToday’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant certainly is not a household name, but in addition to playing 54 games in the Yankee outfield during the 1997 season, Scott Pose also had a pretty decent part in Kevin Costner’s 1999 movie, For the Love of the Game. Costner played an aging Detroit Tiger pitcher who throws a perfect game in his final Major League start, which happens to take place in Yankee Stadium against my favorite team. Pose played Yankee outfielder, Matt Crane in that flick.

Pose’s other claim to fame is that he was the very first Florida Marlin in history to make a plate appearance, when he led off that franchise’s inaugural season opener against the Dodgers on April 5, 1993. Moments later, he became the first Marlin in history to get on base safely, thanks to an error by LA first baseman, Erik Karros.

Yankee Manager, Joe Torre took a liking to Pose during the 1997 season. He used the Davenport, Iowa native quite a bit as a utility outfielder that year. He got into 56 games, starting eighteen of them, but he hit just .218. Still, Torre thought enough of Pose to keep him on New York’s 1997 postseason roster. Most long-time Yankee fans remember the play resulting in Pose’s only appearance in that year’s ALDS, very well. That’s because it happened in the fifth and final game of the Cleveland series. The Yankees, who had taken a two-games to one lead in that series, lost the fourth game back in Cleveland and were behind in the fifth, 4-3. In the top of the ninth, both Tim Raines and Derek Jeter had grounded out and it was up to Paul O’Neill to keep the Yankees’ defense of their 1996 World Championship going. Paulie O had been on fire that entire series and his streak continued when he laced a line drive double to center off of Cleveland’s closer, Jose Mesa. That’s when Torre sent Pose into the game to replace O’Neill as the potential tying run at second base. It all became academic moments later, when Bernie Williams flew out to deep left for the final out of the Yankee season.

Pose then spent the next two years in the minors before resurfacing with the Royals in 1999. His last year in the big leagues was 2000.

There have not been too many Yankees born in the state of Iowa, although two who were, starting pitchers Stan Bahnsen and George Pipgras, both put together 20-victory seasons in pinstripes. Former Yankee utility infielder, Fred “The Chicken” Stanley, is also a native Hawkeye.

This Yankee reliever shares Pose’s birthday as does this former New York pitching coach who also was a 20-game winner in the big leagues.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1997 NYY 54 96 87 19 19 2 1 0 5 3 9 11 .218 .292 .264 .556
4 Yrs 202 353 313 52 75 7 1 0 21 9 38 50 .240 .321 .268 .589
KCR (2 yrs) 133 214 185 33 48 3 0 0 13 6 27 35 .259 .352 .276 .628
NYY (1 yr) 54 96 87 19 19 2 1 0 5 3 9 11 .218 .292 .264 .556
FLA (1 yr) 15 43 41 0 8 2 0 0 3 0 2 4 .195 .233 .244 .476
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

February 10 – Happy Birthday Lance Berkman

berkmanNobody was happier than me, when the Yankees acquired Lance Berkman from the Astros at the 2010 inter-league trading deadline. I had followed the career of the Waco, Texas native ever since he made his Major League debut with Houston in 1999. Back then, the Astros killer B duo of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio were both at the peak of their careers and the addition of Berkman as the third “B” in that hive added even more sting to Houston’s offense.

The switch-hitting first-round draft pick became a full-time starting outfielder for the Astros in 2001 and during the next eight seasons he averaged 35 home runs and 117 RBIs along with a .303 batting average. Injuries plagued the “Big Puma” the next two seasons and with the struggling Astros desperate to shed payroll, Berkman ok’d the trade to the Yankees on July 31, 2010. Houston got Yankee pitching prospect Mark Melancon and minor league infielder, Jimmy Paredes in the deal but they also had to agree to pay $5 million of Berkman’s remaining 2010 salary.

I absolutely loved the move. I was sure that Berkman would deliver some key hits during the Yankees stretch drive and I was really hoping he’d tear it up in the second half so the Yankee would offer him enough money to stick around a second season. As it turned out, he was still not fully recovered from his knee surgery. He struggled at the plate, hitting just .255 during second half of the 2010 season with just 1 home run and 9 RBIs in 37 games. It wasn’t until the ALDS against the Twins that he made an impact, when he broke a 2-2 tie in Game 2 against the Twins with a monster two-run shot in the seventh inning. He then played in every game against Texas in that season’s ALCS but after he hit just .250 in that series and the Yanks were eliminated, any interest on the part of New York’s front office to offer Berkman a new contract, disappeared. I remember being very disappointed that Cashman did not do so. The Yankee GM had already made up his mind that Jorge Posada would never catch again for New York forcing the veteran catcher into the left-handed DH slot for the final year of his final Yankee contract.

