April 2013

April 25 – Happy Birthday Darren Holmes

I remember thinking the Yankees made a good move when they signed this righty reliever to a free agent contract in 1998. Holmes had pitched out of the Colorado bullpen for five seasons before that and had put up decent numbers, especially considering half his mound appearances were in Denver, where pitchers are typically punished by the thin air. But I was wrong. Holmes showed promise during the first two months of his only season in Pinstripes and Joe Torre’s confidence in the Asheville, NC reached a highpoint after Holmes turned in seven consecutive scoreless stints between late April and mid-May. But then he gave up three home runs in a single inning against Baltimore and after that, he struggled to regain consistency. He did bounce back to pitch well that September but when he didn’t make an appearance in the Yankees’ 1998 postseason you knew his days in pinstripes were numbered. The following March, Holmes was traded to the Diamondbacks. His final Yankee record included two saves and an 0-3 won-lost record. Holmes kept pitching until 2003, when he retired with a record of 35-33 and 59 saves, appearing in a total of 557 games during his 13-season career.

Holmes shares his April 25 birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and this Cuban defector.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1998 NYY 0 3 .000 3.33 34 0 13 0 0 2 51.1 53 19 19 4 14 31 1.305
13 Yrs 35 33 .515 4.25 557 6 212 0 0 59 680.0 709 348 321 63 256 581 1.419
COL (5 yrs) 23 13 .639 4.42 263 6 129 0 0 46 328.0 341 181 161 34 136 297 1.454
ARI (2 yrs) 4 3 .571 4.25 52 0 12 0 0 1 55.0 62 27 26 4 26 40 1.600
ATL (2 yrs) 3 4 .429 2.89 103 0 22 0 0 1 96.2 88 34 31 8 23 93 1.148
MIL (2 yrs) 5 8 .385 3.94 81 0 34 0 0 9 118.2 125 55 52 7 38 90 1.374
STL (1 yr) 0 1 .000 9.72 5 0 1 0 0 0 8.1 12 9 9 2 3 5 1.800
LAD (1 yr) 0 1 .000 5.19 14 0 1 0 0 0 17.1 15 10 10 1 11 19 1.500
NYY (1 yr) 0 3 .000 3.33 34 0 13 0 0 2 51.1 53 19 19 4 14 31 1.305
BAL (1 yr) 0 0 25.07 5 0 0 0 0 0 4.2 13 13 13 3 5 6 3.857
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/25/2014.

April 24 – Happy Birthday Harry Harper

Harry_HarperHe was known as “Hackensack Harry,” a tribute to the New Jersey based New York City suburb in which he was born. This guy did something voluntarily you’d never see a ballplayer do today. He walked away from his job as a Yankee starting pitcher to manage his own company.

Harry Harper was a tall, skinny southpaw pitcher who was signed right out of high school by the Washington Senators and rushed directly to the big leagues at the age of 18. He remained a Senator for the first seven seasons of his career, joining the team’s starting rotation in 1916. That was probably his best year as a player, as he compiled a 14-10 record with a 2.45 ERA. Unfortunately for Harper, he pitched for Washington during a period the franchise fell into decline and during his final season with the team, his horrible record of 6-21 and his respectable ERA of 3.72 reflected just how far the Senators had fallen.

He was then traded to Boston, a year after the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees and he went 5-14 but again managed a respectable 3.05 ERA. That’s when he got his big break. Ten days before Christmas in 1920, the Yankees and Red Sox concluded an eight-player deal that sent Harper, Waite Hoyt, Wally Schang and Mike McNally to New York and Del Pratt, Muddy Ruel, Sammy Vick and Hank Thormahlen to Beantown.

One of the interesting things about Harper’s baseball career was that he was religious enough to negotiate a clause in his contract that prevented him from pitching on Sundays. When he came to New York, he became the Yankees only left-handed pitcher with the exception of Babe Ruth, who had been converted by then into pretty much a full-time outfielder. Yankee skipper, Miller Huggins did not give Harper his first Yankee start until May 13th of that ’21 season against the Tigers and the pitcher was sharp enough to get the win, but it was a costly one. In the sixth inning of that game he tried to barehand a line drive and he broke the thumb on his pitching hand. He didn’t get back into the rotation until September and he split his last six decisions, as the Yankees captured the franchises first-ever AL Pennant.

Then in the World Series that followed, with the Yankees holding a 3-games to 2 edge over the cross town Giants, Huggins decided to start Harper in Game 6. He didn’t make it out of the second inning, surrendering three earned runs and the Yankees lost the game and then went on to lose the Series.

As disappointing as his only Series appearance was to both Harper and Huggins, it had no bearing on the pitcher’s absence from the Yankee roster the following spring. It seems that Hackensack Harry was quite the entrepreneur when he wasn’t playing baseball. He and his brother had started a trucking business in their home town and they had won a bid to provide  trucking services for the construction of the Holland Tunnel. In February of 1922 he requested a leave of absence from his baseball responsibilities so he could pay full attention to the Tunnel project. He later started a self service supermarket and successful fuel and beverage companies in his native Garden State. Harper also got involved in politics. In 1927, he was elected Sheriff of Bergen County. He then accepted appointments as New Jersey’s Civil Service and Labor Commissioner. In 1948, he lost a bid to become the republican nominee in an election for one of New Jersey’s two seats in the US Senate.

