April 13 – Happy Birthday Oscar Grimes

grimesThe great Joe McCarthy really was a players’ manager but that didn’t mean he was a pushover, far from it. During the 1942 season, Bill Dickey got hurt. His backup that season and heir apparent as Yankee catcher was a 27-year-old native of Buffalo, NY named Buddy Rosar. Rosar was married and had a kid and with the world at war, he was worried about his future. He felt he needed a career to fall back on in case he didn’t make it as a big league catcher so he made a fateful decision to leave the Yankees for a couple of days to take a policeman’s exam back in his native Buffalo. During his absence, the Yankees played a double header on a very hot afternoon and McCarthy had no choice but to start 35-year-old Rollie Hemsley behind the plate for both games. When the day was done, Hemsley was near collapse from physical exhaustion and McCarthy was determined to get rid of Rosar.

The trade took place ten days after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Rosar and Yankee outfielder Roy Cullenbine were sent to Cleveland for outfielder Roy Weatherly and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Oscar Grimes had been around baseball all his life. His father Ray had been a first baseman for the Cubs during the 1920’s and his uncle Roy Grimes, had once played second base for the New York Giants. Oscar was an infielder too and one of the reasons Marse Joe wanted him was his ability to play any of the four infield positions.

That flexibility didn’t earn the native of Minerva, OH much playing time during his first season in New York. He got into just eight games for the Yankees in 1943 but he did get his first and only World Series ring that year, even though he didn’t get to play a single out of that Fall Classic. Things changed for Grimes in 1944. The Yankees’ young and talented starting third baseman, Billy Johnson was called into military service and McCarthy began playing Grimes regularly at the hot corner. In one of his early starts there, he found out firsthand why the legendary Yankee skipper was so beloved by his players. Grimes had made three errors in the contest, pretty much single handedly costing New York the loss. While he was undressing in the clubhouse after the game, he saw McCarthy approaching him. He prepared himself for a tongue-lashing but instead, the manager put his hand on Grimes shoulder and told him about a horrible fielding day he himself had had in the minors.

Grimes played 116 games and had a career high .279 during that ’44 season. In 1945, he played 142 games for New York and had a stellar on base percentage of .395. But Grimes achilles heel were his iron hands. He was simply not a very good defensive infielder and when Johnson and all the other Yankee third base prospects returned from service, Grimes days in pinstripes were numbered. That number came up on July 11th of the 1946 season when New York sold him to the Philadelphia A’s. He became the A’s starting second baseman and didn’t do to badly with his bat, hitting .262 during his half season in Philadelphia. But his defense just wasn’t good enough to keep him in the post war big leagues and he spent the next five seasons playing minor league ball, finally retiring for good in 1950, at the age of 35.

Grimes shares his birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and this long-ago Highlander shortstop.

Year Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1943 NYY AL 9 24 20 4 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 3 7 .150 .261 .150 .411
1944 NYY AL 116 456 387 44 108 17 8 5 46 6 0 59 57 .279 .377 .403 .780
1945 NYY AL 142 595 480 64 127 19 7 4 45 7 6 97 73 .265 .395 .358 .753
1946 TOT AL 73 271 230 29 58 6 0 1 24 2 1 28 36 .252 .336 .291 .627
1946 NYY AL 14 41 39 1 8 1 0 0 4 0 1 1 7 .205 .225 .231 .456
9 Yrs 602 2193 1832 235 469 73 24 18 200 30 12 297 303 .256 .363 .352 .715
CLE (5 yrs) 262 847 715 94 173 31 9 8 84 15 5 110 130 .242 .345 .344 .689
NYY (4 yrs) 281 1116 926 113 246 37 15 9 96 13 7 160 144 .266 .378 .367 .746
PHA (1 yr) 59 230 191 28 50 5 0 1 20 2 0 27 29 .262 .356 .304 .660
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/12/2013.

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