April 2013

April 20 – Happy Birthday Charlie Hemphill

hemphillWhat was the worst Yankee team in history? During my time as a Yankee fan the candidates for this dubious honor would be the 1966 team that finished dead last in the AL with a 70-89 record or Stump Merrill’s 1990 squad, which finished at the bottom of the AL East Division with a horrid 67-95 mark. Both those teams filled a summer of my life with sports agony. But when you’re trying to identify the very worst Yankee team in the history of the franchise, you have to place the New York Highlander squad of 1908 at the very top of the heap, or more accurately, the very bottom of the pile.

They finished the season with a 51-103 record, which represents a .331 winning percentage, a low-water mark that has stood as the franchise record for team futility for over a century. Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was the starting right-fielder on that 1908 Yankee/Highlander debacle.

New York had acquired Hemphill the previous November in a trade with the Browns. At the time of that deal, this Greenville, Michigan native was 31-years-old and a veteran of eight big league seasons and five different big league franchises. There were good reasons why he kept his suitcase packed all those years. The guy had hands of stone and he had a real problem with alcohol. On the positive side, in an era when the game was played with the deadest baseball of all-time, Hemphill was considered a good stick. It was his ability with a bat that kept him from getting benched for his poor fielding and persistent drinking and it was the same reason why, whenever a team got tired enough of those faults to get rid of him, he seemed to have no trouble finding a new team willing to take him on.

That 1908 Yankee team did not start out bad. Their Manager, Hall-of-Famer Clark Griffith actually got them out of the gate quickly that year by winning 16 of their first 24 games. But when they lost 24 of their next 32 contests, the bitterly disappointed Griffith resigned and the penny-pinching Highlander ownership made New York’s mercurial shortstop, Kid Elberfeld the team’s player-manager. At the time there wasn’t an umpire in the league who didn’t hate Elberfeld. I’m not certain if that collective hatred had anything to do with the Highlanders going 27-71 under their new manager but I can guarantee you that none of the “men in blue” felt a tinge of sorrow for the Kid’s historic failure in his new role.

Just about the only thing that wasn’t horrible on that 1908 Highlander team was the performance of Charley Hemphill. He put together the best season of his big league career. He led the team in runs, hits, RBIs and average. He also stole a career-high 42 bases. The only things that didn’t improve were his defense (he made 20 errors in ’08) and his drinking but Hemphill had built up enough good will with his offensive performance during his inaugural year in New York that he remained a member of the club’s roster for four seasons.

The team finally released him after the 1911 season and he was able to land a coveted player managing position with a minor league team in Atlanta. But before his first season in that post was over, he was fired because of his drinking and ended up moving to Detroit and working in the auto industry.

Hemphill shares his April 20th birthday with one of my all-time favorite Yankees.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1908 NYY 142 581 505 62 150 12 9 0 44 42 59 43 .297 .374 .356 .730
1909 NYY 73 216 181 23 44 5 1 0 10 10 32 23 .243 .357 .282 .639
1910 NYY 102 419 351 45 84 9 4 0 21 19 55 27 .239 .350 .288 .638
1911 NYY 69 244 201 32 57 4 2 1 15 9 37 18 .284 .397 .338 .736
11 Yrs 1242 5093 4541 580 1230 117 68 22 421 207 435 429 .271 .337 .341 .678
SLB (5 yrs) 629 2682 2425 306 663 72 37 15 232 109 196 267 .273 .329 .352 .681
NYY (4 yrs) 386 1460 1238 162 335 30 16 1 90 80 183 111 .271 .369 .323 .692
STL (1 yr) 11 45 37 4 9 0 0 1 3 0 6 0 .243 .364 .324 .688
BOS (1 yr) 136 595 545 71 142 10 10 3 62 11 39 26 .261 .312 .332 .644
CLV (1 yr) 55 209 202 23 56 3 5 2 23 3 6 14 .277 .301 .371 .673
CLE (1 yr) 25 102 94 14 25 2 0 0 11 4 5 11 .266 .303 .287 .590
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/20/2013.

