June 2013

June 30 – Happy Birthday Chan Ho Park

parkIt became clear after the Yankees won the 2009 World Series that the team’s front-office was not going to continue it’s free-spending ways. Even though it was their lack of a budget that permitted Brian Cashman to go out and get CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett the previous year, the Yankee GM was now ready to prove he could play money ball too.

One of Cashman’s first moves after the Bronx Bombers won their 27th World title was to make the Curtis Granderson deal. Every time someone asked him about the trade, he kept reminding the interviewer that Granderson was signed for three years at the relatively minuscule total amount of $17 million. He also wanted to prove that he had been right about Javier Vasquez all along so he put the one-time Yankee disappointment back in pinstripes for just $11.5 million and a one-year deal.

Cashman’s other discount moves that off season included signing Randi Winn and bringing back Nick Johnson as value-based free agents and acquiring today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant to shore up the Yankee bullpen or possibly even the team’s starting rotation. When announcing Chan Ho Park’s free agent signing on February 28,2010, Cashman couldn’t resist reminding reporters that for just $1.2 million, the Yankees were getting the services of the 16-year veteran for less than half of what he had earned in Philadelphia the previous season.

Park’s best years had been as a starter for the Dodgers, for whom he had won 84 games between 1996 and 2001. He then got a huge 5-year, $65 million contract as a free agent with Texas in January of 2002 and proceeded to earn hardly any of it, becoming one of the Rangers’ biggest free agent busts ever. He went to the bullpen full time in 2008 and had just held the Yankees scoreless in four relief appearances against them in the 2009 World Series. Joe Girardi was hoping Park would become one of his most dependable late-inning bridges to Mariano. That didn’t happen.

After 27 appearances for New York, Park’s ERA was 5.60 and the native of South Korea was simply not getting the big outs the Yankees needed him to get. Winn, Johnson and Vasquez also didn’t work out for Cashman. By August, Park was put on waivers and Cashman made a great deal with Cleveland to get Kerry Wood to replace him.

Parks was picked up by the Pirates and finished the 2010 season in Pittsburgh. That turned out to be his final year in the big leagues. Park shares his birthday with this one-time Yankee third baseman, this hero of the 1969 World Series, and Derek Jeter’s predecessor as the Yankees’ starting shortstop.

2010 NYY 2 1 .667 5.60 27 0 15 0 0 0 35.1 40 25 22 7 12 29 1.472
17 Yrs 124 98 .559 4.36 476 287 52 10 3 2 1993.0 1872 1046 965 230 910 1715 1.396
LAD (9 yrs) 84 58 .592 3.77 275 181 20 9 2 2 1279.0 1098 589 536 136 596 1177 1.324
TEX (4 yrs) 22 23 .489 5.79 68 68 0 0 0 0 380.2 423 254 245 55 190 280 1.610
SDP (2 yrs) 11 10 .524 5.08 34 30 0 1 1 0 182.1 196 114 103 23 70 129 1.459
NYM (1 yr) 0 1 .000 15.75 1 1 0 0 0 0 4.0 6 7 7 2 2 4 2.000
PIT (1 yr) 2 2 .500 3.49 26 0 11 0 0 0 28.1 25 14 11 2 7 23 1.129
NYY (1 yr) 2 1 .667 5.60 27 0 15 0 0 0 35.1 40 25 22 7 12 29 1.472
PHI (1 yr) 3 3 .500 4.43 45 7 6 0 0 0 83.1 84 43 41 5 33 73 1.404
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/30/2013.

