One of the things the Yankees did not seem to need after winning the 1950 World Series was starting pitching. Their rotation was loaded with the glorious triumvirate of Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds and Eddie Lopat,15-game winner Tommy Byrne and a cocky rookie southpaw named Whitey Ford. But Ford would miss the entire 1951 season to military service and Byrne, who always had control problems suddenly couldn’t find the plate. That made room in the rotation for a rookie Yankee left-hander named Tom Morgan. Casey Stengel let the 20-year-old native of El Monte, California start 16 times during that ’51 season and he went 6-3 in those games, including two shutouts. He also relieved in 11 other games that year and earned two saves.
Morgan credited two guys for helping him become a successful big league pitcher. The first was his younger brother Dick, who became a minor league catcher himself. Tom would spend hours throwing a baseball to his sibling in the yard of their California home and he credited those sessions for helping him master control of his very good fastball. He also used to say that his Yankee pitching coach, Jim Turner was instrumental in helping him master both a sidearm curve and change up, giving him the confidence he needed to throw those pitches whenever he needed to at the big league level.
Morgan’s most distinctive physical trait was the way he walked. He’d bend his body at the waist, hunch his shoulders and take his steps slowly, looking as if he was always pulling something behind him. As a result, the Grand Annointer of pinstriped nicknames, Yankee announcer Mel Allen gave Morgan the nickname of “the Plowboy.”
Morgan started 12 more times in 1952 and then missed the entire ’53 season to military service. When he returned to action in 1954, Stengel began using him more out of the bullpen and he had his best season in pinstripes with an 11-5 record and a 3.34 ERA. He was then converted to a full-time reliever and over the next two seasons he saved 21 games for New York. But his ERA climbed dramatically in 1956 and the following February he was included in a humungous deal with the A’s that eventually caused 13 players to exchange uniforms.
After one year in Kansas City, Morgan spent two-and-a-half years with the Tigers and a half season as a Senator. The expansion Angels purchased him in 1961 and he surprised everyone by putting together two very strong years out of the Angels bullpen. He couldn’t keep the string going, however, and he was done as a player after the ’63 season. He then became a minor league pitching instructor with the Angels and scouted for the Yankees. He eventually became the Angels’ big league pitching coach and later held that same position with the Padres. Cy Young Award winners Nolan Ryan and Randy Jones credited Morgan with helping them become all star pitchers. He was still coaching at the minor league level when he suffered a stroke and died of a heart attack in 1987 at the age of 56.
|1953||Did not play in major leagues (Military Service)|
|NYY (5 yrs)||38||22||.633||3.48||156||46||61||13||7||26||504.2||500||218||195||32||160||163||20||1.308|
|LAA (3 yrs)||13||4||.765||2.86||120||0||64||0||0||20||166.2||147||65||53||14||42||75||9||1.134|
|DET (3 yrs)||6||11||.353||3.81||107||2||49||0||0||11||184.1||197||93||78||24||32||83||7||1.242|
|WSH (1 yr)||1||3||.250||3.75||14||0||6||0||0||0||24.0||36||15||10||6||5||11||1||1.708|
|KCA (1 yr)||9||7||.563||4.64||46||13||24||5||0||7||143.2||160||76||74||19||61||32||3||1.538|
The Yankee teams of the 1950s were among the best in the elite franchise’s illustrious history. Managed by Casey Stengel, they won eight of the decade’s ten possible Pennants and six World Championships. One of the key members of those great teams was a Scottish-American infielder, born in San Francisco by the name of Gil McDougald. Signed by the Yankees out of the University of San Francisco in 1948, McDougald tore up Minor League pitching, averaging .340 during his three-year climb through the Yankee farm system. He was brought up to the Bronx in 1951 along with a much more heralded Yankee rookie named Mantle. It was McDougald who won that season’s Rookie of the Year award with a .306 average. In that year’s World Series against the cross-town Giants, McDougald became the first rookie to hit a grand slam home run in Fall Classic history.
Stengel loved McDougald’s defensive versatility and took full advantage of it. During his career in the Bronx, the infielder played 599 games at second, 508 at the hot corner and another 284 at shortstop and was selected as an All Star at all three positions. He had a lifetime batting average of .276 and hit 112 regular season and seven World Series home runs.