April 19 – Happy Birthday Spike Owen

owenI remember very clearly not being too excited when I heard the news that the Yanks had signed free-agent shortstop Spike Owen just before Christmas in 1992. They gave the Cleburne, Texas native a surprisingly generous 3-year deal worth $7 million. He was 31 years old at the time and he had been in the big leagues for 11 seasons. A switch-hitter, Owen had made his big league debut with Seattle in 1983 and got his big break in August of ’86, when the Mariners sent him and outfielder Dave Henderson to the Red Sox for Boston’s young starting shortstop, Rey Quinones. Boston skipper, John McNamara immediately inserted Owen as his starting shortstop and he remained there through the end of the regular season, even though he hit just .183 following the trade. But he played excellent defense and got the opportunity to make some offensive amends during the postseason by averaging .429 in the 1986 ALCS versus the Angels and an even .300 against the Mets during the Red Sox epic collapse in the ’86 World Series.

He lost his starting job in Beantown to Jody Reed in 1988 and was dealt to the Expos the following December. He had some of his best big league seasons defensively while with Montreal and even put together a record 61-game streak of errorless shortstop play there, that has since been broken. Though he never hit for a high average, Owen had good strike zone discipline that permitted him to finish his career with an on base percentage that was almost 80 points higher than his .246 lifetime batting average.

When his contract expired in 1992, Montreal decided to go with Will Cordero at short and let Owen walk. That’s when the Yankees knocked him over with their generosity. The franchise was just emerging from the Stump Merrill regime at the time, during which the flashy but mostly ineffective Alvaro Espinosa had started at short. New York’s new skipper, Buck Showalter had two other shortstop candidates on that year’s Yankee roster in Randy Velarde and Mike Gallego, but he went with Owen to start the season. Spike surprised everyone when he got off to a hot start with his bat, averaging over .400 during the first two weeks of the ’93 season. The problem was his defense. It seemed like every other ground ball hit his way ended up just out of his reach and the New York sports press made frequent negative notice of Owens propensity to make plays from his knees. When his average dipped to .240 by the end of July, Showalter began rotating Gallego and Velarde in with Owen at short.

By the end of that 1993 season, I think Buck might have told the Yankee front office he could get along fine with those two as his middle infielders and Yankee GM Gene Michael took the opportunity to try and shed some of the huge Yankee payroll by dealing Owen. He found a willing partner in the Angels but only after the Yankees agreed to pay most of the amount due on the two remaining years of Owen’s contract. Spike then had the best season of his career starting at short for California during the strike shortened 1994 season. He ended up losing his Angels’ starting job the following year and when his contract expired there were no big league teams interested in signing him.

Spike shares his April 19th birthday with this former Yankee starter and this former Yankee reliever.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1993 NYY 103 367 334 41 78 16 2 2 20 3 2 29 30 .234 .294 .311 .605
13 Yrs 1544 5616 4930 587 1211 215 59 46 439 82 62 569 519 .246 .324 .341 .665
MON (4 yrs) 552 1976 1700 198 420 79 20 21 142 22 18 238 195 .247 .338 .354 .692
SEA (4 yrs) 462 1770 1590 190 380 61 23 11 136 38 22 138 176 .239 .301 .327 .628
BOS (3 yrs) 263 945 820 111 200 33 9 8 76 14 10 97 79 .244 .325 .335 .660
CAL (2 yrs) 164 558 486 47 133 26 5 4 65 5 10 67 39 .274 .363 .372 .735
NYY (1 yr) 103 367 334 41 78 16 2 2 20 3 2 29 30 .234 .294 .311 .605
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2013.