June 29 – Happy Birthday Bobby Veach

Today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant was an outstanding ballplayer who struggled to get good press because he always played in the same outfield with Hall of Famers. He started his career in 1912 with the Tigers, playing left field alongside the immortal Ty Cobb and the great Sam Crawford. When Crawford called it quits, Harry Heilmann took his place and Veach remained the third best outfielder on the team. How good was he? He drove in over 100 runs six different times, leading the league in that category in 1915, ’17 and ’18. From 1915 until 1922, no one in baseball had more RBIs or extra base hits than Bobby Veach. He averaged better than .300 in seven of his last eight seasons in Detroit and finished his 14-year big league career with a .310 lifetime mark. He was also an excellent defensive outfielder and one of the game’s best bunters. This guy was a reliable star who played the game hard but not mean. It was this lack of meanness that his mercurial teammate, Cobb did not appreciate. When the Georgia Peach took over as Tiger skipper in 1920, he was bound and determined to trade Veach but Bobby kept playing so well he made it difficult to justify such a move. Finally, in 1923, another future Hall of Fame outfielder named Heinie Manush showed up in Detroit, making Veach expendable. The Tigers sold the St. Charles, Kentucky native, who was by then 35-years-old,  to the Red Sox. He had a very good year in Boston in 1924. In early May of the following season, Veach was traded to the Yankees. He appeared in 56 games for New York and one of his 127 Yankee at bats made history when he became the first and only player to ever pinch hit for Babe Ruth. He ended up hitting .353 during his one partial season in the Bronx but that Yankee team was so loaded with talent, Veach was waived before the end of the year. The Senators picked him up and he ended up playing in his only World Series that year with Washington. 1925 turned out to be Veach’s last season as a big leaguer.

He shares his June 29th birthday with the second player/manager in Yankee history.
1925 NYY 56 130 116 13 41 10 2 0 15 1 8 0 .353 .400 .474 .874
14 Yrs 1821 7572 6656 953 2063 393 147 64 1166 195 571 370 .310 .370 .442 .812
DET (12 yrs) 1604 6794 5979 859 1859 345 136 59 1042 189 512 348 .311 .370 .444 .814
BOS (2 yrs) 143 605 524 77 154 35 9 5 101 5 48 19 .294 .359 .424 .782
WSH (1 yr) 18 43 37 4 9 3 0 0 8 0 3 3 .243 .300 .324 .624
NYY (1 yr) 56 130 116 13 41 10 2 0 15 1 8 0 .353 .400 .474 .874
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/29/2013.

June 28 – Happy Birthday Len Boehmer

boehmerlBy 1969, getting a Yankee in a pack of Topps Baseball cards wasn’t as much a thrill for me as it had been just a few years earlier. First of all, I was fifteen years old by then and the allure of collecting those cardboard mini posters was losing its pull on me. Secondly, by that year the Yankees had evolved into pretty bad baseball team. Mickey Mantle had finally retired and Joe Pepitone was the only remaining starting position player on the club to have also started for the last Yankee team to play in a World Series five years earlier. So it was most likely in one of the very last individual packs of Topps baseball cards I would purchase (until I started buying them for my own sons fifteen years later) that I got the card pictured here. I’m sure that when I took a look at the two prospects pictured on it I hoped to myself that the card’s title, “Rookie Stars” would prove to be appropriate. It would not, in either player’s case. I’m also sure that at the time I did not realize that Topps had misspelled Jerry Kenney’s first name and I’m positive I mispronounced Len Boehmer’s last name, pronouncing it Bo-mer instead of the correct way, which is Bay-mer.

A native of Flint, Missouri, Boehmer had been signed by the Reds out of St Louis University in 1961, and spent almost all of the next seven years playing minor league ball in Cincinnati’s farm system. He had one minuscule mid-season two-game call-up with the Reds in 1967. The Yankees had picked him up in a trade in September of that same year. After one decent year with New York’s triple A team in Syracuse, he made New York’s parent club’s roster out of spring training in 1969 as Pepitone’s primary back-up at first base. He got off to a horrid start at the plate that year and he was 0-26 as a Yankee and 0-29 as a big leaguer when he was called in to replace Pepitone in the eighth inning of a game against the Red Sox, after the whacky first baseman had been ejected from the game. The Yankees were trailing 2-1 in the ninth when Boehmer’s first big league hit, a single tied the game. Advancing to second on the throw to home plate, he scored the winning run when Roy White singled him home.

Back in 1969, the Yankees often flew regularly scheduled commercial flights to road games. It was customary for the team’s managers, coaches and front line players to be given all the first class seats on those flights and the subs would be assigned to coach. Boehmer’s reward for his big hit that night in New York was seeing his named cross of the coach-section on the seating list for that evening’s impending flight to Detroit which was posted in the Yankee locker room after the game and instead penciled in the first class section.

