Before the 2001 season began, the Yankees had signed veteran catcher, Joe Oliver to back up Jorge Posada behind the plate. After a 12-game trial, Oliver had not impressed anyone with his defense or his arm, throwing out just 2 of the 12 runners who had attempted steals against him. New York had signed Todd Greene that April, right after the five-year veteran had been released by the Blue Jays. Greene had spent four seasons as a utility catcher, first baseman and outfielder for the Angels. The Yankees called him up in June of 2001 and the native of Augusta, Georgia turned some heads by hitting a homer in his first game in pinstripes and driving in a total of six runs in his first two. With his shaved head and stocky build, he looked like a professional wrestler and Yankee fans hoped his great start was a sign of more good things to come. It was not. He not only cooled off at the plate, base stealers had a field day running with him behind it. He did make the 2001 postseason roster and doubled and scored a run against Arizona in that year’s World Series. Joe Torre cut him at the end of the 2002 spring training season and he signed on with the Rangers. Greene played until 2006, retiring with 71 big league home runs and a .252 lifetime batting average.
This former Yankee prospect shares Greene’s May 8th birthday.
|ANA (4 yrs)||189||626||595||72||147||31||0||26||82||5||25||119||.247||.281||.430||.711|
|COL (2 yrs)||113||343||321||33||87||18||0||17||58||0||20||59||.271||.315||.486||.801|
|TEX (2 yrs)||104||328||317||40||77||15||1||20||39||0||4||70||.243||.257||.486||.743|
|SFG (1 yr)||61||170||159||16||46||12||2||2||17||0||10||45||.289||.335||.428||.763|
|NYY (1 yr)||35||100||96||9||20||4||0||1||11||0||3||21||.208||.240||.281||.521|
|TOR (1 yr)||34||90||85||11||20||2||0||5||10||0||5||18||.235||.278||.435||.713|
The 1966 Yankee spring training camp was the first one in my lifetime in which anxiety about the upcoming season competed with confidence in the minds of most Bronx Bomber fans, myself included. The team’s outfield situation was a perfect example. Mickey Mantle had just experienced the worst season of his illustrious career in 1965 and Roger Maris had spent most of that same year on the DL. Tom Tresh had been about the only offensive bright spot in that ’65 lineup and it would again be him and the M&M Boys who would be penciled in to start in manager Johnny Keane’s second Yankee Opening Day outfield.
With the Mick’s crippled knees and Maris’s chronically sore wrist, Keane’s choices for reserve outfielders on that ’65 roster were especially important. Long-time Yankee Hector Lopez was pretty much guaranteed one of those three spots. Four other players were in that 1966 camp to compete for the other two. One was the recently acquired Red Sox veteran Lou Clinton and the other three were the Yankee’s top prospects at the time, Roy White, Roger Repoz and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.
Steve Whitaker, a 22-year-old left-hand-hitting slugger from Tacoma, Washington had been in the Yankee farm system since 1962. He had hit 27 homers for Greensboro in 1964 but he had two big chinks in his resume. In order to hit a home run, your bat has to make contact with the ball and Whitaker’s bat did not do that very often. Compounding the youngster’s propensity to strike out was an explosive temper that just happened to peak whenever the kid struck out. So after an exhibition-season filled with slammed down batting helmets, knocked over water coolers and punched walls, the Yankee brain trust thought it best to send Whitaker back down to the farm for more “seasoning.”
By August of that ’66 season, however, everything had changed. By then it had become clear to everyone that the Yankee team that had won that decade’s first five AL Pennants was no more. After a horrible start, Houk had replaced Keane as skipper and Whitaker had hit 25 more minor league home runs. The Yankees brought him up that August and told the kid he was a huge part of their future.
Houk threw him into the fire and Whitaker responded pretty well, belting 7 home runs in just 31 games. But his temper hadn’t improved, he still struck out too much and the Yankees still finished in the basement of the AL’s 1966 standings. But I do remember thinking the guy was good enough to help make my Yankee’s winners again and Ralph Houk agreed with me. He started Whitaker in the Yank’s 1967 outfield pretty much the whole season. When that year was over, New York was in ninth place and Houk had seen enough of his young outfielder to decide that he was not the future of the franchise. The Yankees left him unprotected in the 1968 AL expansion draft and he was the 23rd pick of the new Kansas City Royals team. Before he ever played a game for the Royals, KC traded him to Seattle for Lou Piniella. After a year with the Pilots and one more with the Giants, Whitaker’s big league career was over. He and his son, who was also a prospect in the Cleveland Indians’ organization, now operate Whitaker Realty in southern Florida.