April 18 – Happy Birthday Duffy Lewis

T205 Lewis frontAt the time of the trade, it was considered one of the biggest in Yankee franchise history. Pitcher Ernie Shore and outfielder Duffy Lewis had been perennial stars on the great pre WWI Boston Red Sox teams. Both, however, had joined the Navy in 1918 and missed an entire season. Before they returned from service in 1919, the duo had been traded to New York along with another very good veteran Boston pitcher named Dutch Leonard in exchange for four players and $15,000. After the deal was made, Yankee skipper Miller Huggins was thrilled and told members of the press that the trade filled the two biggest weaknesses the Yankees had on their roster and he expected the team would be in the thick of the 1919 AL Pennant race as a result of this deal.

Duffy Lewis was a native of San Francisco who cut his baseball teeth in the Pacific Coast League. His real name was George and he had made his big league debut with Boston in 1910, when he joined Tris Speaker and Harry Hopper to form one of the great outfields in Red Sox franchise history. The trio helped Boston win World Series in 1912, ’15 and ’16 and Lewis added lots of luster to his reputation as a clutch hitter when he averaged .444 against the Phillies in the 1915 Fall Classic and .353 the following fall against Brooklyn.

In actuality, Lewis was pretty much a singles hitter who was blessed to be part of one of baseball’s all-time best lineups. As it turned out Huggins’ high hopes for both Lewis and Shore (Leonard was sold to the Tigers before he pitched a game as a Yankee) proved to be unfounded. Shore caught the mumps during his first New York spring training camp and would never amount to much of anything in pinstripes. Duffy started in left field for New York in 1919 and averaged just .272, which was 17 points below his career average with Boston. He did drive in 89 run but he was overly aggressive at the plate for a guy with little power and not a good base-runner.

A little over a year after the big trade Huggins pulled a perfect “if at first you don’t succeed try again” maneuver by  convincing the Yankee owner Jake Ruppert to go back to Boston owner Harry Frazee and pay him whatever it takes to purchase Babe Ruth’s contract. The “Big Bang” then joined Lewis and Ping Bodie to form the starting outfield for a 1920 Yankee team that won 95 games, which was only good enough for a third place finish in the 1920 AL Pennant race. Lewis, however, had seen his playing time decrease during his second season in New York thanks to the emergence of a Yankee rookie outfielder by the name of Bob Meusel.

The Yanks would finally make it to their first World Series in 1921 and they got there without Lewis, who had been traded to Washington the previous December. He was out of the big leagues for good the following year but he did not hang up his spikes. Instead he returned to the Pacific Coast League, where he continued playing another six years, finally retiring as a player at the age of 39. Duffy would eventually become the long-time traveling secretary of the Boston Braves.

He shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher and also this “house,” which was built by his former teammate.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1919 NYY 141 597 559 67 152 23 4 7 89 8 17 42 .272 .293 .365 .658
1920 NYY 107 408 365 34 99 8 1 4 61 2 8 24 32 .271 .320 .332 .651
11 Yrs 1459 6003 5351 612 1518 289 68 38 793 113 66 352 549 .284 .333 .384 .717
BOS (8 yrs) 1184 4884 4325 500 1248 254 62 27 629 102 57 303 465 .289 .340 .395 .735
NYY (2 yrs) 248 1005 924 101 251 31 5 11 150 10 8 41 74 .272 .304 .352 .656
WSH (1 yr) 27 114 102 11 19 4 1 0 14 1 1 8 10 .186 .252 .245 .497
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2013.

April 17 – Happy Birthday to the New Yankee Stadium

YankeeStadiumIINo members of the all-time Yankee family were born on this date, so even though the new Yankee Stadium officially opened on April 16, 2009 we will use today’s post to wish it a Happy Birthday.

Being a fifty plus year fan of the New York Yankees and a traditionalist when it comes to our National Pastime, I was prepared to not like the Yankees’ new home. I hated to see the original “House that Ruth Built” closed and also hated how the YES cameras kept showing shots of Baseball’s Cathedral being demolished in eerie stages during the 2009 season.