So instead, a now healthy Berkman signed with the Cardinals in 2011 and all he did was smack 31 home runs, drive in 94 and average .301 during that year’s regular season and than followed that up by hitting .423 against the Rangers and winning his first and only World Series ring. The injury bug would hit Berkman again in 2012 and he ended appearing in just 32 games for St. Louis. He then signed a free agent contract to play for the Texas Rangers in 2013. Though I was again hoping the Yankees would consider signing Berkman to DH for them this year, New York was absolutely justified to not pay him the $22 million he will receive from Texas this year and next. After all, he turns 37 years-old today.

Berkman shares his birthday with three very good starting pitchers. One from the 1920s, one from the late 1940s and ’50s and one from just last season.

February 9 – Happy Birthday Dioner Navarro

dioner-navarroAll the hopeful comments I read and hear about the Yankee’s top catching prospect, Gary Sanchez, remind me of the similar hype surrounding today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant back at the turn of this century. The Yankees signed Dioner Navarro as an amateur free agent in 2000 and three seasons later this native Venezuelan hit .341 for double-A Trenton and was named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year. Only 19-years-old at the time, he was being groomed as the eventual replacement for Jorge Posada. He got Yankee fans really excited when New York brought him up to the parent club in September of 2004 and the kid hit .429 in the seven games in which he got a chance to play.

Just a few weeks later, the Yankees suffered their famous collapse against Boston in the 2004 ALCS and New York’s front office went into a panic mode for a pitching ace. They settled on Randy Johnson but it cost them Navarro. Arizona then turned right around and traded their new acquisition to the Dodgers in a deal for Shawn Greene. He was given a shot to battle Russell Martin for the Los Angeles starting catcher’s job but he broke his wrist. The Dodgers ended up dealing him to Tampa Bay the following season and he started for the Rays behind the plate from 2007 until 2010, when he lost his job to John Jaso. Navarro’s best season was 2008 when he averaged .297 and made the AL All Star team. He turns just 29-years-old today and spent the 2012 season as a backup catcher for the Reds.

After the Yankees traded Navarro, they signed another teen-aged native-Venezuelan catching prospect to take his place as Posada’s heir apparent. The new kid’s name was Jesus Montero. He too gave Yankee fans something to get excited about in a late season call-up a couple seasons ago and then got traded to Seattle. Perhaps now you understand why I refuse to get too excited about Gary Sanchez.

Dioner shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee second base prospect, this great former Yankee third baseman and with this not-so-great-one too.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2004 NYY 5 7 7 2 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 .429 .429 .429 .857
10 Yrs 715 2505 2251 239 565 100 4 54 243 10 193 342 .251 .313 .371 .684
TBR (5 yrs) 458 1672 1508 161 367 73 2 29 157 9 117 220 .243 .300 .352 .652
LAD (3 yrs) 139 487 427 39 103 17 1 10 39 1 51 74 .241 .325 .356 .681
CHC (1 yr) 89 266 240 31 72 7 0 13 34 0 23 36 .300 .365 .492 .856
CIN (1 yr) 24 73 69 6 20 3 1 2 12 0 2 12 .290 .306 .449 .755
NYY (1 yr) 5 7 7 2 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 .429 .429 .429 .857
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/22/2014.

February 8 – Happy Birthday Bob Oliver

oliverToday’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant hit 27 home runs in just his second full big league season in 1970 and he also led the Royals that same year with 99 RBIs. After slumping the following season he was traded to the Angels in 1972. A versatile player, in ’73 he started 49 games at third for California, 47 in right field and 32 at first base. Toward the end of the 1974 regular season the Angels traded this native of Shreveport, Louisiana to the Orioles and during the subsequent Winter Meetings, Yankee GM Gabe Paul purchased his contract from Baltimore. The rumor circulating in the press at the time was that Paul was about to trade away Graig Nettles and he wanted Oliver to take over from “Puff” as the Yankee starting third baseman. Fortunately, it was only a rumor because although he was just 31 years old at the time, Oliver’s career was practically over. He hit just .158 during his 18 games in pinstripes and was released by New York at the 1975 All Star break. Nettles of course remained a Yankee and was an outstanding run producer and defensive force at the hot corner for two World Championship teams.

Oliver is the father of big league pitcher Darren Oliver. He shares his birthday with this 20-game-winning Yankee pitcher and this long-ago back-up Yankee second baseman.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1975 NYY 18 39 38 3 5 1 0 0 1 0 1 9 .132 .154 .158 .312
8 Yrs 847 3123 2914 293 745 102 19 94 419 17 156 562 .256 .295 .400 .696
KCR (4 yrs) 422 1550 1442 168 367 46 13 49 200 9 79 300 .255 .296 .406 .702
CAL (3 yrs) 395 1512 1412 120 370 53 6 45 214 7 76 248 .262 .301 .404 .705
PIT (1 yr) 3 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
NYY (1 yr) 18 39 38 3 5 1 0 0 1 0 1 9 .132 .154 .158 .312
BAL (1 yr) 9 20 20 1 3 2 0 0 4 1 0 5 .150 .150 .250 .400
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/22/2014.