Two line drives had tremendous impact upon McDougald’s career. The first came off the bat of Yankee teammate, Bob Cerv during batting practice before a game in August of 1955. McDougald was standing near second base and the ball struck him in the left ear. Even though no one realized it at the time, the resulting damage caused a gradual hearing loss that resulted in McDougald being almost completely deaf early on in his retirement years. In 1957, another line drive, this one off McDougald’s bat, hit Cleveland Indian pitching sensation, Herb Score square in the face. Score was never again the same pitcher and McDougald later admitted that the incident impacted his play as well.
After the Yankees suffered their heartbreaking loss to the Pirates in the 1960 World Series, the front office informed Gil that he would not be protected in the upcoming AL expansion draft. McDougald decided to call it quits at that time. He died in November of 2010, at the age of 82.
I remember it was the middle of the work week because I called in sick the next day. The Yankees were playing the Dodgers in the sixth game of the 1977 World Series at Yankee Stadium. It had been a crazy season because of Billy Martin’s intense dislike for Reggie Jackson. Reggie wasn’t an easy guy to warm up to if you didn’t have a microphone in your hand but every manager in baseball would have loved to had him sitting in the middle of their lineup back then. Every manager except Martin that is. The mercurial skipper and outspoken slugger despised each other.
In any event, on that night over thirty years ago, I witnessed one of the greatest World Series performances in the history of the Fall Classic. After walking on four straight pitches in his first at bat Jackson hit the next three pitches he saw that night from three different Dodger hurlers, for home runs. Bam. Bang. Boom. His last shot was the most prodigious, soaring high into the Bronx nighttime sky to straightaway center field onto the famous black tarp that provided the hitter’s background at the old Stadium.
I will never forget Jackson’s glee as he circled the bases after that third blast. How he patted the back of the helmet of on deck hitter Chris Chambliss as he crossed home plate and bounded down into the steps of the Yankee Stadium dugout being congratulated by teammates who both loved and despised him, including Manager Martin.
It was one of the great moments in baseball history, made even more intense by the Martin – Jackson feud and the fact that the always over-dramatic Howard Cosell was in the TV booth. After that game was over I could not go to sleep. It had been sixteen years since the Yankees won their last World Series and for a time there in the late sixties I didn’t think I’d ever see them win another one. But loud brash number 44 took care of all that with three swings of the bat. Reggie, who was born in Wyncote, PA, turns 67 years old today. Nicknamed Mr. October for his ability to dominate games in the postseason (Jackson played in five World Series during his career,) Reggie ironically shares his birthday with a catcher who literally seemed to disappear when his Yankee teams played in World Series.
|OAK (10 yrs)||1346||5432||4686||756||1228||234||27||269||776||145||633||1226||.262||.355||.496||.851|
|CAL (5 yrs)||687||2721||2331||331||557||87||6||123||374||14||362||690||.239||.343||.440||.782|
|NYY (5 yrs)||653||2707||2349||380||661||115||14||144||461||41||326||573||.281||.371||.526||.897|
|BAL (1 yr)||134||558||498||84||138||27||2||27||91||28||54||108||.277||.351||.502||.853|
Most of the Yankees’ most successful (World Series-winning) owners were born with silver spoons in their mouths. That’s certainly the case with the Steinbrenner brothers, Hank and Hal who inherited the team from their father and with “the Boss” himself, who’s dad left him the American Shipbuilding Company. Jacob Ruppert’s dad gave his son a thriving beer brewery. The spoon in Dan Topping’s mouth when he was born was actually made of tin because his grandfather on his mom’s side was one of the largest owner of tin mines in the entire world.
The only Yankee owner to win a World Series who wasn’t born with money was Topping’s partner, Del Webb. Webb entered this world on May 17, 1899 in Fresno, California and actually started out wanting to be a ballplayer. He quit high school to become a carpenter’s apprentice and play semipro baseball. In his late twenties he came down with typhoid fever and moved to Phoenix, AZ because doctors told him the drier climate would help him recover from the dreaded disease. He brought his tool-box with him to his new desert home and started his own one-man construction company. He might not have made it as a baseball player but he grew that little construction company into one of the largest and most diversified construction, real estate development and property management firms in the country. When WWII broke out, he got the contract to build the infamous Poston War Relocation Center, the Arizona-based internment camp that was home to 17,000 Japanese Americans. His company, Del Web Corporation, built and managed huge retirement communities, resort hotels, major league ballparks and Las Vegas casinos.