At first, I paid most of my attention to all the things I didn’t like about the “House that George Built.” The astronomical ticket cost for the first eight rows of seats surrounding the infield reminded me of the Roman Coliseum’s seating policy. When it became evident that the large chunks of these “Legends Seats” that remained unsold could not be hidden from the camera’s view during televised Yankee games, they became an embarrassment to the team’s ownership, serving as a constant reminder of the highest ticket prices in all of baseball.

I was also not a fan of the underground parking garage that permitted Yankee players and visiting team busses to enter the Stadium completely hidden from fan view. Some of my favorite memories as both a child and a parent took place while I was leaning against those blue NYPD police barricades that used to form a walking path between the old Stadium’s player parking lot and the street entrance to the Yankee clubhouse. Now, no future Yankee fans or their Dad’s would get to create those same memories.

I admit it was nice to see Jorge Posada hit the first home run in the place, but it was obvious that the new Stadium’s designers had created a homer haven when balls kept leaving that yard at a record pace. Sports journalists around the country were calling baseball’s newest venue a joke.

Before too long, however, I stopped paying attention to the things I didn’t like and started focusing on the performance of that 2009 Yankee team. They kept winning ballgames, both in their new home and on the road and before you knew it, they made it to the World Series.

My wife and I chose the second game of that Series to make our inaugural visit to the new Yankee Stadium. I have to admit that everything about the place (except the prices) impressed me. The improved surrounding neighborhood, the Great Hall, the openness of the walk and concession areas, spacious bathrooms that didn’t smell of urine, the Yankee Museum, the positioning of the seats and the great sound system that started blaring Frank Sinatra’s “New York” the instant Matt Stairs struck out swinging at Mariano’s final pitch of the game, turning the tide of that Fall Classic in the Yankees’ favor.

As my wife and I walked back to the parking lot that night I had fallen in love with the place. I also admit that if the Yanks had lost that game that night to fall behind 2-0 in that Series against Philadelphia, my feelings about the place may not have changed.

April 16 – Happy Birthday Bernie Allen

ballenWhen Bernie Allen graduated from high school in his hometown of East Liverpool, OH, he was a good enough school-boy quarterback to get a scholarship offer from Purdue University. Problem was Bernie didn’t like playing football but he knew if he wanted to go to college, accepting that scholarship was the only way he’d be able to, so that’s what he did. During his time on the gridiron as a Boilermaker, he became one of the better QB’s in the Big Ten but he also got the opportunity to play collegiate baseball and become an All American in that sport. In early 1961, the Minnesota Twins made Allen one of the first amateurs signed by that team after it had relocated to the Twin Cities from our Nation’s capitol.

After just one year in the minors, he made the Twins big league roster during the team’s 1962 spring training season. Minnesota’s first year manager, Sam Mele liked his rookie infielder so much, he benched the veteran Billy Martin and started Allen at second base. Mele also installed a second rookie, third baseman Rich Rollins in his starting infield and the two first-year players helped the surprising Twins finish in second place with 91 wins, a 20-game improvement over the previous season. Bernie had 154 hits that year including 12 home runs, with 64 RBIs and finished third in the AL Rookie-of-theYear balloting. Though I was just 8-years-old at the time, I clearly remember that 1962 Minnesota team because in addition to battling my Yankees for the Pennant, every player in their starting lineup reached double figures in home runs that season.

Allen got off to a horrendously slow start at the plate in his sophomore season and his batting average was still under.200 by late August. He then hit .320 during the last six weeks of the ’63 season, saving his starting job in the process. But his potential to develop into a perennial big league All Star was wiped out with one play during the 1964 season. Attempting to turn a double play, Allen was bowled over by Don Zimmer who rolled over the second baseman’s leg. Allen had torn his ACL, but the injury was mis-diagnosed by Minnesota’a team doctors. When the leg didn’t get better, Allen got his own doctors to examine the knee and they made a correct diagnosis and operated five months after the injury occurred. By then however, the ligament had shriveled and the surgeon didn’t think Allen would ever again play baseball. He proved that doctor wrong but it does explain why all of Allen’s highest single-season offensive numbers took place during that 1962 rookie season. He was simply never the same player after Zimmer rolled his knee.