Boehmer would go on to get 18 more base hits for New York that season and then spend most of the next two years back in Syracuse. After one more brief three-game mid season call-up to the Bronx in 1971, the Yankees released Bohmer and his big league career was over.

Boehmer shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher, this former reliever, and this power-hitting DH.

1969 NYY 45 116 108 5 19 4 0 0 7 0 8 10 .176 .233 .213 .446
1971 NYY 3 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
3 Yrs 50 124 116 5 19 4 0 0 7 0 8 10 .164 .218 .198 .416
NYY (2 yrs) 48 121 113 5 19 4 0 0 7 0 8 10 .168 .223 .204 .427
CIN (1 yr) 2 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/28/2013.

June 25 – Happy Birthday Mike Stanley

One of the key reasons the Yankees were not successful reaching the postseason for a dozen seasons after 1981 was their lack of a strong all-around catcher during that time span. From Dickey-to-Berra-to Howard-to-Munson, those Yankee teams that regularly reached fall ball had catchers who could hit well, field well, and lead their pitching staffs. When the Yankees signed Mike Stanley as a free agent before the 1992 season, I thought we had the makings of the next great Yankee receiver. He did well enough offensively in pinstripes but the Yankee front-office ended up replacing him with a better defensive catcher.

Stanley started his Yankee career as a backup for Matt Nokes. He took over as starter in 1993 and had a great offensive season, hitting 26 home runs, driving in 84 and averaging .305. He continued to hit well in 1994 as the Yankees became the best team in the League under Buck Showalter. When the disastrous strike ended that season, it also marked the peaking of the Yankee careers of both Showalter and Stanley. Even though New York made the postseason in 1995, Stanley’s batting average took a 30-point dip and after the Yankees got knocked out of the playoffs by the Mariners in the first round, Yankee fans could feel the Steinbrenner-induced winds of change blowing. Showalter was fired and replaced by Joe Torre. They let Mattingly retire and Stanley was not re-signed. The Yankees traded for Tino Martinez and Joe Girardi instead.

Update: The above post was originally written in 2009. Stanley did rejoin the Yankees during the latter half of the 1997 season. At the time, Yankee GM Bob Watson had been looking for a right-handed bat to replace the one lost when Cecil Fielder broke his thumb just before the All Star break that year. He traded coveted Yankee pitching prospect Tony Armas Jr to the Red Sox to bring Stanley’s opposite field power back for a second go-round in the Bronx. At the time the deal was made, Watson told the press he intended to re-sign the returning player to a longer term deal, but even though Stanley hit .287 in the 28 games he played down the stretch of that ’97 regular season and a .388 on-base-percentage, the Yankees let him walk when the year ended.

During the 1995 season, Stanley became the 13th Yankee in history to homer three times in the same regular season game. Here’s a list of the 20 Bronx Bombers who have accomplished this feat during their pinstriped careers: Tony Lazzeri (1927, ’36) Lou Gehrig (1927, ’29, ’30, ’32*) Babe Ruth (1930) Ben Chapman (1932) Joe DiMaggio (1937) Bill Dickey (1939) Charley Keller (1940) Johnny Mize (1950) Mickey Mantle (1955) Tom Tresh (1965) Bobby Murcer (1970, ’73) Cliff Johnson (1977) Mike Stanley (1995) Paul O’Neill (1995) Darryl Strawberry (1996) Tino Martinez (1997) Tony Clark (2004) Alex Rodriguez (2005) Mark Teixeira (2010) Curtis Granderson (2012)
*Gehrig went on to hit a fourth home run in the 1932 game.

Stanley shares his June 25th birthday with this former Yankee long reliever.