Also born on this date was this former Yankee pitcher who’s most famous pitch in Yankee Stadium took place while he was wearing an opposing team’s uniform. Still another May 7th pinstripe birthday belongs to the first guy George Steinbrenner ever hired to manage the Yankees.
|NYY (3 yrs)||181||664||615||55||142||17||5||18||68||2||40||131||.231||.281||.363||.644|
|SFG (1 yr)||16||30||27||3||3||1||0||0||4||0||2||14||.111||.167||.148||.315|
|SEP (1 yr)||69||130||116||15||29||2||1||6||13||2||12||29||.250||.323||.440||.763|
There are not many if any Yankee fans still around who can remember this knuckle-balling right-hander. The best thing about Ivy Andrews had to be his nickname, which was “Poison.” He started his big league career in 1931 when he went 2-0 for New York after being called up from the minors in August of that season. Yankee Manager Joe McCarthy planned on giving the Dora, Alabama native plenty of opportunities the following year but when Andrews came down with a case of lumbago after just four appearances in 1932, Marse Joe started using a rookie named Johnny Allen in his place. Allen became an instant success and Andrews found himself in a Boston Red Sox uniform by early June. He bounced back from his illness to finish that ’32 season with a 10-7 record. When he slumped to 7-13 the following year he was traded to the Browns. In his first season in St. Louis he won just 4 games but three of those victories were complete game shutouts. He then went 13-7 for the 1935 Browns, which turned out to be his best year in the big leagues. The Yankees got him back in 1937 and in that year’s World Series he enjoyed his finest moment in pinstripes. It took place in Game 4 with the Yankees leading the cross-town Giants three games to none and looking for a sweep. McCarthy started Bump Hadley who got hammered for six runs in the second inning. Poison Ivy replaced Hadley and pitched five plus innings of solid relief. Unfortunately, the Yankee lineup took that game off and the Giants came out on top. Andrews played one more year in New York and then spent the next seven in the minors trying to make it back to the big show. He never did.
Also born on this date was one of the first second baseman in New York Yankee history.
|NYY (4 yrs)||8||6||.571||3.12||41||10||22||6||1||2||156.0||156||69||54||8||51||47||1.327|
|SLB (3 yrs)||24||30||.444||4.29||129||58||42||23||0||5||543.2||618||288||259||36||168||127||1.446|
|BOS (2 yrs)||15||19||.441||4.38||59||36||12||13||0||1||281.2||301||172||137||12||114||67||1.473|
|CLE (1 yr)||3||4||.429||4.37||20||4||8||1||1||0||59.2||76||33||29||3||9||16||1.425|
Yankee fans will never forget the hype that surrounded the $12.8 million signing of this huge and mysterious right-hander from Hyogo, Japan. When he won his first major league start impressively, many of us were convinced he was the chosen one. When I saw him for the first time, I remember being surprised by the size of his head and I also remember thinking that if Babe Ruth came back to life as a Japanese male, he’d look like Irabu.
In any event, Hideki did not fulfill the huge expectations of Yankee fans or the Yankee brass. After three OK seasons in the Bronx, which included Steinbrenner’s infamous “fat toad” insult incident, the Yankees sent Irabu to Montreal for Ted Lilly.
If right now someone told Yankee fans that Phil Hughes would finish the current season with a 13-9 record, most of us, including Joe Girardi and the Yankee front office would be extremely pleased. That was Irabu’s record in 1998, his first full season with the team. I know I would also be thrilled if Andy Pettitte rejoins the Yankees this month and ends up going 11-7 during the rest of the 2012 season. That was Irabu’s record during his second and final full year as a Yankee starter.
On July 28, 2011, Hideki Irabu was found dead in his Los Angeles home. He was 42 years-old. Initial reports indicated LA police were treating it as a suicide. Irabu’s wife had recently separated from him and taken the couple’s two young children with her. Former Met Manager, Bobby Valentine, who managed Irabu for one season in Japan, indicated that Irabu liked to drink beer and was at times “his own worst enemy.” The Japanese culture has traditionally treated suicide as an honorable way to die. As a Japanese friend of Irabu told reporters covering his death, “He decided to go to heaven.” I hope he got there. Rest in peace Hideki.