On January 26, 1945, Webb and Topping along with Larry MacPhail Sr. purchased the Yankees from the estate of Ruppert for $2.8 million. The plan was for Webb and Topping to treat the purchase as an investment and rich man’s hobby and let MacPhail run the thing. But when legendary Yankee skipper, Joe McCarthy quit because he couldn’t stand his new boss and his successor, Bill Dickey did likewise, Topping and Webb bought out MacPhail and took full control of the franchise.
Webb often said his most significant contribution to the team was convincing Casey Stengel to leave his job as a manager of the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League to become Yankee skipper in 1949. Stengel’s successor as New York manager, Ralph Houk absolutely adored Webb and the feeling was mutual.
Topping and Webb maintained ownership of the franchise for two decades during which the Yankees captured fifteen pennants and ten world championships, still the most successful twenty year period in the club’s history. They sold it to CBS in August of 1964 for $11million. Del Webb had become an extremely wealthy man by knowing when to buy and when to sell a property and he certainly made the right calls when he decided to purchase and then dump his Yankee shares. He died from lung cancer on July 4, 1974. Married twice he had no children. In 2001, the Del Webb Corporation was purchased by a company called Pulte Homes.
Jim Mecir did not compile extraordinary numbers during his eleven-season career as a big league reliever, but it was a remarkable career nonetheless. This Bayside, New York native was born with two club feet. He underwent a series of surgeries as a child that helped correct much of the defect, but the procedures left him with an atrophied right calf, a fused right ankle and a right leg that was about an inch shorter than his left. Despite all that, he somehow managed to become a successful pitcher in Major League Baseball and I consider that achievement absolutely amazing!
Mecir was drafted in the third round of the 1991 MLB Amateur Draft by Seattle. He spent his first three seasons in the Mariner system being groomed as a starter but was switched to the bullpen after the 1993 season. He made his big league debut in 1995 with two relief appearances for Seattle. That December, he and Jeff Nelson accompanied Tino Martinez to the Bronx in a mini-blockbuster that sent Yankees Sterling Hitchcock and Russ Davis to Seattle.
During the next two seasons Joe Torre inserted Mecir into 51 Yankee games. He went a combined 1-5 with an ERA in the mid five’s which explains why New York left him off both their 1996 and ’97 postseason rosters. In September of 1997, the Yankees sent Mecir to Boston to complete an earlier deal. Two months later he got a break when the Red Sox left him unprotected in the 1997 AL Expansion Draft and he was selected by Tampa Bay.
He found his groove with the Devil Rays and he went a combined 14-4 for them in 1998 and most of ’99 until he was traded to Oakland. Mecir pitched for the A’s until 2004 and then spent a year with the Marlins before hanging up his glove for good.
Due to his physical deformity, Mecir employed an unorthodox pitching motion and it was often said that the strange delivery actually helped increase the movement on his signature screwball. Today he serves as a motivational speaker.
|OAK (5 yrs)||13||21||.382||3.91||246||0||55||0||0||11||250.2||242||121||20||104||225||1.380|
|TBD (3 yrs)||14||5||.737||3.03||123||0||36||0||0||1||154.1||118||54||8||69||125||1.212|
|NYY (2 yrs)||1||5||.167||5.47||51||0||21||0||0||0||74.0||78||47||11||33||63||1.500|
|SEA (1 yr)||0||0||0.00||2||0||1||0||0||0||4.2||5||1||0||2||3||1.500|
|FLA (1 yr)||1||4||.200||3.12||52||0||13||0||0||0||43.1||39||17||2||17||34||1.292|
It took a ton of injuries on the Yankee parent club’s roster to get this guy his first shot in the big leagues. He was called up by New York on his birthday, during the 2013 season. He got off to a good start offensively and I remember being impressed by his poise and patience at the plate. The poise lasted but the patience did not and after hitting just .143 during his big league debut, Adams is no longer a Yankee. He began the 2014 season playing in the Orioles’ farm system.