The Yankees got Bernie in 1972. The Twins had traded him to the Senators after the 1966 season and he played pretty regularly for Washington for five years, right up until that franchise moved to Texas. He then became Ralph Houk’s primary utility infielder during the 1972 season, appearing in 84 games, mostly as a third baseman, but hitting a paltry .227 in the process. It was that weak bat that got him sold to the Expos in August of 1973. When he hit just .180, the then 34-year-old Allen hung up his glove for good.

He shares his April 16th birthday with this former Yankee back-up catcher and this Hall-of-Fame outfielder.

Year Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1972 NYY AL 84 248 220 26 50 9 0 9 21 0 1 23 42 .227 .296 .391 .686
1973 NYY AL 17 62 57 5 13 3 0 0 4 0 0 5 5 .228 .290 .281 .571
12 Yrs 1139 3824 3404 357 815 140 21 73 351 13 16 370 424 .239 .314 .357 .671
MIN (5 yrs) 492 1789 1595 195 392 75 10 32 163 3 6 165 212 .246 .316 .366 .682
WSA (5 yrs) 530 1669 1482 126 351 52 11 30 154 10 9 172 161 .237 .317 .348 .665
NYY (2 yrs) 101 310 277 31 63 12 0 9 25 0 1 28 47 .227 .294 .368 .663
MON (1 yr) 16 56 50 5 9 1 0 2 9 0 0 5 4 .180 .255 .320 .575
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/15/2013.

April 15 – Happy Birthday Old King Cole

King_Cole.jpgThis merry old right-hander went 10-9 for the 1914 Highlanders. Too bad he wasn’t still around and pitching for Washington because then we could have called him “The Nat, King Cole.”

Joking aside, Cole’s real first name was Leonard. He had become “King” in 1910 when, as a rookie with the Chicago Cubs he went 20-4 with a league-leading ERA of just 1.80. How special was that performance? Only 17 other Major League first-year pitchers have been able to win 20 games (Bob Grim, who went 20-6 in 1954, was the only Yankee rookie to do it) and only nine have compiled an ERA of less than two runs per game. He pitched the Cubs into the 1910 World Series and even though his team lost, Cole had gained national attention. This “Royal” rookie then went on to trash baseball’s sophomore jinx superstition by going 18-7 in his second season with the Cubbies.

Everything began to change for Cole during the 1912 season. He won just one of his first eight starts that season and he was getting shelled by every opposing lineup. The Cubs traded the former phee-nom to the Pirates but the change of scenery did not help and Cole found himself pitching in the minor leagues the following year. That seemed to be an elixir for the young right-hander’s career as he won 23 games for a team in Columbus and that effort attracted attention from a bunch of big league clubs, including the Yankees. New York ended up outbidding all other teams for Cole and he was headed to the Big Apple.

Cole appeared in 33 games for New York in 1914, including 15 starts and won ten of his nineteen decisions, including two shutouts. But Cole’s performance plummeted again in 1915 and the reason turned out to be a medical one. The pitcher was suffering from tuberculosis and then a cancerous tumor was found in his groin. The end came quick for the native of Toledo, IA. He died in January of 1916 at the age of 29.

This former Yankee reliever was also born on IRS tax deadline day.