Irabu shares his May 5th birthday with this one time roommate of the M&M Boys.
|NYY (3 yrs)||29||20||.592||4.80||74||64||2||4||2||0||395.2||397||224||211||68||142||1||315||1.362|
|MON (2 yrs)||2||7||.222||6.69||14||14||0||0||0||0||71.1||99||54||53||12||17||0||60||1.626|
|TEX (1 yr)||3||8||.273||5.74||38||2||26||0||0||16||47.0||51||30||30||11||16||2||30||1.426|
Miguel Cairo played some very good baseball for the New York Yankees during his 257 game-career in Pinstripes. The Yankees put the guy in some incredibly difficult circumstances but he was unflappable. I believe it was during the 2004 regular season, Cairo’s finest as a Yankee, that he made a play that truly impressed me. He had been playing second base all game long when late in the game he was moved to shortstop. I don’t remember why Joe Torre made the switch but I think it was because Jeter got hit on the hand by a pitch and couldn’t take the field. In any event, the first guy up after Cairo makes the move hits a shot toward short and Cairo made this absolutely awesome play on the ball.
This Venezuelan was one of the most valuable members of that 2004 Yankee squad. He anchored second base but could play and did play every other infield position, plus he hit over .290. He did everything the team asked him to do, he did it well and he often had to do it in the sort of clutch situations that teams in a division race encounter frequently.
So happy birthday Miguel. Every successful team has at least one player who does all the little things well and in 2004, you were that player for the Yankees. If only you could have pitched that 12th inning against Boston in game 4 of that season’s AL Championship series.
Miguel shares his May 4th birthday with this one-time AL Saves leader.
|STL (4 yrs)||255||605||545||82||138||31||6||8||67||7||31||73||.253||.301||.376||.677|
|TBD (3 yrs)||389||1483||1355||159||373||59||12||9||116||69||77||124||.275||.319||.356||.675|
|CIN (3 yrs)||263||658||595||72||151||27||4||13||74||11||39||86||.254||.309||.378||.687|
|NYY (3 yrs)||257||773||689||88||185||36||8||6||82||32||39||99||.269||.319||.370||.689|
|CHC (2 yrs)||82||179||152||27||42||4||1||2||10||2||18||24||.276||.355||.355||.710|
|NYM (1 yr)||100||367||327||31||82||18||0||2||19||13||19||31||.251||.296||.324||.620|
|PHI (1 yr)||27||47||45||6||12||2||1||1||2||0||0||4||.267||.283||.422||.705|
|SEA (1 yr)||108||250||221||34||55||14||2||0||23||5||18||32||.249||.316||.330||.646|
|TOR (1 yr)||9||30||27||5||6||2||0||0||1||0||2||9||.222||.300||.296||.596|
If you think today’s sportswriters and bloggers can be overly critical of modern day ballplayers, you’re absolutely correct. But its nothing new. Take a look at some of the statements I uncovered about today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant in a July 21, 1916 New York Times account of a regular season game between the Yankees and the St Louis Browns: “None of the Yankees was injured yesterday up at the Polo Grounds yesterday but a misfortune came to them when Cliff Markle started to pitch against the St. Louis Browns…Markle seems to be about the only disappointing feature of this year’s Yankee ball club. All the other players have proved better than anyone expected except Markle…The only player who doesn’t seem to approve (of the Yankees being in first place) is Markle…whenever he starts to pitch the home plate simply disappears…As Markle pitched yesterday he had a far-away look, as if pondering where he was going to spend next summer’s vacation…Markle left (the game) with the bases loaded and no one was out when Manager Bill Donovan sent the pitcher word that the next train south left the elevated at 4:20 PM. He also told him if he hurried he might catch it.” Ouch! Imagine if Michael Kay used the above words to describe one of Ivan Nova’s recent starts.