Here are Stanley’s Yankee and career playing stats:

1992 NYY 68 207 173 24 43 7 0 8 27 0 33 45 .249 .372 .428 .800
1993 NYY 130 491 423 70 129 17 1 26 84 1 57 85 .305 .389 .534 .923
1994 NYY 82 333 290 54 87 20 0 17 57 0 39 56 .300 .384 .545 .929
1995 NYY 118 470 399 63 107 29 1 18 83 1 57 106 .268 .360 .481 .841
1997 NYY 28 103 87 16 25 8 0 3 12 0 15 22 .287 .388 .483 .871
15 Yrs 1467 4989 4222 625 1138 220 7 187 702 13 652 929 .270 .370 .458 .827
TEX (6 yrs) 452 1164 987 114 248 43 4 16 120 6 147 215 .251 .348 .352 .699
BOS (5 yrs) 459 1703 1425 224 391 76 1 73 254 3 234 293 .274 .381 .483 .864
NYY (5 yrs) 426 1604 1372 227 391 81 2 72 263 2 201 314 .285 .377 .504 .882
OAK (1 yr) 32 113 97 11 26 7 0 4 18 0 14 21 .268 .363 .464 .827
TOR (1 yr) 98 405 341 49 82 13 0 22 47 2 56 86 .240 .353 .472 .825
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/25/2013.

June 24 – Happy Birthday Doc Cook

200px-Doc_Cook_(baseball)Every time I watch a Yankee Old Timers Day, it conjures up memories of the event from my 50 plus years as a Yankee fan. Back in 1970, the Yankees honored Casey Stengel by inviting him back to the Stadium for the 1970 Old Timers Day celebration, during which they surprised him by retiring his uniform number 37 during a pre-game ceremony. That was the Ol Perfessor’s first official visit to the House that Ruth built since New York had forced him to retire as Yankee skipper after the 1960 World Series. At the time, Casey was 80 years old and when asked to make some comments during the shin-dig about having his jersey retired he responded “I’m very impressed. I hope they bury me in it.”

The legendary field boss was not the oldest ex-Yankee in attendance on that hot August day in the Bronx. That honor belonged to today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Doc Cook had just turned 84 earlier that same summer and though he was too old to play in that afternoon’s Old Timers game, photographers covering the event staged a photo-op of Cook standing in front of the Yankee dugout with bat in hand attempting to bunt. A much younger and more celebrated Yankee old-timer named Mickey Mantle was also included in the photo, wearing a catcher’s glove, on his knees behind Cook.

It was an appropriate pose for Cook, who was the speedy starting right fielder for the Yankees during both the 1914 and ’15 seasons. He led the Yankees in hits with 133 during the 1914 season and his .283 batting average was also tops on the club for players with enough at bats to be eligible for that year’s batting title. One problem Doc seemed to have was stealing second base. He tried the feat 58 times during the ’14 season and was thrown out 32 of those times, which was tops in the AL. Though he had another solid season at the plate for NY the following year, he lost his starting job in 1916 and the Yankees sold him to Oakland in the Pacific Coast League in May of 1916. He would never play another inning of big league ball.

Cook was born in Witt, Texas on June 24, 1886. His real name was Luther Almus. There were three Yankees nicknamed “Doc” (Adkins, Newton & Powers) before Cook came along and just four more (Farrell, Edwards, Medich & DOCk Ellis) since he was sold to Oakland almost a century ago. Cook died in 1973.  He shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher who is not yet an old timer and  this former Yankee All Star catcher who is.

1913 NYY 20 87 72 9 19 2 1 0 1 1 10 4 .264 .369 .319 .688
1914 NYY 132 534 470 59 133 11 3 1 40 26 44 60 .283 .356 .326 .681
1915 NYY 132 554 476 70 129 16 5 2 33 29 62 43 .271 .364 .338 .703
1916 NYY 4 10 10 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 .100 .100 .100 .200
4 Yrs 288 1185 1028 138 282 29 9 3 75 56 116 109 .274 .359 .329 .687
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/24/2013.

June 23 – Happy Birthday Jim Deshaies

deshaiesThe Yankees stopped making postseason play after the 1981 season because they did not have starting pitching that was good enough to beat some very good Toronto, Boston, Detroit and Milwaukee ball clubs. With a lineup that featured Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield and Ricky Henderson in their prime, they would not have needed a rotation filled with Sandy Koufax’s to make at least a couple more postseason runs during the 14 straight seasons they failed to make the playoffs. Just a few more quality starters from that era would have done the trick; guys like Doug Drabek, Jose Rijo, Al Leiter, Bob Tewksbury and today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. Oh wait a minute. I forgot. All these guys were Yankees before the George Steinbrenner dominated front-office traded them away for players who would contribute next-to-nothing during their years in pinstripes.