Year Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO WHIP
1914 NYY AL 10 9 .526 3.30 33 15 12 8 2 0 141.2 151 63 52 3 51 43 1.426
1915 NYY AL 2 3 .400 3.18 10 6 4 2 0 1 51.0 41 27 18 2 22 19 1.235
6 Yrs 54 27 .667 3.12 129 86 32 47 9 2 730.2 657 309 253 13 331 298 1.352
CHC (4 yrs) 40 13 .755 2.72 74 60 10 35 7 1 489.0 404 177 148 7 240 225 1.317
NYY (2 yrs) 12 12 .500 3.27 43 21 16 10 2 1 192.2 192 90 70 5 73 62 1.375
PIT (1 yr) 2 2 .500 6.43 12 5 6 2 0 0 49.0 61 42 35 1 18 11 1.612
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/15/2013.

April 14 – Happy Birthday Kyle Farnsworth

When I see the name Kyle Farnsworth, I associate it with a pitcher who had nasty closer-like stuff but lacked a closer’s mentality. Brian Cashman paid Farnsworth a lot of money after the 2005 season ($17 million over three years) to replace Flash Gordon as the new Yankee bridge to Mariano Rivera. The right hander had pitched his first six big league seasons as a member of the Chicago Cub bullpen. In 2005 he was traded to the Tigers. He made just 16 appearances in Detroit and was then traded to the Braves just before the 2005 inter-league trading deadline expired. He became Bobby Cox’s closer in Atlanta and during the last two months of the ’05 season, Farnsworth pitched the best baseball of his life. He saved 10 games, struck out 32 guys in 27 innings and gave up less than two earned runs per nine innings pitched, helping the Braves hold off the Marlins and win the NL East division race. But in Game 4 of that year’s NLDS, Farnsworth was called in to protect a 6-1 lead in the eighth inning against the Astros and gave up a grand slam to Lance Berkman and a solo shot an inning later and the Braves lost the game and the series in the 18th inning.

I remember watching that game. I’m sure it was a performance Farnsworth would love to forget and Brian Cashman must have forgot it when he paid all that money to bring this guy to the Bronx. He then became an enigma for Joe Torre. Torre was a great Manager but he did have his struggles developing working relationships with certain players and Farnsworth was one of them. In his first year in pinstripes, the pitcher struggled to establish a rhythm. He’d pitch lights out baseball for a stretch and then he’d get hit hard for a week or two. It was clear Torre did not trust his stuff and it became clear that Farnsworth resented that when the pitcher started talking about his Manager’s lack of faith in him to the New York sports press.

Ironically, it was Joba Chamberlain who effectively ended Farnsworth’s career in New York. When Joba was brought up in 2007 and pitched brilliantly as Mo’s set-up man, Farnsworth found himself buried even deeper in that Yankee bullpen. I call it ironic because Joba’s meltdown in the 2007 postseason’s “Bug” game at Jacobs Field seemed to knock his career off stride in the same way Farnsworth’s was thrown off kilter by his disastrous performance against the Astro’s two seasons earlier.

When both Jorge Posada and Jose Molina went down with injuries in the first half of the 2008 season, the Yankees traded Farnsworth to the Tigers for Ivan Rodriguez. Kyle was born in Wichita in 1976. Another Yankee who shares Farnsworth’s April 14th birthday is this hero from New York’s 2000 season.

Year Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO WHIP
2006 NYY AL 3 6 .333 4.36 72 0 24 0 0 6 66.0 62 34 32 8 28 3 75 1.364
2007 NYY AL 2 1 .667 4.80 64 0 11 0 0 0 60.0 60 35 32 9 27 2 48 1.450
2008 NYY AL 1 2 .333 3.65 45 0 6 0 0 1 44.1 43 18 18 11 17 3 43 1.353
15 Yrs 40 62 .392 4.24 814 26 260 1 1 52 925.0 873 477 436 126 388 35 917 1.363
CHC (6 yrs) 22 37 .373 4.78 343 26 88 1 1 4 478.2 468 281 254 75 224 20 467 1.446
TBR (3 yrs) 6 7 .462 2.86 101 0 59 0 0 25 88.0 71 30 28 7 27 3 76 1.114
NYY (3 yrs) 6 9 .400 4.33 181 0 41 0 0 7 170.1 165 87 82 28 72 8 166 1.391
KCR (2 yrs) 4 5 .444 3.40 78 0 27 0 0 0 82.0 83 35 31 5 26 2 78 1.329
ATL (2 yrs) 0 2 .000 3.42 49 0 24 0 0 10 47.1 30 18 18 6 14 1 57 0.930
DET (2 yrs) 2 2 .500 3.53 62 0 21 0 0 6 58.2 56 26 23 5 25 1 73 1.381
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/14/2013.