A native of Dravosburg, PA, this right-hander actually attracted the attention of several big league teams after posting a 31-9 record for a Class C minor league team in the Virginia League in 1914, followed by a 19-11 season for a B team in Waco, Texas. He also got off to a strong start with New York, winning both of his decisions at the end of the Yankees’ 1915 season and his first three the following year. On May 6 of 1916,his ERA was a microscopic 1.39. That’s when the curtain started coming down on his big league career. He lost three of his next four decisions including the one described above. In fact, though at first I thought the Times sports reporter was just trying to be dramatically sarcastic, that start against the Brown’s was the last game Markle pitched in the big leagues for the next five years. But instead of taking the elevated train south, he headed north and finished the 1916 season pitching for an American Association League team in Toronto.
His next stop in the big leagues was with Cincinnati in 1921 and ’22 and then two years later he got a final chance with the Yanks but he couldn’t seem to get anyone out. That was his last year as a professional baseball player. He passed away in 1974 at the age of 80.
|NYY (3 yrs)||6||6||.500||4.60||21||12||4||5||1||0||92.0||85||55||47||6||57||33||1.543|
|CIN (2 yrs)||6||11||.353||3.79||35||9||19||7||1||0||142.2||150||77||60||3||53||57||1.423|
In Leigh Montville’s book about Babe Ruth entitled, The Big Bam, the author clearly makes the case that when Ruth first became a Yankee in 1920, he was one of the crudest, least mature and most undisciplined human beings to ever wear a big league uniform. He ignored all rules and authority of any kind, doing exactly as he pleased when he pleased. One of the rules he ignored was Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ prohibition of post season barnstorming by players who had participated in that year’s World Series. After the Yankees lost to the Giants in the 1921 World Series, Ruth, his Yankee outfield mate, Bob Meusel and today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant, pitcher Wild Bill Piercy joined a barnstorming team, flaunting the Commissioner’s edict.
Landis reacted quickly and harshly. He fined all three players the amount of money they had collected from their 1921 World Series share and also suspended them for the first month of the 1922 regular season. Ruth shrugged off the punishment because he had already become the highest paid player in the game. Meusel was angry but he too would go on to make good money and several more World Series checks in pinstripes. Piercy, on the other hand really got the short end of the stick. Even though he had shown promise as a pitcher by going 5-4 in 1921, Yankee manager Miller Huggins wanted to send a message to Ruth that his childlike behavior would have consequences. He quickly traded Piercy and a couple of other Ruth partying buddies to the Red Sox. The Sultan of Swat, however, hardly noticed his old teammates were missing and he quickly found new ones to pal around with. Meanwhile, Piercy went 16-33 as a Red Sox and was out of the big leagues for good by 1927.
Piercy shares his May 2nd birthday with a Yankee pitcher who’s religious beliefs prevented him from pitching on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons.
|BOS (3 yrs)||16||33||.327||4.48||82||54||18||21||1||0||429.2||489||269||214||11||201||95||1.606|
|NYY (2 yrs)||5||5||.500||2.98||15||11||3||6||1||0||90.2||91||43||30||4||30||39||1.335|
|CHC (1 yr)||6||5||.545||4.48||19||5||9||1||0||0||90.1||96||52||45||1||37||31||1.472|
The American League was established in 1901 with no member franchise based in New York. Back then, the team that would eventually become the New York Yankees was named the Orioles and they were located in Baltimore. The legendary John McGraw was Manager of that 1901 Orioles team and he skippered it to a 67-65 fifth place finish in the AL’s inaugural season. Like Joe Girardi with today’s Yankees, McGraw was having trouble putting together an effective starting rotation. When the Boston franchise released 38 year-old southpaw Frank Foreman, “Little Napoleon” signed him and put him in the Baltimore rotation.
Nicknamed “Monkey,” Foreman had actually pitched for the Orioles in Baltimore a dozen seasons earlier when the franchise was a member of the old American Association League. He threw an almost unbelievable 414 innings for the Birds during that 1889 season and finished the year with a 23-21 record. He would make his return to the city memorable by finishing 12-6 for McGraw, to lead the 1901 team in winning percentage. He was brought back by McGraw to pitch for the Orioles in ’02 but his 39-year-old left arm had nothing left and he was released after losing his first two starts.
Foreman would remain in the game as a big league scout and is credited with finding and signing the hall-of-fame pitcher, Eddie Plank. Foreman shares his May 1 birthday with another Yankee who pitched for the same franchise 101 seasons later.
|BLA (2 yrs)||12||8||.600||3.86||26||24||2||20||1||1||207.2||253||138||89||2||64||43||1.526|