Jim Deshaies was a huge left-hander from Massena, NY. He had played collegiate baseball at LeMoyne, a Division II school outside of Syracuse, NY where he teamed with another future big-league southpaw named Tom Browning to lead the Dolphins to two consecutive college World Series appearances. The Yankees drafted him in the 21st round of the 1982 amateur draft and over the next four seasons he put together a 38-21 record with 11 shutouts and a sub-three ERA as he ascended New York’s minor league ladder. Everybody who saw this kid pitch back then thought he’d be perfect for Yankee Stadium.

He made his big league debut there in 1984 and though he got shelled by the White Sox and took the loss (giving up 8 hits and 4 earned runs in 4 innings pitched) Deshaies did make history  that afternoon. He became the 1,000th Yankee to appear in a big league ball game. Six days later, Yankee skipper Yogi Berra gave him his second start in Cleveland and Deshaies got shelled again. That would be his final appearance ever for New York. The following September he was traded to the Astros for knuckleballer Joe Niekro, who’s older brother Phil was also a Yankee at the time and was just about to win the 300th game of his career. Though the trade made it possible for Joe to be the first guy to congratulate his sibling for his landmark victory, the younger Niekro made little impact during his tenure as a Yankees, going just 14-15 before being traded to the Twins in June of 1987.

Meanwhile, Deshaies went 12-5 for the Astros in 1986 and would win a total of 49 games during his first four seasons in Houston. During his official rookie season he also set a record by striking out the first eight batters he faced in a game, the first time that had been done by a Major League pitcher in over 100 years. His best year was 1989, when he finished with a 15-10 record, a career low 2.91 ERA and 3 shutouts. By contrast, the 1989 Yankee starting rotation featured Andy Hawkins with his 15-15 record and four other journeymen who put together a cumulative won-loss mark of just 21-25.

That 1989 season turned out to be the last time DeShaies was able to produce a winning record. He pitched in the big leagues until 1995 and two years later he became a Houston Astro broadcaster, a job he still holds. He shares his birthday with another former Yankee prospect from the 1980sthis one-time Yankee starting catcher and this legendary Yankee GM.

1984 NYY 0 1 .000 11.57 2 2 0 0 0 0 7.0 14 9 9 1 7 5 3.000
12 Yrs 84 95 .469 4.14 257 253 1 15 6 0 1525.0 1434 743 702 179 575 951 1.317
HOU (7 yrs) 61 59 .508 3.67 181 178 0 14 6 0 1102.0 960 479 449 113 423 731 1.255
MIN (2 yrs) 17 25 .405 5.71 52 52 0 1 0 0 297.2 329 194 189 54 105 158 1.458
SFG (1 yr) 2 2 .500 4.24 5 4 1 0 0 0 17.0 24 9 8 2 6 5 1.765
PHI (1 yr) 0 1 .000 20.25 2 2 0 0 0 0 5.1 15 12 12 3 1 6 3.000
SDP (1 yr) 4 7 .364 3.28 15 15 0 0 0 0 96.0 92 40 35 6 33 46 1.302
NYY (1 yr) 0 1 .000 11.57 2 2 0 0 0 0 7.0 14 9 9 1 7 5 3.000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/22/2013.

Join the Pinstripe Birthday Daily Trivia Question List

Want a cool Yankee fan way to start your day? Sign up for the Pinstripe Birthday Daily Trivia Question. On just about every day of the year, a member of the all-time Yankee family celebrates a birthday. My daily trivia question will alert you to that birthday and ask you a trivia question that has an answer that is somehow related to that day’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant. It’s sort of like a combination daily Yankee trivia quiz and franchise history lesson wrapped into one and it doesn’t cost a penny to participate!

Use the form below to tell me you want your name and e-mail address added to the Pinstripe Daily Trivia Question e-Mailing List.