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.

April 12 – Happy Birthday Brennan Boesch

boeschYou’re Brennan Boesch and you’ve been a starting outfielder for the Detroit Tigers since you made your big league debut in 2010. During that first year you led all American League rookies in home runs and RBIs. You were having an even better sophomore year when in early August of 2011, you tore a ligament in your wrist, causing you to miss the final two months of the regular season plus that year’s ALDS and ALCS.

You worked hard to get your wrist rehabbed but it hurt like hell to swing a bat and you pretty much struggled with it during the entire 2012 season. Even though you had some big hits down the stretch, Jim Leyland left you off the Tigers’ postseason roster and you missed a chance to play in the 2012 World Series. Five months later, you were in for an even bigger disappointment. You were determined to play your way back into Detroit’s starting lineup in 2013 but that didn’t happen. Early on in spring training you suffered an oblique injury, which set you back and then on March 15th, Leyland called you into his office and told you the team was releasing you. That had to be one of the toughest things you’ve ever had to hear. But then your agent told you the Yanks had called and were interested in bringing you to New York to start in their outfield while Curtis Granderson’s broken arm healed. Just like that, it looked like you were about to turn lemon into lemonade. The deal gets made, you pack your bags and head for Tampa, but no sooner do you get there and the Yankees announce they’ve just acquired Vernon Wells from the Angels. Within a span of just a few days you go from fighting for a starting job to getting cut to being given a starting job for the Yankees and then losing it. Talk about the highs and lows of professional athletes, huh?

I remember when Brennan Boesch got his first at bat against the Yankees and I saw his name flash on the television screen. I thought some YES Network technician had left the “d” out of his first name and mistakenly hit the “n” key twice. I also remember he pretty much wore out Yankee pitching. He averaged .363 against them in 22 games and like most left-handed hitters with some pop in his bat, he absolutely loved hitting in Yankee Stadium. When the news broke that the Yankees signed him, I confess that the first thing that came into my head was that this guy had enough of an all-around game to have a chance of evolving into a Paul O’Neill type player for New York. Since then though, I’ve watched Wells and Yankee DH Travis Hafner both get off to hot starts in 2013 and I now wonder if Boesch will get enough playing time to make the kind of impression he will need to make to even remain on the Yankees’ parent club roster when Granderson returns in May.

Boesch is a big guy, six feet four inches tall and he weighs over 230 pounds. He was born in Santa Monica, California in 1985. He shares his birthday with this former Yankee reliever and this long-ago Yankee outfielder.

Year Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
2013 NYY AL 6 12 12 1 3 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 2 .250 .250 .667 .917 134 8 0 0 0 0 0 /9D
4 Yrs 386 1499 1374 177 356 73 7 43 177 18 7 101 288 .259 .315 .416 .731 97 572 23 15 0 9 8
DET (3 yrs) 380 1487 1362 176 353 73 6 42 175 18 7 101 286 .259 .315 .414 .729 96 564 23 15 0 9 8
NYY (1 yr) 6 12 12 1 3 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 2 .250 .250 .667 .917 134 8 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/12/2013.