Born in Margate, Florida in 1987, this right-hand hitting infielder was drafted out of high school by the Detroit Tigers in the 21st round of the 2005 Amateur Draft. He chose to play collegiate baseball instead at the University of Virginia and in 2008, he was drafted again, this time in the third round and this time by the Yankees.
It took him six long years to make his way up the rungs of New York’s minor league ladder, with injuries along the way slowing his ascent. But he played well at just about every stop, averaging right around three hundred and playing an acceptable second base. With a durable superstar in Robbie Cano playing second, the Yankees were in no rush to get Adams to the Bronx. He didn’t have the range to play short and though he was playing a lot of third base last season in Scranton, his lack of power made it a long shot that the Yanks would groom him to replace A-Rod at the hot corner. But it was the injury-decimated left side of the Yankee’s 2013 infield that provided Mr.Adams with his first shot to do something special enough to remain in pinstripes or even the big leagues for that matter.
I was rooting for the guy for two reasons. Up until Adams got called up the only Yankee born on this date is a guy named C.B.Burns who got one at bat for the Baltimore Orioles (who were the Yankees before the Yankees moved to New York) in 1902. The second reason I wantede to see Adams stick is his wife, Camille, who is an associate blogger of mine at the MLB Blog site. She writes about what its like to be a wife of a professional ballplayer and she does it very well. You can check her blog out here.
The Yankees signed Dave LaRoche ten days after the start of the strike-shortened 1981 season. The left-hander had been released by the California Angels two and a half weeks earlier. When he joined the Yanks, he had eleven big league seasons already on his resume, during which he had established himself as a better than average reliever.
His first year in pinstripes was his best as he went 4-1 with a 2.49 ERA and pitched an inning of scoreless relief for New York in the 1981 World Series. I often refer to that 1981 season as George Steinbrenner’s tipping point as a Yankee owner. The players strike coupled with the Yankee defeat to the Dodgers in that year’s Fall Classic seemed to turn the Boss from a hard-to-work for egomaniac into an impossible to please tyrant. Under his complete control, the Yankee front office began making a series of spur-of-the-moment personnel decisions that undermined the team’s field management and filled the roster with anxiety.
Laroche became a victim of that calamity in 1982, when he began being bounced back and forth between the Bronx and Columbus, as the Yankee front office made roster moves with alarming frequency. Despite all the frequent flier miles, the Colorado Springs native continued to pitch effectively for New York, compiling a 4-2 record in his second season with the team. But even LaRoche had limits. When the team tried to send him back to Triple A at the end of the ’83 exhibition season, LaRoche quit instead. At the time his wife was undergoing a very difficult pregnancy and LaRoche wanted a guarantee that if he did go to Columbus, he could remain with the Clippers until the baby was born. When the Yankees refused that request, LaRoche left baseball to be with his wife.
Unable to land a steady job, LaRoche contacted the Yankees after the baby’s birth to see if they still wanted him to pitch for the organization. He returned for one final go-round in 1983, appearing in seven games for Columbus and just one for the parent club.
I remember LaRoche’s Yankee days very well, primarily because he frequently threw a slow, high arching eephus pitch his Yankee teammates had nicknamed La Lob. After he finished his pitching career, the Yankees hired him as a minor league pitching coach and he has spent the last quarter century working in that role for a number of minor league teams. He is also the father of two big league players. They are the Washington National’s slugging first baseman Adam LaRoche and the former Dodger and Pirate infielder, Andy LaRoche.
|CAL (6 yrs)||35||32||.522||3.65||304||10||170||1||0||65||512.1||462||223||208||51||204||386||1.300|
|CLE (3 yrs)||8||9||.471||2.51||135||0||95||0||0||42||197.1||133||64||55||10||113||216||1.247|
|NYY (3 yrs)||8||3||.727||3.12||52||1||30||0||0||0||98.0||94||37||34||8||27||55||1.235|
|CHC (2 yrs)||9||7||.563||5.17||94||4||43||0||0||9||146.1||158||91||84||16||76||83||1.599|
|MIN (1 yr)||5||7||.417||2.83||62||0||43||0||0||10||95.1||72||33||30||9||39||79||1.164|
Those of us who remember the first half of George Steinbrenner’s tenure as principal owner of the Yankees remember the two things he hated most. The first was seeing his Yankees lose a baseball game. The second was seeing his Yankees lose the back-page headlines of New York City’s tabloid newspapers to the cross-town New York Mets.
