March 2013

March 25 – Happy Birthday Lee Mazzilli

Lee Mazzilli had the good fortune of joining the Mets during the late seventies. He had Hollywood looks, was born in Brooklyn and during the first six seasons of his big league career he became a darling of Met fans, but not because he was an All Star caliber player. No, “Maz” became a Shea Stadium favorite because he played hard every day on some of the worst teams in Met history and alongside many mediocre teammates. So in comparison, Lee looked like an All Star even though he was a pretty ordinary player.

After the 1981 strike-shortened season, the Mets sent Mazzilli to Texas for Ron Darling and Walt Terrell. The Yankees then swapped Bucky Dent for Lee during the 1982 season and Mazzilli hit .266 during his 37-game playing career in pinstripes. He retired as a player in 1989 with 93 home runs, 1068 hits and a .259 lifetime batting average during his 14-seasons in the bigs. After hanging up his glove, Mazzilli got into coaching and was reunited with his old Met manager, Joe Torre on the Yankee coaching staff in 2000. He was then hired to manage Baltimore in 2004 but that didn’t work out too well. Lee turns 58 years old today but he still looks like he’s in his thirties.

Another former Yankee who has a March 25th birthday is this former middle infielder who played most of his big league ball outside of the Bronx.

1982 NYY 37 144 128 20 34 2 0 6 17 2 15 15 .266 .347 .422 .769
14 Yrs 1475 4831 4124 571 1068 191 24 93 460 197 642 627 .259 .359 .385 .744
NYM (10 yrs) 979 3496 3013 404 796 148 22 68 353 152 438 443 .264 .357 .396 .753
PIT (4 yrs) 373 881 722 112 176 30 2 11 62 30 144 127 .244 .369 .337 .706
TEX (1 yr) 58 224 195 23 47 8 0 4 17 11 28 26 .241 .339 .344 .683
NYY (1 yr) 37 144 128 20 34 2 0 6 17 2 15 15 .266 .347 .422 .769
TOR (1 yr) 28 86 66 12 15 3 0 4 11 2 17 16 .227 .395 .455 .850
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

March 24 – Happy Birthday Ernie Shore

shoreIf first impressions meant everything, Ernie Shore would have never pitched a second big league game and he almost didn’t. Shore was a North Carolina farm boy who hated working his Daddy’s fields so he took the opportunity to attend college and become a mechanical engineer. The school, Guilford College, had a baseball team and Shore became that team’s ace pitcher, winning a total of 38 games during his collegiate career. He was a tall six foot four inch right-hander, who was thin as a rail but he could evidently generate lots of arm speed from that frame because he was known for his fastball.

His success in college got him noticed by the great John McGraw, who sent Shore a ticket to come to New York and pitch for the Giants. McGraw inserted his skinny rookie into a game against the Boston Braves in which the Giants had a 19-run lead. When the kid was finished pitching, that lead had shrunk to nine and he never pitched another inning for a McGraw managed team.

A year later, Shore was pitching for the International League’s Baltimore Orioles, where he was part of the same rotation as a young and promising southpaw named George Ruth. That July, the Boston Red Sox purchased the dynamic duo. It was Shore, who at that time was 23-years-old and 4-years-older than Ruth, who would make the bigger immediate impact on the Boston pitching staff. He went 10-5 during the second half of the 1914 season, while the nineteen-year-old Babe was just 2-1. The following season, Ruth won 19 and Shore won 18 leading the Red Sox to the AL Pennant. But it was again the older more mature Shore that Boston turned to in the 1915 World Series against the Phillies. Ernie got two starts in that Fall Classic and Ruth none, as Boston captured the Fall Classic in five games.

The following year, Ruth won 23 and Shore 16, helping the Red Sox defend their AL title. Shore then won two games in Boston’s five game victory over Brooklyn in the 1916 World Series, while Babe got one of the other two wins.

The Red Sox did not get back to the Series the following year. Ruth won 23 games in 1917 and Shore went 13-10. But in July of that 1917 season, another episode involving the two pitchers once again exemplified the quiet confident nature of Shore versus the much more undisciplined personality of the younger cruder Ruth. Babe had started a game against the Senators and after walking the first hitter on four straight pitches, became so irate at the umpire he actually punched the guy. Shore was inserted to the game and on his first pitch, the runner on first was thrown out trying to steal. Ernie then retired the next 26 hitters he faced, recording one of the most famous two-man no-hitters in baseball history.