June 21 – Happy Birthday Spencer Adams

Spencer_AdamsIt was a few weeks before Christmas in 1925 and Yankee manager Miller Huggins had just arrived in New York City and spent the morning in a meeting with team owner, Jake Ruppert to discuss personnel needs for the upcoming season. The previous year had been a disaster for the Yankees and Huggins. The shipwreck of a season had gotten off on an ominous note after Babe Ruth began partying as soon as New York was eliminated from the 1924 AL Pennant race and didn’t stop until he collapsed in the Asheville, NC railroad station, when the Yankee team was heading north for Opening Day at the conclusion of their 1925 spring training camp. The “Big Bam” had boozed, eaten and screwed his body into a complete state of physical and mental exhaustion and it would take the entire first two months of the 1925 regular season to get him healthy enough to return to action. By then, the Yankees were already well below .500, on their way to finishing the year with a dismal 69-85 record and an embarrassing seventh-place finish in the AL standings.

Ruth’s near-death experience had done something Huggins had been trying to do since the Sultan of Swat had joined the team in 1920. It scared the hell out of him and convinced the game’s all-time greatest slugger to spend the 1925 offseason in a New York City gym, where he got his abused body into the best shape of his career. For the first time since Huggins had become Ruth’s manager, the skipper could enter a Yankee spring training camp without worrying about the impact of Ruth’s prodigious physical excesses on his team’s Pennant hopes. So as he exited his meeting with Ruppert that morning at the Yankee offices on Manhattan’s West 42nd street and was surrounded by reporters eager to find out what his thoughts were for the upcoming season, the player uppermost on the diminutive field general’s mind was today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant.

Huggins told the reporters that the Yankees biggest need for the upcoming 1926 season was an infielder, and he had one specifically targeted that he had discussed with Ruppert earlier that morning. The only clue he shared was that the player he was thinking of could field like a “fiend” and hit much better than Huggins ever did during the manager’s own playing days as an NL second baseman.  As they pressed him for the player’s identity, they began suggesting names of big league infielders and Huggins would deny each until someone shouted, “What about Spencer Adams?” When Huggins ignored the question and said nothing, the reporters felt they had their answer. A month and a half later, the Yankees confirmed it.

A native of Utah, Adams was one of the first Mormons to play Major League Baseball. He had made his big league debut with the Pirates in 1923 and had spent the 1925 season as a utility infielder for the AL Champion Washington Senators. As Huggins had described, Adams was a very good defensive infielder and his .273 batting average with Washington indicated he could handle a bat just fine. But when he got to the Yankee spring training camp in St. Petersburg that winter, he got his first glimpse of his competition for the team’s starting second baseman’s job. It was this Italian kid from San Francisco by the name of Tony Lazzeri. At first, Huggins played Lazzeri at short and had Adams platooning with Aaron Ward at second. Another Yankee prospect from San Francisco by the name of Mark Koenig was proving to be a much better defensive shortstop than Lazzeri, so by the end of the first week of the 1926 regular season, Huggins had Lazzeri with his booming bat starting at second, the smooth fielding Koenig at short and Adams ended up riding the pine alongside Huggins in the Yankee dugout.

The infielder would appear in just 28 games that year and make just 28 plate appearances, which probably explains why he forgot how to hit. Adams averaged just .120 that season, but he did appear in his second straight World Series that October, again on the losing side as the Yanks lost the 1926 Fall Classic to the Cardinals. With two talented youngsters like Lazzeri and Koenig ensconced as starters in the middle of their infield, the Yankees sold Adams to the Browns after his first and only season in the Bronx was over. He played his last big league game with St. Louis in 1927.

He shares a birthday with this great Yankee starting pitcher and this one-time Yankee phee-nom.

1926 NYY 28 28 25 7 3 1 0 0 1 1 3 7 .120 .214 .160 .374
4 Yrs 180 451 395 61 101 16 5 0 38 5 38 50 .256 .324 .322 .646
WSH (1 yr) 39 65 55 11 15 4 1 0 4 1 5 4 .273 .333 .382 .715
PIT (1 yr) 25 62 56 11 14 0 1 0 4 2 6 6 .250 .323 .286 .608
NYY (1 yr) 28 28 25 7 3 1 0 0 1 1 3 7 .120 .214 .160 .374
SLB (1 yr) 88 296 259 32 69 11 3 0 29 1 24 33 .266 .333 .332 .665
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/21/2013.

