April 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, this former reliever 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 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 G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1972 NYY 84 248 220 26 50 9 0 9 22 0 23 42 .227 .296 .391 .686
1973 NYY 17 62 57 5 13 3 0 0 4 0 5 5 .228 .290 .281 .571
12 Yrs 1139 3824 3404 357 815 140 21 73 352 13 370 424 .239 .314 .357 .671
MIN (5 yrs) 492 1789 1595 195 392 75 10 32 163 3 165 212 .246 .316 .366 .682
WSA (5 yrs) 530 1669 1482 126 351 52 11 30 154 10 172 161 .237 .317 .348 .665
NYY (2 yrs) 101 310 277 31 63 12 0 9 26 0 28 47 .227 .294 .368 .663
MON (1 yr) 16 56 50 5 9 1 0 2 9 0 5 4 .180 .255 .320 .575
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

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 W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2006 NYY 3 6 .333 4.36 72 0 24 0 0 6 66.0 62 34 32 8 28 75 1.364
2007 NYY 2 1 .667 4.80 64 0 11 0 0 0 60.0 60 35 32 9 27 48 1.450
2008 NYY 1 2 .333 3.65 45 0 6 0 0 1 44.1 43 18 18 11 17 43 1.353
16 Yrs 43 63 .406 4.22 868 26 280 1 1 55 969.1 920 496 455 130 399 951 1.361
CHC (6 yrs) 22 37 .373 4.78 343 26 88 1 1 4 478.2 468 281 254 75 224 467 1.446
TBR (3 yrs) 8 7 .533 3.54 136 0 69 0 0 25 114.1 104 47 45 10 33 95 1.198
NYY (3 yrs) 6 9 .400 4.33 181 0 41 0 0 7 170.1 165 87 82 28 72 166 1.391
KCR (2 yrs) 4 5 .444 3.40 78 0 27 0 0 0 82.0 83 35 31 5 26 78 1.329
ATL (2 yrs) 0 2 .000 3.42 49 0 24 0 0 10 47.1 30 18 18 6 14 57 0.930
DET (2 yrs) 2 2 .500 3.53 62 0 21 0 0 6 58.2 56 26 23 5 25 73 1.381
NYM (1 yr) 0 0 0.96 10 0 3 0 0 1 9.1 8 1 1 0 2 6 1.071
PIT (1 yr) 1 1 .500 1.04 9 0 7 0 0 2 8.2 6 1 1 1 3 9 1.038
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/23/2014.

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.