August 13th, 2013
The most correct answer to the now-famous question Frank Costanza shouted at George Steinbrenner during that classic episode of Seinfeld was “on-base-percentage.” That’s why the Boss traded today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant to the Mariners for Ken Phelps in July of the 1988 season. Phelps had put together OBP’s of .400 plus during his last four seasons in Seattle at about the same time Bill James was emerging as baseball’s new statistician guru and preaching that players who could get on base were more important to a team’s success than players who could drive in runs. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Jay Buhner became very good at doing both.
Buhner had originally been drafted by the Pirates in 1984. The Yankees acquired the Louisville, Kentucky native along with Dale Berra in a December 1984 trade with Pittsburgh in exchange for Steve Kemp and Tim Foli. He caught the attention of lots of Yankee fans when he hit 31 home runs in 1987 for New York’s Triple A team in Columbus. He would get two call-ups to the Bronx, including one in May of the 1988 season, when Billy Martin gave him his only real shot at making an impression in pinstripes. He wasn’t successful, averaging just .228 and striking out almost every other at-bat.
Unfortunately for Yankee fans, the team’s impatience with their young outfielder was not rewarded because Phelps turned out to be a failure as a Yankee while Buhner quickly evolved into an offensive force as a Mariner. He went on to become a legend in Seattle, reaching his peak by 1995 when he began a stretch of three-straight 40-homer, 100 RBI seasons. The man who came to be known as “Bone” played until 2001, retiring with 310 career home runs and a lifetime OBP of .359. Buhner made headlines in 2012 when he told an interviewer that he would “vomit” if Seattle re-signed his successor as Mariners’ starting right fielder, Ichiro Suzuki to another contract.
|SEA (14 yrs)||1440||5828||4922||790||1255||231||19||307||951||6||788||1375||.255||.360||.497||.857|
|NYY (2 yrs)||32||99||91||8||18||2||0||3||14||0||4||31||.198||.253||.319||.571|
The great Mariano Rivera was not used as a closer during his final minor league seasons with the Yankees’ Columbus Clippers Triple A farm team. Instead, that task was handed to today’s much lesser known Pinstripe Birthday celebrant. Dave Pavlas was born in West Germany on August 12, 1962. This tall and lanky right-hander led the Clippers in saves for three straight seasons, from 1995 through 1997. Unfortunately, he was already 33 years-old by the time he joined Columbus.
Pavlas had made his big league debut back in 1990, as a reliever with the Cubs. He got into thirteen games in his first season, won his only two decisions and compiled an impressive 2.11 ERA. But he started the next season back in the minors and when the Cubs gave him another chance at the Big Show it wasn’t much of one. In late July of the ’91 season, Pavlas was given the ball in the top of the ninth, with his team behind 4-0 against the Braves. He was hit hard, gave up a couple of runs and didn’t get another chance to pitch from a Major League mound for the next four years.
The Yankees signed him to a minor league contract in early 1995. He got called up to the Bronx in both 1995 and ’96 and did some effective relief pitching for the World Championship team of 1996. He earned his one and only big league save on August 24th of that season when he came on in the ninth inning with two men on, two outs and New York leading Oakland 5-4. The first batter he faced was future Yankee Scott Brosius, who got an infield single to load the bases. He then struck out another future Yankee, Jason Giambi, to preserve the victory.
He was just one of 14 big league players and the only member of the Yankee’s all-time roster to have been born in West Germany and he will forever hold that distinction since that country no longer technically exists. Pavlas shares his birthday with this Cuban defector who played in pinstripes.
|CHC (2 yrs)||2||0||1.000||2.82||14||0||4||0||0||0||22.1||26||9||7||3||6||12||1.433|
|NYY (2 yrs)||0||0||2.51||20||0||9||0||0||1||28.2||31||9||8||0||7||21||1.326|
When I first started watching Yankee baseball back in 1960, the Red Sox had a horrible team. Ted Williams was about to retire leaving behind a crippled Boston offense and the team’s solid pitching staff from the 1950s had faded away. They basically had three guys back then who were warriors. One was the Bronx born third baseman, Frank Malzone. For some reason, I loved the guy and was secretly wishing the Yankees would trade for him. In their bullpen was a fearsome save machine named Dick Radatz. Known as the “Monster”, the intimidating six foot six inch right-hander won forty games and saved 78 more during his first three years in the league, his ERA never went higher than 2.29 and he absolutely owned Mickey Mantle.
Today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant was the third stud on those mediocre Boston teams of the early sixties. Bill Monbouquette was a tough kid from Medford, Massachusetts who never gave into big league hitters. He credited Ted Williams with teaching him the most important lesson of his career, stay ahead of the hitters. The right-hander didn’t throw especially hard but he threw strikes and he wasn’t afraid to come inside on anyone. During his prime years in Beantown, from 1960 until 1965, he won 104 games for the Red Sox, including a twenty-win season in 1963 and a no-hitter in 1962.
Boston traded “Monbo” to the Tigers after the 1965 season. He had a rough first year in MoTown and instead of keeping him on as a bullpen pitcher, Detroit’s front office decided to give him his outright release in May of 1967 and the Yankees grabbed him immediately. I loved the move back then because the great Yankee pitching staffs of the early sixties had vanished. At first, New York skipper Ralph Houk used his new acquisition almost exclusively out of the bullpen. By mid-August, however, Monboquette had worked his way into the starting rotation and ended up winning four of his last six decisions, including an impressive complete-game shutout versus the White Sox. His final numbers during his first year in pinstripes included a 6-5 record, a save and an impressive 2.33 ERA.
Monbo couldn’t continue at that pace the following year and got traded to the Giants for reliever Lindy McDaniel in July of 1968. That would turn out to be his final big league season as a pitcher. He then got into coaching and eventually became Billy Martin’s Yankee pitching coach during the 1985 season.
One of the things I didn’t know about this guy until I researched his career for today’s post was how physically tough he was. On the day he signed with Boston in 1955, the Red Sox invited him and his family to stick around and watch that day’s Red Sox game at Fenway Park. During the contest, somebody spilled beer on Monbouquette’s mother and after a heated exchange, both the pitcher and his dad got into it with the rowdies and ended up in a police holding cell. Nine years later, Monbouquette was trying to parlay his twenty win season into a raise on his then $14,000 annual Red Sox salary. During his super-heated negotiations with Pinky Higgins, who was Boston’s GM at the time, Monbouquette actually decked the guy twice. In 2008, Monbouquette got into the biggest fight of his life when he was diagnosed with leukemia. He underwent a stem cell transplant and beat that too.
|BOS (8 yrs)||96||91||.513||3.69||254||228||8||72||16||1||1622.0||1649||755||665||180||408||969||1.268|
|NYY (2 yrs)||11||12||.478||3.19||50||21||6||4||1||1||222.2||214||86||79||13||30||85||1.096|
|DET (2 yrs)||7||8||.467||4.64||32||14||9||2||1||0||104.2||121||60||54||14||22||63||1.366|
|SFG (1 yr)||0||1||.000||3.75||7||0||4||0||0||1||12.0||11||9||5||4||2||5||1.083|