April 11 – Happy Birthday Mark Teixeira

teixeira.jpegI believe it was my son Matthew who e-mailed me to let me know the Yankees had signed Mark Teixeira. I was both shocked and smiling when I read his message. It was early January in 2009 and New York had already snagged CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett during that free agent signing season to rejuvenate their starting rotation. The prevailing rumor was that Teixeira was going to sign with the Red Sox but at the last minute, the Yankees swooped in and made the offer that Tex was waiting for and he was on his way to the Bronx.

What surprised me most as I got to watch this guy play every day was how good he really is as a defensive first baseman. I knew he was a quality hitter with good power from both sides of the plate but I had no idea that he would make such a positive impact for New York with his glove. In both 2009 and 2010, his extraordinary range and his ability to catch any ball thrown anywhere near him improved the entire Yankee infield dramatically. In fact, during the 2009 postseason Teixeira was terrible at the plate but was so good in the field I truly doubt the Yankees would have gotten to or won that World Series without him.

Through 2011, his offensive numbers since arriving in the Bronx had also been pretty impressive. During his first three seasons in pinstripes, he averaged 34 home runs and  114 RBIs per season with 102 runs scored per year. He was on his way to similar numbers in 2012 when he suffered a calf injury in late August and missed the last month of the regular season and the playoffs. He managed to hit  24 home runs and drive in 84 runs in the 123 games he played. His 135 HRs as a Yankee put him in 35th place on the all-time list, five behind the late Tom Thresh.

What has been dropping since he came to New York are Teixeira’s batting average and on base percentage. He has also been pretty much an offensive bust during his Yankee April’s and more problematically, his Yankee October’s. This is one of the few guys in baseball history to have hit at least 30 home runs and drive in 100 or more runs for eight straight seasons. When he’s in one of his hitting funks, it really has a negative impact on New York’s ability to score runs. As the Yankees’ 2013 spring training camp was opening, I was really hoping Teixeira would not experience yet another horrible April at the plate and I sort of got my wish. After hurting his wrist hitting balls off a tee while practicing with the US team for the WBC Championship series this spring, Teixeira will not even get to swing his bat in a 2013 regular season game for New York until at least May 1.

Mark was born on April 11, 1980, in Annapolis, MD. The Yankees have him under contract through 2016.

Year Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
2012 NYY AL 123 524 451 66 113 27 1 24 84 2 1 54 83 .251 .332 .475 .807 115 214 11 7 0 12 1 *3/D GG
2011 NYY AL 156 684 589 90 146 26 1 39 111 4 1 76 110 .248 .341 .494 .835 121 291 12 11 0 8 3 *3/D MVP-19
2010 NYY AL 158 712 601 113 154 36 0 33 108 0 1 93 122 .256 .365 .481 .846 124 289 15 13 0 5 6 *3/D MVP-19,GG
2009 NYY AL 156 707 609 103 178 43 3 39 122 2 0 81 114 .292 .383 .565 .948 141 344 13 12 0 5 9 *3/D AS,MVP-2,GG,SS
10 Yrs 1497 6558 5664 938 1580 355 18 338 1101 21 6 746 1123 .279 .369 .527 .896 131 2985 130 96 0 52 79
162 Game Avg. 162 710 613 102 171 38 2 37 119 2 1 81 122 .279 .369 .527 .896 131 323 14 10 0 6 9
TEX (5 yrs) 693 3006 2632 426 746 173 12 153 499 11 3 318 555 .283 .368 .533 .901 128 1402 60 42 0 14 44
NYY (4 yrs) 593 2627 2250 372 591 132 5 135 425 8 3 304 429 .263 .357 .506 .863 126 1138 51 43 0 30 19
ATL (2 yrs) 157 691 589 101 174 36 1 37 134 0 0 92 116 .295 .395 .548 .943 146 323 15 7 0 3 12
LAA (1 yr) 54 234 193 39 69 14 0 13 43 2 0 32 23 .358 .449 .632 1.081 181 122 4 4 0 5 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/12/2013.