When the 1984 regular season began, “The Boss” had already enjoyed a decade of dominant Big Apple press coverage. His Yankees had been to five postseasons and won two rings in those ten years. The Mets, on the other hand, after making the World Series that first year of Steinbrenner’s rein had entered into an extended period of losing by 1977. As Opening Day 1984 approached, the Amazin’s were coming off seven consecutive seasons during which they had failed to reach 70 victories.
But as Steinbrenner began his second decade of Yankeedom, there was a definite whiff of change in the air between the Bronx and Flushing. More specifically, it was a nineteen year old Doctor of Whiff’s with a blazing fastball who would almost singlehandedly evict the Bronx Bombers form the back pages of the Daily News and Post. His name was Dwight Gooden and he would electrify baseball with his 17-9 rookie season and league-leading 276 strikeouts. He led that ’84 team to their first 90-win season since the legendary Miracle Mets of 1969 and he would help the club reach that level of success six more times during the next seven years.
The Boss reacted to Gooden’s emergence as only “the Boss” could. He demanded the Yankees find a teenaged phee-nom starter of their own. The unfortunate pinstriped pitching prospect selected for the cloning experiment was a nineteen-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic who was coming off an 18-7 1983 season spent mostly as a starter with the Yankees’ single A team in the Florida League. Never mind he wasn’t yet old enough to drink and had only pitched a month of that season in double A ball, the Mets had a 19-year-old pitching sensation dominating his league and George Steinbrenner wanted one of his own.
The problem that almost became a tragic career blunder was that Rijo, unlike Gooden was nowhere near ready to pitch at the big league level. Manager Yogi Berra let him perform out of the bullpen the first month of that ’84 season but my guess is that the hotter Gooden got starting for the Mets the greater the pressure the Boss put on Berra to start Rijo. Berra began using him as a starter in early May. By June 11th, his record was 1-6 and Yogi put him back in the bullpen. Less than a month later, he was 2-8 and pitching in Columbus. That December, he was one of five Yankees sent Oakland in the trade for Ricky Henderson.
After three mediocre years with the A’s, Rijo signed as a free agent with the Reds and found a home. He was 97-61 during his decade in Cincinnati, during which he won the 1990 World Series MVP award for his two Fall Classic victories against Oakland. Rijo, who was born in 1965, is the son-in-law of Hall-of-Fame pitcher, Juan Marichal.
|CIN (10 yrs)||97||61||.614||2.83||280||215||22||17||4||0||1478.0||1301||523||464||102||453||1251||1.187|
|OAK (3 yrs)||17||22||.436||4.74||72||49||13||5||0||1||339.2||335||209||179||40||177||308||1.507|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||8||.200||4.76||24||5||8||0||0||2||62.1||74||40||33||5||33||47||1.717|
If you ask any native of the Dominican Republic currently playing big league ball which of their countrymen did the most to pave the way for them to play in the majors, their answer would be Felipe Alou. Actually, they might say Felipe Rojas. (His Dad’s last name was Rojas and his Mom’s was Alou.) Ozzie Virgil was the first Dominican to play in the MLB, when the New York Giants brought him up in 1956 but Virgil had migrated to the US as a youth and attended high school in New York City. Alou became the second native of his country (and the first to have lived there all his life) to play big league ball the following year as a member of that same Giants organization.
He was born in the Dominican Republic on May 12, 1935 to extremely poor parents. Felipe was an outstanding athlete and an outstanding student, who had been accepted in the pre-med program at the University of Santo Domingo. But he also played on his country’s baseball team that competed in 1955 Pan American Game. When he led the Dominican Republic to a victory over the US in the finals of those Games the MLB scouts came calling and he signed with the Giants.
It took awhile because the Giant organization in the late fifties was loaded with outstanding black and latino prospects, but Alou finally became a starter in San Franciso’s outfield in the early sixties. His younger brothers Matty and Jesus later joined him there and the three made history when they became the first three siblings to ever play in one team’s outfield at the same time, in September of 1963.