That 1917 season was Shore’s last year in Boston. The following season, with the US fully engaged in WWI, he enlisted in the US Navy. When he returned to the game in 1919, it was as a member of the New York Yankees. He had been sold to the Yanks by the Red Sox with teammates Dutch Leonard and Duffy Lewis, the previous December. Unfortunately for both Shore and the Yankees, he caught a very bad case of the mumps at the team’s 1919 spring training camp and blamed the disease for disrupting his training regimen and spoiling his entire season. He would go only 5-8 during his first year in New York.

In January of 1920, the Yankees reunited Ruth and Shore when they purchased Babe’s contract from Boston. The Bambino definitely generated more excitement in the New York sports press that winter but there was still plenty of buzz about how a now-healthy Shore would once again be blazing his fastball by AL hitters.

Turns out, that case of the Mumps was simply hiding the real reason Shore didn’t pitch well in 1919. His right arm was dead. No one was sure how or when it happened but in 1920, it became very clear that Ernie had lost his trademark fastball. He appeared in just 14 games for manager Miller Huggins’ team that year, making just 5 starts and finishing with a 2-2 victory and an ERA of  4.87 runs.

After attempting to pitch his way back to the big leagues via the Pacific Coast League in 1921, Shore retired back to his native North Carolina, where he eventually became a well-known sheriff for Forsyth County.

Most of the information for this post was derived from this excellent article about Shore published by SABR. He shares his March 24th birthday with this former Yankee first baseman, this former starting pitcher and this former reliever.

1919 NYY 5 8 .385 4.17 20 13 3 3 0 0 95.0 105 50 44 4 44 24 1.568
1920 NYY 2 2 .500 4.87 14 5 4 2 0 1 44.1 61 31

March 23 – Happy Birthday George Scott

george.scottThe “Boomer” played in over 2000 games during a solid fourteen-year career as a power-hitting American League first baseman. He was an eight-time Gold Glove winner and a three-time AL All Star. Raised dirt poor in Mississippi, Scott was a three-sport star in high school, who chose a baseball career over college scholarship offers to play hoops and football because he didn’t want to wait another four years before he could begin helping his mother live a better life.

He made the big leagues with Boston in 1966 and one year later he was an integral part of the Miracle Sox team that captured the 1967 AL Pennant. Boston traded him to the Brewers after the 1971 season and Scott had his best year in the big leagues for Milwaukee in 1975 when he set  career highs with 36 home runs and 109 RBIs. After slumping the following season, he was traded back to Boston and he blasted 33 home runs in his 1977 return to Fenway. But he had a horrible year in ’78 and then started complaining that the Red Sox front office was mistreating him. In June of 1979, he was traded to the Royals. When he couldn’t get along with manager Whitey Herzog, Kansas City released him and the Yanks picked him up at the end of August. He told the press he had wanted to play for the Yankees’ his entire career and proceeded to average .318 during his brief 16-game tenure in pinstripes. He also hit his 271st and final big league home run while wearing the Yankee uniform. New York released him one month after the ’79 season ended and when no other big league team showed an interest in him, he finished his playing career in Mexico.

George was born on March 23, 1944. This Yankee pitching prospect  and this former Yankee backup catcher both share a March 23rd birthday with Boomer.

1979 NYY 16 47 44 9 14 3 1 1 6 1 2 7 .318 .340 .500 .840
14 Yrs 2034 8269 7433 957 1992 306 60 271 1051 69 699 1418 .268 .333 .435 .767
BOS (9 yrs) 1192 4740 4234 527 1088 158 38 154 562 27 418 850 .257 .326 .421 .747
MIL (5 yrs) 782 3320 3009 402 851 137 19 115 463 40 267 529 .283 .342 .456 .798
KCR (1 yr) 44 162 146 19 39 8 2 1 20 1 12 32 .267 .329 .370 .699
NYY (1 yr) 16 47 44 9 14 3 1 1 6 1 2 7 .318 .340 .500 .840
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.