Harper shares his April 24th birthday with this Yankee outfielder, this former Yankee reliever and this one-time Yankee third baseman.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP WHIP
1921 NYY 4 3 .571 3.76 8 7 1 4 0 0 52.2 52 23 22 3 25 22 2 1.462
10 Yrs 57 76 .429 2.87 219 171 27 66 12 5 1256.0 1100 531 400 26 582 623 40 1.339
WSH (7 yrs) 48 58 .453 2.75 183 141 26 51 11 5 1037.0 877 429 317 12 488 526 36 1.316
BRO (1 yr) 0 1 .000 14.73 1 1 0 0 0 0 3.2 8 6 6 2 3 4 0 3.000
NYY (1 yr) 4 3 .571 3.76 8 7 1 4 0 0 52.2 52 23 22 3 25 22 2 1.462
BOS (1 yr) 5 14 .263 3.04 27 22 0 11 1 0 162.2 163 73 55 9 66 71 2 1.408
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/24/2013.

April 23 – Happy Birthday Andruw Jones


If you’ve been a Yankee fan for at least eighteen years, used to be that whenever you heard the name “Andruw Jones”, a bad memory crept into your head. Your mind shifted back to that opening game of the 1996 World Series in old Yankee Stadium on a Sunday afternoon in October. Your Yankees had finally made it back to the Promised Land after a decade and a half of roaming through the regular season desert, but every Yankee hater you knew was telling you that New York had no chance to beat the powerful Atlanta Braves. You would laugh off their taunts but secretly you were worried. The experts always said that the best starting pitching won in the playoffs and nobody had better starters than the Braves’ big three of Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine. Plus, Bobby Cox had some studs in that ’96 lineup. Chipper Jones and Ryan Klesko both had thirty-homer seasons and Fred McGriff, Marquis Grissom and catcher Javy Lopez had each hit over twenty of their own. So when the Game One Yankee starter, a young left-hander named Andy Pettitte was able to retire the first three Atlanta hitters in the top of the first inning you breathed a sigh of relief. But that sense of relief would not last long.

In the visitors half of the second inning, with two outs and Lopez on first, you saw the name “Andruw Jones” flash up on your TV screen and your first thought is “That’s supposed to be an E, not a U.” Whoever was broadcasting the game kept making a big deal of the fact that this sleek-looking athlete with a bat in his hand was just nineteen years old, as he quickly worked Pettitte into a full count. Then suddenly, Bam! This kid with the misspelled first name hits Andy’s sixth pitch into the Stadium’s left-field stands and the Braves took a quick 2-0 lead. Your stomach got a bit queazy but heck, you’d seen that ’96 Yankee team bounce back from deficits all season long. Pettitte retired the next hitter and as he headed back to the dugout, you hoped that pitch to Jones would be his only mistake of the game. Unfortunately, in the very next inning, this Jones kid would reemerge from the Braves dugout and take Pettitte even deeper and that three-run home run would drive a very long nail into the Yankees’ hopes of winning Game 1.

Sixteen years later, Andruw was a Yankee. He was no longer a nineteen year old rookie about to begin a career that would result in over 400 big league home runs. Instead, he’d played 15 big league seasons and was on the back end of a very good big league career. He had become a baseball nomad, the Yankees were his fourth different team in four years. But as he proved in his very first at bat in pinstripes against the Twins Brian Duensing, he could still take southpaws deep and he could still display moments in the outfield filled with that unique style and grace that was so fun to watch. I was hoping that before his Yankee career ended, Andruw would have a Johnny Damon-like “pinstripe redemption moment.” Until Damon made that famous double-steal against the Phillies during the 2009 Series, all I could think of when I saw him wearing a Yankee uniform was that grand slam he hit off of Jeff Weaver to complete Boston’s amazing comeback against New York in the ’04 ALCS. But Jones never really had that a-ha moment for New York that served to instantly eradicate the image of him hitting those two bombs off of Pettitte from my head. But he did have enough good moments wearing those pinstripes to dull that image and make me wish the Yankees could have picked him up earlier in his career.

He actually had his best stretch for New York during the first couple of months of the 2012 season, when he and Raul Ibanez were forming the two halves of the Yankees’ most effective run producer but he stopped hitting completely in the second half of that year. The Yankees ended up signing Travis Hafner as their right-handed DH for the 2013 season and it looks as if Andruw Jones very good big league career is over. Happy 37th birthday Andruw.

This not-very-well-known other former Yankee who celebrates a birthday today is one I happen to remember real well.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2011 NYY 77 222 190 27 47 8 0 13 33 0 0 29 62 .247 .356 .495 .851 126
2012 NYY 94 269 233 27 46 7 0 14 34 0 0 28 71 .197 .294 .408 .701 89
17 Yrs 2196 8664 7599 1204 1933 383 36 434 1289 152 59 891 1748 .254 .337 .486 .823 111
ATL (12 yrs) 1761 7276 6408 1045 1683 330 34 368 1117 138 55 717 1394 .263 .342 .497 .839 113
NYY (2 yrs) 171 491 423 54 93 15 0 27 67 0 0 57 133 .220 .322 .447 .769 106
TEX (1 yr) 82 331 281 43 60 18 0 17 43 5 1 45 72 .214 .323 .459 .782 100
LAD (1 yr) 75 238 209 21 33 8 1 3 14 0 1 27 76 .158 .256 .249 .505 35
CHW (1 yr) 107 328 278 41 64 12 1 19 48 9 2 45 73 .230 .341 .486 .827 120
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/22/2013.