June 18 – Happy Birthday Russ Hodges

Yes, the same Russ Hodges who made the famous call of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World,” was once the number 2 man in the Yankee broadcast booth behind Mel Allen. Back in the forties, the Yankees and the New York Giants did radio broadcasts of only their home games and since the two teams were never scheduled to play at home at the same time, the clubs shared announcers. In 1949, both teams started broadcasting road games as well and ended the practice of sharing play-by-play personalities. Allen stuck with the Yankees and Hodges the Giants, which is why on October 3, 1951, it was Hodges who was in the Polo Grounds radio booth screaming those famous words out over the air waves; “The Giants win the pennant” The Giants win the pennant!” Hodges remained the voice of the Giants for 21 years until his death in 1971. He was inducted into Cooperstown as the 1980 winner of the Ford Frick Award. Hodges was actually one of two eventual Frick Award winners to make the live call on Thomson’s historic blast. The other was the late, great Ernie Harwell who was doing the television play-by-play of that legendary game.

The only member of the Yankee all-time roster to be born on June 18th is this former reliever.

June 17 – Happy Birthday Bill Bergesch

Bill-Bergesch.jpgxAfter winning a Purple Heart in WWII during the invasion of Italy, Bill Bergesch returned home, used the GI Bill to to get his business degree and began a long career as a baseball executive by accepting a job in the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league organization. Ten years later he made his indelible contribution to that franchise when he became the guy who signed the great pitcher, Bob Gibson.

He was promoted to Cardinal’s scouting coordinator in 1959 and then was hired by the Kansas City A’s as an assistant GM, where he worked for the franchise’s new, slightly off-kilter owner, Charley Finley. He was hired by the Mets the following year to help that brand new franchise create its minor league organization from scratch and in 1964, was hired by the Yankees to serve as the team’s traveling secretary and manager of Yankee Stadium. He then changed sports, accepting front office positions with two Big Apple soccer teams. It was as GM of the New York Cosmos that Bergesch signed Brazilian superstar Pele out of retirement.

He then changed professions and industries, leaving sports and going to work for the next decade as a venture capitalist. By then, George Steinbrenner had taken over the Yankees and hired Bergesch as the team’s scouting director in 1978 and then promoted him to vice president of baseball operations a couple of years later. This was right during the time that “the Boss” was in his most tyrannical state as owner of the Yankees. In fact, Steinbrenner decided that he could be his own general manager, so he pointedly refused to give Bergesch that title. As it turned out, perhaps “hatchet man” would have been an even better one.

Regardless if it was devastating young Yankee prospects like Dave Righetti by unexpectedly demoting them back to the minors, firing Bob Lemon or Yogi Berra as skippers even though they each had been promised full years in the job or reminding established veterans like Tommy John that they were being paid too much money to have a bad outing, it was Bergesch who would be sent to deliver the ill-timed news from George. In fact, I remember thinking that Bergesch had as tough and thankless a job as Richard Nixon’s chief-of-staff did after the Watergate break in was discovered.

Before too long, Bergesch had carried out so many unpleasant Steinbrenner-directed edicts that he became a very unpopular guy in the Yankee clubhouse. The problem was that even though he was doing what George told him to do, the Boss would blame the poor guy whenever any of the things he did back fired or caused negative press, which happened about three times a week back then. It was the ultimate no-win situation.

The irony was that Bergesch genuinely liked Steinbrenner and enjoyed their friendship. He cited this as the reason why he had decided to leave the Yankees in 1984. He told the press he needed to go in a different direction. Unfortunately for Bergesch, that direction turned out to be working for the one owner in baseball who was capable of acting even more irrationally than Steinbrenner did at the time. Bergesch became the GM of Marge Schott’s Cincinnati Reds.

Not only did Bergesch value his friendship with the Boss, the feeling was mutual and when Steinbrenner entered a much more rational period of his tenure as Yankee owner in the early nineties, he brought Bergesch back to serve as Gene Michael’s assistant in 1990. The grateful executive would remain part of the Yankee family and good friends with George for the rest of their days. Bergesch passed away in 2011 at the age of 89.

Bergesch shares his June 17th birthday with this former Yankee outfielder.