April 2013

April 5 – Happy Birthday Bobby Hogue

hogueOn August 20th of 1951, the Yankees made one of the most successful minor league recall decisions in franchise history. Bobby Hogue was a chubby, Miami-born WWII Navy veteran, who had made his big league debut in 1948 as a 27-year-old rookie reliever with that season’s NL Champion Boston Braves. The short and stocky right-hander did not make a very good first impression on Billy Southworth, the Braves’ skipper at the time, who took one look at Hogue’s waistline and told him he needed to lose some weight. What Southworth didn’t know was that Hogue may have looked out of shape but he was anything but. Back in Miami, before he joined the Navy, Hogue had been a promising amateur boxer who had won 36 fights. After watching the pitcher work his butt off during the Braves’ ’48 spring training camp, Southworth realized the rookie’s portly appearance actually disguised a well-conditioned athlete’s body and he brought Hogue north with the team.

That proved to be an excellent decision as Hogue went 8-2 during his rookie season in Beantown, with 2 saves and a 3.23 ERA. He didn’t get to make a single appearance in the Braves’ six-game World Series defeat to the Indians that year but he certainly was one of the key reasons Boston was able to get to that Fall Classic. He was blessed with a natural slider and he had always been able to locate it with extreme precision. He only walked 19 hitters in the 88-innings he pitched during that ’48 season.

He had another good year for the Braves in 1949 but the following year, his ERA ballooned to over five and his control began to erode. When he started off the 1951 season slowly, the Braves put him on waivers and he was picked up by the Browns. At first, the change of team’s and league’s did not benefit Hogue. By the end of July, he had appeared in 18 games for St. Louis and both his ERA and walk ratio were as high as ever. That’s when the Yankees purchased his contract and sent him to pitch for their Kansas City farm team. The demotion gave Hogue the opportunity to work on his knuckleball. That pitch helped him win four straight decisions in KC, which was good enough to earn him a ticket up to the Bronx on August 21 of the 1951 season.

At the time of the call-up, the Yankees were in second place, a game behind a very solid Indians’ ball club. They proceeded to finish the year by going 24-12 and capturing the AL flag by five games over second place Cleveland. Hogue made seven appearances in that stretch without allowing a run. He then put together two more goose-egg appearances against the Giants in that year’s World Series and got his second ring. Unfortunately, Hogue’s effectiveness abandoned him the following year. He was 3-5 with a 5.32 ERA when the Yankees put him on waivers in early August of the 1952 season. He was re-claimed by the Browns and though he pitched better once back in St Louis, he never again pitched in the big leagues after that 1952 season.

So you may be wondering why I started this post with the claim that Hogue’s recall from the minors in August of 1951 was one of the most successful recalls in Yankee franchise history? Yes he did finish the season and that year’s World Series un-scored upon but he only pitched a total of nine innings during that span. How could I place such historical significance on that front-office move that took place over a half-century ago? Well, Hogue was one of two Kansas City players the Yankees recalled that day. The other one was an infielder the Yankees were trying to convert into an outfielder. His name was Mickey Mantle.

Hogue shares his April 5th birthday with this former AL Rookie of the Year and the first starting third-baseman in Yankee franchise history.

1951 NYY 1 0 1.000 0.00 7 0 3 0 0 0 7.1 4 0 0 0 3 2 0.955
1952 NYY 3 5 .375 5.32 27 0 13 0 0 4 47.1 52 30 28 6 25 12 1.627
5 Yrs 18 16 .529 3.97 172 3 78 0 0 17 326.2 336 154 144 25 142 108 1.463
BSN (4 yrs) 13 9 .591 3.74 112 2 50 0 0 12 226.0 239 102 94 17 78 81 1.403
NYY (2 yrs) 4 5 .444 4.61 34 0 16 0 0 4 54.2 56 30 28 6 28 14 1.537
SLB (2 yrs) 1 2 .333 4.30 26 1 12 0 0 1 46.0 41 22 22 2 36 13 1.674
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/14/2014.

April 2 – Happy Birthday Billy Sample

sampleSelected by Texas in the tenth round of the 1976 MLB Draft, Billy Sample had a strong rookie season for the Rangers two years later when he won the starting job in left field and averaged .292. He was pushed out of that starting position the following year and it took him three seasons to win it back and when he did in 1983, he put together his best big league season, setting career highs in just about every offensive category including a career high 44 stolen bases. He then had an off-year in ’84 and when it looked as if Texas was going to again make him a utility player, Sample let the team’s front office know he wouldn’t mind being traded.

Coincidentally, at that very same time, Toby Harrah was letting the Yankee front office know that after just one disappointing season in pinstripes, he too would not mind wearing a different uniform. So the deal was made on February 28, 1985 and the plan was to let Sample compete with Vic Mata and Henry Cotto to become the right handed portion of a left field platoon with Ken Griffey. Sample won that three-way competition and ended up appearing in 59 games for New York during the 1985 season. He averaged a quiet .288 and since he sat the bench for over 100 games, it gave him a lot of time to observe the craziness of George Steinbrenner’s mid-eighties Yankee organization up close and personal. Sample was shocked when Steinbrenner fired Yogi Berra in April of that year after publicly promising the Yankee legend he’d have a full year in that job.

This guy had always been both outspoken and well-spoken, so when New York dumped him via a trade to the Braves that December, Sample wrote an article for the New York Times documenting his feelings about the mismanagement tendencies of Steinbrenner’s organization. After one year with Atlanta, his big league playing days were over and he got into broadcasting and did a lot more writing about baseball for a variety of top-shelf publications. During his nine-year career, Sample appeared in 826 games and averaged .272 lifetime.

Sample shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher and this one too.

1985 NYY 59 154 139 18 40 5 0 1 15 2 9 10 .288 .336 .345 .681
9 Yrs 826 2798 2516 371 684 127 9 46 230 98 195 230 .272 .329 .384 .713
TEX (7 yrs) 675 2423 2177 330 587 111 9 39 201 92 172 194 .270 .327 .383 .710
ATL (1 yr) 92 221 200 23 57 11 0 6 14 4 14 26 .285 .338 .430 .768
NYY (1 yr) 59 154 139 18 40 5 0 1 15 2 9 10 .288 .336 .345 .681
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/16/2014.