May 2013

May 15 – Happy Birthday David Adams

adamsIt 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.

2013 26 NYY AL 43 152 140 10 27 5 1 2 13 0 9 43 .193 .252 .286 .537
1 Yr 43 152 140 10 27 5 1 2 13 0 9 43 .193 .252 .286 .537
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/15/2014.

May 14 – Happy Birthday Dave LaRoche

larocheThe 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.

He shares his may 14th birthday with this Hall-of-Fame Yankee center fielder, this former Yankee reliever and this pennant-winning manager.

1981 NYY 4 1 .800 2.49 26 1 14 0 0 0 47.0 38 16 13 3 16 24 1.149
1982 NYY 4 2 .667 3.42 25 0 15 0 0 0 50.0 54 19 19 4 11 31 1.300
1983 NYY 0 0 18.00 1 0 1 0 0 0 1.0 2 2 2 1 0 0 2.000
14 Yrs 65 58 .528 3.53 647 15 381 1 0 126 1049.1 919 448 411 94 459 819 1.313
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
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/13/2013.

May 13 – Happy Birthday Jose Rijo

rijoThose 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.

Rijo shares his May 13th birthday with another Yankee pitching prospect who made his big league debut in May of 2012 and also this current Yankee backup catcher.

1984 NYY 2 8 .200 4.76 24 5 8 0 0 2 62.1 74 40 33 5 33 47 1.717
14 Yrs 116 91 .560 3.24 376 269 43 22 4 3 1880.0 1710 772 676 147 663 1606 1.262
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
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/13/2013.

May 12 – Happy Birthday Felipe Alou

falouIf 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.

This Hall-of-Fame Yankee catcher and this former Yankee Murderer’s Row third baseman and this WWII era Yankee pitcher were also born on May 12th.

1971 NYY 131 501 461 52 133 20 6 8 69 5 32 24 .289 .334 .410 .744
1972 NYY 120 351 324 33 90 18 1 6 37 1 22 27 .278 .326 .395 .721
1973 NYY 93 293 280 25 66 12 0 4 27 0 9 25 .236 .256 .321 .577
17 Yrs 2082 7907 7339 985 2101 359 49 206 852 107 423 706 .286 .328 .433 .761
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
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/12/2013.

May 10 – Happy Birthday Ed Barrow

edbarrowThe 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.