July 28th, 2013

July 28 – Happy Birthday Elmer Miller

The date was October 1, 1921. The Yankees were playing a doubleheader at home in the Polo Grounds against the Philadelphia A’s. New York held a two and a half game lead over the Cleveland Indians and were in first place in the American League standings. The magic number for the franchise’s very first AL Pennant stood at one. When the home team took the field, it was Elmer Miller who positioned himself in center field, between Bob Meusel in left and Babe Ruth in right. Yankee Manager, Miller Huggins had used four different center fielders between his two stars during that ’21 season and Miller was one of those four.

Elmer was born in Sandusky, OH on July 28, 1890. He began his big league career with a twelve-game trial with the Cardinals, in 1912. He then spent the next two years in the minors. He joined the Yankees in 1915, as a utility outfielder and got a chance to start for New York in 1917. He wasn’t much of a hitter but he was good defensively. He was exempted from the draft in WWI because he had a child so he was allowed to continue his baseball career. The problem was the Yankees no longer wanted him on their big league roster. Instead, Miller played the 1919, ’20 and half of the 1921 season with the St Paul Saints in the old American Association. He became a star in that league, averaging well over .300 and developing a decent home run stroke as well. At the end of July in 1921, Miller was hitting .313 for the Saints with 18 home runs. The Yankees were looking for better offense from their center field position and decided to bring Miller back. He had been starting for Huggins in that spot ever since.

The Yankees had a two-run lead in the first game that day as the A’s third baseman, Clarence Galloway came to the plate with two outs and a man on first in the top of the ninth. Galloway had already had three hits that afternoon and it looked as if he was going to get his fourth. According to the New York Times account of that game, Galloway “crashed” a ball to the gap in left center. Elmer Miller ran “full speed” after the ball and at the last second, extended his glove and “snared” the ball. His great catch clinched the first AL pennant ever won by the New York Yankee franchise. Miller also had a great day at the plate. he went 3 for 4 in the opener and then 3 for 5 in the second game. He finished his 1921 half-season in New York with a .298 average and despite his poor World Series showing against the Giants, it seemed Miller had a solid hold on the Yankees’ starting center fielder’s job the following season.

Unfortunately for Elmer, that solid hold did not last long. In July of the following year, Miller was traded to the Red Sox for Jumping Joe Dugan and Elmer Smith. He played terribly in Boston, hitting just .190 and was out of the big leagues for good by October of 1922. What a difference a year can make.

One almost-Yankee was also born on this date.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1915 NYY 26 90 83 4 12 1 0 0 3 0 4 14 .145 .193 .157 .350
1916 NYY 43 170 152 12 34 3 2 1 18 8 11 18 .224 .280 .289 .570
1917 NYY 114 450 379 43 95 11 3 3 35 11 40 44 .251 .336 .319 .656
1918 NYY 67 239 202 18 49 9 2 1 22 4 19 17 .243 .317 .322 .639
1921 NYY 56 270 242 41 72 9 8 4 36 2 19 16 .298 .356 .450 .806
1922 NYY 51 185 172 31 46 7 2 3 18 2 11 12 .267 .311 .384 .695
7 Yrs 413 1601 1414 170 343 43 20 16 151 31 113 140 .243 .307 .335 .642
NYY (6 yrs) 357 1404 1230 149 308 40 17 12 132 27 104 121 .250 .318 .340 .657
STL (1 yr) 12 41 37 5 7 1 0 0 3 1 4 9 .189 .268 .216 .485
BOS (1 yr) 44 156 147 16 28 2 3 4 16 3 5 10 .190 .222 .327 .549
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/28/2013.