That was also Alou’s last year with the Giants. After the ’63 season, he was traded to Milwaukee in a seven-player deal. Felipe played for the Braves for the next six seasons, including 1966, when the team relocated to Atlanta and he put together his best year in the big leagues, with 31 HRs, a .327 batting average and leading the league in hits (218) and runs (122.)
He was traded to the A’s in 1970. By then he was 35-years-old and his best playing days were behind him. During the first week of his second season with Oakland, he was traded to the Yankees for pitchers Rob Gardner and Ron Klimkowski, where he was reunited with his brother Matty to become the first set of siblings to wear the pinstripes together since Bobby and Billy Shantz had done so in 1960.
Ralph Houk, the Yankee skipper at the time of the trade loved Felipe and put him in the lineup as a first baseman or outfielder 131 times during his first season in the Bronx. Alou responded with a .289 batting average and 69 RBIs that year. He continued to play a lot for Houk the following year, but his run production took a nose dive. Still, when the Yankees 1973 spring training season came around, Felipe was hammering the ball and Houk was telling the press that the elder Alou would share the brand new DH position with Ron Blomberg and also play a lot of first base. But on September 6th of that season, with his average hovering in the .230’s, Alou was put on waivers and picked up by the Expos. On that same day, the Yankees sold his brother Matty to the Cardinals and the Yankees were suddenly Alou-less.
Felipe Alou would retire as a player the following year and became a minor league manager in the Expos organization. He would later become a highly successful big league skipper of the Expos and also manage the Giants. His son Moises became a big league all star outfielder who played for his Dad with both Montreal and the Giants.
|SFG (6 yrs)||719||2478||2292||337||655||119||19||85||325||51||138||308||.286||.328||.466||.794|
|ATL (6 yrs)||841||3604||3348||464||989||163||20||94||335||40||188||284||.295||.338||.440||.778|
|NYY (3 yrs)||344||1145||1065||110||289||50||7||18||133||6||63||76||.271||.311||.382||.694|
|OAK (2 yrs)||156||627||583||70||158||26||3||8||55||10||32||32||.271||.307||.367||.674|
|MON (1 yr)||19||50||48||4||10||1||0||1||4||0||2||4||.208||.240||.292||.532|
|MIL (1 yr)||3||3||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||.000||.000||.000||.000|
The only thing Edward Grant Barrow couldn’t do real well in the game of baseball, was play it. But nobody managed a team, an organization or a league better than this one-time farm boy from Springield, IL. Barrow’s Yankee career started after he managed the Red Sox and Babe Ruth to a World Series title in 1918. Boston owner, Harry Frazee than began selling his best players for the money he needed to finance his Broadway shows. At the time the Yankees were co-owned by Jacob Rupert and a guy named Tillinghast Huston. The two millionaires hated each other and were constantly arguing about what was best for their baseball team. Hiring Barrow to serve as the team’s business manager in 1920 was about the only thing the two agreed on and it turned out to be the best decision in the history of the Yankee franchise.
Barrow convinced Rupert to make the deal for Ruth. Working closely with Huggins, the new team exec put together a 1921 Yankee roster that won the franchise’s first-ever pennant. Barrow was the architect and overseer of a Yankee minor league organization that became the envy of all of baseball. He handled every detail in the opening and operation of the greatest stadium in the history of US sports. When Huggins died in 1929, it was Barrow who hired Joe McCarthy as soon as the Cubs fired him. Many of the players he put into pinstripes have their faces on plaques that reside in Cooperstown today. Barrow was known for having a fiery temper and for being a strict negotiator. He spent Ruppert’s money as thriftily as if it was his own and his annual contract squabbles with the Yankee stable of superstars were legendary. When Ruppert died and Dan Topping, Del Webb and Larry MacPhail purchased the team, they made Barrow Chairman of the Board. He retired from that position in 1946, after over a half century making his living in and his mark on the game of baseball. Barrow’s Yankee teams had won 14 Pennants and ten World Series. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1953 and he died that same year at the age of 85.
Barrow shares his May 10th birthday with this one-time Yankee pitcher.